At one point or another, we’ve probably all had thoughts of starting our own business. Breaking away from working for THE MAN, being able to make our own decisions, sell our own product or service, become a true entrepreneur. But there are always people standing in your way, at least in my experience. People who seemingly only exist to keep you from your dream.
Spoiler Alert – They’re all you.
Of course you knew that in your heart of hearts – it’s rarely other people that are the obstacles. It’s you stepping in your own way. Well, let me introduce you to the three people that stood in my way as I got started with my business, Fragilescape.
The Procrastinating You
“I have plenty of time…I’ve got all this other stuff I need to get to first.”
The call of the procrastinator in the wild. Since the first caveman starting looking at the stars instead of going and hunting for something to eat, human beings have been procrastinating. And now we live in a world that has more ways to distract and entertain us than ever before. Books, TV, movies, video games, YouTube, you name it and there is more content than we could ever consume. Easy to get distracted.
For me, it was feeling like I had put in a full day at my full time job and that I “deserved” to take some time in the evening to do stuff that was fun, like binge watching Doctor Who or playing Path of Exile. There would always be more time later or on the weekend. But then the weekend would fly by with friends or with family and next thing I knew it was another Monday night being filled with some TV. Then out of nowhere one day, I had a truly horrific thought. I pictured my funeral, with the speaker saying “Well, he did manage to watch all the seasons of Game of Thrones…” The thought of having spent my life with nothing to show for it got me off the couch and moving towards something real.
You’re reading this, so hopefully you don’t need to picture your own funeral to get moving. In my case, I started blocking off time each evening, working a little each night so I could ease myself into regular working during “free” time. And guess what? Creating my own business was just as fun as any of the random bits of media that I could’ve spent that time on.
What you can do to kill your own procrastination demon?
Try some of Lifehacker’s hints to help you get started. Create timelines; break work into small steps; change your environment. And then once you’ve gotten past the Procrastinating You, then the next one steps in front…
The Perfectionist You
“I have to make sure to get this exactly right….I mean, this is a business, after all.”
Once you’ve gotten started thinking about what it will take to get your business started, it’s going to feel a little overwhelming. Well, at least it did for me. I had to:
- Sort and organize my collection of photography, only choosing the best
- Make sure all the prints had gone through rigorous post production, suitable for printing
- Set up a website for the business
- Create a blog
- Write up a marketing plan
- And so on…
And each major step felt like it had a million minor steps along the way. Organizing the photos also meant keywording and captioning them. Creating the blog meant picking out a theme and taking a self portrait for the About page. Selling photos meant getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN). The list kept going and going. And I didn’t want to launch until every detail had been gotten exactly right. I didn’t want the business to fail because I had forgotten a detail.
Well, the business is certainly going to fail if I never launch it.
That doesn’t mean just throwing up your hands and not applying a standard of excellence. It means deciding on your key elements that you absolutely need and then iterating as you go forward, working towards always improving.
In my case, that meant making sure the photos were perfectly the way I wanted them. They represented my vision as an artist and would be the primary way people judged my business. But I could get started without having a perfect set of keywords. And maybe I could have a blog, but the theme would need some work. And the marketing plan is going to be a living document anyway…
What are the things that the key elements for *your* business?
Make a list, focus on the top few of them and promise the Perfectionist You that you’ll constantly be working on the rest. Which leaves only one more you to get past…
The Self-Doubting You
This one is the big one for me. And it’s because I follow my own industry. I know how many good…no, great photographers are out there and how few of them are making a full time living doing it. And how many photos are flooding the internet? Billions is definitive, and I’m assuming trillions at this point. So why do I think I have the talent to start a photography business?
You may be thinking a similar sort of question, no matter what your industry is. In almost every industry except the brand new ones, there is always going to be a big player and/or lots of competitors. If you’re a restaurant, how do you compete with the ever present chain restaurants? It would be easy to throw up your hands and just say, “Why should I bother? I’m not good enough.”
But it’s not about having to be as talented as the top dogs (although you certainly might be). It’s about understanding your goals and biting off small chunks of the pie. About reframing your thought processes. Your business doesn’t have to be a McDonald’s or a Starbucks right away. In my case, my business does not need to provide a full time income. And I don’t need everyone in the world to like and buy my photos. The theory is now 6+ years old, but the 1,000 True Fans theory still holds true I think. You don’t need everyone – you just need a niche who likes what you do and how you do. And while being a multi-billion dollar corporation or a superstar artist may be out of our reach at the moment, we can find that niche if we’re willing to work at it and not be afraid of what’s ahead.
Because in the end, all three of these manifestations of ourselves are just different faces on the same person:
The Afraid You
And not afraid of failure. Not only is that a cliche, but what is there to be afraid of? If you fail, nothing changes – you’re just back where you started from. No, it’s fear of success. What happens if I get my photography business to a point where I *could* live off it? Would I be willing to give up my stable full time day job for something uncertain?
Success == Change
There is nothing quite as frightening as change. People don’t like to change most of the time; they want to ride a wave of inertia, happy where they are. But not you (and not me)! You wouldn’t be thinking about starting a business if you didn’t, down deep, want to change the way things were moving along. I know that I wasn’t happy burying my artist down deep. But now I’ve made the decision to start Fragilescape, I find I’m generally happier, even if I never sell a single photograph.
Push all these versions of yourself out the way. Tell the procrastinator that you’ve got things to do. Tell the perfectionist it’s good enough to start with. And tell the self-doubter that you’re good what you do.
And get out there and start that business!