How to Conquer Your Fears and Start a Business
Is something holding you back from jumping into entrepreneurship? While being your own boss and following your dream is exciting, the unknowns can cause anxiety. You may worry about funding your startup or losing the stability of a regular paycheck.
Although some fears are based in reality, others are overblown. Yes, self-employment risks exist. But, you can reduce threats while giving yourself the confidence to start a business. Learn how to overcome your fears by following these steps.
1. Visualize your dream of entrepreneurship
Start on a positive note by writing down your reasons for going into business yourself. Use these ideas to develop a vision of what entrepreneurship means to you. Now, this is different from business planning, where you’ll dive into your brand’s goals for prosperity.
Instead, personal visualization revolves around how self-employment benefits you and what you want to gain. For instance, if you feel personal satisfaction from coaching in your private practice or love seeing smiles on your restaurant guests’ faces, then write that down. People start a business for many reasons, including:
- More flexibility in schedule
- Build wealth
- Follow a passion
- Capitalize on existing opportunities
Once you’ve written down a short or long list of reasons for self-employment, sum it up into a few sentences, something that’s easily digestible and memorable. Next, print your vision statement. Post it near your workspace or on your dresser mirror. Add photos reflecting why you want to own a business, like industry images highlighting your passion or family photos showing your purpose.
In moments where you find fear getting the best of you, read your vision statement, and use it to push through tough times.
2. Acknowledge your fears
Okay, now that you’ve had a feel-good moment, it’s time to dig into the nitty-gritty of what you’re afraid of and put those fears into perspective. Write down everything you can think of, no holding back. Don’t overthink your concerns. Jot them all down quickly. Entrepreneurs commonly worry about:
- Not having an employment safety net
- Loss of stable paycheck
- Lack of health insurance
- Tax or accounting concerns
- Putting a burden on your partner
- Letting down family members
- Losing your work-life balance
- Business failure
- Spending money on your company
- Lack of experience or imposter syndrome
- Not having enough business funding
3. Assess the risks of starting a business
Your list of concerns represents what’s stopping you from moving forward. Each fear or anxiety is real and valid. And your worries don’t magically disappear once you become an entrepreneur. Instead, every time you get stuck or face a challenge, these old fears will resurface.
Successful business owners use risk management and mitigation strategies to identify and reduce threats. You can do the same thing for your personal pre-startup business fears. Once you’ve recognized your worries, which are things you consider risks, you need to flesh them out further.
In a business risk assessment, you decide who is harmed by a risk. In your case, this may be yourself, spouse, family, friends, or other time or financial obligations you currently have. Go back to your list of fears and write down affected parties for each one.
Next, prioritize your worries. What are the consequences of your fears coming true? Label each concern as low, medium, or high. High means it’s a horrible consequence, like not being able to pay your rent and getting evicted, versus low where you’ll have to go without entertainment activities for a while.
Then think about the probability of your fear coming to fruition. What’s the likelihood of your concern coming true? If you’re entering a risky industry with no guaranteed income replacement for your current job, it’s far scarier than having six months of savings to count on.
Once you complete this general risk assessment, move onto the next step: Risk tolerance and mitigation.
4. Risk tolerance and mitigation
Risk tolerance differs from person to person, from both a mental standpoint and an economic view. What works for someone else may not work for you. However, everyone can manage their fears and overcome hurdles by working out solutions.
Look at each of your concerns and brainstorm possible solutions. Some answers solve the problem, whereas others reduce the consequences. Give yourself a few options, so you don’t feel as though you’re backed into a corner when it comes to making a decision. Possible responses include:
- Do nothing, start a business, and let the cards fall.
- Start a business in phases while setting aside savings.
- Work a day job and a side gig indefinitely.
- Ask for help from family or friends.
Work through your list of fears, writing possible solutions next to each one. Now you have a clear view of each risk, consequence, the likelihood of it happening, and potential ways to reduce the threats.
5. Create a plan of action
Since many of your fears are ongoing risks, it’s essential to develop tools to navigate your concerns. Doing so helps you alleviate worries by showing you a path around them. Companies act on risk management strategies using techniques like:
- Avoidance: Not doing the high-risk activity until you can reduce the threats.
- Reduction: Find ways to make starting a business less risky.
- Sharing: Get help managing the risk from a mentor, business partner, or third-party.
- Retention: Accept the risk, move forward, and plan accordingly.
Turn your solution into bite-sized tasks, with each step moving you closer to reducing your threats. Use the following example of the fear management process to tailor your plan.
Example: Combat the fear of failure
With any new venture comes a risk of failure, making it a top concern for business owners. If you identified a fear of failure, then start by gathering data about why startup companies fail. For example, CB Insights evaluated 101 failed businesses. The majority faced more than one problem leading to its demise:
- 42% failed due to a lack of market need.
- 29% ran out of money.
- 23% lacked the right team.
- 19% couldn’t rise above the competition.
- 18% faced cost issues or problems with pricing.
- 17% developed a product that wasn’t user-friendly.
- 17% had a good product but no business model.
- 14% didn’t successfully market their product or brand.
- 14% ignored customers and their concerns.
- 13% suffered from poor timing of a product launch.
Each of these reasons for failure represents a risk to your business. Think about your business idea, and consider the probability of each of these problems happening. Next, develop ways to combat the threat to a successful business.
Possible solutions to prevent business failure
- Complete a market analysis.
- Secure funding or grants for your startup.
- Analyze your startup team strengths and weaknesses.
- Outsource your marketing, public relations, or accounting.
- Develop a people-first approach.
Once you know how to solve the problem, break it down into small steps. For instance, you may work on your market analysis while holding down a full-time job. First, you want to learn how to do market research, identify your direct and indirect competitors, and develop insights.
Perhaps you give yourself one week to learn what a market analysis involves using online articles and entrepreneur forums. Add another week or two to identify and research direct and indirect competitors. Then set aside a longer chunk of time to review your findings and develop insights. Do this for each fear and solution until you have a detailed plan for overcoming obstacles.
6. Build your tribe
One of the best ways to defeat your fears and start a business from home is to find like-minded people and supporters. Keep a mental list of the people who want to help or encourage you, including family, friends, and co-workers.
Next, connect with other entrepreneurs and industry professionals. Networking with others going through similar issues gives you a sense of camaraderie. Plus, discussions online or in-person help you uncover new ways of doing things. Get help starting your business using resources like:
- Networking on Linkedin
- Industry-related websites, blogs, and newsletters
- Online entrepreneur forums
- Local meet and greets
- The US Small Business Association (SBA) website
- Local SBA centers and events
- Community business associations, like your local Chamber of Commerce
- Industry-related Twitter chats
- Entrepreneur or industry Facebook groups
Start a business, and don’t let fear hold you back
Although moving into self-employment is risky, it comes with great rewards. However, it’s easy to let your fears get the best of you, like focusing on your lack of experience instead of emphasizing your passion for learning and growing.
Here’s the thing, experience is fantastic. But, it doesn’t guarantee success. The Harvard Business Review reports experience without passion is a weakness. Startup teams with a “shared strategic vision” and “entrepreneurial passion” drive business growth.
So, acknowledge your fears, find solutions, and make a plan. And don’t forget to look to your vision for inspiration to get through the tough times.