Fear of starting a business is real — but here’s what you can do about it.
Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being seen. Fear of rejection.
Do any of these sound familiar?
If you’re like many new business owners, you’re no stranger to these (very common) fears of starting a business.
Why fears come up when we’re starting a business
When you’re starting a purpose-driven business, you want to do well, to put your best foot forward, and to make an impact.
Fear and resistance often comes up when you’re doing something that’s important to you. In fact, Steven Pressfield, author of the War of Art wrote, “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
Fear is a form of resistance. And it shows up because your work — and your business — is important to you.
Types of fear that arise when starting a business
In my work with clients, as well as in my own journey of starting a business, I’ve realized there are a few key fears that arise when starting a business.
- The fear of failure
- The fear of success
- The fear of the unknown
- The fear of rejection
… to name a few.
These fears are common, they are manageable, and they don’t need to get in the way of you doing the work you want to do — as long you don’t let them.
4 common fears of starting a business
These are the 4 most common fears of starting a business, including what they look like and how you can manage them, so you can learn how to manage them and move forward confidently.
1. Fear of failure
You’re likely familiar with this one — it seems to come on with a vengeance any time we’re trying something new — whether it’s a new business, a new sport, or even a new haircut!
But what if this business doesn’t work out? What if I don’t get any clients? Or make any money?
When you’re in the throes of fear of failure, to fail seem like the scariest thing possible. To our psyche, failure = death.
The thing is, what is failure anyway? Many “failures” in business are simply redirections to something better. To fail is to learn. It’s very rarely a life or death situation, especially in business.
This is what fear of failure looks like when starting your own business:
- Not taking a risk when you’re not 100% sure you’ll succeed
- Focusing on being perfect as a way to keep you safe
- Worrying that if you fail, you won’t be able to recover
- Fear of being judged
- Fear of rejection
- Impostor syndrome
How to manage the fear of failure
Everyone fails! The only person who doesn’t fail is a person who never tries.
Step 1. Get some perspective. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that would happen if I fail?” And then, “What would I do if that worst case scenario happened?”
You’ll likely find that even when you consider the worst case scenario, you can still deal with it.
Step 2. Be willing to reframe your idea of failure. Failing is learning. Each time you fail, you have the opportunity to course-correct based on what you learn. This is actually a process of evolution, which is a good thing.
Many of the most successful business owners have failed at something before they succeeded. So if you do fail, you’re in great company!
2. Fear of success
Fear of success could also be known as fear of outshining others or fear of playing big.
Maybe you know you’re onto something great, and feel like this could be the thing that catapults you to the next level.
But you worry what would happen if you ultimately do succeed. You worry that you couldn’t handle the consequences.
I couldn’t handle all the attention. I might outshine my friends and family.
What fear of success looks like when starting your own business:
- You know you could play bigger but you just feel so much more comfortable playing small
- You worry about being the center of attention and think you couldn’t handle it
- You know you couldn’t possibly live up to people’s expectations
- Fear of being seen
- Fear of being judged
- Fear of rejection
How to manage the fear of success
The one thing that makes fear of success different is that you’re ultimately afraid of outshining others and worrying that they’ll reject you. This results in you not playing big enough.
Step 1. Check your assumptions. You might assume that those close to you won’t support you or will reject you. But how likely is this?
If you fear success, you likely fear judgment from others, because once you are known, you will have critics — whether they are friends or strangers.
Step 2. Practice trusting yourself. If you have this fear, you also might worry that you won’t be able to handle the spotlight or the attention that comes with success. Cultivate trust in yourself that you can handle whatever arises.
Step 3. Consider the upside. Holding yourself back is causing you to limit your own opportunities and potential. But what is the risk of not shining your light? How could you (and others) benefit from what you have to share?
3. Fear of the unknown/uncertainty
Most of us are uncomfortable with the unknown. The truth is, we have no guarantees in life, so the more we can embrace uncertainty, the easier it gets.
When you accept uncertainty, you know that while the end result is variable, you are the constant.
Life is uncertain. Business is uncertain. All you can do is to make the best decisions with the information you have at the time. And remember that most decisions are not final and can be changed.
What fear of uncertainty looks like when starting your own business:
- Second-guessing yourself and questioning decisions
- Wanting 100% proof of something before you’ll even try it
- Looking for evidence to support why you shouldn’t do something
- Fear of change
- Fear that you can’t handle the outcome (i.e., lack of self-trust)
- Fear of success or failure
How to combat fear of uncertainty
You will rarely be certain about anything in life. And probably even less so in business! The key is taking action and adjusting as you go.
Step 1. Embrace the entrepreneurial mindset. When you can think of certain aspects of your business as an experiment (especially in the early days!), it can be a place for you to explore, expand, and test…without attachment to the outcome.
Step 2. Take the next right step. Uncertainty will not change. But you can. You can choose to move forward by choosing the next right step at any given moment and trusting the path will unfold as it should.
4. Fear of rejection
Humans can’t stand to be rejected by others. It’s a fact of nature that community acceptance was necessary to our survival.
This biological protection makes us dependent on our community to accept us and not cast us out.
But we often overestimate the toll rejection will take on us. (You’re unlikely to be cast out of society or your home for not succeeding at a business venture.)
Nearly everyone experiences fear of rejection at some point, but you can overcome it with reasoning and logic.
What fear of rejection looks like when starting your own business:
- Being afraid to ask for for a favor (referral or testimonial, anyone?) out of fear of hearing “no”
- Feeling scared to do anything that deviates from the “norm” (also see: comparisonitis)
- Constantly worrying about what your family or friends might think
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Fear of being seen or judged
Here’s how to combat fear of rejection
We are (thankfully) not in ancient times when your rejection by society would literally kill you.
Step 1. Consider the level of importance of the potential person or groups rejecting you. Do you really care what people from your high school or complete strangers on the internet think? If it’s a close family member you’re worried about, maybe it’s time to have an open conversation.
Step 2. Let’s play the worst-case scenario game again. What would happen if you were rejected by someone? How would you handle it? If you dig deep, I’m guessing that you can come up with a few ideas, and one of them probably is, “I’d continue on in spite of it.”
So is rejection a big enough fear to stop you from achieving your dreams? Are you going to let it?
Fear of starting a business doesn’t need to hold you back
If you find yourself in the grips of fears as a new business owner, know that it is completely normal and human to feel these fears. You are biologically programmed to do so. But you don’t need to let the fear prevent you from moving forward.
When you practice awareness, and consciously manage your fear, you not only lessen its power but you strengthen your own.
Moving through fears of starting a business is crucial to taking the next steps forward to actually create a business that you love.
Ready to work through your fears, so you can start a business that’s fulfilling and sustainable?
I support clients like you who are starting a business but feeling afraid to move forward for one reason or another.
Together, we address the inner work (like managing fear, cultivating confidence, and building self-trust) as well as the outer work (like your strategy, offering, and message), so that you can create an aligned, sustainable business.
If you’re interested in exploring working together, your first step is to schedule a free consultation.