How to Manage Fear as a First-Time Entrepreneur

The biggest barricade preventing most people from starting a business is fear. This is especially true for first-time entrepreneurs.

Will I be able to get clients? Can I sustain myself on this? What will my family say? Will I have the time? What will my friends think?  What if I fail?

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Many people get too wrapped up in these fears and begin doubting themselves and their capabilities so much that they never do anything. They let fear kill their dreams before facing any real obstacles.

I can tell you from experience that those fears never entirely go away. Learning to manage them and pushing forward regardless is a crucial part of finding success in anything, but especially when it comes to taking a risk like starting your own business.

After all, fortune favors the bold. Sometimes your only options are taking a chance or sitting on your hands doing nothing. But only one of those will get you where you want to go.

Here’s how to overcome your fear and use it to your advantage as an entrepreneur:

As a first-time entrepreneur, start by figuring out how you deal with fear.

There are generally two types of first-time entrepreneurs.

Do you jump into decisions?

First, there are people who jump in with both feet—the “ready, fire, aim” entrepreneurs who are often more impulsive about their decisions. It’s only after they’ve begun that the, “I’m not sure I really know how to do this,” kind of fear sets in.

Some first-time entrepreneurs embrace the "all-in" mentality

I can relate to that group. I quit my job in IT when I was around 20 so I could start booking shows, traveling with my band, and doing what I loved full-time. And I made all the classic mistakes of a first-time entrepreneur. I’d have a good month, make some money, and then go out and blow it all on stupid stuff. Of course, work would be slow the next month, and I’d freak out about my finances. But I was taking my shot, and I eventually learned how to manage things better with time.

Or do you over-analyze your decisions?

The second group of first-time entrepreneurs consists of the people who over-think and over-analyze everything. They may have a good idea, but they do absolutely nothing about it because they’re stuck in analysis paralysis and can’t get started. A lot of people in this group just need someone to tell them the secret: everything you want—the money, the relationships, the empire you’re going to build—is on the other side of that fear.

To get there, you have to overcome your anxieties and learn how to use them to your advantage.

Once you realize how you view fear, you can begin to manage it.

When I say fear, I’m not talking about the “fight or flight” type of fear, where you don’t have time to make a conscious decision. I’m talking about the fear you experience in the days leading up to a big presentation.

That type of slow-building, over-analytical fear is what causes people the most stress and anxiety. Although personally, I’ve found it actually makes me more alert and meticulous. I’ll lie awake for hours, thinking about my options and how I can avoid potential pitfalls. I’ll spend extra time working on the presentation or the plan because I know extra preparation is the only way to keep fear at bay.

When you feel that fear in the pit of your stomach, it’s really just alerting you to the fact there’s something you can improve on. Scared of giving a speech in front of a packed room? So is everyone else—but some people spend weeks preparing and practicing, chipping away at their fear until they can step up to the podium with nothing more than a few butterflies.

There’s nothing wrong with double or triple-checking your work because you’re afraid to screw up. But there is something wrong with never starting on that work in the first place because you’re ruled by your fear.

So, next time you start to feel that anxiety, just ask yourself, “Where do I need to improve in order to make this fear manageable?”

With the right mindset and experience, fear will become more motivating than restricting.

Personally, I never want to wake up and hate going to work. 

And like I said, I made plenty of mistakes as a first-time entrepreneur —practically everyone does. But I couldn’t continue working at a job I hated. So, I sailed to the island and burned the boat behind me. Then, it was time to survive.

If you can put yourself in that motivated mindset and take the first crucial steps, you’ll find that conquering your fear and overcoming obstacles gets easier with experience.

Think of it this way: if you’re walking through the jungle and you see a venomous snake in front of you, then you have to devise some plan to get around it, right? The first time, it might be pretty scary. You’ve never faced a situation like that before. But once you find a way past, you’ll know how to handle it. You’ll know what to do in order to get to the other side.

And it’s essential you do make it past because everything you’re dreaming of for your business is on the other side of that venomous fear.

Sami Rusani is a serial entrepreneur with several multi-million dollar businesses. Under the capacity of his media group, he has served as a marketing, branding, and growth consultant for various startup companies and global brands, such as VISA, Heineken, Mercedes, Sony, Virgin, and many more. He is currently serving as Chief Revenue Officer for ShipChain and is heavily involved in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space in both advisor and fundraising roles.

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  • Originally published March 21, 2019, updated April 26, 2023