How do you work through anxiety (and accompanying self-doubt and fear of failure) to start a business?

I’m sure you recognise the feeling.

Paralysed with anxiety.

Frozen with doubt.

Your stomach rolls, you feel nauseous and your palms go sweaty.

Because the thought of starting a business can be terrifying.

It doesn’t have to be like that though.

You can figure out the path you want to take, ahead of time.

You can learn where to find your clients, and understand what they’re looking for.

You can look beyond whatever is holding you back and take steps to move forwards.

Because if you plan it out, if you understand the way, if you have a roadmap – and then you take it one small step at a time, then whatever it is that you’re afraid of now will seem completely insignificant when you look back in a few months time.

And if you’d like to know what that roadmap could look like, check out my “Hacker’s Guide to Quitting your Job

Do you ever have episodes of crushing self-doubt?

I’m building a funnel for a new product I’m about to launch.

If you’re not aware, a funnel is basically a process, a system, for educating my target market about the service I offer – leading them from “I might have this particular problem“, to “this sounds like it might help“, ultimately ending with “shut up and take my money“.

The thing with this particular funnel is I deliberately barely mention the product until the final stage2. I don’t mention the price till after the final stage. But the funnel is failing just after stage one – I can easily find people who might have the problem, but they’re not coming through to “this might help”.

So my issue is long before the product becomes an issue, even longer before the price becomes an issue.

Yet despite that, my brain is screaming at me. “It’s because you want to charge to much. The product isn’t worth it. You’ll never get anyone to sign up at those prices“.

Know I know the product is worth it. I know that I can get people to sign up at that price. But why is my brain doing this?

It’s because pricing is intrinsically tied in to self-worth. It’s built on layers and layers, years and years of being told how good you are, of being told whether you can do something, of being told if you’re worth it.

Whether that’s being told by your parents, your friends or yourself.

Ultimately, your subconscious brain listens to all these messages and then chooses to act on them. It’s primary role is simple – it’s there to protect you. When someone moves to punch you, you flinch. You don’t think about it – your subconscious just steps in and acts, regardless of how much your conscious brain wants to ignore the punch.

And likewise, when my subconscious sees me setting a price that it believes to be too high, it wants to protect me. By mentally flinching. It’s saying “you’ll be humiliated if you set the price that high, so just back down now before it’s too late”.

Well, screw you subconscious.

I know this product works. I know this system works. I know it’s worth every penny of the investment my clients are going to make in it. If they pay less they won’t be as committed, and if they’re not committed they won’t get the results they need. This product is going to transform people’s lives, and I won’t let some prehistoric part of my brain stop that.

Because, frankly, I’m worth it.

  1. Photo by Marat Gilyadzinov on Unsplash
  2. Quick tip – people don’t care about your product or your service. They only care if you can help them eradicate the problem that they have in their life. So starting your funnel with an in-depth description of your product or service is just going to put people off

Working alone: how to combat the isolation

There are a lot of benefits to working alone. 

Nobody telling you what to do. 

Nobody holding you up with their incompetence.

And nobody distracting you with office gossip or personal dramas. 

Working alone is great. 

Or is it? 

Running a business can be a lonely place, and it helps to have someone to bounce an idea off, discuss a problem with or get advice from when we need to make an important decision. Even the most anti-social of us can find ourselves missing human company from time to time.

So, if your only conversations in the last week were with Alexa, your cat or the guy that called about mis-sold PPI, then it’s time to get out and mingle.

Attend networking events

Networking is a great way to meet people and build connections. There are loads of events on offer – each with different formats and different people. 

Referral based networking groups are good for building long term relationships and getting more business. 

Peer-to-peer boards tend to be smaller and are beneficial if you have specific obstacles you need help overcoming. 

Industry meet-ups are good if you want to stay up to date and share advice with people in your field.

And, if you really can’t bear the idea of formal networking, then attending an exhibition might be a less daunting option.

Attend a few different events to find the ones that work for you. Even if you’ve had a bad experience of networking, give it another go. Think of it like eating out – just because you’ve had a bad meal at one restaurant doesn’t mean you’ll never try another one.

Work in a public place

Co-working spaces are brilliant for business owners and freelancers who work alone. Not only are they far cheaper than an individual office space, you also get to network with the people you share the space with. 

If co-working feels like to much of a commitment, try working out of a coffee shop, bar, library or even the train station once or twice a week. You get the feeling of being around people all day, but interactions can be kept to a minimum. 

Get training or coaching

Personal development is essential if you want to succeed in business. Look for training courses in your area. Not only will you learn a new skill or build your expertise, it’s also a great opportunity to make some new connections. 

If you want someone to help you get your business to the next stage, a business mentor or coach is hugely beneficial. They will be there to bounce ideas off, hold you accountable and help you reach your potential. Different coaches and mentors have different personalities and styles, so find someone who feels like the right fit for you. 

Need some help?

When I first started out, networking was a scary prospect. Now I regularly attend networking events and training courses. I have also worked with various coaches at different stages of my career and have taken advantage of co-working spaces. 

If you’d like a chat about what options could work for you, then get in touch. I’d be happy to share my experiences and help you figure out what to do and what not to do. 

How to escape the Survival Trap

Have you ever sat down and thought about your goals?

If you’ve got a business coach, then they’ve probably made you do this.

And if you haven’t got a business coach, it’s definitely worth getting one. It might sound like a weird thing to spend your money on, but running your own business can be lonely at times, it can also mean that often you’re just shouting into the void. A coach is there to listen to you and make sure you do the things you said you were going to do – which is incredibly valuable when you work for yourself.

So, back to goals.

Do you have any? Do you know what they are? Are they written down, where you can see them?

Because the goals give us a direction to move in. Even when there are obstacles in our way, we can align with the goals and choose the best path.

Imagine you’re a lawn-care specialist. Your goal is to franchise the business, so you get to work when you want to, whilst having a network of people all following your expert tuition and giving householders across the country amazing looking lawns.

But you’re not there yet. It’s still just you, driving from client to client in your little van.

One day, you notice a client has a load of leaves in their gutter. You’re a bit short on cash, so you ask if they want the gutters cleaning out (for a bit of extra money of course). Your reasoning is this – I buy myself a ladder, which costs a bit of money, but then I can offer this additional service to all my clients.

So you head off to the trade counter and buy a new ladder. You get up onto the roof and start clearing the gutters out. And while you’re up there, you notice a few loose roof tiles. An easy fix for someone with your skills. So again, you ask the client if they want it fixing, head back to the trade counter, buy the stuff you need and get them fixed.

Now you’ve got two additional services you can offer your clients.

Great eh?

Well, maybe not. You might have made a bit of extra money, but you’ve also spent a load extra – on additional tools. You’re going to need to sort out the Health and Safety for working at heights – and keep up with the certification. You’ve not spent as long on the lawn, so you’ll probably have to come back tomorrow and finish it off – so a one afternoon job has just spread out to two days.

And you’re now spreading yourself thin.

Has this extra helped you move towards your ultimate goal of a franchised lawn-care business?

Or is it just a distraction?

Even worse – is it now an excuse? I don’t have time to look into the franchising side of things because I’ve got so many gutters to clean?

It’s worth knowing what your ultimate goals are – and keeping them front of mind. So when you come to make the small decisions, you can just check them to make sure you’re still heading in the right direction.

Join our club

Not many people are brave enough to start their own business.

People like us, we took a risk.

We made a stand.

(by the way, if you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, click these links – Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or Spotify)

We decided that we weren’t going to put up with working for an idiot or being told what to do.

We were sick of working incredibly hard, only for the rewards to go to some high-up who has no idea what we actually do each day.

We’ve chosen flexibility.

We’ve chosen responsibility.

We’ve chosen working from home, so we can look after the kids.

We’ve chosen doing things the right way.

We’ve chosen being fair with the money we earn.

But it’s difficult.

Most businesses fail within the first year.

If you’ve made it that far, congratulations. You’re doing an amazing job.

Even worse, almost all small businesses die within four years.

So if you’ve hit that milestone and made it to five years or beyond, you’re in an elite club.

The reason for this is simple.

The things that you have to do when you start a business are different (year one) to the things you have to do to keep that business running (up to year four), which in turn are different from the things you have to do make the business work without your constant attention (year five and beyond).

There are five areas where you need to make those changes – profits, operations, sales, marketing and time. Taken together, it’s a big set of changes, a lot of learning to do all at once. But break it down, attack one piece at a time, and it becomes manageable and a natural part of building a business that gives you the life you want.

If you’d like to know what could make a difference for you, check out my quick and simple quiz.

It’s designed to pinpoint the area of your business that you can make the most improvement on, for the least effort.

So you can actually get a bit of that flexibility, that extra cash, that free time and that freedom that we were all wanting when we started our businesses.

It only takes a couple of minutes to complete and could make a real difference to your business.

Photo by Miroslava on Unsplash

A confession

You probably subscribe and listen to a load of people who have job titles like “Consultant”, “Coach”, “Expert” and “Maven1“. These are people who are constantly posting in-car videos on LinkedIn, giving out advice, releasing podcasts and writing blogs. They’re obviously amazing at their jobs – why wouldn’t you want to hand over thousands of pounds in cash to them? Don’t you want that fantastic life too?

  • You can tell their lives are fantastic because they’ve sorted out their own work-life balance2.
  • You can tell their lives are fantastic because they then went on to save the lives of at least three of their clients3.
  • You can tell their lives are fantastic because their profits are going through the roof, and they’re recording that in-car video in a Lambo.
  • You can tell their lives are fantastic because they spend three months of the year hiking through the rainforest. For fun4!
  • You can tell their lives are fantastic because their team never makes a mistake and is always happy and smiling.

I’m not like that.

  • I’ve worked for myself since 2007, because I thought my boss was making a mistake and should have been listening to me. Eleven years later and the jury’s still out on whether I was right5.
  • I am very very good at what i do – especially when it comes to sorting out problems for my clients – but I’ve not really managed to sort myself out and have been winging it ever since.
  • I was really really lucky at the start, so I didn’t have to learn about how to run a business for years – no sales, no marketing and as for finance, well…
  • I then started a company with friends and we got a load of money from investors, which we spent very quickly. And that’s when things started to go really wrong.
  • I was sick of working alone, so I hired a team on the cheap6.
  • They didn’t do a great job as I didn’t know how to get them to do what I wanted7.
  • I spent all my money on these people working with me – they were cheap but took ages to get things done.
  • I was using up my evenings and weekends fixing mistakes8.

All of which meant I was ready to jack it all in.

Several times.

So this is the bit where I turn in to one of those amazing perfect consultant types.

Because I sat myself down, gave myself a good talking to and …

  • spent a load of time and effort learning about sales
  • went out networking even though I found it really uncomfortable at first
  • I read that to do sales, you need a CRM system9. So I tried out 11 different ones and eventually found one that I liked
  • I suddenly realised that I had my sales process all wrong

The sales process that I had built for myself, that I implemented in my CRM, was based around the idea of promoting myself to people. This is what I do, I’m really good at it, it will save you time and money if you hire me. Please hire me.

Then I realised that actually, the clients I worked well with were the ones where we had a relationship. Where we trusted each other. So I switched my process around to look for people I thought I could work with. And it meant I was looking for excuses to say no at every opportunity.

That was when I had another revelation – the CRM isn’t going to help you. Your process has to be right first.

This inspired me to put together a process for my team – a seven stage software development system – and I used expensive project management software to track it all.

But I totally failed to heed the lesson from before. The process didn’t work for me. The software didn’t work for me.

It just meant that I did the work I didn’t like and the team did the work I did like.

The project management software was lovely. I could keep track of my overflowing to-do list and see how late every project was – and it updated in real-time so everything got later and later right in front of my eyes.

Again – my realisation was that the software doesn’t fix things for you. I needed to get the process right before even thinking about software.

So I reset.

Now I’ve got a really small team who work on the things I don’t really like doing and I’ve kept the things I like doing to myself.

I still pay for various bits of software but I’m very careful about how I use them.

And I don’t set myself a ton of deadlines, which make me unhappy as they whizz pass, unfulfilled.

I have to say that I still don’t make very much money – I have a problem with pricing my services which mean I give away a load of valuable work for cheap.

And I still don’t have that much time – I take on too many projects and then get caught up trying to deliver them all.

And, despite all these revelations, I’m still rubbish at saying no. Which is why I have too many projects on.

But this is my story about how I’m working my way out of these things. Unlike those other consultants, those bloggers and vloggers and podcasters, it’s not a picture of a perfect life.

It’s messy and annoying and nowhere near where I want it to be.

Because I’m very good at solving problems for my clients – not so good at it for myself.

So, I’m Baz and that’s what I’m going to be talking about over the next few weeks and months.

If you want to subscribe to the audio so you never ever miss my beautiful voice, just choose your podcast app and click below:

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

  1. I have no idea what that means
  2. if such a thing even exists
  3. they literally wrestled alligators
  4. Of course, they also adopt and save a whole village of brown children at the same time
  5. I was right
  6. Low wages in exchange for lots of training
  7. Don’t get me wrong – all fantastic people and good at what they did – but I was crap at looking after them
  8. and weekdays grovelling to clients
  9. basically a giant address book mixed in with a sales process

Never trust someone who has time to do it all

So, you’ve figured out your “X”.

You’ve figured out your five year roadmap to get there.

You’ve figured out your twelve week plan to get you started.

You’ve got one thing to do this week.

Will you do it?

Life gets in the way.

It’s inevitable.

Because “X” is important. That other stuff is urgent. The urgent stuff nearly always takes priority. Normally because someone is shouting at you, you feel stressed and you want that feeling to go away.

So, at the start of each week, choose a time. Maybe it’s one morning or afternoon this week. Maybe it’s one hour per day for five days. It depends on the task you’ve set yourself, on the nature of your week.

But set aside that time. Switch off your notifications and divert your calls.

Set a timer for half an hour and say to yourself “I’m just going to work on this for till the timer rings”. Then get started.

The half hour timer works, because you know you’re not going to spend to long on it. But once you get started, you’ll probably find it easy to continue through your allotted time – the first step is always the hardest.

And, you’ll probably notice that the sky didn’t fall in while your phone was off. Plus you’ve got the satisfaction of knowing you are one twelfth of the way towards your target.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Never trust a long term plan

You’ve figured out your “X”. That’s amazing. Very few people actually manage to do that.

You’ve figured out a general roadmap for getting there. Here’s where you want to be in five years. So to reach there, here’s where you need to be in three. Here’s where you need to be in one. Here’s where you need to be in three months.

Three months is important.

It’s far enough away that you can make some significant progress. It’s close enough that you feel the urgency; if you want to get there, you can’t afford to slack off.

So look at your three month target.

  • What are 12 things you can actually physically do to make sure that you achieve your April target?
  • Schedule one of those 12 things each week between now and April.
  • Say to yourself out loud “I commit to doing Y this week as it will help me reach my goal of X”.
  • And then make sure you do those 12 things over the next 12 weeks.

When you get to April, repeat the process.

Look at your January 2020 goal and figure out what the ONE THING you need to achieve by August 2019 is. Then write out 12 tasks from April to August and do one each week.

And then do the same again each quarter – look at your next big milestone, figure out ONE THING you can do in the next quarter to move in that direction then break it into 12 weekly tasks.

This gives you the time to deal with all the day-to-day stuff that gets in the way, whilst still remaining focussed on your life’s purpose. It gives you a chance to reevaluate and change your plans as life throws stuff at you, but makes sure you keep heading in the same direction.

Photo by Julentto Photography on Unsplash

Never trust a GPS

You need to figure out your “X”. What is it that, when you look back on your life, will make you think “I’m so glad I did that”. It might be family stuff, it might be travel, it might be work. It’s up to you. And it can be hard to find. But you’ll know it when you find it.

Then you need to ask yourself – if you genuinely really want X, how long would it take you to achieve it?

Can you do it in 10 years? Can you do it in 5 years? What would it look like to achieve X? Would you need to change your lifestyle? Move to another country? Can you do it as a side-hustle? Or on weekends? What will your family think as you make this your focus?

Because now, you’ve got a destination and a time-frame. Next step is to figure out a roadmap.

Let’s say you think you can do it in 5 years. 5 years is a long time.

Remember it. Write it down and stick it on your wall, so you can see it every day.

(I’m writing this in January 2019 – other months and years are available)

  • “In 2024, I will have achieved X”.
  • Now what is the ONE THING you would need to have achieved by January 2022 to have made real progress towards X?
  • And then, what is the ONE THING you would need to have achieved by January 2020 to have made real progress towards your 3 year target?
  • And what is the ONE THING you can achieve by April 2019 to have made real progress towards January’s target?

Write all of these down on that same bit of paper.

You now have a roadmap for the next 5 years.

But that’s useless without action.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Never trust a hippy

If you don’t like “life coaching” stuff, today’s post isn’t really for you. It’s a bit much for me too. But it’s proven itself to be (for me at least) a really valuable way of thinking about things.

Before you can make any kind of plan, you need to figure out what you really want to do. Because running a business on your own is really tough at times. So you have to make sure it aligns with who you are as a person.

My way of doing this, taught to me by someone who is incredibly successful, is as follows.

Imagine you’re 110 years old. You know your best days are behind you. But you’re sat on your chair, in the sunshine, just outside your house. Your eyes are closed and you’re smiling as you think back on your life. “I’m so glad that I dedicated so much of my life to X”

What is X?

It’s a really tough question. But, as all the documentaries on death say, no-one ever says “I’m so glad that I spent years in the office”. If you’re going to spend years in the office, there has to be a reason behind it – something that drives you. It might not even be business related – it could be “I’m so proud that I stood on the moon”, or “I’m so glad that my kids are healthy”. But you need to know what it is and then you can figure out how to get there.

Once you know where you want to go, you can think about how to get there…

Image from “Never Trust a Hippy” by Adrian Sherwood