So you’ve been thinking about starting a business.
Maybe you’ve thought about starting a blog? Or perhaps an online shop, becoming a life coach or a consultant, or a professional organizer, or maybe selling your own handmade products on Etsy! What about opening your own restaurant, flower shop, or fitness studio…… or whatever. Literally, the sky is the limit when it comes to all the possibilities.
Starting a business can also feel pretty scary, with so many unknowns.
But this Small Business Roadmap can help. It will show you exactly what steps you’ll need to take to get started, along with typical startup costs.
But where do you go from there?
How do you go from idea to execution? And more importantly, how do you overcome that initial fear of going after something that might not work?
Those are big questions, not always with easy answers.
I can tell you that my own journey into entrepreneurship has definitely not taken a straight path.
I worked full-time all through college, starting at Abercrombie and Fitch. I was soon promoted to the stockroom manager position and eventually took a job as the assistant manager of the Body Shop. By my junior year, I was managing the whole store.
Of course, my senior year of college is when everything went off the rails. I went through a terrible, 2-year long depression. My life literally fell apart and I found myself divorced and bankrupt and all alone. I felt like I had screwed up my life forever.
Eventually, though, I managed to put my life back together. I got a job as a property manager, and I started to get a little confidence back, enough confidence to go back to school and finish my degree and apply to law school.
But alas, then I dropped out of law school.
I had worked SO hard to put my life back together, and I was terrified that dropping out would mean I was a failure, that I couldn’t hack it, and that I was never going to be successful. I felt like I was giving up on my dream, and giving up on myself.
Let me tell you–it hurt. A lot. I wasn’t sure I would ever find my way again.
And then, a few years later, I got offered what I thought was my dream job.
It was the opportunity to manage this huge, gorgeous day spa—a spa that was not doing so well financially. Literally, it was just gushing money; losing something like $50,000 a MONTH. It was crazy. But I had the opportunity to become a partner in the business if I could manage to turn things around and manage to make it profitable, and I was SO HUNGRY to prove myself! I thought this spa would be my big chance. My chance to finally make something of myself, to finally be successful in life after having screwed up so many times.
And you know what happened?
It was basically a complete disaster. I was able to stop the bleeding, so that the spa wasn’t just gushing money anymore, but no matter what I tried, I just couldn’t manage to make it profitable. It was barely breaking even every single month, and I would only get paid in the months that the spa actually made money.
For a year and a half, my husband Chuck and I basically lived off our savings, until we finally realized that we couldn’t do it anymore. We had to throw in the towel. Chuck went back to work as an aerospace engineer and I walked away from the spa.
Of course not without some major bitterness about how it had all played out.
But hindsight is 20/20, and although I had a lot of hard feelings when I first left the spa, I look back now and realize how much that experience taught me about starting and running a business, (even though at the time, I felt like a complete and total failure.)
It’s not always easy to admit defeat, but I realize now that experiencing failure actually made starting my own business easier because it totally changed my perspective. It taught me how to think in a whole new way.
And if you are thinking about starting a business, I can tell you right now that you’re going to need to make a few key mindset shifts, and embrace a new way of looking at the world—otherwise known as the rules of entrepreneurship
RULE#1: THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, ONLY LESSONS
I recently finished writing my next book, Do It Scared™, which will be coming out later this year. And in the course of my research for that book, my team and I surveyed more than 4,000 people about the role of fear in their lives, and specifically about the way fear manifests in their life and holds them back from pursuing their goals and dreams.
Because, as it turns out, not all fear is created equal. My research team and I ended up identifying 7 unique Fear Archetypes—seven unique and specific ways that fear affects our lives and personalities.
And do you know what we discovered that the number one most common fear was?
You can probably guess.
It’s the fear of making a mistake.
It terrifies us, paralyzes us, and prevents us from moving forward. And because we don’t want to get it wrong, we procrastinate or obsess over the small details, or we stay stuck in the planning stage forever and never actually take the necessary action to make our dreams a reality.
We don’t want to fail. We don’t want to screw up. We don’t want to get it wrong.
But guess what? Screwing up and making mistakes and failing is the most important part of entrepreneurship!! All the learning happens from the mistakes. The biggest breakdowns lead to the biggest breakthroughs.
As you just read, it’s a lesson I’ve had to learn SO many times.
But by the time I started my business of my own, I knew that I had nothing to fear because failure didn’t seem that scary anymore. I had been there and done that. And more importantly, from all those failures, I had learned a whole lot of things NOT to do.
Because the reality is that NOT allowing yourself to make mistakes—that is actually the BIGGEST mistake you could ever make as a business owner. Because it means you’re not taking risks. You’re not daring to try new things. You’re not putting yourself out there. You’re not going all in. And without the risk, there will be no reward.
RULE #2: IT’S NOT PERSONAL, IT’S BUSINESS
This rule is sometimes a really hard one to accept, especially for women. Because often in the types of businesses we tend to start, especially with blogging and writing, or with podcasting or videos, or even things like consulting and direct sales, it does feel personal. You’re sharing snippets and stories from your own life. You’re making yourself vulnerable and putting yourself out there. You are visiting people in their homes, or posting on social media. You are opening yourself up to criticism and complaints and snarky comments and unfiltered feedback.
And that all feels pretty personal sometimes.
But here’s the thing—if you’re going to go all-in with this business thing, you’ll need to figure out how to put on your big girl panties (or your big boy briefs) and stop worrying about how you’re being perceived and just get out there and do the work that needs to be done. If putting yourself out there is part of that job, then so be it. And if you approach it from a “this might be uncomfortable for me personally, but this is going to make my business stronger or more successful or better in some way, then DO THAT THING.”
Let your drive to make your business AWESOME be the thing that overrides your fear of putting yourself out there, and the thing that allows you to separate your feelings from your business.
Because here’s the hard truth—as a business owner and an entrepreneur, and as the CEO of your company, you don’t get the luxury of having feelings or getting emotional or even having a bad day. Sometimes you just have to suck it up, buttercup, and keep that smile on your face no matter what.
And I’m not going to lie. That’s hard sometimes. BRUTAL even! It really sucks when you have an employee take advantage of you, or when you find out a bunch of people you thought were your friends are badmouthing you behind your back. It sucks when your product launch flops, or when you make a bad hire, or when your expenses are way higher than your income in a given month. Being a business owner doesn’t make you immune to feeling sad or scared or lonely sometimes, and I promise that it only gets harder scarier and lonelier, the bigger and more successful your business becomes.
But those are just the breaks.
There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no crying in business either.
Because it’s not personal. It’s business.
RULE #3: NO ONE ELSE KNOWS WHAT THEY’RE DOING EITHER
I actually can’t even reiterate this enough times or say it in enough different ways so that the message actually sinks in.
Because all those people you are looking up to? All those people who seem like they’ve got it all figured out, and are totally rocking and rolling, and seem to always know exactly what their next step should be, and seem to always take exactly the RIGHT steps in the RIGHT direction, and always seem to be in the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time, and who know all the RIGHT people……
NONE of them know what they are doing either!
We’re all just MAKING IT UP as we go along!
Because in the end, THAT IS WHAT ENTREPRENEURSHIP is.
And it took me a really, really long time to realize that. Like a really long time. For so, so long, I was so convinced that everyone else had it figured out, and I was just pretending to know what I was doing. I spent hours reading every word every single person of “authority” had to say, never once stopping to question whether or not the person or people I was listening to actually had any clue what they were talking about.
It wasn’t actually until a group of “mean girl” bloggers stabbed me in the back and got me dis-invited from what at the time, I thought was a huge opportunity, that I started doing my own thing, and even then I thought my life was over! It was my husband who told me to put big girl panties on and forge my own path.
Even so, I’m still not immune to looking at the people who are further ahead than me, and thinking that they’ve somehow got it all figured out. I’m not immune to falling for the next big trend that “everyone” is all excited about, only to have it be nothing but a giant distraction from my goals, and a huge waste of time.
But do you know what I discover every time I actually sit down to talk to one of those people who from afar seem like they have it all figured out? I discover that THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING EITHER! Oh sure, we can all look back on what we’ve done and figure out what worked….in the past.
But the future? The next step? It’s always a mystery. It’s always a guess. It’s always taking a risk and stepping into the unknown. It’s always trying something new, and then something else, and then something else after that. It’s testing and trying and putting yourself out there. Again and again and again.
Because that is what being an entrepreneur is all about.
RULE #4: LOOK FOR A ROLE MODEL, NOT A RESCUER
It’s only natural, when faced with the unknown, or when trying to do something you’ve never done before, or when feeling unsure, to look for a role model or someone else to guide you along the way. Because let’s face it—in any endeavor in life, it is nice to have someone who has been there, who just gets it, and who knows exactly what you are going through. It’s helpful to have someone offering up their wisdom and advice, and possibly even show you exactly what to do.
And that’s true no matter what you might be going through. There’s nothing more reassuring for a new mom than another mom offering firsthand advice on everything from feeding to teething to sleeping through the night. Likewise, there’s nothing more helpful to an entrepreneur than talking or listening to other, more experienced business owners.
No one wants to feel like they are going it alone, wading into uncharted territory all by themselves. It’s comforting to be able to follow in someone else’s footsteps and reassuring to know that whatever you are trying to do is actually possible because someone else has done it.
In general, role models and teachers and mentors and coaches are a good thing, especially when it comes to doing it scared.
And so, if you are preparing to break out of your comfort zone and try something new, then finding someone to guide you along the way can be a really smart idea. That person can help you avoid pitfalls and let you know that you are on the right track. It might mean taking a class, hiring a coach, or just talking to someone who has already done the thing that you want to do.
But there’s a catch.
You see, a role model is someone that you seek out for guidance, not the other way around. And that is a very different scenario than simply hoping for someone else to figure it out for you, or to show you the way. Looking for a role model is not the same thing as waiting to be rescued.
And it is really, really important to understand the difference.
When you actively seek out a role model for guidance, you are assuming responsibility and taking ownership of your journey. You are being proactive, not reactive, and you understand that the job of your role model is not to do the work for you, but to show you that it can be done, and to offer guidance along the way.
On the other hand, when all you do is wait for a rescuer, or sit around wishing and hoping that someone would help make things easier, you are allowing yourself to be the victim. What’s worse, you are giving away all your power to someone who may or may not ever show up.
I guarantee that you do not need to be rescued, but you might need a role model. Luckily for you, there are role models and teachers and coaches and mentors everywhere you look—you just have to start looking.
RULE #5: JUST START
Don’t wait for the moment to be right, because it never will be. Don’t wait until you feel like you know exactly what you are doing, because you never really will.
Just start. Right here, right now, totally imperfectly, without knowing exactly how it is all going to end. You don’t have to have to know all the steps before you begin, and you don’t have to know exactly how it is all going to play out.
You just have to take the next step. Or the first one.
You’ve got to do it scared.
Because here’s the thing—action is the antidote to fear.
Every time you step outside your comfort zone, every time you take just one tiny step in the right direction, you build up a little more courage and confidence for the next move.
So take action. Any action. Just start. That’s rule #5.
So often for women, starting a business starts as a hobby or a side hustle, something we decide to try, just to see how it goes, just to see if we can. We don’t want to take it too seriously, because taking it too seriously and treating it like a real business, well, that would just be scary. And risky. And we might fail. It feels much safer to sit safely on the side of the pool, dipping our toes into the water. We’re not ready to go all in.
But what if I told you that going all-in was the only way to make it?
What if I told you that IF you are to be successful, you are also, at some point, going to fail spectacularly, because SUCCESS only comes through failure and mistakes.
So if you think you are ready to start your own business, then start believing that there are no mistakes, only lessons. Accept it as part of the process, knowing that the biggest breakdowns usually lead to the biggest breakthroughs. Second, believe in your heart of hearts that it’s not personal, it’s business. Make your drive to succeed bigger than your fear of putting yourself out there. Third, understand that no one else really knows what they are doing either. It’s okay to be unsure. Fourth, look for a role model, not a rescuer. You don’t need a hero, but you might need a guide. And then, just start.
Because truly, it’s the only way.
P.S. If the business you are thinking of starting is an ONLINE business, then I strongly encourage you to check out Elite Blog Academy 4.0. Registration for EBA only opens to the public once a year, for five days only, and this year the doors will be opening on March 4th. If you’re not yet on the waiting list, I strongly encourage you to sign up at eliteblogacademy.com so you can be first in line when the doors open.