Close your eyes and visualize yourself giving your first TED Talk. It’s one of the most pivotal occasions in your professional life… It’s only that you left your clothes at home.
Do you have a heaviness in your stomach? Good. What have I done, that same wide-eyed?
After the exhilaration of fleeing the 9-to-5 world wears off, every entrepreneur is overcome by nightmares.
This panic sets in when we realize we’ve wandered too far from the salary mothership and must return to the salaried womb. Congratulations! Every entrepreneur is required to take this step while launching a firm. It hurts like hell, but it’s manageable.
Take a deep breath and remember that you don’t have to return to your cubicle. No, you did not leave your work prematurely.
Your worry isn’t wholly unwarranted. Being your own boss is wonderful on day one, but as the months’ pass, you’ll likely observe your money account shrink and your enthusiasm fade to a chilly reluctance.
You wake up one day and find you don’t have the financial runway or grit you thought you did. This is very normal.
You’ll make your way down Maslow’s hierarchy of wants, hitting each rung along the way before waking up groggy on the security tier floor.
You’ll have plenty of time in this Monopoly jail to ponder where it all went wrong, but these eight tactics will help you get through the fear and keep a steady hand on the wheel of your company.
1) Trim Your Budget To The Bone.
“Entrepreneurship is spending a few years of your life like most people won’t, so you can live the rest of your life like most people can’t,” according to a quote.
When it comes to quitting your 9-to-5 job, most new entrepreneurs focus on the final part, but they don’t spend much time thinking about what “living like most people won’t” involves.
“Sure, it’ll be rough,” they reply, “but I’m tougher!”
But are you prepared to let a few lean years develop into five or ten? Your anticipated timescales are frequently mocked by the Universe.
A herculean effort, day in and day out, for much longer than you might expect is required to bring a new company to profitability.
You can’t expect to live the same way you did when you were guaranteed a paycheck every two weeks. Because your part-time consulting job is unlikely to pay all of your expenses, you’ll have to trim the fat from your family budget.
That could mean canceling your Audible subscription, exercising at home rather than at an expensive gym, or shopping at a discount store rather than Whole Foods.
Elon Musk slept on his office couch instead of renting an apartment when he was constructing PayPal’s predecessor; now he’s a millionaire. You, too, can make a sacrifice if he can.
Related: Ingenious Problem-Solving Techniques
2) Find a “Consulting” Job.
There is a way out of the Money Panic that does not need selling off retirement assets or boosting your credit card limit. You’re looking for a consulting job that will assist you to pay your bills on a monthly basis.
This doesn’t have to entail putting on a suit and helping corporations “discover efficiencies”—it may be as easy as a three-night-a-week bartender job or a few hours driving for Uber, or even assisting your previous firm by continuing some of your old responsibilities on a contract basis.
You’ll have peace of mind knowing there’s enough money coming in to replace your diminishing coffers when you locate a consulting gig—consistent part-time hours with an hourly wage. Having your security needs covered is a preventative measure against Money Panic, and it frees you up to focus on the important work of growing your company.
3) Be Realistic In Your Aspirations.
We admire successful entrepreneurs because they appear to be endowed with limitless potential. We’ve already bought into the illusion that we can do it all when we start our own firm. We forget that Richard Branson’s empire of planes, trains, spacecraft, electronics, charity, radio, and so on all began with a single record store. At first, he didn’t strive to do everything.
Are you managing your personal life while trying to construct an app and website, grow seven social media accounts, live webinars, talk to consumers, sell, and acquire venture capital? Remove it.
Your expectations may need to be adjusted if your cash flow estimates foresee you making $1 million in the first year, tripling sales this quarter, or recruiting 100 additional employees. Ambition is admirable, but when it crosses the line into Fantasyland, it isn’t.
Stop trying to do “everything.” OK-ish: Concentrate on a select few key areas where you can excel. Setting realistic goals isn’t the same as selling yourself short; it’s what grown-ups do. And as your capability expands, so does your ambition.
4) Put Plan On Hold And Focus On Cash Flow.
Your superpower as an entrepreneur is vision; you see an opportunity to transform the world that no one else sees. Someone, however, must go out and sell. The greatest strength of an entrepreneur is also a weakness. Big-picture thought helps society evolve, but it’s the day-to-day yeoman’s effort that makes the idea a reality.
The temptation to concentrate solely on company development—perfecting the product, upgrading the website, fine-tuning marketing copy—will be strong, but none of this pays the bills like sales.
When the financial crisis struck in 2008, Tel Ganesan, the founder of IT and software firm Kyyba Inc., made “a basic index card with ‘$$$$’ scribbled on it” to remind him to prioritize cash flow. “Even though multiple office transfers, that index card is kept in the same position in my office,” he explains.
Every company’s lifeblood is cash flow. The body will die if it dries up. By all means, make your business plan canvas before quitting your job. But now is the moment to dig down into the trenches of sales, even if it’s not as exciting as adding another feature to your app.
5) Take Some Time Off.
We get at least a couple of weeks’ paid vacation in the salaried environment, so we feel justified unplugging from work. Why is it so difficult for entrepreneurs to disconnect? Because if you don’t do it in the beginning, your business will fail. When you set up your own business, you may find yourself on call at all hours of the day.
However, pushing your body and mind to the limit can lead to burnout. You are the business. The shingle will collapse if you do.
It may seem paradoxical, but once you start thinking, “I’m not made out for this!” it becomes clear. It’s time for a vacation if you’re feeling like going back to your previous job.
Resist the impulse to push yourself harder—your efforts will fall flat if you’re exhausted.
When COVID hit, TeamBuilding CEO Michael Alexis saw his annual revenue drop from $2.8 million to $0 in an instant. Rather than working extra hours, he went mountain climbing with his partner. “I recall thinking, cold, sweaty, and full of doubt, Our business is failing,” he adds.
However, by the time he returned down the mountain, he had learned how to pivot swiftly, and the company had thousands of clients under the new business model within a year.
A vacation does not have to entail a trip to far-flung locales: Staycation or get a private Airbnb for a few nights.
6) Act Like a Pro, Not a Novice.
When you work, you are by definition a professional. You don’t have much of a choice if you don’t want to come in on Monday morning. When you don’t have a boss to answer to, however, you’ll be tempted to sleep late or take a two-hour lunch break.
This is the mindset of a novice.
Resistance is a force described by author Steven Pressfield that prevents you from doing what you need to do, particularly in creative endeavors. Resistance is commonly used by amateurs as an excuse, such as “I don’t feel like working today, let’s go to the beach.”
Professionals, on the other hand, face the dragon of Resistance every day, making client calls or sitting down to paint even if the spirit isn’t moving them.
7) Embrace Self-Doubt And Use It To Your Advantage.
Any entrepreneur will tell you that controlling your own mental condition is the most difficult aspect of their job. We plunge ourselves into the unknown and compound our challenges by abandoning the 9-to-5 comfort zone. “Expanding your range of comfort and ability comes at a cost,” argues author Tim Ferriss.
Self-doubt is an inescapable side effect of wanting to be more wonderful, but we can either let it cripple us or use it to our advantage. You have the power to adjust the story you’re telling yourself about what these fears mean: Have you committed a major blunder? Is this skepticism a natural emotional reaction?
Your worst-case concerns may appear true, but emotions aren’t facts; they’re just fleeting clouds that you may watch float by on their own. Once you realize this, you may begin to control your self-doubt. It might serve as a check on your faulty assumptions, a drive to work more, or a reminder to seek guidance from mentors and supporters.
Use psychological distance to practice, which is defined by Alicia Nortje, Ph.D. as a “method where we walk away from a situation or position in order to acquire perspective.” This could include leaving your workplace (that Airbnb trip is looking increasingly appealing), or even speaking in the third person about oneself.
When you accept self-doubt as a part of the journey, it stops dragging you down and instead propels you ahead.
8) Re-establish Your Connections.
Although you may not be blood brothers with your former coworkers, the workplace provides a crucial benefit in the form of everyday social connection with other adults. Humans have evolved to require the company of others in order to thrive, and when you leave the regular workplace, you are cut off from this social network.
“Entrepreneurship, in any form, can be tremendously lonely at times—as well as intimidating and overwhelming,” says Parker Russell of Black Ink Coffee, and this was especially true during COVID. “You can discuss your challenges, pick up gems of advice, and, ultimately, improve” when you join a network of like-minded people, Russell adds.
Collaboration is the fastest way to grow a firm, and no entrepreneur can do it alone. Mentorship can save you years of frustration, and spending time with family and friends lifts our spirits. It’s easy to fall into the trap of working like a hermit as a solopreneur, but you must fight the impulse to shut yourself off from the rest of the world.
Pick up the phone and call one friend, family member, or mentor each day (clients do not count). This will make you feel better when you’ve dug yourself a hole in your entrepreneurial foxhole.
When you constantly apply these eight methods, you’ll still experience panic attacks—as an entrepreneur, this is unavoidable—but you’ll know that no matter what obstacles come, you’ll be prepared.