People Call Me Brave, But Truth is I Started my Business Out of Fear

I don’t think I’m as courageous as I’m given credit for.

Gillian Sisley
Apr 17 · 6 min read

I have some street cred among my friends and family — I own a social media company, and run it from home. I’m only 25.

But to me, for the most part, it’s all I’ve known for a majority of my very short career. I’ve worked a series of contracts before my business fully took off, but have never held a full-time position at a traditional 9–5.

I did everything I could to make sure that didn’t happen.

You could say my millennial is showing, but I really, really didn’t want to spend my weekdays plugging away in a typical 9–5 entry-level job.

So, when I couldn’t find the work I felt would fulfill me, I decided to instead create the work that would for myself.

I’ve also believe that the most rewarding decisions in life are made out of 50% excitement and 50% fear.

While that was a reality ever present as I started my company straight out of school, I feel the percentage of fear may have been the over-arching motivator for creating my business.

And, to be frank, that’s not exactly as “cool” or “impressive” as people make it out to be.

I was scared. That was the foundation I used to build my successful company, which is turning 3-years-old this summer.

Fear-based decision-making simply isn’t as glamorous as people make it seem.

I was afraid of becoming stagnant and complacent.

Three weeks into my mandatory work term for my PR program, just before embarking into the career-world, I was sitting at my desk in the marketing agency and looked up from my laptop for a moment.

An unsettling feeling started to creep up from the pit of my stomach to the top of my head as I was proofing yet another document for yet another partner.

“Oh, dear God. Is this all my schooling has come to?… Is this all there is, and all there’s going to be, in the 40 years of my career?”

I had visions of being a worker bee for the rest of my life. Of working to create someone else’s dream, while I patiently waited 5-10 years until I could be promoted to a manager.

That thought settled, like a hard brick, at the bottom of my gut.

And it terrified me.

I was afraid of rejection.

I hate interviews. I hate being part of them, and competing against other people, and being told I’m not good enough.

Which is ironic, because entrepreneurship is loaded with these exact things. The difference is, when I‘m the boss, I get to call the shots.

So whether I’m rejected or “fail” in some way, the full responsibility weighs solely on me. There’s something about holding that weight on my shoulders which makes rejection, oddly enough, more bearable.

I get rejected a lot, by potential clients. But I tend to reject more potential clients than I am rejected myself. My screening process for clients is a fairly picky one — I’m only interested in working with clients I know I would enjoy working with, and who are as much a fit for me as I am a fit for them.

I learned the hard way, very early on, that the entrepreneurial journey is already a tough and emotionally demanding job. Add to that mix a client who doesn’t believe in the credibility of my skills, and I hate working with?

Well, then I’m just sitting at home, running a business I love, but feeling miserable doing it because I had put more value on money than I did setting up a successful process and a positive work environment for myself and those I work with.

It’s not worth it to me to be working with people who make me feel miserable.

I was afraid of not being in control.

Over all else, I value my freedom and flexibility. Waking up every new day and knowing that I, the Boss Lady, get to call the shots on what I do on any given day is the best feeling.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I slack off and watch Friends on Netflix all day long.

It means I’ve got my nose to the concrete and I’m grinding away to tackle client projects and clock those hours to be able to pay my mortgage each month.

But even knowing that I can take the day off, if I need it — that I can take the day off if necessary, with no problem, gives me ease of mind.

I take less sick days and vacation days now that I’m an entrepreneur than any other job I’ve had, contracts or otherwise. I also work a lot of public holidays, aside from Christmas or New Years. Because if I don’t work, I don’t make money.

And my bills still need to be paid, you know?

That said, I don’t have to ask permission for time off. My biggest struggle instead is giving myself permission to take a breather.

My oldest client is actually the one who pointedly asks me every winter and summer, “When are you on vacation, Gillian?

If I say I’m not really planning to take a vacation, she will insist that I do until I send out notice to my clients that I am, in fact, taking time off.

If it wasn’t for her I probably would forget about vacations entirely.

Final word.

I don’t believe I’m courageous in starting my business— for me personally, it would take more courage to walk into a 9–5 for the rest of my career than it does to run my own hustle, risks and all taken into account.

A traditional 9–5 is my nightmare.

That said, it’s also my backup plan in case my business goes south. But it’s a back-up for a reason. Paying my bills and supporting my family is what matters most to me. Having a career which fulfills me on a deep level comes second.

I’m just lucky to able to receive both of these elements all wrapped up into one package through my social media and copywriting company.

Bravery is interesting, because its definition is entirely subjective.

To one person, who looks at me and wishes they too could start their own business but are too scared to make that massive leap, I may be perceived as brave.

But to me, it wasn’t a matter of bravery — it was a matter of doing the thing which spoke most to the integrity of who I am. Business owners are fairly common in my family — entrepreneurship is ingrained in my DNA and flows through my veins.

Becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t brave of me — it was simply answering the call of what I felt I was meant to be doing.

It was prompted initially by the fear of not wanting to be trapped in a career which did not fit with who I am and what I feel most passionate about doing.

That doesn’t sound at all like my personal definition of bravery. And so for that reason, I don’t consider myself brave for starting my business.

I consider myself as being true to who I am, and using the strengths which come naturally to me in the most effective ways possible

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +443,678 people.

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Gillian Sisley

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Online solopreneur. Tea drinker. Committed optimist. Lover of GIFs. I write about womanhood, writing & entrepreneurship, & craft dainty little poetic ditties ✌

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