Starting a company takes hard work and perseverance. But it also takes the ability to overcome fear. Leaving the security of a traditional job can be one of the scariest things you’ll ever do. (Scarier and more difficult, dare I say, than cooking a French soufflé? That’s questionable.) It’s even more difficult if you come from a family that had traditional jobs. Your parents went to work, had a boss, got a paycheck, complained about their boss, and made it home for dinner.
So how do you break out of this mold and have the boldness to do your own thing? By facing your fears head on and realizing that it really is not as hard as it seems. Here were some of my top fears, and how I tackled them.
1. I need insurance and benefits!
Don’t we all? The good thing is that you can find an individual insurance plan on the marketplace. It’s helpful to get a broker on board to assist you with your search. It might be more expensive to get on an individual plan, and the deductibles may be high, but you will have peace of mind that you’re covered.
You may also want to check if there is a local group (bar association, business organization, chamber of commerce) you can join. Some may even have access to medical plans. A local group can also be useful to brainstorm with about such topics. I realize if you have a pre-existing condition, you may be stuck with marketplace plans that are not accepted everywhere, so this is a real consideration. But it doesn’t mean you can’t find a part-time job with benefits and start a company on the side. Insurance shouldn’t be a barrier to living your dreams.
2. I’m not an expert on everything – my lack of knowledge will be exposed!
This was a real concern for me. As a lawyer out on my own, I wouldn’t have a knowledgeable team around me all of the time. I couldn’t ask my partner or funnel work to someone else in the office that knew more. It was all on my shoulders. You know what? It took a little time, but I soon realized that my eighteen years of experience probably made me more knowledgeable than most. I started to feel confident about giving my best answer and trusting my research skills. I also realized that I may not always give the absolute PERFECT and COMPLETE answer, but my answer would be solid and true, and that’s valuable. Frankly, that is usually enough.
3. What if the clients never come?
When I started my law firm, I had zero clients. I left an in-house position with just a few prospects lined up. So I went to every breakfast, lunch, and happy hour I could. I bought everyone lunch. I “was in town anyway” and drove hours just to meet with a potential client. But remember, it’s not about spouting off your resume to them. It is about asking what they need. And understanding what’s the issue that you can help resolve. Always make it about the client. They naturally assume you are well qualified and they don’t want to hear about your last five jobs, your divorce, or your children. What they want is for you to solve their problems in a way that’s better, faster, more efficient, and smarter than how they are trying to resolve them now.
4. Will I feel isolated and alone with no circle of support around me?
I’m very outgoing, so the idea of working alone in my house was tough at first. But now, I can’t imagine it any other way. When I get lonely, I call friends and meet for lunch. I join local groups. I set up happy hours. But when I’m home working, it’s quiet and focused—something I can appreciate with all the noise that comes along with five kids and a dog.
There are so many support groups for small business owners, encouraging and uplifting one another, and I believe these groups are essential for new business survival. I have a circle of friends who all run their own businesses and we often text funny things to each other during the day to keep ourselves sane. Laughter and community are simple ways to feel less out of control. So, keep your circle tight.
5. I have bills to pay – I can’t take the risk of not making enough money
This one is hard because you really don’t know how it will turn out when you start. I had enough money to pay myself for two months when I started to give myself a runway. That’s a pretty short runway! But I believed in myself and knew somehow deep inside that all my hard work would pay off. My boyfriend (now husband) also believed in me, and he would frequently remind me of it. I told myself that I was confident, worthy of success and that I wouldn’t rest until such a time that I got work and clients believing in me as well. This confidence really does pay off.
A big piece of advice to help get money in the door at first is to have pre-determined packages or offerings so that you get some money up front and the rest upon the completion of the project. This gives you some seed money while you are in start-up mode.
6. It sounds overwhelming to create a website, market myself, and do all the legal legwork to start up my own business.
It is really not that hard. It’s a few forms to fill out, a federal tax ID, some filing fees, and a web designer. Get some business cards printed up and you are on your way. Please don’t let these details stop you from living your dream. Hire out what you can and google the rest. I have a fantastic bookkeeper that is reasonably priced who keeps up with tax and financial obligations in my business, so I can focus on doing what I love rather than what I hate. You can also ask an attorney to do all your business set up for one set price that you can budget and plan for.
Remember, you can do this! Starting a business and leaving the old world behind is a jump into the great unknown. But it’s worth it to call your own shots, hire your own team, and do what you wish with your life instead of what someone else tells you. You CAN overcome these fears. There are always solutions. Unless you are trying to make a soufflé on a warm humid day. Then you’re screwed.