Good luck. I have been self-employed most of my adult life, and I'm self employed now. It is not for everyone -- you have to be a little bit crazy to live like this.
But, being a cancer survivor makes it a little easier to be a little bit crazy. I ride this roller coaster and sleep well -- most nights.
My only advice is to be realistic about the short-term, and stay focused on the long term. I hope you have deep enough pockets to get you through the short term. I went through some rough times, but never lost my house.
If this is about making a living, I wouldn't waste money competing. How many consumers really know anything about competition BBQ -- of care about it. If your rig puts out a good smell, people will want to check it out. If your que is righteous, give out samples in little cups. Think like a crack dealer -- give them a little taste, and get them hooked.
Seriously, IMO, don't focus on making BBQ that wins competitions. Focus on making quality BBQ that ordinary people want to eat. Serve up BBQ that Houstonians can't get at Colter's or Spring Creek BBQ, but isn't as pretentious as competition BBQ. Give people what they want to eat.
Keep us posted. I get down to Houston on a regular basis. I'd like to taste you que. I hope it rocks!