Tag: starting your own business


How to Overcome the Intimidation of Starting Your Own Business

For my clients who’d like to start their own business, they often site intimidation as the reason why they haven’t done so yet. Specifically, the thing they say intimidates them the most is the logistics involved. Their fear is real. But the things they fear aren’t really that scary, especially once they start taking steps toward those things.

This was true for me when starting my own business. I didn’t know much about how to begin. Let’s face it, I didn’t even know the difference between an LLC and LL Bean! It all seemed very overwhelming.

But the important thing is, I started. I did a simple Google search on obtaining a business license. Then I checked out the County Clerk’s web site for instructions. Filling out the form took all of five minutes, and the fee was nominal. Done!

Next, I consulted a business coach on how to set up my business as an LLC. He showed me the steps, which weren’t too difficult. And now days, getting an employer ID number for your business is easier than ever through the IRS web site. Done!

With each step completed, my confidence grew!

It’s easy to let things like the alphabet soup of starting a business cause you to panic. LLC, P&L, and IRS can all sound very scary (especially that last one). But taking just a few minutes to research their meaning, or asking someone who knows about it to explain it to you like you’re a four-year-old, can greatly reduce your anxiety.

Tips for starting your own business

If your goal is to start your own business, you’ll also gain confidence by taking one step at a time. You’ll quickly learn you can figure things out as you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

But in addition to giving you a pep talk, I want to share some practical tips to help make the logistics smoother for you. If you already possess the necessary basic skills for starting a business, then the following advice will help you do so with less intimidation, and less headache.

1. Choose a good business name

Determine the best name for your business. Use one that doesn’t limit you from possibly expanding your products, service offerings, or location. Then check for the following:

  • Business name availability.
  • Domain availability. (Always get a dot com over a dot net or a dot info. And never use a hyphen in your domain.)
  • Platform handle availability. Make sure your business name’s handle is available on every social media platform you plan to use.

2. Select your business structure

If you already know what kind of business structure you want, get registered as such. While registering as an LLC is more expensive than registering as a sole proprietor, it’s much easier to do it upfront than to start as a sole proprietor, and then change to an LLC later.

Consult your accountant or a business coach on which structure would best suit your business.

3. Set up a bank account

Get a separate bank account for your business. You never want to mix your business income and expenses with your personal account.

4. Make it easy for customers to pay you

Set up business accounts through payment method platforms like PayPal and Venmo. This way you can receive customer payments quickly, and make it easier for them to pay you. Setting these up as business accounts under your business name, instead of as personal accounts, will make the IRS less suspicious of your transactions.

5. Keep a P&L

In the beginning you may not have the money to hire a bookkeeper, so you’ll need to keep track of your own income and expenses with a profit and loss ledger. It can be as simple as pen and paper, or an Excel sheet, with an itemized list of all your expense and income categories.

Then, you’ll want to keep a copy of every invoice and receipt to account for all the numbers you plug into your ledger. You’re required to hold onto these receipts for up to seven years in the event of an audit. (I know, the word audit sounds really frightening. But as long as you’re using your income strictly for business expenses, and you account for every penny, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.)

Even if you don’t have the money in the beginning to hire a bookkeeper, you will want to dish out the money for an accountant to assist you with your taxes. He or she will tell you what business expenses you can write off, and which ones you can’t.

What I’ve found easiest for me is to keep an Excel P&L myself throughout the year, which gives me a first-hand picture of how my business is doing. I update my P&L monthly. Then every year, I give it to my accountant at tax time for her to have when filing my taxes on my behalf.

6. Pay your estimated taxes

As soon as financially feasible, get into the habit of setting aside 15 to 20 percent of every receivable and every revenue stream. This is the estimated amount you will owe on the income your business generates.

Use this amount to pay your taxes every quarter. Paying taxes online through the IRS web site is quick and easy.

I suggest linking a business savings account to your business checking account, so you can move your estimated taxes to it. This will help you keep it separate from your revenue. You can quickly and easily pay out of this account via ACH, through the IRS web site.

Getting into the habit of taking the taxes off the top of each receivable makes it less painful than getting hit with a large tax bill at once. Doing so can even result in a tax refund!

Take it one step at a time

While the advice above may still leave you feeling unsettled or intimidated, I promise it will reduce your chances of facing something even scarier down the road. These tips really are much easier than they sound, and they will save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

Remember, the logistics of starting a business are not obstacles. They’re simply steps. Just take one step at a time and keep moving to the next step. When in doubt, ask your accountant, your lawyer, a business coach, or someone who’s been down this road before. But don’t ever be so intimidated you become paralyzed with fear and give up on your goal.

Related resources

How to Make the Risk of Starting Your Own Business Doable

I used to have a full-time job with benefits with a very prestigious university. I later quit to pursue my own freelance business.

However, it wasn’t so cut and dry.

There were (and still are) a lot of layers to pursuing a dream of working for myself.

The process I went through looks a lot more realistic (and doable) than some of the mythical stories you hear these days about making the jump from working for a boss to becoming your own boss.

This process can also spark some ideas for you to realistically take the risk too.

It may even help ease some of your fears and concerns preventing you from taking the leap. Here’s my story that began about 10 years ago.


Don’t Quit Your Day Job

For the first time in my career as a college career adviser, my creativity was being stifled under new leadership. I was also experiencing a lot of micromanagement under this new leadership.

I couldn’t continue to work under both conditions and had to start planning an exit strategy.

At first, this strategy wasn’t to quit my day job.

I started where most people start, looking for another job working for someone else doing the same thing elsewhere. Of course I wouldn’t leave my current job until I found my next job.

But, I never found the right fit.

Instead, I found opportunities that only served as an escape from my current situation. Not opportunities I could truly thrive in.


Ask yourself:

Are you just running to something that could possibly be worse than your current day job?


Don’t Quit Your Daydream

Next, I started listening to what my friends were telling me.

They kept telling me I would be good at wardrobe styling. This was something I’d been daydreaming about for a long time. Wardrobe styling would definitely provide a creative outlet for me.

But I still wanted to use the skills I’d developed as a career adviser over the previous eight to ten years. Those skills included interview coaching.

After giving it much thought and doing some research, I decided to start branding myself as an image consultant since image isn’t just about how you dress, but also how you present yourself in an interview.

Specifically, I branded myself as an image consultant for up-and-coming recording artists here in Nashville. I knew there were a lot of young artists moving to town and taking the risk to pursue music.

Also I knew they lacked the ability to properly present themselves to a label (which is basically a job interview). Or in a media interview (I’d had some past experience in media coaching too).

I went and got a business license. This is when it became real for me. But I still didn’t quit my day job. Not yet anyway.


Ask yourself:

Is there something people tell you you’re good at? Is it something you enjoy? Do you see a potential market for it?


Making the Shift to Starting Your Own Business

I worked on my branding efforts part-time while still working my day job as a career adviser.

Following my own advice to my students, I also spent my spare hours networking with the few contacts I had in the music industry and growing my network.

I attended as many industry events as I could. And I conducted informational interviews with several people in the music business, always asking for the names of two or three other people I should talk to.

For nine months I did this and my efforts began to pay off.

I slowly began getting clients. I worked with those few clients on weekends, evenings, and any time I had off from my full-time job.

Then, one of my networking contacts approached me about a part-time temporary job at his small music label.

This opportunity reduced some of the risk and gave me a bit of a safety net to leave my full-time job and pursue my business full-time. (This is just one example of why networking is so important!)

However, I still wasn’t hasty in my exit from my day job.

Instead of giving two weeks’ notice, I gave 30 days’ notice because the policy was I could work for the university again in the future if I gave 30 days’ notice. But not if I’d only given two weeks’ notice.

I wanted to keep as many options open in case things didn’t work out.

I used the three months for the temp job to increase my networking efforts in the music industry and promote myself to potential clients. This way I would have more lined up once the contract was up.


Ask yourself:

What are some small steps you can start taking toward your daydream? Are they things you can do around your day job? Who are some people you can start meeting and connecting with? Can you come up with some ideas for an eventual exit strategy from your day job? Do you have a potential safety net you hadn’t previously thought of?


Don’t Let Fear Overwhelm You

Once I was on my own, I was already getting used to working for myself. And there wasn’t as much to fear as I would if I’d left my day job and then started a business.

This isn’t to say I had no fear at all. A few days before giving my notice at my day job, I experienced my first (and luckily my only) panic attack.

Then, when the economy tanked in October 2008, less than two months after I’d left my day job, I started to get nervous.

But, what I saw happening all around me was people being laid off. They were being forced into becoming their own boss with no real planning or preparation.

Luckily I was way ahead in that department because I’d already been preparing for nearly a year. And I already had some clients.

When I was short on image consulting clients, I supplemented my work with resume writing and career coaching services for those who’d been laid off during the recession and were looking for a new job.


Ask yourself:

Are you still having some fears about pursuing your daydream? Are these fears real or perceived? What are some ways you can calm your fears or put them into a different perspective? What would be the worst case scenario if those fears proved true? What’s the best case scenario?

Click here to read more about the myths of the common fears of leaving your job.

Rely on Connections to Supplement Your Income

Throughout my time as an image consultant I continually made connections through networking. This turned into additional ways to supplement my income with my growing business.

While attending a fashion show, I met the president of a small design college who hired me to teach a class on image at the college for a semester.

He also ended up publishing the 2nd edition of my first bestselling book, Advance Your Image, through the school’s small publishing company.


While attending an event at the Entrepreneur Center here in Nashville, I met someone who needed a contract employee with career advising experience to do outplacement counseling for his clients.

I still do this work to this day because I get to make my own schedule and it’s the complete opposite of micromanaged work. I love it.


The connections I’d made through my original day job also led to a part-time (10 hours/week) temporary job at another university, which unexpectedly turned into a part-time permanent position.

I was hired to fill in for one semester while one of their employees was on maternity leave. But when she returned, they asked if I could stay on indefinitely. I got to make my own schedule so I could work it around my business.

Eventually they asked if I could work 20 hours a week. As much as I loved working at this university, I’d already put in so much blood, sweat and tears into my image consulting business that I couldn’t afford to risk that much time away from it to work for someone else.

So I decided to be fair to both myself and the university and leave so they could find someone who was able to give them the number of hours they needed.


Ask yourself:

Are there connections you have now in your current situation which could benefit you in the future? Are there connections you’d like to start making? What are some things you can fall back on to reduce financial risk when your daydream business is slow?


Be Willing to Shift Gears When Necessary

After leaving that part-time job, I realized I was burned out on seven years of image consulting and wanted to do something different.

But what? I had no idea.

I just knew I didn’t want to risk all the work I’d put into developing my brand.

Then a year and a half later I realized I still wanted to do career advising, but this time on my terms. (Click here for the story on how this realization came about.)

I still wanted to be my own boss. And I wanted to keep the same name from my image consulting business.

I was able to do both with a slight shift in my mission and an overhaul of my services.

Now, I offer unique career coaching services focusing on helping people discover and pursue their own passions.

This includes helping them either find a new day job they’ve been daydreaming about, or helping them take the steps (not the leap) to becoming an independent freelancer or business owner. Whichever they’re most passionate about.

My business became more successful once I was willing to make this change.

I was also able to see how the experience I gained and the tools I developed in my image consulting business fit nicely with my new mission and offerings.


Today, I don’t have to supplement my income anymore.

Now, I get to do it simply for the love of the variety in my schedule and the love of the creativity it brings me.

Unfortunately my time only lets me do one additional gig to my full-time daydream.

But I’ve never been happier in my work.

No one is micromanaging me or stifling my creativity.

I get to choose who I take on as clients and which projects I want to invest my free time into.


Ask yourself:

How can I start planning my exit strategy for my day job and my entry strategy to my daydream? How can I reduce unnecessary risk? And how can I maneuver around inevitable risk?


How I Did It

I simply started setting goals and then taking small steps toward achieving those goals.


Bottom Line:

You may want to pursue your daydream of starting your own business but think it’s impossible.

And it may be impossible for you if you simply quit your day job to follow your daydream.

I want to serve as one of several examples of how doing it with an alternative, less-risky strategy can make it possible even for you.

Probably more so than you ever imagined.


Biggest Lessons Learned

Want to know the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the past 10 years working for myself as a freelancer (so you don’t have to learn them the hard way)?

Check out my post 10 Lessons I’ve Learned From 10 Years of Freelancing.

Related Posts:

Click here for more resources and posts on the topic of working for yourself.

starting your own business