I’ve been chased through the woods at night during Survival Training.  I’ve mountain biked down a hill where hang-gliders were taking off.  I’ve survived three major surgeries, one with an illicit donut in my stomach.

But the day I started my business?  Now that was scary!

In retrospect, that level of fear is laughable.

But I remember feeling so completely overwhelmed by the idea of trying to make money by myself.

How do I start?  What if no one wants to work with me?  Am I in danger of creating a money pit that loses far more than it gains?

What if I’m just not cut out for this entrepreneurship thing?

On and on the questions went in my head.  So I proceeded the way any nerd would: I enrolled in courses, bought books, and signed up for masterminds.  My quest for knowledge was, let’s say, thorough.

Over the course of 18 months, I spent nearly $30K learning how to start and sustain a business.

Wow, now that was dumb!

In my defense, I had no idea which courses and teachers were worth the investment and which weren’t.  When you have no idea where you’re going, it’s easy to just follow the crowd of self-improvement junkies who plan to take one more course before launching.

The only thing that saved me from that ball and chain of expenses was that I actually implemented what I was learning and in turn, fell in love with running my own business.

Today I’m going to give you the benefit of some of my experience.  I’ll introduce you to three inexpensive alternatives to learning the ropes that will quiet the questions in your mind and finally get your business off the ground.

1. Find a bargain

Once or twice a year, the Only72 team brings together a bundle of courses and books for 1/10th their original cost.  The themes vary, but this time they’re celebrating the launch of Chris Guilllebeau’s book The $100 Start-up with a new entrepreneur package.

For just $100, you not only get a physical copy of Chris’ book (shipped free anywhere in the world), but you also get access to courses that teach you:

  • How to build a blog community that wants to buy from you
  • How to balance your business with the needs of your personal life
  • How to sell your products and services without feeling like a slime ball
  • How to turn your passions and hobbies into viable businesses

And much, much more! (I know that sounds cheesy, but seriously, go check it out and see for yourself. And yes, that’s an affiliate link.)

Of course, you don’t just buy this package because you want some good business tips.

The hidden value is the opportunity to find a successful model you can mimic.

Many are interested in the business of selling information products.  If that’s you, it’s absolutely critical you understand what a successful product looks like and delivers.  While these products may not be your direct competitors, they’re excellent examples to dissect and learn from.

This package gives you a chance to check out 18 different products for just $100–invaluable information to see the variety of approaches you can use to package your expertise.  Just remember, the sale only lasts for 72 hours and counting!

2. Find an internship

This is a fantastic (and free) way to learn the ropes of running a successful business.

The basic idea is this: find someone you’d love to learn from and ask to intern for them.  You probably don’t want to pick someone who will become a direct competitor, but someone working in the same space is a good idea.  So say you want to open a cafe, then you might intern for an in-demand caterer.  If you want to become a professional finance blogger, you might intern for a professional blogger writes about healthy living.  You get the idea.

These kinds of gigs are rarely advertised, mainly because most budding entrepreneurs are too busy and scared to expand their business.  But you shouldn’t let that stop you.  Think about the services you can offer and pitch the person you want to work for.  If you’re having a hard time figuring out your value, find other interns doing that kind of work and ask what they do.

But here’s the important thing: don’t do the work for nothing.  An internship isn’t a gift.  Ask to be mentored or advised in exchange for your services.  Ask for testimonials and referrals.

How well does it work?

I put out a call for interns last year and got a dozen applications from amazing people I couldn’t have otherwise afforded at that stage of my business.  In exchange, I provided private mentoring to each and gave them a inside look at how I run my business.  I not only showed them what I do, but why I do it that way and how I make my decisions–information they can directly apply to their own work.

The results were beyond what any of us were perhaps expecting.  One was able to quit her job within a month of the internship and by the end of it, was already earning more than her previous full-time job.  The other started a business as a side-gig (we also navigated a promotion for her full-time job) and just signed her first major client: me.

And while I’d love to tell you that the special sauce was that one-on-one mentoring, I think the real magic was seeing that running a business was much easier than either imagined.

They just needed a model to fiddle with and make their own. The genius was all theirs.  I just helped them channel it.  With the right mentor, you can do the same.

(As an aside, I’m going to be sending out a call for new interns next week to my email subscribers only.  If you’re not on my list and you’re interested in interning with me, make sure you sign up here.)

3. Find a sounding board

One of my biggest advantages when I got started was having a couple of trusted advisors who I could quickly bounce ideas off from time to time.

Because sometimes, what we really want is just someone who knows what they’re talking about to say, “You’re not crazy.  Try it.”

Obviously, if you take advantage of the internship, you’ll have that.  But interning isn’t in the cards for everyone.  Maybe you’ve been laid off and you need to start making money now.  Or maybe your full time job only leaves a handful of hours a week for something on the side, and you want to spend it building your business, not someone else’s.

Despite getting many requests teach new entrepreneurs, I’ve been reluctant.  After all, there are already so many books and courses on the subject.  Was I certain I could add something new and of value?

That’s when I realized what was missing was that sounding board: an inexpensive way to get experienced advice on your business ideas.  So I decided to open the Bright Entrepreneur’s Club.

I’ll be talking more about the Bright Entrepreneur’s Club in the coming months, but if you’re interested in getting free insights from me and interviews with successful entrepreneurs, as well as exclusive offers to participate in my “sounding board sessions,” you can sign up here.

Just do it

Starting a business is scary.   When I sent out my first email looking for clients for my career course, I thought my heart was going to chisel its way right out of my chest.

If you wait until you know everything you need to know, you’ll never get started.  But if you jump right in without any background, well, your ventures are much more likely to fail.

Not that I think that business failure is necessarily a bad thing.   Few experiences are as instructive.

And you should never lose sight of the fact that there’s a huge difference between a failed venture and a failure as an entrepreneur.

Between you and me, though, failure just isn’t my favorite learning tool right out of the gate.

Let me get a few successes under my belt.  Let me build some confidence before I get knocked down.  Then give me a community who will offer their hand and pull me back on my feet.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy.  But starting a business doesn’t have to be the expensive, solitary experience many of us imagine.

So what are you waiting for?

You can do it.