11 Small Business Owners Talk About Fear & How They Push Past It

I got married this past summer in Glacier National Park. For our honeymoon, we decided to camp out in Glacier so we could take in parts of the park that we generally don’t give ourselves the leisure to enjoy.

The day before we set out for camp, my stomach tied itself in knots. While it might be easy to forget that I have a paralyzing fear of grizzly bears while I’m safe at home in Pennsylvania, it’s not so easy when I’m considering where to put the bear spray in our gear.

Worse yet, there had been a bear “encounter” in a different campground just a few days prior. The thought of running into a bear on the trail or in camp made me want to pull the plug on the whole idea.

Sean and I debated and debated the worthiness stoking my fear just to spend a few nights inside our favorite national park. We decided to at least try. If we ended up bailing, no one would be upset. And, if I could handle it, we’d make the most of it.

The Moment Of Truth

We set ourselves up for success and left early in the morning to claim a spot in the campground we had picked out. We “bet” the $20 campground fee that I’d be able to handle it, knowing that we wouldn’t be too disappointed to see that money go to support the park whether we ended up camping or not.

Then, we set out on our first hike.

It was still early and there weren’t many folks on the trail (in other words, not enough to scare the bears away!) so I hiked constantly checking the brush and through the dark spaces between the cedars. By the time we reached the target lake, I had started to relax. We took in another hike that day and then made our way back to our campground… successfully setting up camp.  And, since you’re listening to this story, you know that I made it through the night.

The next day, we drove around to the east side of the park to explore some spots we’d never been to before. Over the course of the day, we actually spotted four bears–one black bear as well as one grizzly bear and her two cubs–all from the relative safety of the road. And…

I still made it through another night of camping!

The truth is that I’m still really afraid of bears. I didn’t get over my fear thanks to two nights of camping in Grizzly Country. I probably never will get over my fear of bears, after all, it’s good to be extremely cautious and well-prepared when hiking or camping near bears.

I did what scared me because it was what I wanted to do.

I’m never going to get to climb the tallest peaks and hike the longest trails if I don’t get used to feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

And that’s what I really want to do.

Running a business can stoke a lot of fear. Maybe it’s a fear of visibility, of imperfection, or of leadership. Maybe it’s a fear of risk, of success, or of rejection.

Below, you’ll find the honest reflections of 11 small business owners on the fear they feel–and the action they take anyway. This article is a written version of a special episode of What Works–which you can listen too here

You’ll hear from members of CoCommercial who opened up about some of their deepest fears when it comes to running their businesses. In facing their fears, they’ve accomplished great things like transforming their business models, sharing their messages on bigger stages, and setting higher prices.

Maybe you too share the fears that these small business owners face. Maybe your fear or anxiety is fueled by other concerns.

As these stories unfold, I challenge you to find some awareness of the fear you’re dealing with right now:

  • Where does it come from?
  • How is it impacting your day-to-day actions?
  • How does it affect the way you set goals or make decisions?
  • And…what are you going to do about it?

First up: the fear of judgment.

I’ve heard from plenty of small business owners this month who fear being judged by others. Sometimes this fear is based on experience. You’ve witnessed others judging you… and you fear it happening again. Often times, fear of judgment–worrying what others will think about your work, your decisions, or your goals–is based on stories we tell ourselves about how we’re supposed to behave, the role we’re supposed to play.

Still other times, it’s both. Regardless of the source of the fear, if you really want what you say you want, you need to address it.

Jessica, Lou, and Michelle share their stories.

Jessica Abel

My name is Jessica Abel. I’m a cartoonist and an author. I run The Creative Focus Workshop, which is a group coaching program aimed at creative people in many, many different fields who are struggling to create time and focus in their lives for their ambitious creative projects.

So to give you an idea of what that means, it’s the person who is trying to be a full-time journalist and trying to write a novel on the side or the person who is trying to create a feature film and find themselves totally overwhelmed with the amount of work that they have set out for themselves and needs to figure out how to make something make a sustainable system for themselves. It really is all kinds of things and has been incredibly interesting for me to work with all these different people.

I never would have thought that I would be doing this work three, four years ago.

Really, I just started this pretty recently. Before this, I was an author and just working on my own and never did any coaching of any kind. I think that the moment when I started making the pivot from focusing on my own creative work to helping other people with theirs was incredibly scary.

A lot of it just came down to feeling like people were going to call me out and say I wasn’t punk rock enough. That I should stay in my lane and just make comics. That I shouldn’t set myself up to try to help anybody or do anything in this kind of authoritative way.

I have been called a sort of guru type in this kind of dismissive way by people in my field and it hurts, but I can live with it because I know that I’m doing good work now.

But the pivot point for me was actually, if I looked back, when I wrote a blog post in July of 2015, which is called, “Hey, Artists, How Do You Make It Work?” where I spoke really openly about my own experiences of trying to figure out how to make a career for myself as an artist.

I was clearly really openly struggling with the whole notion that so many artists do of needing to do marketing for my own work and promote my own work. I felt like if I do promote my own work that doesn’t disqualify me from being an artist.

That may seem obvious to some of the people who are listening to what works. But when you’re in the arts, often if you admit that there’s a need for marketing and for selling your work and that if you have to get out in front and do that, there’s something inherently suspect about it.

I know to the audience of this show, that might sound crazy, but I will attest to it. I’m telling you it’s true. The people who learn from me and work with me in my group coaching program, The Creative Focus Workshop, many of them are in that same position.

So really it was my first attempt to kind of reach out to those kinds of people, this blog post was that.

It was a very vulnerable and open post and I had never been a blogger. I had used my blog essentially solely for sort of publication updates, “Here’s what’s happening with my latest book, here’s where I’m gonna be on tour, blah, blah, blah,” and never revealed anything about myself.

I didn’t then, don’t now like social media. I didn’t feel okay about talking about myself.

So it was really a big step for me to publish that thing. I did get a little bit of pushback from it, but mostly I got a lot of people, an outpouring of interest in it. It felt like an outpouring to me, like a real, sort of a visceral cry of “I hear you and this is real and you’re right.”

Even though I didn’t end up going in the direction that I sort of thought I was going to at the time. It seems to me I was thinking about helping people create careers and figure out how to do marketing and run their art businesses. That’s not what I do. I really help people much more with how to run their art lives and how to make sure their work happens. That can include the work that needs to be done in order to make money, but it’s all of the things.

How do you make a life that’s sustainable?

It was really scary before I did it and once I did it, it felt like, “Oh, this was … this is obvious. I should just keep moving this direction.”

There were years of steps afterward to try to figure out what that meant for me. But still, today when I do get pushback from people who are in my former wheelhouse of comics or on the author side or whatever, “Who do I think I am?”, that kind of stuff, it isn’t that hard for me to let it roll off because I know how significant the work that I’ve been doing has been in the lives of so many people.

They tell me about it all the time and I couldn’t have done that, I couldn’t have known that really without having put myself out there in that kind of way.

I’m really glad I did, I’m really glad I keep on doing it. I have to remind myself sometimes that I need to put myself into the stories because of what I’m trying to do and because that’s what helps people connect to this work. I feel like I really can help because I really do know, and I do because I went through this myself and had to figure these things out myself.

Lou Blaser

My name is Lou Blaser and I’m a Career Pivot Mentor. I help corporate folks who are looking to make a pivot, or a career change through strategies and a community to support them through the process.

I’m also the host of the Second Breaks’ Podcast, which is a weekly show where we explore all the ways that we can make a move in today’s fast-changing world. Today, this podcast is the thing that I’m most proud of because I’ve had to overcome so much fear, to get this started.

I’ve been a podcast listener for years and have gotten so much benefit from various shows. I knew that it’s a powerful medium to reach the people who I’d like to serve and that it is such a privilege to be able to be in their ears, for a few minutes every week.

The problem was that I was overcome with fear. I didn’t like my voice. I was worried about what people might say about my accent. I was afraid that no one would come on the show as guests, or that no one would listen, and on and on and on.

Funnily enough, the pivotal moment, that made me push through the fear, is another podcast. I was listening to the Creative Penn Podcast, and in this particular episode, the guest was talking about how he uses his fear as a motivator, as a sign that he’s growing and stretching himself.

Of course, this isn’t a new concept, but somehow, listening to that episode, it landed perfectly in my head. Within a day of hearing that episode, I decided to create the Second Breaks’ Podcast.

Here’s what I did not do. I did not worry about the size of my audience or making a big splash or ways to make it to new and noteworthy in iTunes. I didn’t worry about getting the best equipment. All these things, I knew, would just delay my actions and I was worried that the fear would get the upper hand, again.

What I did was, I treated the launch of the podcast as a small project. I set my target go-live date and set about creating the first five episodes, that’s it. I also told a handful of friends what I was doing, and I asked them to help me if I start wigging out, closer to the go-live date. Which of course, I did. And thank goodness for them, because they pushed me on.

The fear, of course, didn’t disappear once the podcast was launched. Every time I send out a podcast invite or record an interview, or sit behind the microphone, I feel the fear. I still do. But having processes helped tremendously. I just follow the steps, one after another.

I also ask myself, “What would this look like if I wasn’t scared?” Every time I record each episode. And most importantly, I remind myself why and who I’m doing this for. The Second Breakers out there who would use all the motivation and inspiration to get their career move going.

Today I’ve made so many new connections through the Second Breaks’ Podcast. I’ve met people who I would have never otherwise met. I hear from people who tell me they first heard of me, and Second Breaks, through the podcast.

I’ve just released episode number 67, and that means I’ve had 67 opportunities to reach someone and make a difference in their careers. Let me tell you, that’s awesome.

Dr. Michelle Mazur

Hello, hello, I’m Dr. Michelle Mazur, the CEO of Communication Rebel, the host of the Rebel Rising Podcast and the creator of the 3 Word Rebellion. At Communication Rebel, we work with business owners and speakers to create messaging that reaches millions, impacts millions, and makes millions.

For years in my business, I was afraid to talk about the work that I was doing, which seems super ironic since that’s what I help people do, talk about the work they do on a consistent basis so that they can get known for that work. But I thought if I talked about my work, I would be judged, people would think I’m salesy, people wouldn’t care. They wouldn’t think it was relevant.

So I really held myself back from sharing myself because I was afraid to, and two things really helped me in overcoming this fear.

The first was a realization. I realized that I am the steward and the advocate of the work that I do in the world, and I believe communication changes the world. I am here to help other people change the world in some small, and if I’m not talking about that, I’m not able to have that impact to make that difference. I don’t want to leave this planet without making that impact, and so that realization was actually scarier to me than going out than sharing my message.

And then the other thing I started to do was to take action because I realized that when you first do a scary thing like sharing what you do on social media or somewhere else, it’s uncomfortable. But the more you do it the less uncomfortable you become, and eventually, it feels natural like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe I waited so long to do this thing.”

It’s so easy once you get past the first few times.

So between that realization and just starting to take small actions, what I’ve noticed over the past year, people actually know about the work I do. They know about the 3 Word Rebellion. They know what they can come to me for, and this year I’ve definitely seen about a 20% increase in my revenue which is super exciting. And that is the biggest change that I’ve made, is talking consistently about my message, about the 3 Word Rebellion and my work.

So I’m so glad I overcame that fear, and I am building that muscle of showing up and sharing my message on a daily basis.

The second fear I’ve heard from small business owners over & over again is a fear of visibility.

For me, this fear bubbles up whenever I’m sharing my message or experience with the public at large, instead of a carefully curated audience. It’s inhibited my ability to grow my business and it’s meant I’ve missed out on big opportunities.

For many, the fear of visibility takes the form of a fear of public speaking.

Stephanie, Mark, and Vanessa open up about their fear and what they’ve done to face it.

Stephanie Stiavetti

I’m Stephanie Stiavetti, and I’m a chef and cooking teacher over at Fearless Fresh where I teach women how to become badass home cooks. One thing I have a lot of fear around is recording trainings on camera, which is a really big deal when you’re a cooking teacher online. Everything needs to be visual otherwise, it makes no sense to people who are reading and watching.

I have been struggling with this fear of being on camera for years.

The only way I was able to overcome it, honestly, was just to put on my big girl pants and schedule a video shoot.

Because I realized I was never actually going to get over the fear and this was going to stop me from building my business, so I just sucked it up, called a videographer, found a kitchen and made an appointment.

The results, so far, have been what I expected. It’s scary, but I did it, and I’m going to do it again. I’m going to have to keep doing it. There’s really no way around it. I’m going to have to keep making these videography appointments whether I like it or not. So, that’s how I’ve overcome it. I don’t know if I technically overcame the fear, but I don’t let it stop me anymore.

Mark Maya

My name is Mark Maya. I’m a Marine Corps Iraqi War veteran, former college athlete, PTSD conqueror turned wedding photographer and coach, and I’m also a digital art teacher at an art school. I have two young kids, Harvest and Honor, and they live with me in Durham, North Carolina, where I work.

What I do is I provide genuine, honest wedding photography for unique couples, and my mission is to provide them with a really stress-free, genuine experience that makes them feel confident in me and my abilities and my experience as a wedding photographer.

I also coach photographers, and in that part of my business, I facilitate an online paid community called Creative Commonwealth. I do face-to-face workshops where I travel around the country, and I also do small group coaching in order to help other photographers find their why in their business.

I do this by actively cultivating relationships with other photographers and really, really working at being an advocate for them, their businesses, and their own missions.

Touring the country teaching face-to-face workshops has been the scariest, most fearful thing I’ve done in my business. From January 2017 to March 2018 I taught six different one-day face-to-face workshops with photographers that I taught in LA, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Asheville, and my hometown of Durham, North Carolina. The fear I felt around teaching those face-to-face workshops was connected with my fear of failure.

I’d never done anything like this before I started it, especially this big and this much of a commitment, but I knew that travel was really important to me, and I’d yet to do that in my business.

I also discovered, through my experience teaching at the art school and my other teaching experiences, that face-to-face environments were the most inspiring to me, so I really, really worked hard at working through the fear and procrastination of actually actively doing these workshops to really get those needs met in my own personal life and my business.

Procrastination and the fear that I wasn’t good enough popped up as soon as I was ready to commit, of course.

I knew that inspired action was important, so the first step I took was to buy a plane ticket to my first location. Then the next step was I put the date on my calendar, and those two things seem like small action steps, but they almost instantaneously destroyed this idea of oh my god, it’s so big. It’s too much for me. I’m not good enough for it, and just murdered the procrastination.

It was awesome because it helped me hold myself accountable for doing the workshop, because I bought the plane ticket, and I knew what date it was going to be.

It was a great start, and it wasn’t that much work to do those two things. I had to just go on and buy a plane ticket and put it on my Google calendar. That was it.

Another action that I took is I also searched for local ambassadors that were already in my photography community to help with the promotion of my workshops. I actually had four different photographers who registered for my last workshop in Chicago just because I asked a local, established photographer that trusted me to think about people that they thought would benefit from my workshops. Three of them, after that workshop, joined my online community, my paid online community.

Finally, the last action step that I took was I just simply told my audience through Facebook, Instagram, and email, and this really, really helped me get in the mindset of talking about my workshops consistently. Just like the buying of the plane ticket and putting it on my calendar, I kind of had to get primed to discuss how I was going to help people, and that’s scary, especially when you’re first starting something like this.

And eventually, after doing the first four, I finally, finally made a breakthrough right at the beginning of 2018. I had met my goals for how many attendees that I wanted. I wanted about 10, and I got that. And then, after the workshop, I had the most wonderful, thoughtful, meaningful reviews. Bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. It was incredible. It was an absolutely incredible experience.

I was just so surprised. I’m still, right now in this moment, so surprised, because I was so full of fear, so full of hesitation, so full of procrastination still, or I felt that way even though I was still actively doing it. Right?

The next workshop, my final one in Chicago, the same thing happened. I had 10 people sign up. The reviews were incredible. They were better than the ones before. And this time around I had much more confidence in myself and my ability to actually teach and help and mentor and coach other photographers.

What that has led me to do now is I’m getting ready to start my next workshop tour around the country, and I’ve actually doubled the price of my workshop. I feel more confident in my marketing and my promotion of the workshop.

And I just simply feel better about tackling the huge task of doing a face-to-face live event.

Vanessa Ragains

I’m audacious, tenacious, an educator, and a true anatomy nerd. Hi, everyone. My name is Vanessa Ragains, and I am the founder of Be Mobile Wellness. We are redefining the standard of corporate wellness with on-site table massage and our on-demand wellness classes, virtual postural analysis, daily break reminders, and live classes that create habit change in the workplace via our Anatomy Nerd app.

Something I’d like to share with you, a fear that was based around my business was the fear of public speaking.

Every single time I was offered an opportunity to speak, I would totally panic. I would start shaking. When I’m definitely up in front of a crowd of people, I start sweating from almost every single pore. I don’t even know how that’s possible. My heart pounds. Even talking to anybody just generally about what I do as an entrepreneur, and what my business is about, and what my mission and vision are, I would still get stumped, and I am passionate about these things.

I’m genuinely passionate about what I’m doing, and my mind would go completely blank.

Something funny about this is that I love karaoke. Somebody asked me once, “You get so nervous when you do public speaking, but I see you on your Facebook and Instagram posting pictures of you singing karaoke. What’s the difference?” I was thinking about this because that made sense. How could I go on stage and sing but I am sweating profusely from every single pore in my body if I am asked to do public speaking? It didn’t make sense. I’m passionate about both things. What I came to the conclusion of was that, for karaoke, I was able to have a little bit of liquid courage to support me in being in front of people.

Overcoming my fear of public speaking, I decided to start saying yes to those speaking opportunities.

I also joined a networking group called the Business Advantage Networking Group in the Bay Area or aka BANG. This networking group really supported me in finding my voice and helping me practice, every single week, getting up in front of the group at BANG and share my infomercial, practicing how to express what Be Mobile Wellness and what I’m all about.

Even though I am absolutely fearful, I have found how to kind of change some of that fear and adjust it to feeling excited about talking about my business and talking about what we’re doing, and our mission, and all the goals that I have for myself.

I wanted to share some of the results that came from overcoming my fear and how I started taking action. When I started taking action on my fear, meaning accepting those opportunities to speak, I built my confidence and an entrepreneur. That confidence and, dare I say, a bit of excitement when I had a public speaking opportunity, it changed. That fear blended into more excitement.

I was taking action on my fear, and I was gaining credibility.

Every time I spoke to people, I was gaining credibility, and I was also able to explore my creativity while presenting, so that’s been really awesome. I’ve gained solid connections who are eager to help me succeed.

They see my vision. They see what I’m doing.

They see my hard work and dedication, and they’re ready to connect me with the right people. I also took action with gaining friends that I can relate to and depend on when things get rough. They’re like my little tribe of people who are in the similar wellness industry and folks that you can kind of relate to and bounce ideas off of, almost like your accountability partners within your industry.

Through determination and through lots of support, I was able to overcome my fear, and I created an incredible piece of content that I’m really hoping is going to be able to push my business further.

When you push yourself further past those limits, past those boundaries, I can attest and I strongly believe that you will be able to conquer anything you put your mind to.

Third in our list of fears is the fear of not being good enough.

Whether it’s you, your work, or your business, if you worry about your “enoughness,” you’re certainly not alone. While we worry about enoughness, we wait. We wait until we’re smarter, more experienced, more sophisticated. We wait until the work is more complete, until its perfect. We wait until the website is ready, the blog post has been triple-checked, and the message has been polished.

As my dear friend and leadership coach Tanya Geisler says, “Second-guessing just doubles the time it’s going to take.”

Nat, Tzaddi, and Jeff decided to stop second-guessing and start finding space to show up.

Nat Couropmitree

Hey, this is Nat Couropmitree. I’m a coach. What’s currently lighting me up is inviting visionary leader entrepreneurs onto virtual and in person adventures to explore how they can become unconditional receivers in their lives. What I’ve discovered is that many visionary entrepreneurs have learned from a very young age to be conditional receivers. My work with them involves energy work, embodied movements, self reflection, and just back and forth conversation exchanges to arrive at new understandings, new insights, new ways of being that support my clients in transitioning from any of the five condition receivers: the perfectionist, the over-giver, the prover, the no needer, or the sacrificer, into being more of the unconditional receiver which they’ve forgotten that they are.

As a result, they no longer feel the need to meet specific conditions before they can have and create what they want.

This work came out of my own need to learn to be the unconditional receiver because my greatest fear in business has always been that I’m not enough, or perhaps I’m too much, or that I’m getting it wrong. This came out of all the many experiences where I didn’t feel like I fit into the current models or definitions of success and what it took to be successful. I didn’t feel like I could meet everyone’s expectations and thus, I scrambled to try to do that because I thought that what was needed for me to be successful.

But the one thing that I want to talk about today, is teaching on camera.

I remember years ago when the whole video marketing craze came through, and I decided, “You know what? I’m going to start doing video tips” I made a decision and then I also came up with so many excuses and why I couldn’t’ do the video today. I told myself I needed to wait until I got a haircut, and then I needed to lose weight, or maybe I don’t have the right video camera, and I spent hours researching the best video camera. Maybe I said it’s not quite enough, or not perfect enough, or I did multiple takes. Every time that I screwed up, I would stop and delete it, and then re-record.

It was just so draining, so exhausting.

But what I realized about all these excuses where that these were just my way of avoiding what I thought would be an uncomfortable, unsafe situation: putting myself out there to the criticism of other people and worrying about not meeting their expectations. So this was my belief about myself that I’m not enough, projected out onto other people. So, what I needed to do to move beyond this fear is to instead of just pushing through, I learned that I needed to be kind with myself because if I just push through, that would just create more stress, and more feelings of not being safe.

So I learned that I needed to create a safe environment within my body so that I could more easily take action.

One of the ways I did this was to breathe consciously and do this as often as I needed. Every time I would feel that tension in my body I would stop, take a break, breathe.

The other thing that I did was set guidelines and deadlines, meaning that I told myself I was only going to do one take. Whatever it turned out to be, that’s what I was going to publish. And, I was going to create this video before, say, noon.

So this way it helped me focus in on, “Okay, I’m going to do this at this specific time, or at least within this period of time, and I’m not going to have the excuse that I’m going to do it later.”

Then the other thing that was really helpful, and helped me move beyond the fear, is the repetition. I did one video every day, or I did multiple videos in one day and then distributed them every day. But it worked actually better for me to do it every day, because it helped me develop this new habit, this new way of being, of feeling comfortable putting myself out there. And then changing my body’s response to the fear that was coming up, right?

Creating that sense of safety within.

I would say that the results of taking action and moving through this fear are that I am more resilient, I am better able to handle uncertainty and new situations. My productivity has increased, and specifically about the video marketing, my viability increased and I got new clients.

For me, another thing that’s really important is that because I wasn’t wasting time and energy by over-planning, or over-tweaking, or avoiding the fear I actually ended up having more time to relax, and enjoy, and do the things besides work that I enjoy.

I think these are really great benefits of nurturing ourselves, and moving through fear and taking action.

Tzaddi Gordon

Hey! I’m Tzaddi Gordon, at Tzaddi Made I create designs and illustrations for clients. I also make art daily. And some of that becomes artful apparel and paper goods, et cetera for sale at zoddiemade.com. The biggest fears I worked through in the last few years were committing to my art and showing up in new ways online.

I was always comfortable sharing my finished client work online, but showing more of myself and my art felt too risky.

I also had a lot of resistance around simply making art for myself. I feared potential clients wouldn’t think I was enough of a design specialist, or that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on art when they needed things from me. And of course, every artist sometimes worries that the work they make isn’t good enough, so there was that to get over as well.

The best decision I made was to just make a little bit of art every day and share something of the practice on social media, no matter what. Today, I’m at 549 days in a row, and this daily action has been completely transformative for me.

Taking action was what got me out of my head and over the fears.

At first, it was nerve-wracking, but by simply sharing no matter what, I’ve dramatically expanded my comfort zone. It has me playing at my creative edges and worrying a lot less about good enough, because I know I’ll learn and try again tomorrow. It has me responding to this question about fear, instead of feeling like what I have to share isn’t useful, or interesting enough.

It even led to me creating my first online video class to help other people craft their own daily creative practice. I wouldn’t have done either of those things before my daily practice.

Jeff Tyack

Greetings everyone. This is Jeff Tyack from Artnerd Society, an online oasis designed to revolutionize how artists and creatives educate themselves to better create meaningful work and navigate the constantly shifting waters of the creative economy.

Want to know a creative’s biggest fear?

Doesn’t matter what medium they work in, or how far along they are in their career. Doesn’t matter if they maintain a successful studio practice or a small business, or teach their expertise to hundreds of students.

A creative’s biggest fear is crickets.

Hear me out.

As artists, we sacrifice an insane amount of time, energy, and economic resources. Often in isolation, trying to create meaningful stuff that will positively affect the world we live in. Designs that make other lives better, drawings and paintings and photographs and illustrations that inspire and communicate. Films and animations and games that educate and entertain. Music and dance that allows others to transcend their every day. It is an ambitious and generous effort, attempted only by the strong who have managed somehow to avoid being educated out of their creativity, and yet, we all fear crickets.

Imagine yourself as a painter. You’ve spent years perfecting your craft. You have pushed your creativity and intellect to the limit, sometimes at the sacrifice of physical, economic, and psychological comfort. You have just spent the last year creating a body of work that you know is strong, that you know will connect with others, that you know could affect your professional path in a positive way.

You put it out in the world, hoping to connect and inspire others and …

(Insert the sound of crickets)

Replace the word painter with entrepreneur or freelancer or educator or a consultant, and the fear is still the same. It is something that I have to try and neutralize every day at Artnerd Society. Every article written, every course designed, every bumbling attempt at marketing, I can hear the crickets coming and they are much more frightening than critique or criticism.

Critique or criticism can often be learned from, in order to improve things.

Crickets just leave you alone, trying to figure out why your idea, your work, your sacrifice didn’t connect with others. I found the worst thing you can do about crickets, and the fear of crickets is to shotgun blame everyone including yourself. The crickets might be coming because the work isn’t good enough or I didn’t work hard enough or I wasn’t ready or because everyone’s on Facebook or because a politician did something. Or because the timing just wasn’t right or because the work is so above everybody else that they just don’t get it.

This type of mindset is just an excuse for inaction.

An excuse to let the fear dictate your behavior. An excuse to succumb to resistance. A way to avoid exposure and uncertainty. The best thing to do is to get a few cricket parties out of the way. You realize pretty quickly that all those awful things that you thought would happen, don’t. You’ll also realize very quickly that the world doesn’t revolve around you and your great ideas.

It’s a good thing to learn early on and frees you up to take risks that you wouldn’t otherwise take because of the crickets. I would even suggest going as far as intentionally creating something that you really think will connect with no one other than yourself. And then get it out in the world. The more obsessive and specific, the better. It is actually a lot harder than you think and you might be shocked at the positive response.

Or if you’re really good, you’ll just get …

(Insert the sound of crickets)

Not unlike fears about enoughness, many small business owners experience fears about their worth…

…and fears about worth cause all sorts of problems when you go to price your products or services.

Jennyann shares how she dealt with her fear in the process of pricing her work.

Jennyann Carthern

Hi. My name is Jennyann Carthern. I’m one of those multi-business owners who have two feet in the water. I’m building a brick and mortar art studio called Paint Is Thicker Than Water Studio of the Arts in Benicia, California to really help budding artists grow, and find their purpose and their zing in the arts. I am also building an online community called the Blacktop to provide a lifeline for people who work with youth in before and after-school programs.

I’ve been really seated in both of these areas for quite some time now, finding myself in this multi-spectrum of arts and afterschool learning which has different programmatic needs that I know that I’m able to support. But as I’ve been working on these two businesses and creating the structures to support them, I had a realization that I had a fear around pricing.

That my pricing wasn’t in line with how I felt about these businesses and how passionate I was about them.

In the past, my pricing model was always based around fear. It’s a fear of losing the client, using the opportunity, or simply needing money to fill my bank account, as much as I like to believe it was never really based on the service that I was providing the client.

I would find myself making excuses, waiving fees so the client would be happy and so the client would say yes.

In one instance, I took a teaching arts job from a school district that wasn’t local. I priced an okay price but I quickly realized that I should have priced more. This is because I was spending money daily on supplies that weren’t covered in the price that I had charged. I was also spending a lot of time grading the curriculum, traveling back and forth to the site, and I wasn’t getting paid for any of my prep time at all. That’s one of the places that I also waived the fees just because I heard the client stumble when they heard the first price.

It basically resulted in me paying myself below minimum wage after taking out all of these costs. That’s how much I had left from everything that I put in.

As I’ve been really building these businesses, I started to think differently and I started taking different actions to build a pricing model that won’t only work for my clients, but one that’ll work for my time and the life that I’m trying to create for myself.

I took two actions to do this.

The first one was in doing some market research. Market research had allowed me to survey the community in places like local Facebook groups, especially for my studio.

I also got a chance to scope out other studios and see what they’re offering the community. From my other company, since I already do trainings for afterschool programs, I’ve been keeping records of all my evaluations that programs have to fill out after each individual training. All of this research has really been a catalyst for me to target the right needs and the right customers, really narrow them down. I’m offering a specific value that the customer can’t really get anywhere else.

The second action that I’ve been taking has been around creating a sales process, which I didn’t have before. I didn’t know that I was actually negotiating when I was negotiating, and I didn’t actually have a real sales plan. I had an intake call. That’s what I would call it. I guess that was somewhat of a sales process, but it wasn’t a purpose behind it. It wasn’t strategic. I’ve been working on trying to find ways to create a sales process where I don’t have to rely on all my eggs being in one client’s bucket.

I want to create a process around having multiple sales calls or sales meetings in one time period so that if I do lose a sale or I don’t get a sale, that I still have these other clients that I can try again.

I don’t really have to worry about losing all the clients.

Maybe I’ll book one but I’ll lose the other ones. Or maybe I’ll book three and I’ll lose the other one. But I have something to look forward to. I have another client to try to make a sell with or try to make a process with.

The result of this planning is really helping me to find more ease around this whole process of pricing. It’s allowing me to play more with pricing and feel comfort around it that I’m working for myself. I should get paid for my time, and I should be building the life that I want to create.

Finally–the fear of giving up control.

Despite what we might think, myself included, there’s a good chance we’re going to need help making our visions a reality.

But many of us fear letting someone else help out.

Sarah shares her story.

Sarah Li Cain

Hi there. My name is Sarah Li Cain. I am a multi-media content marketing creator and a holistic money coach, who helps finance infant tech companies. Basically, figure out their messaging and how to get their amazing product out to the world. As far as the holistic money coaching goes, I help professional women basically get out of their own way, in using money as a tool to enhance their life.

Something that very recently happened, with, probably around the past month is, really I was trying to figure out if I wanted to rebrand or complete let go of one of my websites. I essentially have three businesses around my brand, is one is my content marketing writing business. The other one was a website that I ran that funneled into my coaching services. I also started a podcast with a co-host, which essentially, was to help build my brand and also funnel into coaching and content marketing.

The fear really was, I felt myself being stretched way too thin.

I knew the only way to really get back some of my life, was to let one of those three things go. It was really scary, because the immediate answer that came to mind, was to let go of the blog. I was really scared, because that, to me, was my own platform. To let that go and to only have the content marketing writing business, website, and the podcast felt a little, bit scary. I felt like I was giving a little bit of control over my brand as a money coach.

How I really overcame that, was sitting with that feeling of fear and sitting with that feeling of, I need to let this go, and figuring out why I was feeling that. It really boiled down to, is it my ego, or what else is going on?

I really, realized talking with people, who do have business partners, listening to a ton of podcasts of people who have also business partners, and really thinking about the whole branding and what I really wanted to do in the world, in terms of my business.

I really, realized that it was actually my ego getting in the way.

I was using that to basically scare myself into not letting any of those projects go. Ultimately, my mission is to use myself and my platform, as a vessel, or as a tool to really empower people, to be in charge with their money, and ultimately their life. What was a better way for me to do that, was to A, let something go, B, probably use the podcast, because now there are two people working on it, instead of one. It was a much clearer and better answer.

As a result of that, I did let go of that blog. Funny enough, when that was happening, I also went to a conference. I felt myself putting so much more energy into the podcast and into helping brands with their messaging. I think people just really bought into my energy.

As a result, I connected with way more brands, who can help me elevate my platform. I connected with way more people. I’m in an amazing mastermind, actually two now, with some awesome people, who know what they’re doing, and who have done what I want to do. That really was it. It sounds like a simple decision, but it was it was six months in the making, even more, into letting that go.

Fear is a reality for any entrepreneur.

Yet, we’re expected to show up looking like we have everything together like we know what we’re doing every day.

Our goal at CoCommercial is to create a space where small business owners can come together to get honest about hard conversations like this one. I hope hearing from these entrepreneurs about their fear has helped you reach a new awareness of your own–and how they might be impacting the way you run your business.

Before we sign off, I want to leave you with this final thought from Jessica Abel, who we heard from earlier:

I just wanted to add one more thing. When I started on this path, what I thought I was doing in terms of trying to help creative people get their work done was helping them understand project management essentially. How to break down a project, how to think through what comes next, that kind of thing. Just very tactical and straightforward.

What I realized as I’ve worked with more and more people is that the essential underlying piece of what I do with people is help them work on their fear.

That’s because the kind of work that people come to me wanting to do is self-generated creative work. Work that they come up with themselves, that they assign themselves, that may be the most meaningful work they do, but they have to believe in it 100% themselves and get behind it themselves. That is incredibly hard.

It’s incredibly hard to hold on to that and believe that that work is worth the sacrifices.

The reason it’s so hard is the fear that people are going to think it’s stupid, that it’s not going to work, that the world’s going to slap you down, which often manifests itself in a form of perfectionism and imposter syndrome.

It’s been a slow reveal, but it’s really surprising to me how much that is the key to everything. That fear really is the thing that holds you back and also once you figure out how to live with it, it sort of opens the door in a way.

If you’re not a little bit afraid, you may not be doing something that’s hard enough, really.



Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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