Trick or treat? Facing fear as a solopreneur

6 min read
Matthew Pattinson

Halloween season brings a sense of trepidation. Spookiness fills the air. For the side hustling solopreneur, the fog of mystery doesn’t clear in the aftermath of the festivities.

It’s there 24/7.

You are still early into your solopreneur adventure, and awash with a mix of emotions from scepticism to excitement to fear. This is all part of you Scooby-Doo adventure. Fear, after all, is a normal human emotion in any business venture. For you and your solopreneur Side Hustle, not to feel some level of fear would be unusual.

The question is how you respond to it. Fear can motivate, or it can paralyse. Let’s look at some different ways that fear can manifest itself as you work to establish your Side Hustle.

Don’t let your fear of what could happen make nothing happen.

Fear of failure

What makes us afraid of failing? Doesn’t failure somehow prove we weren't up to the job all along?

The fear of failure freezes many good ideas in their tracks. Better to hold on to what you have than stick your head above the parapet. Do nothing, and nothing can hurt you.

This is common but unhelpful thinking. If you try nothing new, you will go nowhere fast. And if you don't risk failure, how will you ever learn what works and doesn't?

People fear failure because they fear how they will look to others. Succumbing to fear is a kind of vanity.

The problem is this: no successful business went about launching without hitting setbacks and experiencing failure along the way. Many great businesses were the founder’s third or even fourth startup.

If you don't risk failure, nothing will happen, which is the biggest risk of all.

Fear of ignorance

Here's another biggie: the fear of the unknown. How can I be confident selling my venture if I don't know everything about my field of expertise?

The point is nobody expects you to know everything, and the only way to gain meaningful knowledge is to recognise what you don't know.

When you start a new venture, there is so much to learn. The important thing is to be open about what you don’t know, and to open yourself to learning from your environment, your experience, and others.

Even as your knowledge base and confidence levels grow, stay grounded. The more receptive you remain to new information and new ways of thinking, the more flexible you will be in responding to challenges.

Fear breeds rigidity, and rigidity is the enemy of personal growth.

Someone once said that the first thing I know is that I know nothing. Wise words indeed.

Fear of inaction

This is a kind of crazy one. First, fear freezes you. You then start to panic about all the things you are not getting on with because you have frozen up. Talk about pouring petrol on a bad situation.

Experts advise you concentrate on one thing at a time. Write a list, if that helps, and then work methodically through it. For some people, lists cause anxiety, which stokes fear. If this is the case, jump right into whatever needs doing.

Either way and for all the talk of multitasking, the reality is that human minds are wired to do one thing at a time well.

Keep this in mind and concentrate on ways of improving your focus. Turn off your email and social media notifications while you work at your task. Use a productivity app if that helps.

Remember that taking action reduces fear and soothes anxious feelings. It also increases creativity and imagination. So get moving on whatever is the next thing in need of doing, and get back into the solopreneur flow.

If all else fails, take some exercise. It is amazing what a workout does for the mind.

Fear of embarrassment

This is a difficult one. Fear of embarrassment is a fear of making mistakes and of people viewing you less favourably.

But at a deeper level it can be a fear of putting yourself out there and making yourself subject to scrutiny.

Floating an idea, making a difficult phone call, sending out an email blast, pinning a flyer on the wall: these are all actions that make you visible. Some people are sure to take the opportunity to knock you down.

The point is nobody ever became successful, or publicly known, without inviting criticism. Accept there will be rebuke and contempt from some quarters. Ignore it, except where you think you might have something to learn.

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, said Oscar Wilde. And he was one who knew.

Fear of yourself

This is possibly the biggest fear of all. It is also the least recognised. Why ever would you be afraid of yourself?

The things you are anxious about are external things, right? Sure, you are afraid of what people might think or say, or how you might end up unable to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head.

But what you are really afraid of is yourself. How you might behave or feel in new situations and new environments. How your experience as a solopreneur might alter the way you react and respond under stress. How your anticipated failure will leave you feeling about yourself.

Look deep inside yourself and you will notice just how often the fear staring back at you has your name written all over it.

So get out of your own way, and keep your eyes fixed on the pursuit of making your solo venture work. You’ll be too busy working on your business you won’t have time to quietly freak out. Ever wondered why tightrope walkers don’t look down.

If nothing else

But if none of this convinces you and you continue to feel uncertain about striking out on your own and ditching conventional employment, take a moment to consider this startling thought: you might just be underwriting your best possible insurance policy.

Study after study points to the steady demise of traditional employment. By some estimates, there will be more solopreneurs in the economy than employees within a decade.

That might be stretching it, but the tide of automation and the emerging impact of artificial intelligence on the workplace will only increase. Solopreneurs report a significantly more proactive attitude to upskilling than company employees, who feel less pressure to stay on top of new tips and techniques.

So, if all else fails, remind yourself that investing in your solo venture may be the most enlightened thing you ever did.

Whoever said the only thing to fear is fear itself? Whether it’s trick or treat this Halloween, brush away the cobwebs and don’t let fear stand in your way.