If you want to know something about me, you should know that I like to be prepared. I like having time to think out big decisions, I like knowing my travel itineraries backward and forward, I like carrying snacks in my purse. You know, just in case. So, naturally, when I first decided that I wanted to start my own freelance design business, I researched like crazy. I read everything I could find about starting a business, writing a blog, etc. Someone suggested a helpful business book? Onto the reading list it went. I absorbed as much information as I could so that I could be as prepared and knowledgeable as possible before starting out on this new adventure.
However, there is a fine line between research being a helpful, proactive step in the process and being pure procrastination. Reading blog post after blog post can mean using your time reading about other people’s success rather than creating your own. It’s easy to tell ourselves that we’re just being smart and intellectually curious instead of facing up to the underlying problem at hand. It’s easy to see why this happens, too. When you start saying that you’re going to do this big, wonderful, and intimidating thing, then it becomes real. It’s not just an idea in your head that you think about and measure against the how-to blog posts you’ve been reading. It’s something that you continually need to work on, improve, grow, and promote. When the idea becomes real, you can’t keep it tucked safely away. Friends, don’t let your fear hold you back! If this sounds at all familiar, here are my two best reasons to stop researching and start doing:
1 | THERE'S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT.
If you’ve decided that starting a business or writing a blog or creating a new service is what you want to do, then do it! If you keep holding off until you feel prepared enough, then that day may never come. You'll get stuck in the rut of research and start to experience paralysis by analysis. Whatever venture you decide you want to pursue, embrace it and plan for it. Little steps forward are better than staying in one place. For example, next week is probably too soon to launch your site, but you can figure out a realistic launch date, start working on your brand and planning your content until that day on the calendar. Plan for the future; work for it in the present.
2 | THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS BEING 100% PREPARED.
You definitely don’t want to charge headfirst into a situation where you’ll have to do a lot of clean up work later, but you also don’t want to wait until you feel totally prepared and have everything 100% perfect and ready to go. Perfection is an unrealistic expectation. The truth is that whenever anyone starts on a new endeavor, no matter what it is, you can never be totally prepared. Unforeseen obstacles are bound to pop up, and you can just deal with them as they come. Those types of situations end up being the ones we learn from the most. Lay the best framework you can and then work forward from there, building and finessing as you go. As backward as it sounds, it can be good to launch before you’re ready. If you’re anything like me, launching before you’re ready acts as motivation to work harder and fine tune everything sooner rather than later.
3 | MAKE YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES.
As great as researching and learning from other's experiences of starting a business, it's still someone else's experience. Some things you learn from others will be very helpful and time-saving, but some standards in your industry may not work very well for you. Take the leap and start carving your own path, armed with the knowledge you've gained and the confidence in your abilities. Soon you can start sharing your own experiences and others can learn from your unique perspective.
Getting past the starting line
If you’ve noticed that your research and preparation has started turning into a way to put off starting your big dream, then here are a few easy things to help get you past the starting line and into the race.
PLAN IT OUT
It’s always good to have things out in the open, so take a second to be honest with yourself. What is it that’s making you feel fearful or unprepared? On a piece of paper, or in a document on your computer, jot down everything that comes to mind, big concerns and small. If there are any similar items go ahead and group them together. From there, finalize your list into top things you want to tackle and then outline goals that will help get you to a more prepared and relaxed state of mind. I'm going to encourage you to go one step further and break down those goals into practical and realistic steps (sub-goals) you can take to accomplish them. It’s always good to have goals, both short-term and long-term, to help keep you on track, and it's even better to break those goals into more digestible forms. As an example, let's say that you wrote down finding the best software or service for invoicing and tracking financials as something that is making you feel unprepared for starting your business. The goal is to find the service you want to use, so now you break it down into steps of finding the top services, comparing them, and directly seeking advice from someone in your industry if necessary.
MAKE IT FUN: Find a goal-planning sheet or keep track of your goals in a document on your computer. Whether you accomplish one step that puts you closer to a goal or you reach a big goal, you get the satisfaction of checking it off your list. Keeping track of these goals means you can look back and see how far you've come!
CLEAR THE CLUTTER
Reading blog posts is a great way to learn new things and connect with others in your industry, however the volume of reading material can be beyond overwhelming. I follow along with several blogs on Bloglovin' and I've learned that I can't keep up with all of them. I've had to de-clutter my feed to include things that I find truly valuable, insightful or entertaining (you can't be all business all the time!). Or if a particular post doesn't pertain to something I need to know, I allow myself to pass over it and use my time wisely by reading what's important to me. For example, if I see a blog post that's all about creating a Wordpress site, I'll skip it since I use Squarespace to run my site. You can use the goals you've written out for yourself to help determine if it'll help put you closer to feeling prepared or more knowledgeable about a subject. Let's take the example from above and expand on it: you need to figure out which invoicing software you want to use. A blogger you follow writes a post comparing Quickbooks to Freshbooks. Read it and let it help you make your decision. Mark that goal off your list!
MAKE IT FUN: After you clear the clutter from your blog feed, take the time you would normally spend reading a bunch of posts and use it to further your business! Even if it's something that only takes five minutes, it'll still help you make progress and therefore more prepared for your new venture!
GET IT OUT IN THE OPEN
When people know that you’re working on something big and exciting, they’re going to become your cheerleading squad. And when they ask how everything is going, you don’t want to say that you haven’t made any progress, especially if it’s fear holding you back. By telling your friends, family, and peers in your creative community about your goals, you are giving yourself a support system. They’ll reassure you when doubt grips your heart, give you advice when needed, and keep you accountable to your goals.
MAKE IT FUN: Plan a consistent day and time, even if it's just once a month, for you and members of your creative community to get together and discuss fears, trials, and triumphs. You'll come away feeling inspired, encouraged, and refreshed
PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK
Starting a business, launching a website, and writing a blog are all hard work! Every little bit of progress is a success, so don’t downplay your achievements. Be sure to recognize how your hard work has paid off!
MAKE IT FUN: For every goal that you meet or positive feedback you get from a client, write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a jar, box, or whatever. On a day when you're feeling doubtful you can read all the successes, pieces of encouragements, and kind words that you may have forgotten about.