top of page

Gone fishing: getting the balance right

Updated: May 24, 2023

The net of a a fishing trawler on the Clarence River
Gone fishing, a blog about increasing your chances when starting a new business. Photo: Barbara Winters

I have been fishing.

When you start a new business, you can only plan for so long. At some point, you have to just cast a line and see what happens. Then, if you don't get any bites, you can try different ways to increase your chances.

That also happens to be a marketing technique. It's called angling. This is not to be confused with trawling, which is casting a much bigger net (in this case from a boat). While that can be profitable, trawling is far less targeted. You'll end up with all sorts of things in your net that you may not be ready for...

I went angling when I wrote a blog about The Last Emu (a lesson about small business survival). I got over 100 'Likes' on different community pages, 690 page views, a few new subscribers to my website, and some really nice responses. Some readers shared it to other Clarence Valley pages, which is a nice compliment and helped me get my business name out there. Lots of people could clearly relate, for different reasons, and I even got a few nibbles from potential clients, which indicates I'm on the right track. Just no definite bites yet...

When doubt creeps in

Not catching anything big at first is common. That's the reality for many small business owners who are just starting out and it can be daunting. As you wait for that line to wobble or pull, you easily start doubting yourself or your business potential. And when that happens, it can be tempting to just go for income security instead by working for someone else (or, to stay with the fishing analogy, buying some fish from the co-op instead!).

Fishing takes patience, persistence and time. You can learn from the experts and learn a few more techniques first, but some days it just doesn't work for no clear reason at all, not even for the pros. You have to remind yourself that there's always an amount of luck involved. Being in the right place at the right time with the right gear. If immediate success was guaranteed, where is the challenge and where is the excitement if you do get a nibble?

Gone fishing

In Australia, "gone fishing" is much more than simply having gone out to catch some fish. It means you temporarily close your business, or hang a "gone fishing" sign on your front door, to enjoy a few quiet hours by the water while you (may or may not) cast a line. This is a way of checking out of stressful situations by finding solitude, forgetting about your worries and be in the moment. We even have a National Gone Fishing Day, which promotes the many benefits of time spent in nature. Gone fishing is not being lazy, it's putting your mental health first. I put my "Gone fishing"sign up this morning instead of starting my workweek at my desk. To clear my mind, I went for an 8-kilometre walk along the coast and the Clarence River. As I took in the views, I mentally addressed the doubts I had about starting my own business. What was I hoping to catch? Is it the right time? Was I even in the right spot?

Inspired by nature

I found inspiration in nature when I spotted:

  • a dolphin with its calf bravely navigating the river mouth

  • cormorants, Brahminy kites and herons patiently waiting for the right moment to swoop

  • two young rainbow lorikeets performing a balancing act on a casuarina tree while their parent watched on.

The lessons I took from this are: Running a business is a balancing act, but you can learn from those with lived experience, our elders. Older people tend to be far more patient, stoic even (or just far less anxious), as they draw on experience and know what they have to offer. Good parents teach us that it's ok to mistakes, that you can try a few different techniques first and if need be just leave it for the day, then come back and try again tomorrow. My father, a keen fisherman, does this all the time. In my head, I recited the words of friends and former colleagues who know from experience that starting a business can be a long process. People I admire and who have been encouraging me to keep going. I repeated their words like mantras, in rhythm with the sound of my flip-flops on the beach:

"You already have the skills" ~ "You've got this" ~ "There is nothing you can't do" ~ "Trust your instincts" ~ "Follow your heart"

Increasing my chances

So yes, I will keep going, and this week I am not just casting a line and sitting back, but I will be throwing a cast net, and try a few different tricks. It's a little more involved than simply holding a rod hope for the best, as it requires me to time it right, do some heavy lifting, be serious about it and really apply my (interpersonal) skills. If you don't try you are sure to get nothing. If you don't put the extra effort in, you won't get much.

And you only need one good catch to have food on the table again for a while.

This lone pelican knows all about that...

A lone pelican on the Clarence River at Goodwood Island
A lone pelican on the Clarence River at Goodwood Island. Photo: Barbara Winters


bottom of page