Big Questions That Almost Stopped Me From Starting a Business: Part 2

Greatest Story for Business: 3 Scary Questions That Almost Stopped Me From Starting a Business + Their Answers! Part 2

In today's Part 2, we're upping the ante on big and scary.

As you saw last week, together we looked at a few big, scary questions that almost stopped me from starting Greatest Story. Things like “How will I register a business?” and “How will I pay taxes?” If you missed it, you can find those questions and the answers I discovered in last week's post here.

Today - we're looking at the other 3 questions.

3. What if nobody hires me?
4. What if I don't make enough money?
5. What if I fail?

These are the real biggies and the one’s that kept me up at night. These are about talent, guts, and success and not the detail stuff anyone can just learn.

Asking these questions meant questioning my own value, confidence, and capability. And that terrified me more than anything.

So let’s get into it and see what these answers really were...

Scary Question 3:
What if nobody hires me?

Maybe it's "what if nobody hires me?" or "what if nobody buys my product?" etc.

This is something that most of us who are entrepreneurs (or want to be entrepreneurs) wrestle with and spend countless weeks, months, maybe years worrying about. And it had a lot of power over me in the debate to start my business.

What's funny is that as soon as I actually asked this question, it answered itself.

Here’s what I mean:

Facebook inspired the first hire: a wedding
One month before I officially registered my business (September 2013), I was looking in a conference alum closed Facebook group I was in. I noticed a person whom I'd met briefly - she was looking for someone to make custom invitations for her wedding. I commented and told her I was just starting my business and felt I could help her. A phone call later, she became my first official client for Greatest Story and I did her wedding invitations, programs, escort cards, and thank you notes.

Giving up a job offer led to the second hire: a 40-hour consulting project
Months later (late January 2013), I made the very scary decision to go full-time with Greatest Story. This happened during a phone call with the President of a local ad agency. She had called to offer me a job tailor made for me. But after months of thought, I knew I had to turn her down- I had decided I had to know if I had what it takes to do my business full time. It was one of the scariest phone calls - if not, the scariest - of my entire life.

So I told her the truth and turned down the job.

And you know what? Within minutes of telling her I just had to follow my dream, she says “Well, I understand. Do you still want to work with us?” So followed a 40-hour presentation writing, editing, and design project for her and the agency that I started on that day.

Going full-time leads to one of our biggest clients to date: 2 restaurants for copywriting, brand strategy, and web design
About a month and a half later, business inquiries were way up, wedding clients were coming on board, and my business radically changed just by telling people that Greatest Story was my actual job and not my side project. Continuing to talk about what I do with friends and family soon connected me with my first official small business client. They hired me to work on two major local restaurants and became one of our biggest clients since we launched two years ago.

So what did the answer to "What if nobody hires me?" really mean?

I still understand why this is a powerful question that can hold us back. And in my experience, the answer and making sure people did hire me was totally all about me, not them.

In every instance above, I got a client because I told them I was available to work and that I had a business that could add value to their lives. I took an active role in that process by sharing my story with them. Sometimes getting hired is as simple as letting people know you’re available to them and that you have something you can do to help them. It worked for me. I bet it’d work for you.

Answer: Not worth worrying about. Clients began coming out of the woodwork in the first 6 months, as soon as I started telling people my business existed.
Actual Scariness Factor (with 10 being the most legitimately scary): 0

Scary Question 4:
What if I never make enough money?

This is another very fair, very daunting question that may never go away for most small business owners, including me. At the very beginning, it was a big part of what had me questioning whether to go full time or to hedge my bets by taking an ad agency job and do it only as a side business.

One thing that helped me make that decision, go full time, and try to answer the question was this: I decided to give myself a year to try and see what I could do. It was a leap of faith, and it turned out to be a good one.

I feel lucky to say today:

  • The business has been profitable from the beginning
  • It's stayed profitable, month-after-month, for 26 months now
  • We’ve grown by 40% just since last year

And I’m excited about what will happen and how it will grow in 2016. So for me, that’s enough.

Do I make as much each year now as I did at Disney? No.
Do I make as much as I would have at the ad agency that I turned down a job with? In this 2nd year, pretty close.
And do I make enough to make it worth pursuing my dream full time? Absolutely. 110%.

“Enough” can be an ever-changing number for us all. I’d say that I’ve made enough money since day one. I had reasonable expectations, if not low expectations, of what I might make from the kinds of work I do for others when I first started. And I’ve been able to exceed those expectations due to grace, amazing clients, and opportunities I’ve been brave enough to raise my hand and say yes to.

On this front, I've come to believe that it’s all about what your expectations are and what’s most important to you. There is no magic salary number that can make you happy or that you have to hit in order to be happy.

Make sure to define “enough” for yourself, for where you are, for what you want to do and strive for that. The rest will work itself out, and if you make more than that - awesome!

The Answer: While this will probably always be a question for me, I'm grateful to know I have been able to make "enough."
Actual Scariness Factor (out of 10): 5 the first year, 4 this year

The Last Scary Question 5:
What if I fail?

So, for real, I was crazy terrified that if I told everybody I was starting this bananas business of helping real people tell their stories, I would fail BIG TIME.

I was super worried that people would think I was an idiot for giving up a dream job at Disney and moving from LA to do this with my life.

And really, at the end of the day, I was worried that I would put myself out there and fall flat on my face - finding myself even further from finding my purpose in my career.
But like everything else - the only way to find the answer was to ask the question. 

Here's what I learned by asking it (so far):

  • I did succeed at starting my business - I didn’t fail financially or emotionally at doing it either.

  • I’ve succeeded at keeping the business profitable, growing it over time, building relationships, and helping a lot of incredible people tell their story in so many ways.

  • I’ve failed many times along the way. I’ve said the wrong thing, done the wrong thing, screwed up social media, forgotten to blog, overcommitted myself, ran late, made bad marketing investments, and more.

  • And there were days and still are days that I feel like a failure, that nobody finds me interesting, and that I don’t add a lot value to people. These are called the “being human” days and I’ve learned that they happen every once and awhile, even to the most confident people.

So, in all of this, I’ve found that businesses are like people in some ways. My business will grow and change, as I do along with it. I will fail, I will succeed - the only thing I can say for sure is that I will try. I will try to celebrate the peaks and learn from the valleys.

Whether your business is open for a week or thirty years, the only real failure is in not trying.

Greatest Story for Business Blog: "Failure is Success, if we learn from it" - Malcolm Forbes

The Answer: While this will probably always be a question for me, I'm grateful to know I have been able to make "enough."
Actual Scariness Factor (out of 10): 5 the first year, 4 this year

Five Questions Later: The Biggest Lesson

While I’ve given you all the answers now, there’s one important thing you need to know: every day, I am still faced with big, scary questions.

Big, scary questions are a part of life, especially life as an entrepreneur. If I’ve learned only one thing in the process and by sharing these with you, it’s this - the trick is not being afraid to ask them.

And though it's not easy - we all worry we aren’t good enough, talented enough, great enough to face our fears.

But we're not going to let that stop us.

On that note, if you enjoyed this or were encouraged by it, please share it with a friend.