Intrigued as to people’s views of the ‘challenges of starting a business’ I decided to run a short survey. This was aimed at a small circle of people I know that have started their own business or thinking about setting up their own business.
To give some context to the survey below are the types of businesses they wanted to start:
- Becoming a freelancer e.g. software development, social media , marketing
- Selling products online and/or in brick and mortar stores
- Setting up an agency e.g. recruitment, marketing, virtual assistants
- Becoming a tradesperson e.g. plumber, electrician, decorator
- Offering a service e.g. life coach, dog walker, consultant
- Becoming an author/blog writer.
When asked what their top priority was at this moment in their life the most popular answers were: making more money, having a work/life balance and having flexible working hours.
The survey then asked them to pick 3 of the biggest challenges to starting a business from the following options:
- Creating consistent income
- Finding clients
- Getting paid on time
- Keeping work/family balance
- Technology – website, social media, marketing
- Accounting and tax
- Staying motivated
- Anything else? Please give more information…….
Two challenges stood out as the most concerning: Creating a consistent income and finding clients.
The next challenge people worried about was: Accounting and tax
Finally, the last two options that were chosen were: Finding work/life balance and staying motivated.
The results were not that surprising. The obstacles they were most concerned with were about money. e.g. Will I earn consistently enough money in my own business? and will I find enough clients to pay me enough money?
But here is where the survey got a little more interesting. The final question asked them to write a question that they want answered regarding starting a business.
Reading through the answers, it is obvious that their mindset is one of the biggest obstacles of all. The questions that they wanted answered were brimming with doubt and some questions would only need an hour research to get the answer.
Here are their answers:
- How does tax work with being a freelancer rather than self-employed?
- How can you secure a fall-back position?
- Best way to market your business to attract customers?
- How do I attract clients in a crowded field?
- What proportion of people who go freelance stick with it?
- What is the ratio of remote working opportunities to office-based freelance work?
One respondent wanted to know ‘how to set up a fall-back position’. I understand where this person is coming from, especially if they are the main income provider. But perhaps they could look at the problem in a different way, ‘how can I set up the business so that I won’t need a fall-back position?’
Another respondent is doubting whether they will stick with freelancing before they have even started. Again, they could re-frame this doubt to be more productive, ‘how can I make sure freelancing works for me?’ This way you can create a picture of how freelance success will look for you. In this picture include what your work day will look like, the financial goals, the feelings when working with customers or clients and the feeling at the end of your working day.
So, the main point of this article is to let you know that it is perfectly normal to doubt yourself. I too go through phases of doubting my ability, my prices or my processes.
Know this, everyone has their doubts.
Now you know that having doubts and seeing obstacles is perfectly normal, maybe you can move on the actually doing something about it?
Do this exercise with me:
- Write down all the obstacles or challenges that you think are in your way or stopping you from taking action. I mean all of them, right down to the silly ones!
- Next put them in order of importance and impact for starting your business. The emphasis is on the word ‘starting’. You won’t need all the bells and whistles and slick funnels to start, what is the bare minimum?
As a freelancer I didn’t start with a website, just a LinkedIn profile page and some contacts. In fact, I never created a website for my services and have been busy for over 7 years. If I had considered a website to be vitally important, I doubt I would have started when I did. Sometimes keeping things simple works best.
- Finally, start taking action on your list. One at a time.
If still daunted you can start small. Pick something that needs a little research, such as accounting and tax. Set some time aside to do the research, ask around if anyone else is running a similar business model – how did they start? Who did they talk to?
These obstacles can be ways to self-sabotage your business and give yourself permission to do nothing. This happened to me as my blog disappeared (I didn’t see the bill that was sitting in a different email account). I had no backup and had to start again losing 6 months of content. I blamed the domain company, the email account and anything else remotely linked. However the only way forward was to start again, one step at a time. This time though I have learnt to back up the website, keep a copy of the blog articles and put my domain payment on subscription.
What does your list look like? Share with me the first thing you are going to tackle?