By Olivia Angelescu
Just like Agatha Christie, one of my favorite fiction writers, once said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”. In order to build a successful business, you first have to find that business idea which seems just perfect for you: one that would build up on all the things you enjoy doing while allowing you to reach and even exceed your financial goals.
Many people who want to have their own business, tend to allocate too much time to the choosing-the-business-idea phase, thinking that this stage is the most crucial one. Actually all the phases of setting up a business are equally important, but we will definitely gain a lot more clarity out of doing and implementing than out of mentally playing with ideas.
Sometimes, especially when preparing for adventures (like becoming a new entrepreneur), we can get stuck in the preparation phase, trying to reach the perfect starting point. While this is normal, it can also become inefficient, as it can easily postpone the launch of our business.
Now, I am not telling you that you shouldn’t be serious about choosing your business idea. But you should not allocate a lot of time (more than a few days) to this if you don’t really need to. Of course, it is easier said than done, but this is something you can achieve if you have a good system for it. And this is exactly what I will give you in this article.
First, look in your calendar and choose the exact weekend you are going to dedicate to this exercise. Hint: what about next weekend? Why postpone this any longer? Circle the dates on the calendar and commit to setting aside enough time for yourself. Make any necessary arrangements: hire a nanny for the weekend (or ask the grandparents to look after the kids). Ask your husband to vacuum and clean the house (for a change). Pick up any needed groceries, and plan ahead for any other weekend activities, so that you make sure you have left at least 6 hours all for yourself.
Now carefully read the steps below and do all the required exercises.
Need some motivation? Visualize this: by the end of the weekend you will have a list of at least 3 business ideas which will make your heart and mind sing only when you think about them! Also, you can begin actually building your dream business as early as next Monday! How does this sound? Okay, let’s do this then!
Go through all the steps below.
1. Get clear on your big WHY (estimated time: 45 minutes).
Why do you want your own business? While for many the immediate reason which may come in mind is the extra money, try to not stop here. Go deeper than that. What all the extra money would mean for you? The freedom of working according to your own schedule instead of 9-to-5? The possibility of being there, all the time, for your family and don’t miss out on any special moments of your kids’ childhood, while making a decent income? The option (yes, only the option) of quitting your corporate job if one day you want to? Or helping other people with your products and services? It all begins with your main motivation. Every time when things get hard in your business, when you don’t have enough clients and are struggling with increasing your revenue, you’ll think about your WHY. This will give you the strength to carry on and don’t give up.
2. Brainstorming ideas (estimated time: 2 hours).
Grab a pen and a sheet of paper. Divide the paper sheet in 4 areas and fill in the following titles for each area:
- Things I enjoy doing: these are your passions, hobbies you have or you’d like to try out, areas of interest, topics you love to read about etc..
- Things I am good at: these are your skills, coming both from your personal (for example cooking, home decorating on a budget or efficiently organizing closets, makeup techniques) and professional life (sales, using technology, preparing business plans or being good with Excel reports).
- Things I know about: any knowledge you have acquired through formal or informal education (like accounting, chemistry, social media, a foreign language or art history).
- Challenges I have overcome: this would be any difficult situation you have surmounted in your personal or professional life (like losing weight, recovering from an illness by changing your whole approach to food, finding a job after being fired, improving your social skills, improving your relationships etc).
In this step, it is very important to not censure yourself. Even if you think that there isn’t any added value in some things you write down, other people would happily pay for it! The main idea here is to brainstorm everything and to take every idea out of your brain and onto the paper. Only by this will your brain become clear and focused on the next phases.
At some point your mind will try to tell you that you don’t have that many ideas. It is important to not go to the next step until you have at least 10 things listed for each of the four areas. Take a small break if needed and then continue with the exercise. It will be worth it, trust me.
3. Choose the business model which will be the right one for you (estimated time: 1 hour).
Behind any business we can find a smart entrepreneur and every entrepreneur’s needs and dreams are different. So now you will think about what your ideal business model feels just right for you. Things to consider:
- A small business (working alone or having up to 10 employees) or a bigger business?
- Working from home or having a separate office?
- An online business or a brick and mortar one?
- Selling a product (one you manufacture yourself or you buy from a supplier) or a service (like teaching or consulting)?
If you can’t seem to be able to decide over all the above aspects, try the following visualization exercise:
- Close your eyes and relax. Imagine we are 2 years from now. You worked really hard and now you have your own successful business you just LOVE. Imagine yourself during one day of your life: waking up in the morning, preparing for work, leaving for work, entering your office, looking at your to-do list for the day. What images come to your mind? Where and are you working from? What are you doing? How are you feeling?
Then open your eyes and build up around those images until you have your ideal business model clear.
4. Refining your ideas (estimated time: 1 hour).
Now you have a list of possible business ideas to work with and you also know what business type is better for you. It is time we prioritize. Go through the list of ideas you have on your list and cross off any idea which:
- Is not in line with your ideal business model.
- You don’t see yourself doing over the long term.
- Requires elements which are not feasible for you at this time (like for example a big initial investment for which you don’t have the money, or a special license you can’t obtain due to objective reasons).
You should have a list of up to 10 business ideas left. Make a top of the remaining ideas, by rearranging them based on your preferences. If you find it difficult to choose between 2 ideas think about it like this: if you had enough money to start only one of them, which one would you choose?
5. Test your top 3 business ideas (estimated time: 3 hours).
This is the initial validation phase. I could easily write a whole new article (even a small book!) on this topic, as is a broad one, but our main focus here is just to initially test your business ideas in order to decide which one you’ll move on with. More in depth testing will be required when building your business, in order to decide what features your product/service must have or what prices to charge. But you shouldn’t bother about all these just now..
Ask yourself: are there enough people who are already spending their money on products and services in this area? Think about the business you already know who are selling the same products or services and try to find out what revenues they generate on a yearly basis. Or go to websites like amazon.com and ebay.com and see what are the top products that people are buying. Ask questions on forums like reddit.com. See how the competition looks like. If you can’t seem to find good competitors, it is not necessarily a good thing, as this may mean that there is not enough demand for such products/services. Eliminate those business ideas who don’t look promising in terms of profits.
Finally, one business idea should stand out from the others. This is the one you’ll start working on. You don’t have to print your business cards just yet, as it will require additional researching and testing before the actual launch. But you’ve made a huge step. You did what 90% of people wanting to have their own business never do. You committed to this, you took the time and you moved forward (in a smart way!).
The hardest part has not begun yet but remember: you have all it takes. So have faith and jump! You’ll either succeed or you’ll fail. Either way, you’ll not live with the regret of never trying.
Especially for you, the readers of The Work at Home Woman, I have prepared a worksheet you can use for the Saturday exercises listed above. You can download it here.
Olivia’s mission is to change the world by helping more people start and grow a freedom business they love, at their own pace. She provides FREE business and personal development training for entrepreneurs at www.passioncreativitybusiness.com.