There are scores of articles online about how to start your own business but learning the practical steps is the easy part. The greatest challenge is in the way we think, feel and therefore approach the process (or don’t). Fear of the unknown, finances and failure are the greatest roadblocks to achieving successful business owner status.
I started my own businesses because I wanted the freedom to make more money, have my own schedule and pursue my passions. I was afraid to leave a good paying job in exchange for the unknown but I also believe job security is an illusion. Seven years ago I finally fired up the courage to go for it and I’ve never regretted the decision.
I’ve started four businesses–a digital asset brokerage, a branding and design firm called Studio Absolute, a private chef business and a commercial photography and marketing agency called DONE.
The three successful ones began like this:
– I saw a need in market that aligned with my creative passion.
– I filled a notepad with service offerings, points of differentiation, naming concepts, elevator pitches, financial planning, goals and to-do lists. Then I organized my scribbles into a basic plan that I could refer back to whenever I was feeling overwhelmed.
– Once I had a basic plan, I asked for feedback. I also pre-sold my services in verbal and/or written agreements prior to launch to ensure I had enough clients to warrant going out on my own.
The first attempt at starting my own business was the digital asset brokerage and it fell flat despite how exciting it sounds. Here’s what happened:
– I saw a need in the market that I was vaguely interested in and knew I could make money at it.
– I spent months drafting the quintessential A+ business plan that would make any college business professor swoon.
– I guarded my idea like a junkyard dog. The few people that I granted a whisper of a hint had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to ensure they didn’t run out and start their own digital asset brokerage (because you know that’s exactly what everyone’s dying to do).
The breakdown happened for several reasons. I spent so much time hiding behind my ever-evolving business plan that by the time it was complete the industry had changed and my margins were reduced. Had I been open to feedback, I would have anticipated the shift. Had I been passionate enough, I would have adjusted my plan to adapt to a changing market.
Knowledge is fear’s greatest enemy. Get to know your field of interest and target market better than anyone else. Read as much as you can on best marketing and business practices. Subscribe to Skillshare and watch Youtube tutorials. Remember that you will always know more than most about your area of expertise and less than some–and that is 100 percent ok as long as you continually grow.
It is our natural inclination to find a sweet spot of homeostasis and resist change even when change is the goal. Our amygdala (or lizard brain) wants to tell us that change=death which is why we tend to self-sabotage when success is on the horizon. Our primal fear of risk seeks to compromise personal growth but it has little or no bearing on reality.
Here’s what’s worked for me and clients that I’ve worked with to start their own business:
– If you’re not sure how to monetize your passion, seek coaching.
– Start immediately with bite sized tasks and a timeline for accomplishing them.
– Be flexible. Expect that your business will evolve beyond your initial vision.
– Know your market and fill a need differently than anyone else.
– Ask for opinions from successful entrepreneurs.
– Network like a champ.
– Bootstrap as much as you can before involving investors.
– Hire a professional to design your logo, website and print materials. Hire a professional photographer if needed. It’s your first impression–you can’t afford not to make it shine.
– Quit your full time job until you can project your income with relative certainty.
– Let negative people get in your head. Their fear holds them back from being happy and successful and it’s easy to get caught in their hamster wheel.
– Be tone deaf to constructive criticism.
– Rush into business or financial partnerships.
Finally, don’t let your lizard brain boss you around. If accomplishing great things were easy and comfortable, we’d all be millionaires. Just get out there and make it happen.
Cheryl McIntosh is a commercial photographer and marketer for DONE and Studio Absolute. For more information, visit www.greatthingsaredone.com or call/email 541-280-0086 or Cheryl@greatthingsaredone.com.