Fear of starting a business is the #1 reason why smart, talented people with something valuable to offer don’t take the plunge and become entrepreneurs.
In this article, we’ll discuss the nine biggest fears of starting your own business and how to overcome them.
I was scared shitless when I quit my job and gave the whole online business thing my full-time attention.
I’m not going to lie, there are days I wake up and wonder if it was all a big mistake.
But then I remember the basis of fear is often irrational. Fear of starting a business is like fear of anything—it’s wrapped up in guilt, doomsday scenarios, and haywire mental programming.
What I want to do today is knock down some of these psychological barriers that are keeping you from starting. These fears of starting a business are rooted in real, legitimate risks. But they’re often overblown and magnified in our minds.
With that caveat, let’s get to work.
The 9 Fears of Starting a Business Debunked
#1: You Don’t Have the Right Degree or Education
There is no degree requirement for becoming an entrepreneur.
Getting an MBA is an expensive two-year vacation from investment banking. Getting a JD is training to become overpaid support staff for a real businessperson.
You don’t even need a BA to become an entrepreneur, as evidenced by Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Ray Kroc, Coco Chanel … and seriously, the list just keeps going like that.
#2: Your Idea Isn’t Good Enough
Plenty of successful businesses succeed with bad ideas (Snuggie, anyone?). But even if your idea doesn’t turn out to be all that good (and how would you know until you test?), you can always pivot later.
“Pivot” is becoming an overused word in business, but the basic meaning is when a business changes the fundamental value proposition to the customer.
I liken the difference between a pivot and a normal iteration to navigating a ship in a storm. An iteration is a course correction that is intended to get you to the same destination. A pivot is deciding to sail to Jamaica instead of Puerto Rico.
Many famous businesses started off doing something vastly different than what they’re doing today. Flickr began its life as a massive multiplayer online game. Groupon was a political action website before it introduced the world to crowd-couponing. Nintendo was a playing card manufacturer before it became the largest video game company on the planet.
Good execution trumps good ideas. Every time.
#3: Your Idea Isn’t Original Enough
Original is overrated. Facebook wasn’t the first social network. Google wasn’t the first search engine. The first popular web browser, Netscape Navigator, is long gone.
You can discount every business idea until you’re left with nothing. At some point, the entrepreneur decides to trust in herself and her ability to respond to changing circumstances.
No plan survives contact with reality anyway, and that goes double for business plans.
#4: You Will Not Have the Support of Friends and Family
Many entrepreneurs find that they need to go it alone, at least for a little while. The Herd is not a fan of you stepping out of line and trying to get off the corporate career ladder.
You might want to fire your friend or family member from your life if they’re going to be a dick about it anyway. But more to the point, why do they even need to know?
If you’re not going to get support from your parents or siblings, just don’t tell them what you’re doing. Unless their help would directly lead to sales, there’s no reason to let friends and family know about your entrepreneurial projects until you’ve validated some success.
#5: You Will Face Uncertainty
Starting a small business, especially in the services industry, has a reputation for being unpredictable. Unpredictable clients, unpredictable income. You’re worried about the uncertainty of striking out on your own.
The reality is that we live in a world that is steeped in uncertainty. That cushy, low-accountability office job that’s so reliable today could disappear tomorrow. And no one will be handing you a Golden Parachute on your way out.
The illusion of certainty is not certainty.
The only logical response in a world of volatility and uncertainty is to get tough-minded. Is it more risky to have multiple streams of income or rely on one employer who could go bankrupt, get bought out, or lay you off at any time?
#6: You Will Face a Bad Economy
Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook were all started in bad economies.
The truth is that the macro-economy has very little to do with the realities of starting a business. Do you have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that people want? That answer doesn’t hinge on what the NASDAQ is doing.
Don’t let a slumping economy act as an excuse not to start something.
#7: You Will Get Injured or Sick and Not Have Health Insurance
In the United States, health insurance is tied to employment. Corporations in America foot most of the bills for insurance coverage for their employees.
As a consequence, most American workers are guilty of learned helplessness when it comes to buying insurance. Most wouldn’t know where to begin if they had to purchase insurance on their own, and most have lost all perspective when it comes to the purpose of insurance in the first place.
Thankfully, the ACA has really opened this gate for the vast majority of people. Economists are already optimistic that Obamacare will unlock many would-be entrepreneurs from their jobs. When I recently quit my job, it was partly because I knew this option existed for me.
#8: You Will Run Out of Money
This is a very real concern for the bootstrapper who’s using savings to fund a new business.
I’d take a good, hard look at my expenses. Are you doing everything you can to prepare to start a business?
- Have you reduced your household expenses to the minimum?
- Are you living on a budget that generates savings?
- Have you implemented management strategies for your cash?
If you’ve taken these steps and you’re still worried about running out of money, then keep your day job and start small. Kim Palmer, author of The Economy of You, recommends turning small side gigs into full-blown income streams before taking the plunge into full-time entrepreneurship.
#9: You Will Fail (or Be Perceived as a Failure)
The truth is you could fail. But failure isn’t final. Not unless you let it be.
You can learn how to fail fast and fail forward. You can learn how to move on from your failures. But the important thing to remember is that you’re more likely to regret playing small and aiming low. This is the lesson of the “Die Empty” credo. People regret the risks they don’t take, not the ones that they do.
Even if they fail.
Failure is a learning experience. Mediocrity teaches you nothing.
If you’re ready for the journey, you might want to put getting fired from your job on your To-Do list and make it happen.
The foundation for any new business today is an online presence that brings in new customers. Check out my recommendation for the best website builder for more on this subject.