Chatting with a new client last week, I was asking her motivators as it relates to her business, we went through her fears and moved on to her needs, she said she needed to contribute to her family’s budget, I asked her if she had a fear of not making enough money to help her family, the answer was a resounding, “absolutely!”

There are so many reasons why we start a business, one of the key reasons we continue is its ability to provide us with an income. Then the pressure comes in, what if we can’t? It falls on us and our abilities as a business owner to ensure that we are bringing in the sales, watching the expenses and drawing an income. It’s bad enough when we have staff to ensure keep being paid and it’s often then that we put ourselves and our own finances last for the benefit of the business, our suppliers, and our staff.

So where can the fear of not making enough money to help your family come from and what can you and your small business do about it?

What are the main causes of the fear of not making enough money?

Guilt & being a financial burden

The most common reason business owners tell me that fear not contributing to their family income is guilt. It may not be not contributing at all but not contributing enough or what they believe to be enough. They don’t want to be a financial burden and they want to be, if in some part responsible for the financial stability of their family.

I’d like to say that in the current feminist age women say that they want to make their own way or not rely on others, but it’s not always true. Men say the same but they are coming from a traditional perspective of needing to have the provider role and not being able to fulfil the role. I think this is an indication of how financial decisions are no longer a gender-based role in families.

Edit (December 2022): I have to say that this is my main issue. I feel guilty for making the choice to change from being the main earner. It has taken me some time but it was a conversation with my accountant that was most helpful. She said that as a sole trader, the tax department sees all of my business income as personal income. So I am now no longer guilty for not having the large income but I’m also now ok with giving my family budget more money when I can. 

Not enoughness & the fear of not making enough money for the family

Fear of not making enough money Louise Penny Beauvoir quoteGuilt is a powerful force, as is money, and when the two come together and people struggle with their financial stability they can begin to question. I know I did. What am I doing? Why am I doing this to my family? I’m not good at this business owner gig, we’d all be better off if I got a J.O.B.

The issue with this thinking is that it comes from a place of comparison, comparing to what was and comparing to other business owners. When our feelings of being inadequate come from what was, we’ve lost sight of why the change was made and the value of what has been gained. When our feelings come from what we think we should be, based on what we see of others, we have lost what is reality. So often what we see online is the curated reality of someone else. I also know that when I go into comparison, I’m often comparing my life with someone who might be single, may not have kids, might have shared custody and so their time is different to my own. It’s not a fair comparison of your financial state.

The adjustment from having financial security

When I resigned from my career to work full-time in my business, I went from being the main income earner to being underpaid for the work I did, I still am. The fear of not making enough money for my family was real. I knew how much money we were ‘losing’ by me having my own business but how was I going to make it?

Many small business owners are technically underpaid. It’s a harsh reality when you’re coming from a position of knowing that every hour of work you’re putting in will get you paid, to a situation where you need to undertake work (marketing, quoting, report writing, financials) that are not directly responsible for creating income. Those hours of work, outside your core service or product delivery, can often become resented, points of procrastination, and simply neglected or avoided.

It can be hard moving from having a reliable fortnightly or monthly income to waiting on invoices to be paid so that you can pay invoices, wages, and if there’s some left over, paying yourself. Running on this sort of tight budget can be difficult when previously, your only concern was when the next payday was.

If there is anything that I can say to this is to value your time and value your worth.

What can you do to help this fear of not contributing to your family income?

I always like to have a (financial) plan of attack. I never fully understand the financial realities of my clients and while I can address the story fuelling their financial fear, I can’t deny that there may be a distinct reality and some serious financial challenge.

Understand your numbers

Fear of not making enough money Dale Carnegie quoteThe key to a fear is the story we tell ourselves about it. The key to unravelling it is the truth and facts about that topic. When it comes to knowing your numbers, it’s important to start with your personal finances. What’s your monthly household income, monthly household payments, the broader financial plan for your family and not just the business cash flow.

Once you understand your personal numbers, you can see if your fear of not contributing enough money is warranted or if you really only need to be concerned and just how much you need to contribute to your family’s finances. Rather than bore you with a blow by blow account of what you need and how to find those numbers, read this article on working out your personal financial plan when you run your own business.

Pay yourself

When I started this business, I was certain that I was going to pay myself (I hadn’t in my first). I now use the Profit First system to apportion profit, my pay, tax, and expenses. I do bootstrap my business, meaning that if I don’t have the cash – I can’t buy the thing.

It has been important to my self-worth that I pay myself a fair amount for the income I generate.

Automate payments

While automated payments of bills and scheduling bill payments might be our first thoughts to give us some financial control, what I mean is to automate paying yourself.

If you know your numbers, personal and business, pay yourself a wage just as you would any staff. This can be anything from a full living wage equal to what you would pay an employee to all you do, through to a set proportion of your business revenue for each period or some fixed and regular ‘minimum wage’ you know the business can support through fluctuations and you can then top up at the end of each/month/quarter etc.

Remove distraction

I mentioned earlier that comparison can feed our fear of not contributing enough money to our family. It’s hard when friends and former colleagues might be buying new cars or going out or away on holiday. Perhaps your business nemesis is flashing their finances over the internet, showing off their latest purchase or declaring they’re closing for the Summer and taking a break. This fear of missing out could be one of the things fuelling your financial fears.

Remember that you started your business and made the break for more than financial reasons. Consider too that you may not be comparing apples with apples and you may work your business around your family while they are single, co-parent, or have a nanny. Their reality is not yours and by judging yourself by their yardstick you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. Consider taking a social media break from them and unfriend, unlike, unfollow, or use the “take a break” feature and snooze them for 30 days. It will give you more time to focus on your financial future and not theirs.

If you’d like more information on how to address fear stories other than the fear of not making enough money, contact me to organise a free 30 minute chat. If you’d like some other tools in your toolbox to help you with fear, download my fear resource.

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