It’s the question that terrorizes entrepreneurs more than anything else.
The question that pounds through your mind during yoga class when you’re supposed to be thinking about stars, raindrops, and peaceful pink clouds of nothingness.
The question that keeps you up in the middle of night, tossing and turning, or staring blearily at your computer screen.
You know the question.
It’s this one:
“But what if nobody buys it?”
“I want to teach this new class / write this book / do this workshop / launch this product / service / amazing project… But what if nobody buys it?”
“What if only 2 people sign up for the class?”
“What if nobody shows up for the workshop?”
“What if the whole thing is a huge, embarrassing failure?”
It’s like when you’re a little kid and you’re wondering, “Is anybody gonna show up for my birthday party???” except it’s ten times worse because it’s not just a party—it’s your livelihood, your work, your career!
I can totally relate. Even 11 years into running my own business, I still get panicky about enrollments and sales from time to time, just like anybody else. (Just ask my husband—he gets to witness my occasional “But whhhhyyyy???” meltdowns firsthand!)
When my mind starts spinning into panic-mode, I remind myself to breathe, to step away from my computer, to take a long walk, and shift my perspective. I remind myself that no matter what happens—whether I get 2 sign ups or 200—this is just one small moment in the story of my life and career. This isn’t the end of my story, and this isn’t the end of the world.
The next time you feel a big wave of “But what if nobody buys it?” panic descending into your brain, here are some encouraging words and reminders that might help you:
Remind yourself: “I’m not the first person to feel this way. I’m not alone.”
Point to any business owner that you admire, and I can promise you, they’ve had at least one huge, depressing, soul-crushing business disaster—like a conference that sold poorly, or a retreat where 75% of the students flaked out and asked for refunds at the last moment. At some point or another, these types of experiences happen to everyone. And seriously, I mean everyone. (Yes: me too! One of the first classes I ever taught had 1 sign up and then that person asked for a refund before the class even began. Which left me with zero students. ZERO. Unbelievably depressing.)
Every business owner—from Oprah to your local Pilates studio owner down the street—has felt some version of whatever you’re feeling right now. If you’re feeling dejected, disappointed, or panicky about slow sales or low sign-ups, know that you’re not alone. All of your heroes? They’ve felt the exact same way at some point or another. They might even be feeling the same way right now.
Remind yourself: “I’m not stupid. I’m brave.”
Most people dream about writing a book, but never do it. Most people fantasize about opening a restaurant, design agency, or online jewelry shop, but never get anywhere remotely close. Most people talk about their goals and insist that “this is the year” that it’s “all going to happen,” but never move forward. But you are different. You actually MADE something and you’re ready to release it into the world. No matter what happens next, you are not an idiot, and you are not a failure. You are an inspiration. You’re the coolest of the cool.
Remind yourself: “No matter what happens, I will learn from this, refine my work, and do better next time.”
Every business venture—whether it’s a huge financial success, or not—provides you with valuable information that you can use to make your business even better. If something sells awesomely, you can learn from that. If something flops, you can examine why that happened and learn from that, too. The only way you’re going to build a thriving business is by trying things out and seeing what happens. There’s no shortcut. You’ve got to try, fail, refine, and try again, and again.
You don’t figure out how to build a car, or compose a symphony, or write a screenplay, or run a successful business by sitting there, doing nothing. You’ve got to experiment. You’ve got to revise and edit. You’ve got to try things. It’s the only way to move forward.
Keep #FailingForward and #FailingUpward. Talk about your failures on podcasts and onstage. Post stories about your failures on social media. Together, we can show one other—and younger generations of entrepreneurs—that failing isn’t just “Okay,” it’s necessary, valuable, brave, and seriously cool.
Failure means you’re actually trying. There’s nothing sexier than that. 😉