31 Tips for Conquering Startup Fears

What's really holding you back from starting your own business? These 31 tips will help you face your fears and finally get the guts to become your own boss.

Most startup articles focus on the mechanics of launching a business. But the inner journey to starting a business is just as important as writing a business plan and getting financing. I learned this the hard way.

With a business plan and hard-earned savings in hand, I didn't have the guts to leave my job. After quitting my job and taking it back twice, I developed techniques to help myself build courage and break through my fears. These techniques worked--and when I quit for the third time, I was finally able to let go of my job and start Profit Strategies in Lake Worth, Florida, in 1998.

What started out as a marketing consulting firm eventually evolved into an entrepreneurial advocacy business. After accepting a contract with a Small Business Development Center, I taught more than 500 entrepreneurs the techniques I used to help myself. In 2003, I wrote Employee to Entrepreneur: The Employee's Guide to Entrepreneurial Success, coined the term "Emotional Endurance," and developed Emotional Endurance training programs. Today, I present Emotional Endurance techniques at conferences in the United States and abroad, host The Entrepreneur Hour Radio Show (Mondays at noon EST, www.wbzt.com ), moderate an online discussion group on business networking site Ryze.com, and head up a series of online interactive seminars titled " Getting the Guts ".

The following 31 strategies are ones I share in my book and in my workshops. They've worked for me and can work for you, too:

1. Say yes to your yearning. You don't have to know at this moment what you will do or how you will do it. Simply acknowledge the inner voice that's been nudging you to venture into the world of entrepreneurship. Write "Yes! I accept my yearning!" on a big piece of paper, and post it on your wall, just to remind yourself that you are moving forward. It took me two years to write down those five words, but once I did, I began to see the possibility of being my own boss.

2. Start a journal. Use it daily to write down your ideas, goals, feelings and whatever is going on in your life. Keeping a journal helps you get to know yourself better, and you'll see your progress when you look back. My journal was especially helpful to me when I was scared and could read about times when I felt confident.

3. Write down your goals. Studies have revealed that people who write down their goals are five times more likely to achieve them. When would you like to start a business? Leave your job? How much money would you like to have saved? Set goals, and work toward achieving them.

4. Visualize your success. Create a vision of what you desire as an entrepreneur, and write it down. In my business counseling experience, the clients who created visions were most likely to experience them. Ask questions like "What kind of office space do I want to work in?" and "What kind of clients do I want to serve?"

5. Create and read affirmations. Affirmations are "I am" statements about what you want to happen, written in the present tense as if they are already happening. "I am a successful entrepreneur" is a good one to start with. Create a list of 10 to 20 affirmations on index cards. Hang them where you'll see them and read them daily. Affirmations helped me believe in myself, and launch and grow my business.

6. Evaluate your beliefs. Grab a sheet of paper and write your beliefs about yourself, money, your business and the future on the left. See if these beliefs reflect what you want to believe. If not, write your new beliefs on the right, and add them to your affirmations. One client of mine discovered that his beliefs about money were actually his parents' beliefs, so he created new beliefs that were more closely aligned with his goals.

7. Do what you love. This helps you discover and clarify what you want to do as an entrepreneur. If you don't know what you love to do, think back to what you loved to do as a kid. When I was a child, I loved to teach imaginary children math. When I started my business, I began giving seminars locally; I now present at national and international conferences.

8. Do something different every day. Shake up your routine, and get used to change. One of my clients thought this would be an easy exercise, and she later told me it took her three days just to get up on the other side of the bed. Her little changes helped release her fears and prepare her for starting a business.

9. Act "as if." Start acting as if you are your own boss. Feel what it's like to make your own schedule and generate your own revenue. Once my clients started doing this, they realized it built their confidence.

10. Go out and scare yourself. Are you afraid of doing something, saying something or going somewhere? Do it afraid! Being afraid and doing it anyway builds courage and confidence. One of my clients made up the maxim "Do it afraid!" to help her take action and challenge herself to do things that scare her.

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This article was originally published in the April 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fear Factor.

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