How to Overcome Your Fears and Start Your Own Business
Do you dream of running your own business and waking up every day to do something you love? Maybe you'd like to make a tonne of money so you can travel the world in your private jet?
Everyone has a passion for something and the foundation of all great businesses is passion.
Unfortunately, for a lot of people, starting a business seems 'unrealistic' and they're crippled by fear and self-doubt.
The good news is, it's 2015 and you can start a business doing virtually anything, thanks to the internet. You can now reach a global audience, so no mater how niche your business idea is, there are people who will pay you for whatever it is you're going to offer and for the first time ever in history, you can reach them with a small amount of effort.
So what is it that's holding you back? Let's review some of the common fears that people experience and look at ways to overcome them.
1. I'm afraid to quit my job, how will I pay the bills?
This is probably the biggest obstacle for most people when it comes to starting a business.
Let me start of by saying that quitting your job on a Friday with a view to starting your new business on Monday is absolutely ludicrous and no-one in their right mind should ever do this.
You should be building your business up alongside your current job until you reach the point where you can safely make the transition.
Won't that mean I'll have to work in the evenings and weekends?
Yes. You will have to put in the work to get your business going. That means longer hours, time and effort. So what's your real fear – quitting your job, or having to do the work?
If it's the latter, then you should forget about reading the rest of this article right now.
Still with me? Good.
How to Build Your Business on the Side
Depending on the type of business you're building, the degree of difficulty you will face will vary.
If you want to build your own app but you've never written a line of code in your life, it's going to be a lot tougher than for someone who is an experienced app developer.
Here's the good news. In 2015 you can LEARN how to do ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING you want for FREE or for a very small amount of money.
Modern times also make it incredibly cheap to start a business. You can have a basic website set up and running for as little as £5 a month and with Facebook, Twitter and Google advertising you can start buying clicks to your website for pennies.
If you need to get some additional talent to help you, then you need to find a co-founder who will help you build your business in exchange for some equity.
Figure out what skills you need in a co-founder and then start attending relevant events and meetups where you'll find the person you need, and start building the relationship.
If you need a technical co-founder to write some code and build an app for you, then start attending tech meetups in your local area.
You should also learn to barter knowledge and services with other people. Entrepreneurship is about being scrappy, thinking creatively and making things happen.
Why not do some design work (if you're a designer) for a developer in exchange for them writing some code for you? Or help your accountant with some copywriting for their website. You get the picture.
Making the Transition
Once your business has started bringing in some revenue, or you're ready for some outside investment, this is the point in which you leave your job and move into your new, flourishing business full-time.
If things go well, then you'll have no choice other than to leave your day job, because you'll have so much work on that you won't have time to do it.
Now you can make a sensible, low-risk transition without worrying about how you'll afford to feed yourself.
2. I can't afford to start a business
Most people don't have a few hundred grand lying their bank accounts either but there is nothing stopping you from raising the money you need to build your business.
For most businesses, you won't need as much as you think to get started, and investing a huge sum of money up-front is a terrible, and risky idea.
You need to validate that your business will work by spending the least amount of money possible first.
Want to open a shop selling your own products? Open an online store first.
Starting your own consulting business? Forget a fancy office, work from home and meet clients in a local coffee shop.
Working on a piece of software? Strip it right back and build the most basic, low-cost version you can get away with and then go and sell it to some early customers. This will prove that someone will actually buy it because it solves a real problem. You can make it look pretty and add all the fancy bells and whistles later on.
Raising External Finance
If you've followed the advice in Step 1 and started to build your business on the side, and you've acquired a few customers, then you'll be in a good position to raise external finance.
This is where most people screw up. I hear so many people complaining that investor/bank/council/government wont give them money to get started.
That's because they haven't done the ground work to validate their business first.
Going to your bank or an investor with an idea is completely pointless. Everyone has 10,000 ideas and they mean absolutely nothing.
You need to execute your idea before you even think about asking someone for money. Anyone can pitch an idea, but very few people can execute.
This means building a prototype, doing some market research and proving that you have a viable business.
It's amazing how many people don't bother doing any groundwork and are then shocked when they fail to secure any financial support.
When I started Get Invited, I was still in University. I had a bank balance of £0 and raised £250,000 of venture capital and grants.
Because my co-founder and I spent a year building an early version of our product, getting some customers onboard and proving we had technology that worked before we even thought about speaking to an investor.
We had a product, we had a clear path to revenue and we had demonstrated that we were prepared to do the work. It takes an enormous amount of passion to work on something for 12 months without earning a penny, but that's the kind of commitment you're going to have to make.
3. What if I don't make enough money?
It is a very real risk that you won't make enough money initially, when you're building your business on the side, or even when you've transitioned into it full-time.
You may even experience difficult times down the line. I've had several months were I haven't made a penny from my business.
How do you survive?
Set Up Multiple Income Streams
You need to learn how to make money outside of your core business – typically you can do this by consulting and selling services (that may or not be related to your business).
In the year were I didn't have a salary, I consulted for other local startup companies writing code and designing their business plans. This enabled me to earn money, but I was also able to learn from other businesses in the process.
Everyone has experience that they can sell and you'll earn a lot more money per hour than you will in most 9-5 jobs. You should be charging £200 - £500+ per day for consulting depending on your level of experience.
So a few jobs a month will pay the bills and let you focus on building your new business.
Everybody has skills that other people will be prepared to pay for, you just have to be proactive in marketing yourself. Set up Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, get some business cards printed and pro-actively attend networking events and sell your services.
It won't take long before you start earning some money.
4. What if I fail?
Living a mediocre life full of regrets for not making something of your ideas, acting on your dreams and building a business doing something you love is the biggest failure you could possibly experience.
Spending 50+ years of your life doing something you hate is failure.
Starting a business that doesn't work out is not failure, it's learning.
The only people who will point the finger and tell you that you have failed are people who have achieved nothing themselves and you will quickly learn to remove these toxic people from your life.
Having a failed business means you ventured further than most people ever do and got started. You should be proud of that, not ashamed.
Never Give Up
You will inevitably face set-backs; tough times; be crippled with stress; fear; and self-doubt, and there will be days when you feel like packing it all in but you should never, ever give up.
"I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance"
I have faced many difficult challenges in my own business and my personal life but the one thing that got me through them is that I never gave up.
The same people who are waiting for you to fail so they can point the finger and make themselves feel better about their own lack of achievement will be spurring you on from the sidelines at every difficult challenge, telling you to give up.
Don't listen to them. Listen to yourself and do what you think is right. Your intuition will never let you down.
There is a very real risk that your business might fail, but so what? You'll have acquired a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge so that you can easily go and start another business.
5. I'm not smart enough
Running a business has absolutely nothing to do with being smart. In fact, you're probably in a better position if your outlook on life hasn't been marred by years of schooling – you've got a blank slate to work from and you can acquire the knowledge that you need.
I failed all of my high school exams. I never listened to a single word that was said to me in the 5 years I was in high school and it was probably one of the best things I ever did.
I was by far, the 'stupidest' kid in my year in high school – but what does that really mean? I couldn't recite a load of meaningless information on paper during an exam?
I dropped out of high school the moment I was old enough to legally do so. I went to college, I worked my ass off for two years then I went to University and I worked my ass off for another six years obtaining a Bachelors and a Masters degree.
This had nothing to do with being 'smart'. I was not 'smart' when I started. I just worked hard. I put in the hours learning what I needed to learn and that is something that anyone can do.
Everyone is Winging It
Want to know the biggest secret about entrepreneurship?
Everyone is just making it up as they go along. People might look composed, intelligent and experienced on the outside but almost everyone is facing the same fears as you, including that they are not smart enough and they don't have all the answers.
When I started my business, I spoke to lots of other entrepreneurs and I was intimidated by what they knew and had achieved, but they all let me in on this great secret.
You don't need to have all the answers. You just need to admit that you don't have them, and then go and ask people who do.
All great entrepreneurs know this and they then hire people who are smarter, to do the work for them.
There is a great story about Henry Ford in the book, Think and Grow Rich which explains a law suit Ford had taken out against a Chicago newspaper.
The newspaper's attorneys asked Ford a variety of questions to demonstrate that he was ignorant, and he responded with:
"If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts.
Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?"
He completely understood that the pursuit of intelligence alone won't make you successful, but surrounding yourself with people smarter than you, will.
"Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people, or find a different room."
6. I have no business experience
Neither did Steve Jobs or Richard Branson, or anyone for that matter when they started out. The only skill you need is the ability to figure things out and solve problems for yourself.
Should you do a course in business?
Probably not, most of the greatest entrepreneurs are college dropouts.
I'm not suggesting that attending a good business course isn't going to benefit you, it will – if you're simultaneously building your own business and applying what you're learning.
Years of theory in any subject is worthless unless you know how to apply it, and the world is already full of 'textbook entrepreneurs' who can quote every line from the Lean Startup, but what does it really matter if you can't apply it?
Most of the problems you're going to be faced with aren't even covered in the books or business courses. How will you cope with the emotional stress of running a business? What will you do if your business can't meet payroll?
These are the real problems that require creative solutions. I've read the books and done the courses but when I was faced with the real problems, I was on my own.
So what should you do?
Get a mentor and start hanging out with other entrepreneurs on a regular basis. People who have been there and done it. These are the people who will give you the real business experience and advice that you're not going to find in a book, university or business course.
Best of all – most of them will give you their advice for free. Why? Because they know what you're going through, they understand the pain and they want to help you.
Stop Making Excuses and START Making Something
Even if you've managed to overcome your initial fears, there will be plenty more to come. It's important that you don't use these as an opportunity to make excuses (which is an easy trap to fall into) and you just keep going, working towards a clear end goal.
The only the thing standing in the way of you starting your own business, is you.