Starting a business can feel a lot like diving off a bridge towards a small body of water, plummeting for a heart-stopping eternity, and hoping feverishly until the last second that your aim is true.
I mention this particular analogy because most never actually take that dive. What if I miss? Will I be successful? Due to that fear, you stay where you’re safe and lie to yourself that you didn’t really want to make the dive in the first place.
Fear is the destroyer of dreams, and if you let it control you, then you’ll never reach your full potential. If you intend to become an entrepreneur and take control of your personal and professional destiny, it is essential that you find a way to overcome the fear that strikes every first-time entrepreneur. Of course, that’s easier said than done. In this post, we’re going to look at four key tips for facing that fear and moving ahead.
Tip #1: Break Your Process Down into Manageable Steps
The first thing you need to know is that the diving analogy is fundamentally flawed. The reasons vary, but the biggest one is that you don’t veer uncontrollably from the first step to the final destination (whether it’s success or failure). Rather, you move horizontally.
You have a long way to go and a huge amount of work to do, but you can backtrack. You do not need to do it all in one fell swoop. Take your time, going from one step to another only when you’re ready.
By learning as much as you can about the entrepreneurial process and figuring out the intricacies of each unique challenge you’ll face along your journey, you can massively boost your confidence to take the dive.
There are countless resources that provide all the insight you need, packaged in various ways for ease of consumption. Here are three big categories:
- Blog posts: The web is packed with exceptional blogs providing great insight into the entrepreneurial process. Take HubSpot, for example: its blog has an unmatched reputation for offering finely-honed guides on topics pertaining to business, entrepreneurship, financial management, training, and a myriad of other topics relevant to running a business. Another good source is the goremote blog by VirtualPostMail if you want to learn how to start and run your remote business. And that’s just a couple of options. Simply search for the niche topic that interests you and you’re sure to find an article to point you in the right direction.
- Video guides: If you’d rather watch videos than read articles, this is a great option. YouTube is flush with entrepreneurial guides from people who’ve been there and done that, and it can be extremely reassuring to hear them talk. Two areas that are particularly useful are motivation (overcoming your fears, setting goals, etc.) and sales (choosing products, targeting an audience, etc.).
- Podcasts: Not a fan of reading articles or watching videos? Podcasts are great because you can listen to them and absorb valuable information while doing other things. One idea is to find podcasts from people who’ve been in your position before. How did they achieve their goals? What mistakes were made along the way? The more you hear about paths already traveled, the easier you’ll find it to navigate your own.
Tip #2: Set A Budget That You Can Afford To Lose
Feeling like you’re putting everything on the line is pretty daunting when you’re trying to start a business because it magnifies the pressure on you. You simply can’t afford for things not to work out. You have one shot ー miss it, and you’ll have no choice but to return to a life of conventional employment, minimal creativity, and never being your own boss. How is anyone supposed to perform well in those conditions? Even a seasoned professional would struggle.
Instead of going all-in, you should pointedly set a budget that you can afford to lose in its entirety. If your startup crashes immediately and you can’t recover any of the money you put in, you shouldn’t face any financial trouble. Ideally, you should still have some savings to support your next business venture (here’s how to create a budget).
Keep in mind that this isn’t just about regular operational costs: it’s also about your initial costs to some extent. What equipment do you need for your new business? What will make you maximally efficient? A new desk? A coffee machine? A couple of external displays for your laptop, and maybe even a hard drive docking station to neaten things up? There are two key considerations that go into the decision-making process:
- How much value a purchase is likely to return. That new desk I suggested won’t speed up your work, but it might make you more comfortable and allow you to work longer hours. Depending on the price, that might be worth it. And when it comes to more technical purchases like docking stations, you'll have to research the best value options for your set up. Whether you'll be working from home, frequently traveling, or in a co-working space will affect the kind of equipment you need and the amount you'll have to spend.
- Whether a purchase would help with other ventures. The things we’ve mentioned so far are general investments that could be worth your while, but that isn't always the case. Suppose that your business idea involves printing custom designs: should you invest heavily in buying your own printers and materials? It’s a nice idea (and sounds quite forward-thinking), but if your business falls through then you might be left with an expensive setup that no longer holds any value for you. In some situations, as is the case with business furniture, you may be better served renting.
Before you invest in something, then, think about whether you really need it for your business, and whether you can afford to leave it for a later date. In all likelihood, you can give it time.
Tip #3: Outsource Everything Except For Your Core Tasks
Part of the intimidation factor of entrepreneurship is simply the amount of work required for a startup. You need a brand, complete with a full set of thought-out brand guidelines. You have to build a high-quality website. You need rigorous financial management. You have to come up with a compelling value proposition to make you competitive. Your content marketing strategy needs to garner traffic and earn the trust of your target audience.
That’s a lot of work for one person, which is why the solopreneur life is exhausting. Don’t take that approach. However, don’t hire full-time staff yet either because that will only heap more pressure on you. Being responsible for the well-being of others will lead to major feelings of guilt if you can’t deliver success. So what should you do? *SPOILER ALERT* If you read the subheading, you already know the answer. You should outsource everything except for your core tasks.
Outsource your brand design. Outsource your financial management. Outsource your content marketing. Outsource your mail management. This will add to your expenses, yes, but it’s a worthwhile investment because it will give you more time to focus on the things you’re best positioned to handle. Here are some more tips for outsourcing startup tasks.
Tip #4: Know That You Can Adapt As You Go
When you settle on your first business plan, there’s early value in viewing it as a fixed sequence of events. This can give you focus and clarity, helping you stay on track instead of being lured into working on things that don’t really matter and seeing your progress suffer as a result. But even the best plans need contingencies and alternatives — and your first business plan is highly unlikely to be anything special in the grand scheme of things.
It isn’t that you’re incompetent or lacking in talent: it’s simply that you don’t have the experience to know what will work in practice, not just in theory. Due to this, you have to remember that you don’t need to get things right the first time, and small-scale failure won’t require you to abandon your business entirely. Instead, you can adapt to the circumstances you encounter.
You might benefit from pivoting a central element to adopt a different approach, for instance. The more time you put into research, the more you’ll learn about what your target audience really wants, and you can reap the benefits through making updates. In short, the business you end up with won’t necessarily be the one you planned or anticipated, and that’s alright. Don’t worry about your ideal plan. Just get started and stay on your toes.
In this post, we’ve covered the following tips that will help you succeed:
- Work in manageable chunks. Something that initially seems intimidating (or even impossible) seems so much simpler when you break it up into smaller pieces.
- Keep money in reserve. If you protect your savings and only invest a small amount, you can take risks knowing that you can bounce back from failure.
- Focus on what you’re good at. Don’t drive yourself to frustration by trying to do everything yourself. Play to your strengths. This will increase your comfort.
- Remember that you’ll learn. You don’t need to know everything now. You don’t even need to know much. Just be ready to learn as you go.
There’s nothing bad or shameful about being afraid. It’s how you respond to that fear that will define your entrepreneurial career. Denying it or shying away from it will only make it worse. It’s only through accepting it and facing it that you can eventually overcome it.
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