Dealing With Financial Anxiety

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Q: I'm starting a homebased business, and I feel a lot of pressure financially. How do I deal with this anxiety?

A: The short answer is: Learn to live with the feeling-you'll feel that way for a long time while starting your business. I don't say that to be flip. It's just true. Every single person starting a business feels that way unless they've recently been left a large inheritance and money is not their primary motivator.

Although the so-called freedoms of self-employment are enticing, with the benefits of being on your own come a few major downsides. One of those downsides is financial risk and the volatility of your income. Add to that the loss of paid benefits, especially if you have a family you're helping to support, and financial fears are sure to mount.

So the pressure you're feeling doesn't have to signal you're on the wrong path-it could be a good reality check that shows you what you're up against and that you aren't being naive. Such pressure can also be what gets you going in the morning when you'd rather be golfing. I'd be more worried if you were starting a business and you were so confident, you had no money fears whatsoever. That's pure arrogance, and if that's how you feel, you're unlikely to plan for realistic difficulties that most new entrepreneurs encounter.

So to answer your question, How do you deal with the anxiety, directly, here's my advice:

If you have a spouse, be sure you put together what I call a "family plan," which is described in detail in my book, Honey, I Want to Start My Own Business: A Planning Guide for Couples. Determine the risk you're willing to take and the level of risk each of you would find intolerable. Stretch to your limits, but don't go beyond what you can handle (or what your spouse can handle), or the anxiety will start destroying your productivity-as well as your marriage.

Often, anxiety comes from exaggerating in our minds what we believe will happen if we fail. It's the old "bag lady in the street" syndrome. Catch yourself when your mind spins out of control and confront your worst fears. What's really the worst thing that could happen? Can you cope with it? How likely is it to happen? What can you control that will guarantee your worst nightmare doesn't occur? Could you get financial help from relatives or elsewhere that would make your greatest fears unlikely? Even if you wouldn't want to ask, there might be a safety net below that you can count on if you had to.

Maybe the idea of quitting and going back to a paid job nauseates you. It won't kill you, though. Remember, that's always an option, as well as moving into smaller quarters, selling one car or paring down your wardrobe. None of this may be what you'd want, but you'd survive it.

Most of what we're worried about financially either won't happen or, if it does, we'll still be OK. Of course, solid business planning and expense-reduction strategies are in order if self-employment is going to be your lifestyle. Expect that you won't be profitable for three years, and then you'll be pleasantly surprised when it's sooner than that rather than panicked when it takes twice as long as you hoped.

In the meantime, learn how to make the most of the anxiety you wake up with every day. When you have to summon the self-discipline to stay on track, it might become your best friend.

Azriela Jaffe is the founder of Anchored Dreamsand author of several books, including Honey, I Want to Start my Own Business: A Planning Guide for Couples and Starting from No: Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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