I want to be super transparent with you: I was TERRIFIED to start my business, Verdure Design Co. It wasn’t part of my life/career plan, I hadn’t ever started a business before AND the unknowns associated with that scared the hell out of me. How was I supposed to know how to start, run, and operate a design studio? I wasn’t an “entrepreneur,” I was a designer.
Oddly enough, there was another feeling in my gut accompanying the fear that was telling me starting this business is exactly what I was SUPPOSED to be doing. So, I was in a bit of a pickle. I knew I needed to do this, but had to overcome my fear in order to do so.
Below are the six things I did (and continue to do) to overcome the fear of starting a business. They helped me regain control of my life and provided me with a plan each time fear began to creep back in. I highly encourage you to try these steps next time fear starts to hold you back from what you want to accomplish.
1. Write down your goals/mission.
Before we start touching on what it is that is stopping you from starting a business, it is important to address what is ENCOURAGING you to start one. Why are you wanting to do this in the first place? Is it so you can be financially independent? Do you have an idea that you know can help people? Do you want to pursue your passions instead of someone else’s? Whatever the reason, spend a moment to really pin it down.
This is going to be your guiding force throughout this journey. It is going to be the light at the end of your tunnel and the first thing you turn to when fear starts to creep into view. A solid purpose and reason for embarking on this business venture will be one of your greatest tools for combatting fear. If it’s strong enough, it can even sometimes be your only tool.
2. Acknowledge the fears that are holding you back.
Once you’ve determined what it is that fuels you, it’s time to acknowledge what it is that scares you. Everyone has different fears, but you’ll find that many of us share the same ones when it comes to starting and running a business. For example: I fear I won’t make money doing this or I fear I won’t be taken seriously enough. I like to call these surface level fears. They are the first fears that come to mind and are often not our actual fears.
Surface level fears serve as a cover to what it is that truly scares us. “I fear I won’t make money doing this” covers the real fear which is “I fear I won’t be able to feed and support my family doing this.” In order to appropriately overcome the fears that are holding us back from starting a business, we have to get past the surface level fears and address what it is that is really scaring us. How do we do that? By asking my absolute favorite question: Why?
3. Question the fears that you’ve identified.
When you are faced with a fear, take a moment to ask yourself: why does this scare me? This will help you get to the root of your fears. Here’s an example:
I fear I won’t be taken seriously.
Well, because I’m new to this and don’t know everything.
Okay, why does THAT scare me?
Well, because I feel like if I don’t know everything I will make a mistake.
Okay, why is that scary?
Because I will look silly and that’s embarrassing.
In this example, the fear isn’t so much about not being taken seriously as it is about avoiding being embarrassed.
4. Determine the real fears and eliminate the foolish ones.
When you are able to get to the root of a fear, you are able to take steps to appropriately address it. Which starts with determining if a fear is “real” or if it can be deemed “foolish” and talked away.
Using our two examples: the fear that you won’t be able to feed and support your family would qualify as a real fear that needs to be addressed. This means, it is a fear that could put yourself and others in harm’s way. Whereas, the fear of looking silly is, dare I say, a silly fear. Looking silly isn’t going to harm you, which means it’s a fear you don’t need to give brain space to anymore.
Learn to let go of the fears that don’t need to take up space in your mind. This will make room for things you really need to be tackling in your business. Each time one of those fears creeps up, you will have to acknowledge it, remember your goal, and tell yourself you won’t let a foolish fear like this get in the way of your dreams. The more you do this, the less that fear will appear and the more you can focus on building your business.
5. Create “safety nets” for your real fears.
After you’ve eliminated or at least have begun to eliminate the foolish fears, it’s time to sit down and dissect the real fears. You want to do this so you can devise a “safety net.” These will help you deal with those fears whenever they arise. Hopefully, you’ve dwindled your original list down to just a few, which is way more manageable than the buckets you might have started with.
A “safety net” refers to a list of resources and support you can turn to to remind yourself that you can overcome the fears you’re facing. In our financial example, this could be starting a savings account, working on a budget, or seeking support from relatives or friends. Creating these “safety nets” allows you to have some control over the situation, thus slowly overcoming the uncertainty that is often what really fuels our fears.
6. Find your people.
The final step to overcome the fear of starting a business, is to find your people. One of the scariest things about starting a business is the feeling that you are doing it all alone. Figuring out each step, facing all the hurdles, occasionally crying over a sugar cookie (or if you’re me, a cup of salsa) all by yourself. It’s hard and I think it is the real reason so many people give up. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.
So many women just like you are working to chase their passions and dreams. Find them. Befriend them. Learn from them. Encourage them. Support them. And they will do the same for you.
Conquering your fears doesn’t have to be a mountainous challenge. By following these six simple steps I have been able to control a lot of the fears that used to dominate my life. My hope is that they give you a place to start so you can begin to do the same.
Remember: Fear is a normal part of human life (especially when starting a business) but YOU are in control. You are the one who gets to determine your journey. It’s time to put your fear in the backseat.