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You want to start a business. You don’t necessarily have a business idea yet, but you know you definitely want to start something.

Some people say, “I want to start a business…” because they hate their 9-5 and want to get out. Or because they need some extra cash, or simply because they like the lure of running your own operation.

Regardless of your “why”, this post will review a few tips to consider that should help guide you to your BEST chance for success with a new business idea.

Where This Process Came From

This new business idea selection process is curated from my advice to clients when I have to turn them down a new path. As a Professional Business Plan Consultant, I see it all – great ideas, smart inventions, interesting business concepts. But any time the business mission seems misaligned with what the entrepreneur’s strengths or expertise, I always challenge him or her to make sure they are moving forward on the right business idea.

Usually, the misstep comes in at this point – early planning.

When they’ve Googled the hottest new business idea that makes quick cash and decided to just run with the new popular trend.

So, if you are still wondering what to do, consider this process to find the right business for you, now. And don’t forget to grab your free download at the end to help you!

I want to start a business – First Step: Write down your core list of stuff you can do (and don’t hate doing).

I’ve had discussions with countless entrepreneurs who dive into a business idea where they have no business being involved. This is not to say you can’t try something new, but the more it makes sense for you, the more it will increase your chance for success.

For instance, if you are an IT guru at work and you hobby as a photographer, it’s a waaayyyy shorter path to success to figure out how to maximize your photo hobby into a real business. This path is shorter than taking the path of, say, deciding to go into Amazon product selling.

Could you sell a product on Amazon for profit using their fulfillment system? Sure.

Could you eventually call it passive income? Yeah, you could.

Is it the fastest path to getting you a real business that makes good money with minimal time investment? Nope. (In fact, most people don’t realize the countless hours of time and research that goes into setting up properly as a seller on Amazon, but I digress.)

If you are doing something today that you don’t hate, look at it closely and explore options for monetizing it. Do you enjoy gardening? Creating model figurines? Building furniture? Talking about sports or events or news? There’s a really simple way to monetize those things!!! Don’t make this hard on yourself by trying to explore a business area you have no idea about. Start with where you are, and work in what you know best.

Your core list should have 3 things on it, or more, so you can move onto step 2 with real options.

I want to start a business – Second Step: Take your list and build mini-sales channels.

“I want to start a business…involving dogs.” Or telling people what to do (life coach?) or playing with kids or whatever.  Take that list of things you may enjoy and expand the thought carefully in this step.

Go to each item and write down the following:

  • Services I can provide
  • Products I can provide
  • Answers I can provide

Examples

I’m going to use 3 examples of things people have as “side” businesses in the making: a real estate professional, a photographer, and a gadget guru.

I’m actually going to do a real brainstorm on each, so stay with me here!

Example list 1: Real estate / person with a real estate license
  • Services I can provide
    • help people find homes
    • get certified to manage rental properties for people
    • become the go-to for business brokers who need a real estate agent in order to close a business sale that involves land
  • Products I can provide
    • Write a book on the struggles of buying or selling homes
    • Billboard lease (buy a billboard or lot for erecting a billboard and lease monthly or quarterly to advertisers)
  • Answers I can provide
    • Blog about the top things that people underestimate about becoming a real estate agent
    • Host group info sessions that teach people how to become a smarter buyer / seller, or how to flip homes, or how to become an agent

So, all of these items are the example results for brainstorming on the idea of how to bring value through leveraging a real estate license.

Please, start in your own head first – you will be tempted to start by Google searching, but if you do that, you will follow what everyone else on earth has already tried, taught about, or mastered.

You want to focus on you. Your talents, your ideas, your abilities.

From there, you can Google the “how”, but just start simple with considering what is in your own head first. And write down everything that comes to mind without judging any idea. This step is for throwing stuff at the wall. Don’t worry about whether it will stick at this point – you can focus on that in the next step.

Example list 2: The photographer

Let’s explore hobby #2: the photographer. Here is what a hobby photographer list may look like:

  • Services I can provide
    • Wedding / event photographer
    • Family picture photographer
    • Site survey photographer
    • Business photographer (maybe for landscaping businesses, or taking aerial shots of a business with a drone, or team photos for a business website, etc.)
  • Products I can provide
    • Framed & delivered custom pictures (sell on Etsy, Shopify, or personal website)
    • Rent my camera & equipment out to others
  • Answers I can provide
    • Blog on journey and travels as I take pics on vacations/trips
    • Guest posts on how to shoot creatively
    • Train others on how to take great shots

***I want to touch on something about blogging and online shops: there is a lot of hype about the “ease” of selling products on a blog, or getting revenue by putting ads on a blog, or starting an Etsy shop or online store and driving traffic to it via a blog.

This route is something that takes a healthy topic strategy, a decent marketing skill set, and a bit of technical savvy. Yes, even for these “throw your items up and start selling today” solutions. You have to know how to drive eyeballs to your product or service for these to really work for you. If you feel this is a viable option for you, please do your research and make sure you feel like you understand the gist of how to create a successful blog or shop.

If Etsy in particular seems of interest to you, I recommend you definitely check out this guide which gives you clear, useful advice for to making money and having success on Etsy. 

Okay, onto hobbyist #3: the gadget guru.

Example list 3: The gadget guru

This will be a broad and crazy short list, as a tech savvy person may have a wide range of avenues to consider:

  • Services I can provide
    • Troubleshooting for people (visiting the local nursing home to help people with their phones, emails, pictures, etc.)
  • Products I can provide
    • Getting a 3D printer and offering custom products
    • Reselling phone / computer products refurbished
  • Answers I can provide
    • Offering tutorials for using new products
    • Sharing information on what you learned about a favorite gadget on YouTube

You get the picture.

I want to start a business – Third Step: Be Your Own Business Adviser

So once you have a shortlist of areas that could make money, now list out the pros, cons, costs, and time investment needed to make money.

The smartest way to approach this is to be detached. You can start plugging away at this step as soon as the list is done, but be sure to revisit it after a day or two and consider it with fresh eyes. Pretend like you are a not starting this business yourself, but instead are helping a friend think critically about possible business ideas.

Detaching your brain from starting one of these businesses yourself can help you see in black and white, instead of feeling overwhelm at the details you may or may not know. Most people find it easier to get excited at someone else’s idea or business concept. Hearing someone else’s business concept makes your imagination go crazy, and you may find you have a ton of advice or help to give that person – this is easy to do because you don’t have to worry about risk. You can see the potential in their business pretty simply because you are detached.

Get into this detached mindset and take the next actions of outlining pros, cons, costs, and time investment for each idea.

For the gadget guru, for example, the list may say this for the first item –

  • Service: troubleshooting for people in a nursing home
    • Pro: easy, wouldn’t need to do much to get started
    • Con: would need to cold-call / approach a facility which may feel a little uncomfortable (unless you have a connection you can leverage)
    • Cost: gas to get to where I am helping the people/person
    • Time investment: a Saturday or Sunday

Based on what you list out, it will become clear pretty quickly where your low hanging fruit lies with starting a new business.

Caution: Be careful to avoid listing cons like “I don’t know how to…” because that will be a roadblock in anything you do. It is not a con, it is simply a needed step in your journey, so do not view it as negative.

Take your time with this and see what unfolds.

You can start Googling after this point – take a look at what details you will need to address, like when to start your legal entity, and whether you could qualify for a small bank loan to fund your new business. This will help you to clearly see your options and will help you to create a business based on you and your talents, not based on what everyone else has tried and attempted.

To download a template you can fill in quickly and easily to complete this exercise, see below:

MARKET RESEARCH FOR A BUSINESS PLANDownload this template to walk though (strategically!) your true potential options in starting a new business.

 

And remember, once you have a great business idea nailed down, it’s time to start working on your business plan.

Ashley Cheeks

Author Ashley Cheeks

Ashley Cheeks is a Business Plan Consultant. Her core business plan writer expertise is in designing business plans for bank and investor funding. She founded Written Success after years of being a professional business plan writer as a freelance consultant, and working for companies including GE and Fluor. She lives in Houston with her husband, daughter and son.

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