How I Conquered My Fears and Became an Entrepreneur

Latest posts by Raya Khashab (see all)

Have you ever dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur?

If you answered yes, what’s stopping you?

According to Gallup, 25 percent of adults in the U.S. have thought about starting their own business but have yet to take the plunge.

If it’s because you’re scared, then you’ve got company. Fear is the most common reason people fail to start their own businesses. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or fear of losing the steady income from their day job.

I can relate. I had a great-paying corporate job with dreams of building my own business, but it took me years to overcome that fear and transition into the world of entrepreneurship.

Of course, there’s a good reason for all of these fears. Around 50 percent of small businesses fail within five years, so it’s no wonder people hesitate to pursue their dreams of entrepreneurship.

Making the decision to become a full-time entrepreneur and go “all in” on my startup was one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences of my life. If you’ve got big ideas for a business but fear is holding you back, here are some steps you can take to move past those worries and start your entrepreneurial journey.

Related: How to Benefit From Your Fear of Entrepreneurial Failure

First, work on your mindset

Self-doubt is one of the main reasons that fear exists in our minds at all.

“I don’t know how to start a company” or “I haven’t run a business before” or “I’m not an expert” are all common thoughts that new entrepreneurs have in the beginning. Although these may be true, none are a good enough reason to stop, give up, or hold back, and they certainly aren’t reasons that your fledgling business should fail, either.

Remember that you can always educate yourself

Learn as much as you can by reading books, talking with experts and attending webinars and classes.

To fix my negative mindset, I knew I needed to change my environment

Oftentimes, we tend to be our own worst critic, so changing our mindset can be one of the hardest challenges to overcome.

One of the biggest doubts I had before I started my own business went something like this: “No one in my family or close circle of friends has ever been an entrepreneur, so who am I to build a business? Let alone a successful one?!”

I started attending networking events for entrepreneurs, joined business-related groups and found a local organization that provided mentors for startups. By surrounding myself with successful entrepreneurs, I gained the confidence I needed to overcome my self-doubt.

Be sure to have a plan (and savings)

To avoid the scariness of losing that steady income, creating a plan before you leave your day job is an important first step. Your plan should include the exact amount of money you need to save before you quit your 9-to-5 to pursue your new venture. And that means getting your personal finances and savings in order first.

So, how much is enough? When I was still a corporate employee, I faced this same dilemma. Do I save enough money for one year? Two years? Three? To help make the decision, I wrote down all of my major personal monthly expenses (i.e. rent, food, cell phone bill, car insurance, health insurance, etc.) and decided to save enough to cover two years’ worth of expenses.

Why so much?

Because no matter how much you estimate things will cost, you’ll inevitably discover that your new company or product takes longer and costs more than you expected. If you don’t have enough savings to cover your expenses for two years, plan to work a few freelance jobs on the side to pay the bills. Taking care of your finances will reduce stress so that you can focus on building your company.

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Before diving in, test your idea out

Unless you’re inventing a complex hardware solution that needs millions of dollars in upfront funding, these days you can test out your idea at little or no cost. You can even do this while you’re still working full-time. Build a prototype and test it with real customers. This will give you the mental validation that your idea could work, which is something you’ll need in order to get started.

The “Lean Startup Method” by Eric Ries embraces this idea, and the tech startup community has utilized it for many years. Part of the methodology involves creating a minimum viable product (or MVP) that allows you to test your idea. Testing will give you the confidence that your product has a high chance of success (or on the other hand, tell you to scrap it before wasting too much money).

We utilized the Lean Startup approach when building our company, ezClocker, and it has been the core of our success. We began by clearly defining a problem, then deciding how to solve it. In our case, the problem was figuring out how to keep track of your employees’ hours using an app.

In the first iteration of our MVP, we came up with a minimum list of features that we would include to learn whether people would pay for our product. This is where most entrepreneurs struggle, because the challenge is to cut down the number of features to the bare minimum so that your product is fast to build, yet still useful to the customer.

For example, receiving a notification on your phone that an employee has clocked in is a “nice to have” feature, but it’s not essential for the app to function, so we didn’t include it in the MVP. Learning and iterating using the Lean Startup Method gave me the confidence that the product we were building had a high chance of success, and that set my mind at ease so we could get down to work.

Push through your fears

There are many reasons aspiring entrepreneurs hesitate to pursue their dreams, but fear shouldn’t be one of them. When you improve your mindset, have a plan and validate your idea from the start, you’ll find it’s much easier to conquer your fears and make your dreams of building a business a reality.

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