After many years of working for other people, I am now working for myself. It’s not the first time, but it’s the first time in more than a decade.
True confession: I’m terrified.
It’s not about confidence. I know I’m good at what I do. Social media may seem new, but I started building and managing online communities in the early 90s. I’ve been helping companies use the internet to connect with passionate fans and business partners for two decades. The tools have evolved, but the principles are the same.
I’m pretty sure every business owner has faced the issues that terrify me about being an entrepreneur. Here are my greatest fears – and what I’m doing to kick them in the pants.
Fear #1: I’ll be lonely. I’m not talking about personal loneliness – I live with three men (one large and two getting bigger every day), so I’ve got plenty of company. I’m talking about professional loneliness. No teammates to talk strategy with. No colleagues to round out the plans for next quarter. No boss to offer constructive criticism.
What I’m doing: I’ve built an informal network of friends and former colleagues with hands-on expertise in social media, search marketing, SEO, and public relations. We touch base weekly to toss around ideas. Though we offer competing services, we know that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” so we share knowledge freely.
Fear #2: I’ll hire too soon (or not soon enough). If I bring on my first employee too soon, I could end up wasting money. But if I wait too long, I might end up with more work than I can handle – and unhappy clients.
What I’m doing: Instead of planning to hire full-time employees, I’m lining up contractors with skill sets I know I’ll need. I’ve vetted their skills and checked their availability, and I’ll be sure to give them a heads-up at least a few weeks in advance.
Fear #3: My referral well will run dry. I’ve already gotten great leads from my professional network. But what happens when I run out of friends to tap? How will I meet the potential clients with whom I’ve got no one in common?
What I’m doing: I’m scheduling time each week for networking. Online, I’m commenting on marketing blogs, answering questions on LinkedIn and Quora.com, and joining professional conversations on Twitter and Google+. Offline, I’m chatting people up at Starbucks, asking my mechanic and hair stylist whether they need marketing help, and exploring opportunities to teach small business owners about social media through SCORE.
Fear #4: Money. I’m scared I won’t make enough to cover my expenses and invest in growth. I’m terrible with paperwork and receipts. And businesses need insurance, licenses, equipment, training, travel funds. I can feel my blood pressure rising as I type this list. What if I can’t cover my costs?
What I’m doing: Fortunately, I’m married to the most money-sensible guy on the planet. With my husband’s help, I’ve got a clear understanding of how much revenue I need to cover my monthly nut. If I didn’t have a live-in advisor, I’d hire one – or barter my services for financial guidance.
Fear #5: I’ll always be on call. Every entrepreneur I know thinks about business 24/7 and is available around the clock. A client wants to talk at midnight? You stay up late. A client wants to meet on Saturday? You miss your kid’s soccer game. I’m scared my business will take over my life and take precedence over my family – even though family flexibility is supposed to be a perk of working for yourself.
What I’m doing: I’m striving for balance. I’ll never say no to a client, but I try to schedule around important family events whenever possible. I answer emails courtside at my kids’ basketball games, make dinner (quietly) during conference calls, and work after dinner so I can pay attention to my boys after school. There are two things on which I won’t compromise: I don’t miss deadlines, and I need my beauty sleep. Everything else, I hope, will fall into place.
What scares you about being an entrepreneur? Confess in the comments below.
Erika Kerekes recently left the corporate world to start her social media marketing consulting firm. She hopes that building a business is like riding a bike, minus the broken arm and scabbed knees.
“Can Word With Pushpin” image courtesy of Stuart Miles /freedigitalphotos.net