Something I get asked pretty often is whether I was scared when I decided to start my business — and what I did to get over that fear.
Honestly, I don’t remember ever feeling scared. Excited, yes. In awe of the possibilities, yes. But scared? I don’t remember that. I don’t remember ever wondering if I would fail, or what I would do if I did.
This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I had nothing to lose: I was working part-time in a bar job, making £7 an hour. Well, part-time bar jobs are not exactly hard to find, so I was confident I could find another if I needed to. But also, I was working part-time, so I could easily try to start my freelance writing business while I was still in my job. So that’s what I did. And, finally, I figured it couldn’t be that hard to equal my bar job wage with freelance writing, and that was all I needed to do to be able to quit. (Turns out I was right — I quit within two months of making my first penny.)
So I didn’t exactly feel fear when I started out, but I also didn’t know for definite that I would be able to make it work. I suspected I would, because I’m generally a confident and capable person, but I didn’t know. You can’t know.
I feel more fear TODAY than I did back then, because now I do have something to lose. I live in a nice flat by myself, I hire a desk in a gorgeous co-working space, and I travel a lot more. I don’t have to report to anyone, I have money to spend on whatever I like, and I get to work on whatever I want. I’ve built a lifestyle I love around my business, and the thought of going back to bar work, or any other menial job, is soul destroying.
One of my guiding mantras is ‘the best predictor of the future is the past’. I remind myself of that whenever my thoughts drift in the direction of the future. Will I always be able to make money for myself? Will I ever have to go back to a job? What if I suddenly stop making money? What if no-one registers for the next session of my course?
That’s when I remind myself that I’ve made this work so far — and so I will be able to keep doing so. I know how to make money for myself, therefore I will always be able to do it. That’s what I tell myself.
But that’s not helpful for you if you’ve never made money for yourself. So what, then, are you supposed to do when you feel the fear? Well, being confident in your own abilities obviously helps, but not everyone feels that way. From what I’ve seen, most people don’t feel that way. But as I’ve said before, your confidence grows as you get experience and see for yourself that you can do this.
Okay, so you’re not confident, and you have no experience. What then?
Well, the third and final thing that helps me is to just not fucking think about it. When you start wondering whether you can make this work — stop. Instead, ask yourself, ‘If I’m going to make this work, what do I need to do?’
Then ask yourself, ‘If I’m going to make this work, what is the very next thing I need to do?’ Figure it out, and then do that.
You don’t ‘get over’ the fear, you just stop thinking about it. You ignore it. You tell it to bugger off.
‘Not now fear, I’ve got shit to do!’