The sophomore slump is a phenomenon that cannot really be explained, but transcends cultures and industries. In the UK it is referred to as the “second year blues,” and Australians call it “second year syndrome.” The term is used to describe students’ second year performance in schools, bands releasing their second album, sequel movies, and yes, athletics. Right RG3?
One place that we do not often see this term being used, but where I think it belongs, is in the online entrepreneurship space. How many blogs, podcasts, and coaching programs have you seen come out of the gate strong, but then fade into the night like a shooting star, never to be seen or heard from again?
In fact, take a look at a simple “Best Blogs of 2011” type post that can be easily found with a Google search. Chances are that quite a few of them are either no longer updated, or have already expired and send you to some spammy page completely unrelated to what it used to be!
Ask the Experts
There are many reasons that this type of thing happens so often in our space, but there are also a number of experts who have not only beaten this sophomore slump, but have persevered through it to become even better than they were before. I reached out to some of these success stories to get their takes. How do you avoid a sophomore slump, and what do you do to break free if you experience one?
1. Justin Cooke
With very few exceptions, the “sophomore slump” is something all aspiring entrepreneurs go through when creating a product, starting their business, etc. We dug into this a bit on our podcast about the Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster discussed on your show
You are not the exception – this is going to happen to you, too.
Before even getting started, there are a couple of things you can do to ease the pain of this first dip or setback:
Niching Down – Rather than taking the awfully expensive route of breaking into a large industry, cut down your target market to the point that you can be #1 or #2 in the niche within 6 months. Seth Godin’s right – the winner takes the spoils.
Expected Value – Can you take advantage of an expanding industry to keep you growing during the slump? If you make it through the slump and everything went your way, will this get you where you want to be?
Stage Test – Can you see yourself as the keynote speaker in the next 2-3 years at an industry-leading conference? Would being THE industry expert in your niche be an end-goal for you?
These may be helpful for those who haven’t even started yet, but what about those currently going through the entrepreneurial slump? Here are a few of the things that can keep you going:
Vision – You started your entrepreneurial journey with a vision of a world that’s different than it is today. Dwell on that. Share your vision with others. The more people you can get to see your vision, the closer you’ll come to making it happen.
Passion – I’m not one of those that would argue you have to be passionate about your niche, but having a passion for the work or lifestyle can, at least, help you get through the humps. If you feel like your passion has faded a bit, find others you can connect with that are either in your niche and share that passion or are building their own inspiring businesses.
“This Too Shall Pass” – Keep in mind that there are going to be many more ups and downs in your business. Nothing’s permanent, especially in the fast-moving game that is entrepreneurship. Take this opportunity to prepare yourself for the next growth phase so that you can capitalize and ride the next wave even further.
2. James Clear
It all comes down to systems. Many people burst onto the scene because in the beginning their motivation and willpower is high. They are willing to do anything and talk to everyone… and that works for a little while. After some time, however, it becomes clear that you can’t maintain this pace on motivation alone. And more importantly, when you encounter a setback — as all entrepreneurs do — your motivation starts to fade.
The alternative is to build systems for marketing, promotion, etc. The goal should be to develop a process that doesn’t rely on motivation or willpower to continue to grow your company. Growth is simply part of the process, it’s part of the system that you build and the actions that you take each day. As one example, I do this with my writing and re-publishing. I have a system for generating new content on a consistent basis (every Monday and Thursday) and then for spreading that content across dozens of related sites.
3. Chris Ducker
In the sales game, there’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “The only way to get out of a sales slump, is to work your way out of it.” I believe hitting this similar entrepreneurial slump, after experiencing initial success and then resting on your laurels, is somewhat the same. The fact of the matter is that you probably experienced that initial success because you were working hard, hustling day and night to make it work. You’ve got to continue that — however, get smart — hire some help, delegate daily tasks and become less involved in the ‘operational’ side of things. As the business owner that you are, you should be focused on RUNNING the business – not BECOMING the business!
4. Tim Paige
This feels, to me, like it fits right along with “The Dip” as Seth Godin would call it, and it’s an endlessly debatable topic. One of the biggest keys is to have your “why” always readily available and apparent so that when you think you want to give up because you’re struggling to attain that success you started off with, you can focus on your why and dig deep. It’s all about hustling your face off so you can get back on track. Chances are, if you had that “rookie success” you did it through hustle, so recreate that and you’re bound to make it to the light at the end of the tunnel.
5. Chris Guthrie
It took me a while to experience my first success (that being with Amazon’s affiliate program), earning several thousand per month, and being able to support my wife and I on my Amazon earnings. Shortly thereafter, I sold my top Amazon site in a six figure deal, which felt like a pretty solid base hit (home run in my book is an exit event for $1MM+ and grand slam would be $10MM+). Since then, I’ve been working on a lot of different projects trying to make whatever I do next be bigger. Ultimately, that’s what I believe is the challenge. Look at each success as a stepping stone towards something bigger, and push yourself to keep reaching.
6. James Schramko
1) Keep planting seeds if you want to continue to harvest!
2) Don’t get caught up in believing in your own hype!
3) Keep a routine!
4) Stay true to your “why”!
5)Show, don’t tell!
7. Your Name Here
I said seven experts help us beat the sophomore slump, and we consider you all an important part of any panel of experts we compile!
Anyone reading this can surely relate, at some level, to this sophomore slump. We’d love to hear how you would answer this question, and what tips you can give from your experiences!
Let us hear from you below in the comments!
Author: Dan Franks
Dan Franks is a full time CPA, and moonlights as a podcaster, blogger, and professional wrestler. He considers himself an all around good guy!