It’s a funny thing, fear.

Nearly one in five full-time employees in this country has a dream–and that dream is to no longer be a full-time employee.

But there’s something holding back the vast majority of them.

A new survey by cloud-based accounting software firm Freshbooks concludes that 24 million U.S. workers truly want to become their own bosses–but only about two million of them actually managed to quit their jobs last year to launch their own companies.

Now, if you’re a business owner or a leader yourself, you probably already understand part of the reason why. It’s about fear.

It’s scary to be an entrepreneur, whether the ambition is start the next $1 billion company or simply to be a solopreneur.

5 fears that hold people back

The Freshbooks study breaks it down further, highlighting five specific fears that prevent employees from pursuing the new American Dream:

  1. fear that if they go into business for themselves, they’ll have inconsistent income (35%);
  2. fear that they won’t have enough cash to invest, or that their debts will overwhelm them (28%);
  3. fear that they don’t have a fully formed business plan (27%);
  4. fear that they’ll wind up making less money than in their day job (27%); and
  5. fear of not having health benefits (20%)

Freshbooks based its conclusions on interviews with 3,700 U.S. full-time employees. The numbers in parentheses above are the percentages of those who said each particular fear holds them back.

Some fears are legit

It’s a funny thing, fear. We tell people to confront their fears and get past them. But frankly, most of those five fears seem pretty darn legitimate to me.

If you don’t have a fully formed plan, or if you can’t really afford to risk going without a paycheck (or making less money) for a bit, then going out on your own likely isn’t really for you.

Now, this is the point where I’ll diverge, so that I can offer separate advice to two groups of readers:

  • first, to the 24 million employees who want to leave their jobs and start their own companies, and
  • second, to the roughly 28 million business owners who might now be wondering which ones among their employees might be itching to leave.

Employees and employers

To the employees, if you’re serious about wanting to do this, then the answer is to break down your fears and address them practically.

Lo and behold, you’re in the right place to do that. For example, check out this resource on how much capital you actually need to start many businesses.

And to the employers, maybe we’re the ones who should be a bit fearful. We’re the ones whose employees apparently have their eyes on the door. In fact, employees in smaller businesses are about 40 percent more eager to strike out on their own than those in companies with more than 50 employees, according to Freshbooks.

So, the takeaways are what they always are: Treat people well, and never stop recruiting.

Oh, and maybe take it as a compliment. If your employees want to start their own ventures, and as long as you’re not some kind of toxic jerk as a boss, chances are it’s your example that inspires them to try.

Via Engadget