Q: I've dreamed of starting my own business for so long, yet I can't seem to take the next step and actually get things going. What's holding me back?

A: Probably every entrepreneur goes through what you're going through before starting a business. Particularly if you have a job in a comfortable atmosphere, with full benefits and generous bonuses, it might seem ludicrous to give up what you have and start at the bottom again. Yet no matter how many perks you might get at your job, the fact is, it's still a job--and you still wonder, every day, what it'd be like to work for yourself, not someone else.

It seems apparent that your urge to be an entrepreneur isn't going away anytime soon. It also seems apparent that taking the leap would be the right move for you. No matter how difficult things might be in the beginning, one day you'll thank yourself for having the courage to start a business.

There could be other things holding you back other than the feelings of trepidation you're experiencing, however. See if any of these reasons sound familiar:

1. You don't have a lot of money in the bank. That's a very good reason to shy away from quitting your job, isn't it? But that just means you need to get a financial plan together. Consult with a financial planner who can help you map out personal and business finance goals. Some local colleges and community centers even offer workshops and classes on financial planning, usually at a minimal cost, so take advantage of them.

2. Someone mentions the words "business plan" to you, and you stare blankly. A business plan is not the be-all, end-all of starting a business. But it's pretty important. I talked to an entrepreneur-to-be the other day--someone unfamiliar with writing a business plan--and she said she didn't need a business plan because she wasn't planning on seeking financing from outside sources. But even if no one but you ever sees your business plan, it's still important. It helps you put your goals in focus and create a written plan of action for your business. It's almost like a detailed to-do list. Plus, you never know where your business will take you. You might get started and find out you need more money than you thought, and that's where that handy business plan comes in.

3. You don't know anything about bookkeeping. Go ahead and admit it--it's very freeing. Admitting you don't know everything will only make you successful later, because it means you'll have the courage to ask for help. Get all the advice and mentoring you can at this stage. There's no shame in consulting with an accountant, an attorney, a long-time veteran in the field, and so on.

4. You're not sure you have the dedication it takes to stick with it. There's a simple way to solve this problem: Don't start a business doing something you don't like. If you hate getting up early, starting a coffee shop or a bakery is not for you. If you get impatient around children, don't start a child-care center or anything else kid-related. You have to love what you're doing when you start a business, or you will not stick with it. It's no different than working in a job you hate.

5. You're afraid of selling. That's a big one, because if you're an entrepreneur, you're also a salesperson--that is, unless you figure out a way to bring a top-notch salesperson onto your team from the get-go. Chances are, you don't have the money for that yet, so perhaps a better alternative is to psych yourself up to sell. If you believe in your product or service, you'll find the confidence to sell it.

Now quit stalling, and get to work. You've got a business to start.


Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance writer in Southern California.