When a person embarks on any type of entrepreneurial journey, they are deviating from the common route followed by most people (enter career at bottom level and work your way up over the course of your lifetime, almost always working for someone else through it all) and choosing a path that is far more uncertain.
There is plenty of literature available on the internet that supports the choice to do this, and indeed, it has become easier than ever to set up a business, thanks to web-based tools that are cheap or free. If you want to start a service-based business such a graphic design, wedding planning, or photography, and you have even a small starter portfolio, then you can have a Facebook business page up and running in about fifteen minutes. Bam. Voila, you’ve started a business.
If you’re serious about the business and your goal is to make money, then you’re probably going to be devoting a ton of time to it, and working as much as you can to build your influence level and client base. You may not be quitting your job just yet, but you are working around it, or maybe cutting hours back, certainly your new venture is one of the only things on your mind.
There can often be a rush of excitement and soaring confidence when things seem like they are starting to go right. (For me, this came last Fall, when I realized I was making enough money from photography to pay for multiple plane tickets overseas) This feeling is great, because it helps validate your struggles, and gives you reinforcement and encouragement to continue.
These milestones keep happening, and you’re growing tired of your day job, and beginning to realize that you need to devote ALL your time to your project, or it won’t continue to grow. Besides, you’ve been reading up on related literature, from reputable authors, and they all fill your head with sayings like “leap and the net will appear” so, it’s time to take the plunge and ditch your job right? Right! This will be great!
Often times, aspiring entrepreneurs aren’t ready for what happens next. I know I sure wasn’t.
I decided to cut all side sources of income this past September (read more here). It was an exciting to finish up with the social work job I had held on the side for the past year. The boy I had spent so much time with had made tremendous progress since we had started, and I left feeling happy about my performance there, but eager to devote all my time to building my brand. I felt like there was so much that I would FINALLY have the time to get done. For a few weeks, things went great. My turnaround time was faster than ever, and I finally got to several major projects, such as organizing my 2011 work and beginning to make selections for my new website.
And then, BOOM- Suddenly the tide turned. Several things happened – I lost two lucrative work prospects that I thought were a sure thing, and my car broke down and required expensive repairs. Standing alone, these might not seem like a very big deal, but for someone who had just recently cut the cord on any and all regular income, it was terrifying. The net was NOT appearing, and I was falling fast.
It wasn’t the actual loss of money – I had some saved – It was the mindset that I slipped back into. The FEAR. It was like every time I sat down at my desk, I could feel my doppelganger looking at me, saying “dude, what are you DOING?” or, “You’re not good enough. This is never going to pan out. You’re ruining your life!” I was affected physically and mentally – I just sat there, not accomplishing anything, day after day, with a knot in my stomach, totally succombing to my own fear.
If you’ve ever started anything, and taken even small steps to allow this something to support you financially, then you know what I’m talking about. The F word kicks the door down when we least expect it, and suddenly you are overwhelmed with urges to give up whatever you’re working towards for something safer and more conventional.
As entrepreneurs, or “starters” of anything, how can we find a way to deal with these bouts of depression, anxiety, and fear? It’s no secret that persistence and determination through the hard times is a crucial key to business success, but when the fear sets in and times get tough, that’s the first thing we all forget.
Two concepts I have slowly learned over the last year have helped me lower my head, bear down, and stay moving in positive forward motion during these times of paralyzing fear. They are anticipation and respect.
1) I am learning to anticipate the fear
Even when times are awesome and I’m doing tons of work and making lots of money, I’m learning to recognize that this is a balancing act – And that at this early stage of my business, things are just as likely to spike down as they are to spike up. This doesn’t mean I’m still not psyched when I experience a big payout or land a cool new client, but I’m learning to take it in stride, and focus on the big picture and the big goals, not small ups and downs along the way. It is not going to be a steady rise to the top without stressful periods and pitfalls. Knowing this and anticipating it goes a long way. Did you really think this would be so easy? Come on. If it was easy then everyone would be doing it.
2) I am learning to respect the fear
Lots of self-help or small business writers often talk about ways to “fight your fear”. This may work for some, but an important thing to realize is that you shouldn’t fight the fear because it’s part of you and is there for a reason. Think about what you’re afraid of – it’s almost always some version of this – “My business is going to fail and I’m not going to make enough money to get by”. This is a very real, grounded thing to worry about. Your fear is a manifestation of the rational parts of your brain trying to protect you. Fighting it won’t do any good, it’s already a part of you. Havi Brooks from The Fluent Self gets very in-depth with this concept here. This article (and her very unique site in general) are an excellent read and I highly recommend it.
In the last few weeks, I’ve managed to regain control of my ship and continue on without that heavy, awful feeling of fear weighing me down. None of my worst nightmares that I was imagining came to pass, but I am paying attention to the above concepts, because I know that the feeling will be back at some point. I can’t prevent it, but I can continue learning how to cope with it.
What are some of the ways you deal with the fear? How have you learned to deal with it so it doesn’t interfere with you doing your thing? Drop me a line, I’d love to know!