How To Overcome The Fear Of Failure When Starting A Business

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The fear of failure is, unfortunately, a very common occurrence that can prevent a lot of us from taking risks, trying new things, and achieving our goals.

Although it might come across as a way to protect yourself, ultimately, this fear holds you back – particularly if you’re trying to start a business. Wouldn’t it be great to learn how to overcome the fear of failure when starting a business? 

We get it. Starting a new business is tough, and not all of them will make it. We’ve spoken before about how 1 in 5 new businesses fail in the UK every year, so to have some nerves about the success of your own is completely rational and normal.

Although it’s a normal reaction, it’s not always helpful to stare at your exciting career prospect with fear. You’re starting a new business. This should be an exciting challenge that needs a touch of confidence, leadership, and a level mindset to make decisions and plans that will grow your success.

Fear of failure is normal 

Before we look into how to overcome the fear of failure when starting a business, you need to understand that this fear is completely normal. It’s a universal and common fear, so don’t beat yourself up about feeling this way – or think that business life isn’t cut out for you.

With our help and advice (and your hard work!), starting a successful business is 100% achievable and within your reach. 

In some cases – this fear can actually be good for you. That’s because you can use it to double (and maybe triple) check that your business plans are sound before you launch headfirst into a risky idea. It’s a good way to ground yourself if used within reason.

But when this fear turns into hesitation, overwhelm, procrastination or self-sabotage, you need to learn to let it go. Which we’ll help you with, of course, our top tips on how to overcome the fear of failure when starting a business. 

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7 tips on how to overcome the fear of failure

Right, let’s get into the steps you need to take to overcome your fear. When going through these steps, the goal here isn’t to completely rid yourself of the fear. It’s almost impossible to go from being afraid of something to being 100% okay with it. 

A good way to look at it is by understanding it from another perspective. Let’s say you’re terrified of clowns. As a result of this fear, you can’t take your loved ones to the circus because you know there’ll be at least one of those monsters there, holding you back from an experience you should enjoy. Getting over this fear is designed to remove these restrictions.

You’re not going to love clowns so much at the end that you decide to become one. That’s not the goal. The goal is to get to the circus and enjoy yourself without being haunted and on the lookout for those killer red noses. 

The fear of failure is the same. The goal is to make sure it stops holding you back – and becomes a tool to help you make better business decisions and build towards your own success. 

Right, enough of the pep talk, let’s overcome this fear. 

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1. Know that failure is part of life 

We spoke earlier about how the fear of failure is completely normal and rational. Not knowing the outcome is something we struggle with as humans, but you can’t guarantee how life will go. 

One of the biggest reasons that fear of failure holds people back when starting a business is that they’re paralysed by the idea of failing – rather than what ‘failure’ actually means. And frankly, ‘failing’ isn’t as bad as your fear is making it out to be. 

To overcome this fear, we need to move the conversation from “what if I fail?” to “so what if I fail?” 

Imagine, for a second, that something goes wrong with your business. Let’s say you’re not attracting your ideal customers, you don’t get the funding you wanted, or in the worst case, you can’t afford to keep running your business. These are all sad situations – but not the end of the world.  

Rather than walling in the ‘what ifs?’, start asking yourself what you would do if you were in the situation right now. And then, importantly, tell yourself something good that could come out of it. 

For example:

  • Failure: You aren’t attracting your ideal customers. 
  • Solution: The customer base you thought might work might not be the right target. So, you revisit who your customers actually are and rework your business plan to attract them instead, 
  • Silver lining: Your business can keep running, and you get clearer insights on who your customers are and why they’re interested in your products, which gives you the tools to market them better. 

If you do this for every ‘failure’ scenario in your head, you’ll be able to see that nothing is as bad as it appears. Even in the worst-case scenario that your business fails, you’ll still have gained valuable lessons and experience to try again – or pick an alternative career path that suits you better. 

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2. Plan, but don’t stall 

If you are a perfectionist, you might fall into the trap of stalling your launch. Just do it!

Like we said earlier, having a little bit of fear can be beneficial to make sure that you thoroughly think through your business plans. Planning is one of the most important aspects of running a business and one of the biggest ways to avoid failure. 

A great business plan will include all the must-know details about your business, including: 

  • Your goals and objectives;
  • Your mission (why you started the company) and your values;
  • Your product and how you are going to get customers interested in them; 
  • Your employees (if any) and the structure of your company;
  • Who your customers are;
  • Who your competitors are and what your industry looks like;
  • Financial information and any funding that’s needed.

This plan won’t just help you define and grow your business – but is also an essential document if you’re planning on securing any funding. To find out more about putting together a great business plan, follow our instructions in this step-by-step guide to writing a business plan. 

There’s just one caveat to this. Although you need to make sure that your business plan is in place – don’t use this as an excuse to stall. This is especially true if your business plan is just for your eyes. There are only so many revisions and changes you can make to a plan, but eventually, you need to take that leap. 

3. Take small steps 

The fear of failure holds people back. So naturally, one of the ways to overcome it is through action. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do everything at once. 

If you’re struggling to make the leap, it’s helpful to break down your goal into smaller, easier-to-accomplish steps. It’s much easier to convince yourself to take one tiny action – and once you’ve taken the first step, everything becomes much easier. Once the ball is rolling, you can follow the momentum the rest of the way. 

4. Take risks 

Nothing in life is guaranteed. Even with malicious planning and research, there are some unknowns that you’ll never be able to guarantee your success. Especially when it comes to running your own business. 

Playing it safe can work for the most part, but you can’t make every decision this way. If you want to achieve your goals, eventually, you’ll have to take a risk in the hope that it works out. If it fails, that’s part of life. You’ll learn, pick yourself back up and try again. The important thing here is that you can’t let the fear hold you back. 

5. Focus on your goals 

Having a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve should be the front and centre of your mind. When the fear of failure makes you hesitate or question a decision, go back to your goals and ask yourself, “can this help me achieve my goal?”. 

If the answer is yes, that motivation should be enough to banish the fear and help you keep pushing forward. 

6. Get support and advice 

It is normal to have doubts when launching your business, so don't be afraid to ask for advice from other entrepreneurs or friends.

Just because you’re running your own business, doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone. If you’re struggling with fear, or think that the fear of failure is affecting your ability to act or make a decision, get advice. 

This could be family or friends for a supporting hand or even fellow entrepreneurs who’ve been through similar situations. In some cases, you might even ask the advice of your accountant if you’re worried about the financial aspects of it all. 

Whoever it happens to be, reach out and get advice. 

7. Celebrate the wins 

The opposite of failure is success. So, whenever you have a win – no matter how big or small it may be, make sure that you celebrate it. The more wins you celebrate, the more you convince yourself that you might not fail.

Plus, this is a great piece of life advice to follow to recognise your own achievements and keep that motivation high. 

Overcoming the fear of failure when starting a business

When it comes to getting over the fear of failure, there are some key lessons that you need to remember: 

  • The fear of failure is normal and can be useful to help us plan and assess risks. 
  • Failure will happen. But we can always learn from it and find a way out. 
  • Plan ahead, make small steps, and take risks. 
  • Keep your objectives front of mind and use them to guide you. 

That’s it! You’re ready to follow this advice, start achieving your business goals, and don’t forget to celebrate every small win along the way. For more business advice, tips or tools – find everything you need here at Business4Beginners.

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Business4Beginners has been advising new businesses owners since 2013. The founder, Paul Bryant, has created, grown and sold several successful businesses and remains the editor and fact-checker of all content published on the site.
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