Jan 28, 20194 min read

Is the “What If I Fail?” Question Stopping Your Dream?

Kristian Borglund headshot

by Kristian Borglund

It can feel scary to resign from your 9-5 job to get your online business going full steam ahead. After all, what if it doesn’t work out? What if you crash and burn? If this fear is holding you back, here’s what you need to do next.

Making the shift from being employed means venturing further into the wilderness of the unknown than you ever have before.

The steady salary will be gone – your daily work structure too – and you will no longer have the sense of security that you get from a 9-5 job.

You are left to your own devices.

What if you don’t make it?

“Fear is part of the price you have to pay to pursue your dreams. It’s common to have catastrophic thoughts invade our minds when we are entering the unknown. How intense they are and how often they show up –  daily, weekly or just occasionally – depends on neurotic you are,” says mental advisor and trainer Johannes Hansen, who has specialised in helping entrepreneurs and professionals bust their individual fears for more than a decade. He is also the author of the book Fuck Your Fears, soon to be released internationally.

Johannes recommends you go through the following steps if you struggle with the fear of failure.

1. Can you keep a partial salary?

“Since there’s so much uncertainty in the beginning phase of a new business – regarding the product market fit, how to get customers on a consistent basis, when your business will be profitable enough to support both growth and payrolls, and so on – the smartest solution is usually to get started while you still have a job, a few hours a week, to validate your idea and get your first customers. Speak to your manager about reducing your working hours to free up some time. That’s usually the best way to start.”

(Many entrepreneurs start their e-commerce businesses this way. One of them, Peter Lilja, got his online store up and running while he spent his days working for telecommunication company Ericson. Finally he came to a point where he decided to go all in. Read about his journey here.)

2. Take control of your unanswered questions

When you unpack the “What if I fail?” question, you’ll discover a cluster of thoughts hidden beneath. They might include:

Am I good enough?

How will I get enough customers?

Can I meet my basic needs on a much lower income level?

How much do I need to sell every month?

Do customers want what I’m planning to sell?

“List all the questions that come to mind and begin answering as many as you can. Maybe you need to enlist the help of people you know to get clarity. For example, ask another business owner or an accountant to work the numbers with you. Some of the questions are impossible to answer at this point. You don’t know if you have what it takes to make the business successful, for example. You don’t know until you have actually have tried. One thing is for sure, though: if you can’t sit down to write out these questions and begin processing them, will you be able to run a business full time, with all its complexities?”

3. Mentorship

“It’s essential to surround yourself with successful business owners. I’ve seen so many examples of aspiring entrepreneurs who do, and those who don’t. The ones who don’t, simply won’t become as successful. The ones who do, discover how the difficult becomes easier. Not only will you get support and help, but you’ll also absorb their can-do-it energy. Maybe you have tried this before, only to discover it wasn’t for you. If that’s the case, you looked in the wrong places and met people who weren’t aligned with you.”

Your e-commerce business can become a success if you put time and effort into it. And yes, it can be a failure too. Either way, you won’t know until you have explored it all the way. These first steps will get you going. Also, don’t miss our article “Are these entrepreneurial fears holding you back?”.