Starting and having your own business is really very exciting and liberating – certainly if you’ve been confined by employment ‘rules’ for all of your working life. Now is the opportunity to do what you love and work on your terms. Why then, do we often get paralysed by fear in business? Sometimes, so much so, that it can completely halt our progress.
I’m not a psychologist but I do know that our brains are wired to keep us safe. It would appear that evolution might have skipped our brains, as apparently, they are wired to let us know what to do should we be faced with a sabre-toothed tiger! You know, that adrenalin rush when you need to do something out of your comfort zone – that fight or flight feeling. And because some of the actions we need to take when running a business are often new to us, we will find we feel the fear quite regularly!
So how does fear manifest itself and what can you do about it?
Frankly, there are loads of ways that fear can and will manifest itself. Here are a few that I’ve come across lots of times and my advice on how you can overcome or rationalise the fear.
What will people think about me?
You’re putting yourself out there as a business owner, but you have that incredible feeling that everyone is looking at what you’re doing and judging you. Who are you to be running your own business? Who said you could? Who gave you the right?
The reality is that people really are too busy thinking about what everyone else is thinking of them, so they’re not really looking at you. They will stumble across your business if you’re using social media to advertise, etc., but they’re not scrutinising your efforts. More likely they’re thinking, ‘Wow! – I wish that were me!’.
But if you are paralysed by these thoughts, then answer the questions yourself and write your answers down. Who are you to be setting up your own business? Most likely, you’re professional and an expert in your field with a number of years’ worth of experience and now it’s time to do things on your own terms. Why not?
Even though we know we’re an expert in our own field or at least, damn good at what we do, some people are struck by imposter syndrome and ‘comparisonitis’. Yes, both are very real.
It’s very easy to be scrolling through social media and come across someone who is doing something very similar or the same as you. You’ll have a look at their business pages and website and all of a sudden, you’re struck to the core, thinking that they’re doing things so much better than you ever could. This person is clearly the expert. You were an idiot to even think you could compare. Who’d want to work with you?!
I know this one well, because even though I’m highly qualified in what I do, having a few years out of the game and setting up a business that didn’t use my core skills was enough to make me think I certainly couldn’t do it anymore. The coach I was working with at the time gave me a simple exercise to do every day – and it only took 5 days to realise who I really was and what I had to offer. We have to train our brain to remember the reasons why we are good at what we do. So, write down your reasons, be very clear about what makes you great. What accolades have your received in the past? Do you have some good testimonials?
There’s just so much to learn
Yes, there’s a lot to running a business – without a doubt. And yes, you will need to be a strategist, Peter from Finance, Maria from Marketing – you get the picture. You will need to learn how to run a business and you’ll need to get some processes in place.
But remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
At the very beginning, you won’t even know what you need to learn. And then after some time, you might become overwhelmed with what now know you don’t know. But over time, you’ll have the opportunity to learn new skills. It will become apparent what’s important to your business and if you don’t know how to do something, you’ll need to go and learn. It may be learning from others, books, research, mentoring, formal training. Whatever method, you will need to invest in your learning at some point.
The important thing is not to leave things too long. If you know you need to up your marketing game – go and find out what you need to do. Procrastinating about it is another form of fear and doesn’t get the job done.
Goal setting is so complex
I’m sure we’ve all worked in organisations where the senior team locked themselves away for days, sometimes weeks, working on the strategic plan. What were they doing? Well lots of good work, I’m sure, but your planning process can be quite different.
Yes, it’s good business practice to have a plan, but pulling it together doesn’t need to take weeks. You’ll need to know what you want to achieve in your business and if you follow my tips on how to plan for your business if planning isn’t your thing, you won’t go far wrong.
I can’t do it all by myself
Business can be daunting – and if it’s just you running your business, you’ll likely be attacked by overwhelm at some point. It might also be that you’re the only one in your family who has every had their own business – and so you’re faced with loved ones just not understanding what you’re doing, what you’re going through and how you’re feeling.
Luckily, social media gives us the opportunity to find like-minded business owners. There are so many business groups on Facebook, it makes it very easy to join a group and see that other people are going through the same things. It gives us the opportunity to make friends with people who we would never meet in everyday life. We can get support and accountability from these new friends.
I’ve made quite a lot of friends online, most of whom I’ve not met – but I can message them when I need to and they’ll be there for me with words of wisdom, help and support.
I can’t sell
This is a big fear - one I see a lot. Nobody wants to be the sleazy sales person. It’s really natural to shy away from selling. But when you’re running a business, you need clients – people buying your wares! So, you need to be able to sell.
However, think back to a time when you bought something from the sleazy sales person. You probably didn’t. You probably just smiled and walked away… fast! You most likely found someone else, selling the same thing, who was nice, who engaged in polite conversation with you without making you feel as though you had to buy, or just generally uncomfortable. You liked this person, so you’d happily buy from them again or recommend them.
This is because people buy from people. So, you just need to be yourself. You do need to let people know what you’re selling – but you don’t need to shove it in their face. Let your prospective client make that decision for themselves. There will be plenty of people to sell to, so you really don’t need to be everyone’s cup of tea.
Let people know what you offer, let them get to know you and how you can help them – and of course, where they can find you and how they can buy – and the rest will happen.
This really is just a snap shot of fear – it shows up in all sorts of different ways. But the common theme to take away is that with some rational thought you can teach your brain to remember times when you did things well. So, if marketing is new to you, a skill you need to master but you feel daunted, remember a time when you learnt something new from scratch and became really good at it – like driving for example. You’ll always be able to remember examples that will help you. And yes, you’ll need to push yourself out of your comfort zone but that’s life – the only constant is change so if you learn to embrace it, it will be a big help.
I’d be really interested to know how you’ve dealt with fear in your business – has it got the better of you or have you beaten it with a big stick? Do let me know if the comments below.