Ask Ellen: I Can’t Wait Much Longer

Dear Ellen,

I started a business about 18 months ago. I was so enthusiastic at first, but lately I’ve been having a tough time, both emotionally and financially. Looking back over the past 18 months, I haven’t made as much money as I hoped I would. In fact, I’ve been slowly burning through my savings just to pay my bills and stay afloat.

I don’t know if I should keep “pressing forward” and have faith that things will improve, or if I should quit now and figure out some other path. I know that building a successful business requires time, effort, and patience, but my patience is running out.

Do you have any guidance for someone in my situation?

Can’t Wait Much Longer


Dear CWML,

When you’re self-employed, there’s nothing scarier than staring at your bank account balance and realizing that lots of money is flowing out, but there’s not much flowing in.

You might start to feel panicky and really hard on yourself, thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I make this work? Maybe I’m just not cut out to be an entrepreneur…” and other dark, gloomy thoughts.

Without knowing the exact details of your situation, CWML, it’s difficult for me to offer specific guidance. But here’s what I can tell you, for sure:

Tenacity is the secret to success.

When you look around at the businesses that are thriving and prospering, it might seem like they just sprang out of nowhere, or that each one is a fantastical overnight success. I can promise you: that’s never the case.

Crossfit, the workout craze that’s been booming in popularity lately, has actually been around for nearly 16 years. It’s only recently that it’s become a “household name.”

Fedex, Amazon, and the Tupperware company—those are three more examples of companies that are wildly successful, today, but that struggled to generate any profits for the first 3, 4, even 5 years or more.

My friend Susan Hyatt is a life coach and motivational speaker who runs a company that generates $1 million dollars a year, but that’s because she’s been diligently working on her business for nearly 10 years.

Tiffany Han is a podcaster and writer who shared the story of her $40,000 online product launch with total honesty and transparency. (Hint: it didn’t happen overnight.)

I could go on and on. You get the idea.

Figuring out what you want to sell, creating an enticing product or service that people actually want, building a fan base for your work… ironing out the kinks in your business… all of that takes time. Sometimes, a LOT more time than we’d like.

The entrepreneurs who are willing to ride it out and keep marching forward with almost super-human patience and tenacity—those are the people who ultimately succeed.

Now, all of that being said, you’ve got bills to pay and you need to earn money—in some way or another—to support yourself until your business can fully support you!

If you need to earn money quickly, here are a couple of ideas to consider:

• Drive an Uber or a Lyft.

Almost all the people I talk to who drive for Uber or Lyft do it to earn extra cash to support their main gigs. The great thing is that you make your own schedule! Turn your car into a money-making (and networking opportunity) to put extra money in your bank account.

• Outsource your skills.

Can you do graphic design, website development, video editing, software development or customer service? Think about parlaying those skills into extra income opportunities by signing up on sites such as TaskRabbit or ODesk. Like with Uber and Lyft, you can pick and choose how often you want to work and what jobs you take!

• Rent out a room in your house.

Do you have an extra room in your house that is not being used? Do you travel for work and often have an empty house during the week or on weekends? This empty space can be parlayed into extra income by listing your space on sites like Airbnb or VRBO.

• Clean your house and sell things on eBay.

Spend a weekend cleaning your house (the basement, garage, all those closets and drawers (a la Marie Kondo). You will be amazed at all the valuable treasures you will find. Computers, screens, iPod’s you no longer use. Great clothes you no longer wear. Furniture, dishes- you name it. Sell what you don’t want on eBay. Your junk is another person’s treasure.

There are endless ways to create a side hustle to generate money. Renting out infant gear to tourists. Pet sitting. Officiating weddings. With imagination and grit you will get there. Check out Chris Guillebeau’s podcast, Side Hustle School – for more great ideas.

If you’re feeling really stuck and confused about how to earn money, or which direction you ought to take your career next, consider talking to a good friend, a mentor, or a professional career/business advisor (someone like me) so that you can create a specific action plan for the next chapter of your life.

No matter what happens next, you can hold your head high and feel proud of yourself… knowing that you didn’t just fantasize about launching a business, you actually did it. Even if you ultimately decide to close down—or dramatically change—your business, you can do so without any trace of shame. At least you tried to start a business and make it work. How many people can say that? Not many.

Be proud of everything you’ve done, and stay optimistic for everything yet to come.

With love,


Image: Willie Franklin