3 types of responses to expect when you start your own business (and how to handle them)

“Henk, how can you be sure you’ll have enough customers? I’m worried about you!”
(Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash)

In my experience, there are three types of responses you can expect from people around you when you start out for yourself (or do something else you really want, find scary and is not necessarily ‘normal’ in your environment).

First of all, the supporter.

A typical response of a supporter is as follows:

“Yes, of course this is a bit exciting, but you can do it. I believe in you. YOU GO GIRL / WOMAN / BOY / MAN! *”

* strike out what doesn’t apply

These can be people who are a step further than you. They motivate you to do the things you really want, but are a little scary because they know how unbelievable cool it is to do them anyway. (In my experience, the general rule is: the more I want it, the scarier I find it – but that’s probably food for another blog post.)

Also, besides the people who are a step further, I have some friends who are completely the opposite of me. They’re not even thinking about starting out for themselves (at least at the moment – maybe they’ll change their mind one day), but they really like what I do and are therefore my best supporters.

Second, the worried.

A typical response from a worried person sounds something like this:

“Do you now have enough customers to make ends meet? Just to be sure, I would apply for unemployment benefits if I were you. Also, are you well insured? I recently heard a story about someone who had just started for himself and then broke his leg. ”

Often, these are the people closest to you. They just want the very best for you and are afraid that you will crash down (which is – in my experience – actually likely to happen quite often). Often, they are projecting their own fears and thoughts on you. And that’s very sweet and well-meaning, but it doesn’t really help you. Because at the very beginning, you’ve got enough of your own worries and fears, so you don’t really need the concerns of others to be poured over you as well.

Third: the cynical.

A typical response from a cynic is as follows:

“…”

In my experience, cynical people don’t say that much. At least not in your face. But did you just see them turning their eyes when you were enthusiastically talking about your latest ideas?

Often, these people are just a bit jealous of you. You’re just doing what you want to do, while they have convinced themselves throughout their whole lives that they absolutely cannot do what they want to do. So they settle for a life that is OK-ish, but doesn’t really make them happy. And that is quite confrontational. (I know, because I had the exact same reaction a few years ago when someone I knew gave up her job and house to travel the world and was still in my safe, not-so-exciting, permanent job).

How to deal with it:

First of all: most people respond from their own experiences and fears. In general, that has little to do with you. Now, I can tell you that you “just shouldn’t worry about other people’s comments”, but I also know that – at the very beginning – that is sometimes quite difficult to do.

That’s why my advice is as follows: when you don’t feel that well: stay by yourself. Lock yourself up and listen to positive podcasts, videos or read books that make you happy. If you still need to speak to someone, do not call people in categories 2 and 3.

That doesn’t mean you should completely ignore the worried and cynical people in your life, but you can just ignore the subject for a while. We are often so addicted to validation from others, that we always feel we need to be open and honest and have to share everything with everyone. That is really not necessary. You can also talk about other subjects with the somewhat anxious – “wasn’t it good the way it was” – people in your life. The moment they do ask questions about your entrepreneurial adventure, just give them some general answers. You don’t have to lie, just don’t go into too much detail and then smoothly change the subject.

In the beginning, doing business is just a bit exciting and sometimes scary. That makes sense, because you are going to do something completely new and you have stepped out of your safe(ish) environment. But you will feel more confident along the way – step by step. And until then, I would advise you to stay nicely in your own, safe, closed-off cocoon.

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