So you’re thinking about starting a business. You look around and see other small-business owners making their own schedules, doing things their way, living the life you desperately want to live—on on your terms. You want to be doing what you love, for people you love, who will come to love what you do and (more importantly) how you do it.
Suddenly, a question pops into your head, and everything comes to a crashing halt.
Who would do business with me when there are so many other more qualified people out there?
This won’t be the first time (or the last) a potentially crippling question sneaks its way into a conversation about your future as a business owner. How you answer those doubt-filled questions, however, is completely your choice.
Don't Be a Doubting Thomas
Doubt will come and go, but the odds are, no one doubts your ability to play the game but you. So the next time you find doubt wanting to run the conversation about how your business dreams will take flight, try these reality checks.
Doubt Play #1: “No one will want to do business with me because there are other people who are more qualified/experienced.”
What would the technology world be like today if Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had let this question hold them back? No matter who you are or what it is you plan to do in the world of business, everyone has to begin somewhere. Richard Branson began as a high school dropout (still worried about not having that MBA?). Einstein couldn’t land a teaching job in over two years of searching, and he still won the Nobel Prize in physics. In 10 years, there will still be someone who is more qualified or more experienced than you are. With that one simple truth, this doubt play comes crashing down.
Doubt Play #2: “The world doesn’t need another person doing what I want to be doing. There are plenty already.”
The great news is that you probably just saved yourself 20-plus years of doing your books and responding to customer complaints. The bad news is, you let this dunce of a roadblock stall or stop your goals. To crush this doubt play in its tracks, here’s an easy way to get your mind back on the right track when doubt comes knocking at your door: How many real estate agents are out there? How many CPA firms? How many interior designers? Coffee shops? Restaurants? Graphic designers?
There’s more than one person doing every single one of those amazing and empowering professions. The single reason why they can all exist and succeed in the same marketplace is because while what they do may be the same, how they do it is different. Did Picasso throw in the towel because he realized Monet had already painted flowers? Nope! Just remember, no one does what you do just the way you do it.
Doubt Play #3: “All my work has been unpaid. Why would anyone hire me when I haven’t ever had a real client?”
We’ve already covered the fact that everyone has to start somewhere and that how you do your job is different from everyone else. If you’re just getting your business off the ground and serious about launching, those unpaid clients are your case studies. Show your future clients your "how" in action (because they’re ready and waiting for your brand of how). Build a portfolio and case studies based on all your unpaid work. Get testimonials. You have to remember that, regardless of your compensation—or conspicuous lack thereof—for the work you’ve done, the fact is, you’ve done the work. That work isn’t any less significant because there’s a price tag on it that only you can see.
And if you’re launching a brand spanking new venture and are eager for some unpaid work to build your chops, go find it. Seek out nonprofit organizations, schools and other places where your desire to help can fill a critical gap between needs and available resources. You’ll get your case studies, and your business will find a foothold.
Staring Down Your Doubts
So will you let doubt give your self-worth a sucker punch and stall your business vision? Maybe a better move is to look those sabotage-savvy questions in the eye and say, “Not today, sucker. I’m making this work.”
My favorite times in my consulting career have been with those who are making the transition from a corporate career to launching their own small business. Invariably, most of these talented folks face the same doubt: Who am I to do this when there are so many other people doing it already?
I’ll give you a page from my playbook to make sure you can slay this one on your own. I simply ask my clients to tell me about the professional path that led them to their current position. Education, life experience, accomplishments, travels, awards and accolades, passions and pet causes—they start rattling everything off. Before you know it, they’ve verbalized a pretty impressive list of qualifications.
Which is where I just repeat it all back to them and then ask, “So, you’re wondering why anyone would want to work with you? After that list of credentials, I’m trying to figure out why anyone wouldn’t want to work with you.”
Doubt—it needs a vacation, don’t you think?
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