What Are You Afraid Of? How Fears Derail Your Business

Dog dressed up in demon costume

It’s inevitable.

At some point on the solopreneur-ship path, your fears will stop you cold.

You’ll be rockin’ along, humming lightly and feeling mighty proud of yourself, and then BLAM – next thing you know, you’re cowering in the corner, figuratively speaking, shivering and eyeing nervously That Thing.

You know That Thing.

It’s the Thing that scares you.

It is … your Nemesis.

And dollars to doughnuts, cupcakes, whatever That Thing looks like for you, it’s really just a big old black hole of FEAR, dressed up for Halloween.

How Fears Road-Block Us on the Path to Success

We’re always talking to ourselves. An endless repeating loop of chatter that we call our “thoughts.”

When the talk turns to the Dark Side, we get negative self-talk. And that negative self-talk becomes the truth for our subconscious minds, even though it’s really just opinion – and opinion based on subjective perceptions, at that.

At some point along the road, negative self-talk can turn even darker, and become a limiting set of beliefs. Beliefs are nothing more than thoughts that we hold over a long period of time which become internalized.

In order to deal effectively with those beliefs-cum-fears, we have to get to know them intimately, by asking ourselves a series of questions:

  • What am I afraid of?
  • How did I become afraid of this?
  • How is it stopping me from achieving what I want to achieve?
  • Is this fear based on rational or irrational beliefs & assumptions?

Kinds of Fears Solopreneurs Routinely Face

When you get right down to it, solopreneur-dom is pretty freaking scary. We face fears every single day, to varying degrees.

What’s interesting about these fears, though, is that sooner or later, they all break down into one of two basic fears: the fear of failing and the fear of success.

Think about it:

  • Afraid of raising your prices? You’re really afraid of being rejected, which means failure. (Also, you should read this.)
  • Afraid of hiring the wrong person? You’re really afraid of being taken advantage of, which means you’re afraid of success, or you’re afraid of being left with nothing, which means you’re afraid of failing.
  • Afraid you’ll end up a bag lady? You’re really afraid of failing.
  • Afraid you’ll get so big you can’t handle it? You’re really afraid of success.
  • Afraid of marketing yourself assertively or asking for the sale? You’re really afraid of being rejected, which means you’re afraid of failing.

The Fear of Technology

But one of the most insidious kinds of fear I see every day in my solopreneur clients is the fear of technology. It’s everywhere – even though most folks don’t recognize it for what it is – and it’s insidious.

In fact, it’s insidious precisely because it’s so prevalent, and so paralyzing, but also so easily overcome.

What these clients are really afraid of is failing, mostly – though occasionally it’s a fear of success (“technology will grow my business to a point where I’m no longer comfortable with it”) – failing so hard they’ll break their website, or make a stupid gaffe on social media they can’t ever recover from, and their business will die painfully.

Some of the most common areas I see technology fears include:

  • Website building – by far, the most common example  (HTML and CSS are confusing to a novice, and an errant bit of PHP code can in fact “break” your site, at least temporarily, so this one’s not entirely irrational)
  • Writing marketing copy or content for your marketing plan
  • Blogging
  • Social media
  • QR codes
  • Email marketing and autoresponders
  • Video

How to Conquer Your Fears

No matter what you’re afraid of, a basic four-step process can help you overcome it:

  1. ID the fears precisely: Play the “what’s the worst that can happen?” game with yourself. Explore the contours of that fear down to its cellular level.
  2. Get to the root of the fear: What caused it? What beliefs underlie it? Where’d you learn that crap anyway? What pain are you avoiding by NOT doing this thing? What pleasure do you get from not doing it? (Hint: There’s always something you gain, or you wouldn’t be doing it the way you’re doing it.)
  3. Raise your stakes: Get crystal clear on your reasons why by listing out what pleasure you’ll gain from conquering the fear and doing the thing that scares you, and what pain you’ll avoid by doing so.
  4. Get a plan: Find a way to learn the new thing; set aside time to practice or study at it; hire someone to hold your hand, figuratively speaking, while you get good at it.

If fear of website technology is your fear, by the way, you might want to check out this course I’m teaching in June through Progressive Business Tech Training. It’s a week-long intensive on HTML and CSS, and I promise you: I make that stuff FUN. You’ll be building websites from scratch by the end of the week! BONUS: Don’t sign up at that link – instead, contact Garth Knowlton at PB (by phone at 610.695.8600 Ext. 328, or email him here) and get a 15% discount!

Now, a little warning about that whole “get a plan” thing. You might be tempted to start by diving into Google or Bing. Do not do this! At least, not right off the bat. What happens all too often, I find, is that the sheer volume of results from a (usually) vague and imprecise search will overwhelm you into thinking you were right to be afraid of this thing all along. You don’t know enough about this thing (whatever it is) yet to know what you need to ask, so don’t start with the search engines.

Instead, start with a human touch. Reach out to friends on Facebook and Twitter. Post something like “I want to learn more about XYZ. Anybody got any recommendations for some good beginner sources?”

Even better: identify specific people you know who are familiar with the subject and ask them to chat with you for a few minutes. Pick their brains. In case you haven’t yet noticed, folks LOVE to feel that they’re viewed as experts and are more than eager to share the knowledge when asked politely!

Once you have at least a rough idea of the contours of what you’re facing, then you can hit the search engines and Amazon.

Conquer Those Fears!

Look, you’re a smart cookie. You’re resourceful – if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading about this stuff to begin with, now, would you?

You can totally do That Thing.


This post is part of the awesome Word Carnival. Read more posts on this month’s theme: Vanquish Your Nemesis: A Guide to Conquering Small Biz Evils.

Photo Credit: Sata via photopin cc

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon Hurley Hall April 24, 2013 at 9:25 am

Love this, Annie, and the idea of polling your network for advice on addressing your fears is great. I routinely ask the groups I’m part of for help when I need it – they always provide either advice or a listening ear (or both).

Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef April 24, 2013 at 10:42 am

Ah the Fears. Reminds me of that sign that floats around FB: “Do Not Feed the Fears.” It’s amazing how easily we can get tangled up in our own imaginations. And I love how you’ve pointed out that 1,428,709 Google results on a question is probably not a good place to start if you tend to want to read all the things. LOL. I love me some Google answers. It used to be my mom or dad that I’d go to with questions, but now I ask Google. And honestly, I think I don’t get overwhelmed by all the results because I only look at the first one or two pages (max). However, for those less adept at filtering out the noise, REAL HUMANS can also be awesome. So glad I’ve got you on my human team, Annie!

Carol Lynn Rivera April 24, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Wow, that’s three of us who mentioned the “what’s the worst thing that can happen” game! Great minds and all…

Lately I fear that I will never be motivated to work ever again :/

Getting to the root of your fears… now that can be a challenge. There are the things we tell ourselves we’re afraid of and the things we really are. Why are we such a mess?!?! As always, I love your style and enjoyed your reminder to do just get on with that Thing already!

Laura Petrolino April 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Yep, I do the ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen thing as well’. I think fear is really a matter of taking a step back and getting a better perspective. We can get so wrapped up in our own micro-cosom that everything seems a bit terrifying. Add in the other emotions of entrepreneurship and you have a recipe for disaster. But great tips to work your way through!

BacknGrooveMom April 25, 2013 at 7:59 am

totally agree – FEAR will get you. for me, it is FEAR of the unknown – the transition – moving into different areas

Nicole Fende April 25, 2013 at 8:12 am

I call it the Meteor Test or Fear of Impending Doom. The worst thing that could happen is a meteor hits the earth and wipes out all life (Well except for cockroaches, nothing can kill them off). Nothing could be worse than that right? And if it’s coming let’s party like it’s 1999. Otherwise it could be worse.

I find the fear of success interesting. I know I’m afraid of failure. I need to ponder the fear of success more.

Eugene Farber April 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm

So I tried to combine my comments for Tea and Carol Lynn into one. Looks like I should have thrown you into the mix as well :).

Fears, productivity, perfectionism, etc….they all stem from confidence.

The unfortunate thing is a lot of smart people that know what they’r doing lack the confidence because they always want to do better. While some morons are overly-confident online and steer people the wrong way.

clarestweets April 25, 2013 at 5:08 pm

So true Eugene. I would add to Annie’s list one that works for me. Pick a step, take the step, then reward yourself for taking that first step. Really ties into Tea’s “baby step” concept as well. And I can’t resist throwing in a food reference to The Bag Lady. What Paula Deen called her business when she started it and look where that got her!

SandyMcD April 27, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Fascinating post Annie. You gave me such an insight into how the chatter of thoughts can become a limiting belief. Recently in a business course I am doing we were asked to write a letter to money about our relationship with it. It was actually a really painful challenge. Facing your nemesis by writing to it reveals some interesting emotions and can be super cathartic.

I think many people should write a letter to their fear of technology. I hope you have lots and lots of people benefitting hugely from your teaching them what’s to be afraid of and giving them freedom online they previously didn’t have. Great post, thank you.

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