Expert Roundup: How Do You Overcome the Startup Hump?

Guest Author,

Starting a business is an emotional roller coaster. Leading up to launch, you’re motivated and excited with an unstoppable “let’s do this” attitude. When you get your first client or sale, you can feel victory coursing through your veins.

But then you may experience what’s known as the “startup hump” — a phase where doubt and fear creep in. We talked to experts about how to tackle these feelings and avoid the all-too-common problem of entrepreneurial burnout.

“Chase the dream, not the competition.” So the wise man once said, and it’s good advice, especially for a startup. A common hurdle for a startup is paying too much attention — or being intimidated by — the competition.

Being confident on paper is easy. Your business plan ticks all the boxes, and you’re convinced, having sized up the competition, that you’re ready to take them on in the real world.

However, the moment you go live, the competition suddenly doubles in size and looms ominously over your infant enterprise. As reality kicks in, the startup is faced with a couple of options. One is despair; the second is a distracting obsession with what the competition is doing.

To overcome the startup hump, don’t be distracted by what the competition is doing. If you’ve done your homework, you already know them. You know how they tend to behave and how they like to position themselves in the marketplace.

Stay focused on your business and marketing plan. Be committed to implementing your own marketing plan and don’t be dazzled, disheartened, or distracted by theirs. When you chase rabbits down every hole, you’ll wind up doing that and nothing else.

Startups that succeed are those whose mission is so clear, and their marketing and business development strategy so concise, that they care little for the competition. Their entire focus is the fulfillment of their vision. In short, they chase the dream, not the competition.”

– David Trounce, Business & Marketing Consultant, Mallee Blue Media

“My tip for overcoming the startup hump is simple: remember your why. Your why for starting your business is probably different than mine. But when times get tough, your why is what will keep you going.

Part of my why is the freedom that my business allows me. I’m free to only work with clients I’m passionate about. I’m free to create a schedule that works for the lifestyle I want to have. I’m free to work on projects that excite me. I’m also free to pivot my business at any point.

If you’re starting a new business only for monetary purposes, you’ll burn out soon enough. You need to constantly remind yourself of your ultimate why and that’s what will keep you going.”

– Brittney Lynn, PR for Entrepreneurs,

“It takes a special kind of person to board what author Darren Hardy calls the “entrepreneurial roller coaster.” One who’s ambitious, a risk taker, and a big picture kind of thinker.

But as a startup founder — and I should know after launching four of my own businesses! — we often find ourselves in the entrepreneurial slump sometimes trying to figure out how to forge this brilliant idea of ours ahead.

My best advice? You cannot do this alone. Join a community of like-minded, supportive beings that have your back and hold you to the fire on what you set out to accomplish. Stop making excuses and simply do it. And take that brilliant idea, cut it down into bite-sized chunks, and take it one day at a time.

The entrepreneurial journey is not for those who want the fast pass to success. It’s for those who know that to find success, you have to be in it for the long haul.”

– Tisha Marie Pelletier, Startup Business Mentor and President, Tisha Marie Enterprises

“Starting something new is very exciting, but if clients don’t come to you straight away, it can soon become disappointing and stressful.

I think trusting in your own idea has to be the base of your dedication. If you don’t have faith, you’ll quickly feel doubtful, and that’s the opposite of what you need. In the beginning, you need to do your best, meaning there is no room for doubts. Always remember that projects need time — stay focused on the right activities.

Something I learned from my own experiences was that I tended to try and do other small things when the big picture wasn’t working out immediately. What I was doing — writing texts for literature contests and newspapers — was somewhat related to my main project of writing website content. But it resulted in me being busy with activities that weren’t helping my business.

So I stopped doing that. I took a piece of paper and wrote down what I should be doing to promote myself. And I restricted my work activities to those things. It worked well! It just needed a little time, and before, I wasn’t investing it on that.

If you feel you have to search for clients, put 100% of your efforts into it. If you feel you need to fundraise, do it. But don’t try to juggle lots of things just to see what happens. Believe in your idea and focus on it.”

– Miguel Bratos,

“Making your personal wellbeing a priority is very important and will help you to stay grounded through the ups and the downs.  It’s easy to get swept away by the hype of the online hustlers who brag about working 16-hour days. Some young entrepreneurs think that to have success that’s what they need to do to.

But success takes time and grows as you grow. That’s the true beauty of growing a business. Your business is an extension of you. The healthier you are, the healthier your business will be.

So, make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and getting a good amount of sleep.  Switch off at the end of the day — step away from technology and let your mind rest. I found meditation to be helpful, so I’d suggest getting the Headspace app or looking for free meditations on Youtube to get started.”

– Cheryl A. Clarke, Ginger Marketing

“Nothing helps me get through tough times in my business like my peer-led mastermind group I started it when I was pivoting in my business — so, basically, in the startup phase again — and having a group of business owners who “get it” made all the difference.

When I felt like giving up, they were there to remind me why I shouldn’t. When I lacked the confidence to dream bigger, they were there to push me. When I wanted to stay in bed instead of doing the hard work, they were there to hold me accountable.

Starting and running a business can be very lonely. There’s incredible power in having a community of peers you can turn to for advice, support, encouragement, and accountability. If you can’t find a mastermind group in your area (or that you can afford), start your own.”

– Becky Mollenkamp, Business Mentor,

“Sometimes businesses hit the rocks because of the challenges in growing the business from a startup to its next level. Here are the things an entrepreneur should have in mind while going through the startup hump:

  • Understand your market and customers: It’s important that you fully understand your market and customers’ buying habits. Answer questions about who your customers are and how much they’re willing to spend.
  • Set goals and values: Entrepreneurs must have personal goals and core values. Write them down, read them daily — even memorize them. These should serve as a regular reminder about your purpose for becoming an entrepreneur.
  • Connect with other entrepreneurs: Share ideas and get to know what keeps them motivated. This will definitely make you feel like you’re on the right track with the support of other like-minded entrepreneurs.
  • Prioritize sleep: You should never underestimate the value of a good night sleep for motivation. A night of sound rest will re-energize you and significantly boost performance.”

– Tunny Ogunnowo, Lead Strategist, Absolute Hearts Media


Check out our Launching a Business archives for more tips on forging ahead with your startup!

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