Starting a business is always stressful, ego-denting and financially risky. But during these tough economic times, any misstep can spell failure quicker than ever. Before you launch your baby, here are 12 ways to avoid being a statistic: Be realistic This applies to all areas of the start-up. Be honest about what you and your family can afford to put into the company. Be upfront about what you need from investors. Be judicious about your sales outlook and future. Are you in demand? A weak economy means people will pay for what they need, not necessarily what they want. Still, business opportunities abound. Industries likely to prosper during these tough times include collections, credit management and security, according to Ed Paulson, founder of the Paulson Group, a consulting firm that specializes in entrepreneurship, marketing and sales. Not interested in those areas? Then consider opening a niche business specific to a region. Paulson, who also wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting Your Own Business (Alpha), believes smaller niche players can make profitable what larger companies cannot. Also keep up with the headlines and see where the government intends to spend its money in case there are opportunities there. But stay within your expertise. What's it all worth? More than ever, investors want to know what the return on their investment will be. It is therefore critical that you know how to speak their language, says Matt Edelman, CEO and co-founder of PeopleJam, a company that provides consumers content, social tools, products and services on digital platforms to improve their lives. Understand what their financial exposure is before hitting them up for money. And be ready to give away more of your venture than you may want.