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Manage your fears as a business owner

Do you have fears of failing as a photographer? Our fears can paralyze us and take over our dreams in business and life. How do you overcome your fears as a business owner? What do you and other photographers commonly worry about? It could be having a fear of speaking to clients on the phone, or a fear of your business falling apart. We’ll learn the role that fears plays in our lives and outline steps you can take to manage your fears.

How emotions work

Very basically, emotions help us survive. They are designed to alert us to what is going on and spur us into action if necessary. Negative emotions signal that something is wrong so that we can do something about it. For example, feeling anxious may result in taking steps to avoid situations we have think are dangerous. Sadness encourages us to slow down and withdraw. Anger drives us to fight back against whatever threat has come up.

We respond to our emotions through a combination of ways, such as what we feel, think and behave. Emotions also often carry a physical sensations as a result of experiencing it (ie. your heart races when a client is mad at you).

camera and notebook on table

What is fear and how does it impact our business?

Fear is a normal, basic human emotion. We all face fears and none of us are exempt from experiencing them. Fear is not a bad or a good emotion. It is just an emotion. Emotions alert us to something that requires our attention. That being said, fear is an expensive emotion to coddle in business because it costs us sales. For example, if we have a fear of stating our prices confidently and leading a client towards making a large (gasp!) purchase, we are going to lose business.

Fear also leads us to make decisions that serve the short term (getting the feeling off your back) but again, will cost you in the long run. You may avoid clients or situations that make you feel stupid. You may avoid doing the tasks that you are supposed to master in order to take your business to the next level. Maybe you have a fear of failure and you can’t stand criticism, so you are burning out spending hours editing every photo so that your clients give you a lot of praise. Maybe we don’t want to call our clients because then they’ll hear how scared we are talking on the phone and will run the other way.

In business and in life, fear is often a liar and not based on facts. The amount of money you made last year is a fact. Feeling inadequate or thinking you are worthless and doomed for failure is not a fact. It is a conclusion based on stories that you have told yourself. The good news is that you have the ability to manage your fears and transform your stories. Sound good? Read on!

What are your business fears?

Here are some common fears that photographers face as entrepreneurs:
• Fear of not making enough money
• Fear of not finding clients
• Fear of not being a good enough photographer
• Fear of not getting hired
• Fear of looking like a failure
• Fear of charging money
• Fear of being seen as a hobby photographer
• Fear of speaking to clients
• Fear of calling clients

How do we fuel our fears?

We all have stress. Many of us do a pretty good job of making our fears larger than life.

Here are some of the most common ways that our fears take over? Can you find yourself in this list?

• Avoidance/Relief. To cope with the idea of doing something uncomfortable in your business, you turn to shopping to make you feel good, or perhaps you drink to excess on weekends.
• Rumination. You obsess. You worry. You focus only on your fears, in cycles, over and over on repeat.
• Inflexibility. You do the same thing. You’re afraid to try a different way to dealing with something, so you continue doing the things that you know don’t work.
• Anger. Do you sometimes think you have an anger management issue? Anger is the “big lid” coping strategy that can mask a number of other emotions which are actually the culprit.

Managing your fears

Step 1 – Name your fears

The first thing step in overcoming fear is put it out into the room. You need to name it. Fear thrives in the dark. When we label an emotion or experience as fear, then we’re shedding some light on what is going on. And be specific. What do you fear and how does it come to be? What does it feel like in your body?

Step 2 – Preparation kills fear

When something becomes familiar to you, the fear around it dissipates. Take for example if you had a fear of getting on the phone and speaking to clients. Familiarity comes from practice, so you need to practice. Write down a script of exactly what you’ll say on the phone. Then, ask your partner if you can practice your script with them. And then perhaps practice it a friend over the phone before you try it out on a client.

This is preparing and dealing with the fear. Think about some of the fears and feelings of inadequacy that you have in your business and what you can do to prepare a little better for the next time that fear comes out to get you. Don’t forget, fear is an expensive emotion to coddle in business, so we are going to take it on.

Step 3 – Push through to action

Sometimes our fears alert us of real danger, such as a tiger approaching. Often in our society, our alarm bells go off too quickly with no actual danger in sight. I know it sounds cliché, but sometimes we need to feel the fear and do it anyway. What big scary action are you committing to take next time your alarm bells go off without a tiger in front of you?

Step 4 – Get professional support

I’m a little biased because I’m a trained therapist. But sometimes we need someone to show us our blind spots and walk alongside our journey. Knowing where specific fears originate from and coming up with a concrete plan to address them specifically will go a long way in taking charge of your fears.

Step 5 – Create a Mental Toolkit

How are you managing stress in general in your life? Are you scheduling time for activities you enjoy? Do you get adequate sleep? Is physical activity apart of your daily routine? Ensuring that you consider all aspects of your wellbeing are important in tackling fears. Lack of sleep, consuming junk foods and being overwhelmed are recipes for disaster. Our emotions work best if we are taking care of our bodies.

Create a list of go-to strategies that you can implement when life becomes too stressful, or when your obsessive thinking takes over. Maybe it’s calling a friend. Maybe it’s going for a bike ride. Whatever it is, create a mental tool kit of things you can do to help you as you work through your fears.

Conclusion

Managing and overcoming fears are things that all business owners and entrepreneurs face. And let’s be real for a second – If it wasn’t terrifying on some level, everyone would be doing it. So congrats for being brave enough to take on this entrepreneur stuff. The next time you’re working through a fear think of this – If you had a friend who came to you and said, “You know what, I just can’t call my clients on the phone. I’m so stupid. I’m so worthless. What am I going to do? My whole business is going to fall apart,” what would you tell that friend? Would you agree that they were worthless and stupid? Or would you encourage them to see the beautiful side of them who IS capable of doing this? Can you start speaking to yourself in a more compassionate way too?