Fear. (Or Fear Not.)
Updated: Mar 24, 2021
“The baby bat
Screamed out in fright, 'Turn on the dark, I'm afraid of the light.” ― Shel Silverstein
When I launched Good Words in 2020, I was terrified. At the same time, I felt I had so little to lose, and so much to gain. So, why was I afraid? Can anything I learned from this business-launch-after-many-years-as-an-employee benefit you? Whether you are thinking about starting your own business, making a career change, or just considering a shift in the direction of your life, I hope some of these learnings might save you a few stumbles, or encourage you to let go and fly.
Fear of Change
Like a baby bat knowing only the dark, I had become accustomed to being employed by someone else. I remember how odd it felt when I unsubscribed from the multiple job hunting sites I had scoured for more years than I care to admit. I had to talk myself out of superstitious feelings of “jinxing myself” when I deleted them.
Even before Covid-19, I had plenty of opportunities to learn that having a conventional job does not always equal security. Not in this century. And not in the post 1980's world of business instability. But, after thinking and researching and thinking and dreaming, I tired of my own indecision. I somewhat consciously swapped my fear of change for my fear of NOT changing.
Depending on which definition you prefer, I am either considered a Late Baby Boomer, or an Early Gen Xer. It's fair to say that “marrying well” and “getting a good job with a good company”, were mostly equal expectations of my parents when I was young. A college degree was assumed, not discussed. Out of five kids, I was the only one to get a master's degree. However, entrepreneurial ambitions were not a common topic. Although my father owned his own general contracting firm for many years and would talk with pride about the time he left his mentor and opened his own company, I don't believe he ever suggested that I, or my siblings, consider the same.
When I graduated from college in 1987 and MBA school in 1997, I don't recall a single fellow graduate embarking upon entrepreneurship. But, today, in February of 2021, I can name numerous business-owning friends, and many more colleagues that have been in business for themselves for more than 10 years.
Respect vs Love
My career prior to launching Good Words was defined by a lot of work I loved doing and clients I loved doing it for. But, my feelings for nearly all prior employers was lukewarm, at best. I often heard myself saying “I really respect him.” Or, “I really respect what she has built.” But, I knew that something was missing.
I finally realized that it wasn't personal. It was structural. I could never, truly love my employer's business as much as I would love my own. I went the extra mile, but the view didn't change. I could be loyal, but not passionate. I came to realize that working for myself didn't require love or commitment. It was inherent and innate.
The Power of Research
I love the written word. To read it. To write it. To toil over it. But, before I launched, I wanted data. Convincing data. I spent a lot of time researching freelance writing businesses, copywriters, blog writers, website writers, brand writers, etc. I dug into their tenure, their billings, their (stated) profitability, their stories, their hurdles, and their successes. I researched their brand promises, their unique selling propositions, their social media, and I spoke to many copywriters. I wanted proof that this was a viable – and not too cluttered – field.
The week in spring 2020 when I committed to launching Good Words, was the same week the first state-mandated Covid-19 quarantine was announced here in Richmond, VA. At this point, I was pursuing several jobs leads. And I continued with my freelance copywriting "on the side". Then, all the job leads I was pursuing came to a quick halt due to Covid. Even my hottest opportunities went from boiling to cold in a matter of days. The pandemic was (& still is) horrible. But it created need and opportunity. I now think that the timing for my launch was as good as it gets.
I keep a document on my laptop called “Great Quotes to Inspire”. I add to it whenever I find a quote I love. I read it often. They lift my spirits, they challenge me, they make me think, and they make me laugh. When I was starting to develop my website, and was still fighting a few flutters of fear, I found an editorial online about the one and only Rosa Parks. She wisely said,
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up,
this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
Exactly. I needed to read those words. My business was a must. Not an option. I knew that I was capable. Talented. Experienced. Dedicated. Inspired. Good. And sometimes, great. When I made up my mind and said “I must do this”, I realized something. My work generated more work. My networking revealed new clients. And I learned I was too busy to be afraid.