I’m starting a business online. Have you thought about starting an online business? For the last five years I’ve had over one hundred ideas for a business (I know the number because I wrote them down). I’m moving forward on one of my ideas- it happens to be an online business.
Why online? Other than the fact that so far my entrepreneurial experience and skillset has been based online… I did the work to see what ideas would be viable for the business (and for me to remain interested and committed) before moving forward.
It’s been five years since I have been in the small business space. I’ve freelanced and started blogs and Youtube Channels in the meantime. However, none of my work has been profit focused. In freelance video editing I took opportunities as they came to me and in content creation my only stream of revenue I had was in Adsense.
This time I’m starting a business that could theoretically be ran without me and has a strong mission, market, and actually – gasp – could make a profit if executed well.
Here is what I’ve done in the “starting up” phase so far…
Ideas for a Business
As I mentioned I made an ever changing list of business ideas. I have known since graduating college my career goals involve owning whatever I am doing. I started recording my ideas when I knew I wanted to get back to work when my youngest son was around two years old.
I’ve kept journals that list notes from webinars I listen to, quotes from books, ideas I have and gratitude lists. I would take a few pages and write a long list of numbers and record over time what I’m grateful for. I did the same thing when I really wanted to get back into doing something and felt stuck. I wrote a list of one to fifty and filled in the first few numbers. As the day went on I continued to add. Months and years later I kept adding to the list. That list eventually transferred to a spreadsheet that I added to.
Just this year I started taking my ideas and doing some thoughtful research. I looked up competitors, wrote pro and con lists along side each idea. My spreadsheet was adding columns, tabs, and taking on a life of its own.
In gathering ideas this is what I did:
- Write a blank list. Number it one to ten at first, just a few over the idea or ideas you have in your head today.
- Start writing everything down that immediately comes to you.
- Then write down the things you love to do and you are good at that you feel like no one would ever pay you for. For example, I wrote down vacuuming. I love vacuum lines and the meditative quality of going through a room to vacuum. Meal planning was a number item on my list and Mickey Mouse waffle maker.
- Then research what others are doing. I would look up entrepreneurial moms, scour Instagram for people doing interesting things, and search through Podcasts. Write down your favorite businesses that others are already in.
- Give yourself time. Come back to the list when you think of new ideas.
- Start looking into each idea as you have time to do so.
- Take notes on skills needed, competitors, pricing, and time required.
I had a plethora of ideas that could work- for someone. The problem with collecting ideas is that not every idea is going to fit your skill set or your desired lifestyle…
Before You Think About Starting a Business
All of the ideas in my head were great for one reason or another. The pros and cons lined up well at first glance too. However, my outlook changed the more I thought about it. When I’d picture myself starting and running the business in question the image in my mind rarely lined up with my ideal day-to-day life today.
I need to have a business that will allow me to take time in the middle of the work day to homeschool my children uninterrupted. The bulk of my working hours need to be done in the evening, early morning, and when they are in their groups and programs.
I wanted the immediate gratification of being able to start today. Removing the burden of waiting to save or raise money to get started.
Also, serving a different crowd of people has been something that has appealed to me for a while now. I’ve been a business-to-business service provider since day one. My fellow business owners are fun, but I wanted to see what it was like to work with consumers.
Finally, I wanted my business to be a product, or a productized service. Something I create and have full control over. I’ve been billing hourly over the past few years editing videos. It worked well, but I’d like to move on to another revenue model. Not to mention, I’ve known all along that what I make needed to be more than just creative content via a blog or vlog.
I knew I had a focused set of skills, but wanted to see where I could apply it in a creative way that was needed and made money.
One more thing- the most important thing- I wanted to have fun. I want my business to be a source of joy and fun for myself and my family. When I first joined the family business we offered web hosting. Hosting was a dry service to offer that we made fun through our marketing and educational channels. However, at the end of the day, the real work was not fun. Then, when we got into live webcasting the work was fun. Both businesses were hard and stressful, but when you’re having fun with the actual work you do to make money, it makes the day that much more rewarding. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but for me it is.
So, this is what I did with my list of ideas… with my list and each new idea that came up I would think of and write out the following:
Note:I’m a working mom that wants to start something today with little to no capital… your list might look different than mine.
- What skillsets do you have? What are you really good at and enjoy? Can the work be done by others and the business still turn a profit?
- When do you want to get started? Why?
- How much money and time will it take to get started?
- Who do you want to serve?
- What problems does this market have? Does your idea solve their problem?
- When would you need to do the actual work? Does the customer or client require you to be available during a typical 9-5 working day? Do you need to work weekends? Would you need to hire contractors or employees from day one?
- Do you have creative control over the end product?
- What are the working conditions like? Do this require travel? Do you need to be on the computer to fulfill the request? Do you get to talk to people?
- Is this fun? Would the business at large be something fun and enjoyable, or only parts?
- Will this make money? Real money (you know what I mean… a profit)?
The most frustrating thing was none of my ideas ended up matching up with my bigger goals and desires for business. In my impatience and frustration I would tell myself just pick one and make it work for you. After months of getting mad at myself for not finally just picking one idea to move forward on I told myself to stop.
I told myself to sit on what I wanted and let an idea come to me… because it would (thank you Elizabeth Gilbert).
So now I have this great idea that fits nicely in all of my little business buckets. Now what?
Steps for Starting a Business
That’s something I actually searched for- “steps for starting a business.” I have a fun idea, I think it could make money, it fits with my hour constraints, I get to create something, it matches my skillset… now what do I do? What’s the first step?
In my previous career-life I planned and sat in on (and even hosted) a number of live webcasts as a producer that were geared toward answering this exact question.
Like everyone else who was asking the live webcast guest the same question- “What do I do to get started? What’s my first step? How do I get started?” – I already knew the answer. I just needed to start doing something. Anything!
So, that’s what I’m doing.
First I’ve penciled a business plan together. It’s a very loose, napkin-like business plan, but its a start. I’ve made notes on all of my ideas and have something down on paper. If you’re at this same point and don’t know what to include in your rough plan just do a quick search for “what to include in a business plan.”
I have even done a small amount of assumption testing- seeing if what I think people want or need would actually sell. Also, testing myself to see if I’m able to fulfill what I’m hoping to offer.
That’s where I’m at now, the actual action taking part. This is what I’ve done in terms of taking action:
- Write out business ideas in full. Brain dump.
- Research competitors.
- Look into vendors.
- Run the math.
- Draft a business plan.
- List all of the things you need to do to make your first sale. Even make ideas on what your “minimum viable product” would be to get to your first sale. Something that you can offer your audience to test the direction you are headed in.
- List the things to do in order of priority for doing it to make the first sale.
That’s where I’m at in my process of starting a business.
I’m excited to keep you updated with how everything goes and will elaborate on some of the ideas I’ve listed above in future blogs.
Do you have a business? What was the most important thing you did to start? Thinking of starting up? What are you doing first?