Halloween means exactly three things to me: pumpkin carving, costumes, and everyone I know trying to frighten the crap out of me with scary movies.
Doesn’t matter how many times I explain I hate scary movies. Everyone insists that scary movies are part of the Halloween experience and that what I really need on All Hallow’s Eve is to watch a bed swallow up Johnny Depp and his crop-top football jersey.
I don’t know about you, but I have enough fear in my life without Freddy Krueger. I call it “running a business.”
And it took me a long time to get over my big fears. But in the spirit of quenching all fear-related activity this Halloween, here are my strategies for running a fearless small business.
Turn on the light
One of the biggest problems I had when I started my business was being in the dark all the time.
I knew I needed a website. But I had no idea what a website cost, what needed to go into a good website (coding, design, WordPress wrangling), or what would make for a smart URL.
I was completely in the dark, scared out of my mind, thinking that I was surely going to be ruined by everything I didn’t know.
I was so busy hiding with my head under the covers that it didn’t occur to me to turn on the lights.
Instead of thinking that the cost of a website would crush me and that my business would crumble before it began, I started getting quotes from various website designers. I found out what my price point really was and started putting away money toward it.
It was a big number — but it wasn’t an impossible, scary, ridiculous, going-to-die number the way it was in my head.
In the dark, you think everything’s scary as hell. Once you turn on the lights, there might be a few things that are big and intimidating, but they’re no longer creepy. They’re just there. You can deal with them. Nothing to be afraid of.
Hold someone’s hand
I do not understand the internet.
This is something of a shameful admission for someone who makes her living online, but I really don’t get how the beast works.
I can’t tell you how many times Sonia or Naomi or someone else clever like that has told me that I should really work on my keywords or my links or my SEO, and all I can hear is “The apocalypse is here and it has knives.”
As we all learned when we were children, scary things are less scary when you have someone else’s hand to hold. Walking into the dark alone is a bad strategy.
I called up a friend who does search engine marketing. She’s not an SEO expert, but she understands SEO in simple terms that make it easy for her to do her work.
So I get her on the phone and she hand-holds me through every single step I need to take. She says things like, “We’re almost there,” and “It’s okay,” and “See that link? Click on that … now that wasn’t so bad, right?”
This is much less frightening than attempting to wrestle all by myself with six books written for dummies and a 20-part audio series. The next time you’re confronted with a big business decision that you know nothing about, get someone to hold your hand.
If you don’t happen to know someone with knowledge of that field, check Twitter for volunteers, look into the Third Tribe, or even — gasp — hire someone.
Think of it like hiring a bodyguard to fight off all the bad guys. Just be sure to explain that you don’t want them to do everything for you — you want to know how to do it yourself. Appropriately supervised, of course.
Run to Mommy
We’re discussing a metaphorical mommy, here. You are all grown-ups and I’m sure you no longer hide your face in your mother’s skirts (or pantsuit, or jeans, or whatever your mother wears) at this time of life.
But there are business problems that, when they hit you, are so overwhelming and scary that there is just no way you’re going to get your head around them.
You know everything you need to know. You have friends to help explain it. But this particular beast is too big to fight.
You just want to run to someone who’s going to make it all better, who will take the problem away and tell you that everything is all right now.
For me, this particular business fear is taxes.
I can’t handle finances. It has been attempted. But dealing with money freaks me out, dealing with the IRS freaks me out more, and the mere mention of filing papers to become an S corporation makes me long for the relatively pleasant nightmare that merely involves buckets of blood and untimely death.
This is about when I run screaming for mommy. Or, as I like to call her, “my accountant.”
When you know you have certain business problems that honestly scare you, even to think about, find yourself a “mommy” to run to when those monsters appear.
Accountants. Business managers. Marketing experts. Tech wizards.
Whatever your personal deep and abiding fear is, there is someone who isn’t afraid of it at all.
Back to Halloween
I’m going to wind up watching a scary movie this Halloween. There’s always one playing at the pumpkin-carving party, and there’s never quite enough hot buttered rum to make me numb to it. Last year, it was about psychotic sheep. I could not make that up.
But this year, I think it’s going to be okay. After all, it’s not like anything in my business is scaring me these days. I suppose someone has to take up the slack, and if it isn’t psychotic sheep, it’ll probably be something even more frightening, like Lady Gaga.
I wonder if my accountant can handle that one.
Happy Halloween, everyone. Here’s to a less terrifying business year to come.