Crushing your fear of starting your own business

Written by Andrew Askins on January 30, 2018

You know what’s sadder than a failed startup? 

One that never started at all.

The thing that prevents most people from starting a startup isn’t a lack of talent or capital or ideas. The most common killer of startups is fear. Fear will kill a startup before it ever starts at all.

Fear is normal. It’s important, actually. Without fear, we would accidentally kill ourselves in a million different ways before getting old enough to find our parents embarrassing or listen to horrible music.

Fear only becomes a problem when it prevents us from taking risks that could make our lives dramatically better. So, let’s talk about how to completely crush one of the most common fears of all: the fear of stepping out on your own.

To begin, let’s imagine the worst that could possibly happen.

You decide to start a startup. You give it an incredibly clever name, like badoodle.io. And after a year of working your ass off night and day, the worst happens. You fail.

But before we focus on the failure, let’s get a little more specific with this scenario.

The average cost for an MVP with Krit is $50,000, and it typically takes 3 to 4 months to go from idea to Minimum Loveable Product in the market. For this example, we’ll say it took 4 months.

Because you’re a savvy entrepreneur living below your means, we’ll say your expenses are $3,000 per month.

During the first 6 months, you continue working your day job, while talking to customers and working on marketing your new product at night and on weekends. For the second 6 months, you go full-time on Badoodle.io.

After the 12 months, you decide to shut the product down without getting anything out of it.

You failed.

Assuming you didn’t get a single customer during those 12 months (something we work hard to prevent), you’re now out $68,000.

By contrast, two years at a top-tier business school will put you out an average of $130,000 — not including cost of living.

Meanwhile, even though you “failed,” you’ve gained invaluable experience running a company of your own, connections to people you would have never met otherwise, and a new perspective on life.

Sounds a lot like what you get out of business school…

I’m not trying to tell anyone not to get their MBA. But startup failure doesn’t have to be as scary as we make it out to be. If you’re smart enough to learn from your mistakes, you should be able to turn a startup “failure” into a pretty compelling resume builder, for a lot less than the cost of a top MBA program. And if you make it through, you have a lot more to gain than a job working middle-management at a giant corporation.

Don’t believe me? 

Our agency began as a failed startup.

We spent our first year and a half building a contract tool for freelancers. We went through an accelerator, made a goofy video, launched on Product Hunt. But ultimately, we failed.

And I learned more in the first year and a half of building Krit than I did in almost four years getting my Computer Science degree.

Rollercoaster Comic

Just because failure isn’t as bad as you think doesn’t mean it isn’t still scary though. With that in mind, here’s a few extra tips to help you get the most out of your experience and hedge your bets:

Don’t quit your day job

Most of our clients don’t quit their day job right away. Yes, building a startup is an incredibly hard experience, and it will ultimately need your full focus. But you can get it off the ground while still working another job. It won’t be easy, but you can do it.

Plus, the connections (and extra cash) from your day job can be a huge boon.

Don’t risk money you’re not willing to lose

I don’t want to paint startups as a completely rosy picture. Starting a startup will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. And four out of every five startups fail. You have to come into it willing to lose the money you invest. Don’t bet your life’s savings unless you’re truly willing to start over from scratch.

Likewise, don’t raise money from investors unless they understand the risks and can survive the loss. Getting an investment from your rich relative might seem like a good idea, but if you wind up having to close your doors, it can make family reunions awkward for years to come.

Note: for more on how to raise a friends and family round, check out our interview with the Founder of Case Status.

Give it your all

Once you get started, make sure you give your company everything you’ve got. This isn’t to say you have to work every hour of the day. Keeping a healthy work-life balance is important for productivity, and everyone has off days.

But you don’t want to look back years later and wonder what could have been. Once you’re in it, don’t let your fears get in the way. Give it your best. Take risks, work your ass off, and ask for help.

Now that fear should be starting to shrink and fall away. You need to give it a final kick to crush it once and for all. 

You're not going to quit your day job. You're only risking money you're willing to use. And you know you're going to give this business your all. You may still fail, but you'll gain so much in the progress it's hardly even failing. 

So what are you waiting for? Go get started on your idea. You don’t have to launch your project tomorrow. But ask yourself, “what one small thing could I do today to help me get my business off the ground?”

Maybe it’s picking a name, or interviewing a potential customer. It could be finding a technical partner, or working with your designer friend to create a logo. Don’t worry about messing up, or doing the perfect strategic thing right now. Just get started.

Andrew is our fearless leader. If you want to chat about startups, football or cooking shows you can hit him up on Twitter. If you enjoyed this post it would be a huge help if you shared it or signed up for our newsletter.