how to start a business where to start

Does this sound familiar? You want to start a side business or become a solopreneur, but you don't know what you're interested in. You want to “follow your passions”, but can't figure out what you're passionate about. Sure, you have interests, but you fear that if you start a business around one of the interests, you'll lose interest and don't want to pigeonhole yourself.

You're Probably Taking This “Passion” Thing Too Seriously

There's advice dripping from the ceilings from bloggers, authors, career experts, CEOs, teachers, and anybody who has a voice saying: Find work that you love! Follow your passions! And of course, I agree. If you don't do what you love, you're in for a long, hard career. But it's incredibly difficult to find your passions when you are starting from nothing. Just like you need to be able to walk before you can run, you need to go through the motions of starting anything before you will completely nail it. Behind almost every single success story you hear, there are false starts, explorations, and failed projects. You're probably not going to get it right the first time you try, but if you don't start something, you will never get it right. What is scarier: starting something that you end up becoming less than enthusiastic about, or never reaching your potential because you didn't start anything at all?

You've Gotta Kiss a Lot of Frogs..

This is the worst saying ever, but I'm going to quote it because it illustrates my point so well: You've got to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. Except in this situation, frogs are starting side hustles, and your prince is the work that you love, freedom from the shackles, and financial and time independence. Here's the beautiful thing about starting something on the side: You are not nailed to it.  Starting something on the side does NOT mean you have to do that thing forever and ever. What starting something on the side will do, however, is help you learn and practice, sharpen your skills, and weed out the junk that doesn't matter. It will help you find what you really love to do, and if you suck at what you start first (which you probably will), at least you practiced on the imperfect project before you got into what you really love.

How to Get Over Your Obsession With Starting The Right Thing and Start Something

Okay, so you know that you need to get over your obsession with starting the perfect project or side business, because you probably aren't going to get it right the first time. Here is a quick, twenty minute exercise to figure out what to start so you don't just leap into something you'll immediately hate:

1. Write Down Five Things That You Are Interested In Right Now

Grab a piece of paper, start an Evernote document, or open up Word. Or, click here to subscribe and get access to a workbook I've created to help you through this process.

List five things that interest you right now.

  • Write down the first five things that come to mind
  • Don't be vague. Instead of writing down food, write down sushi or ice cream
  • These do not have to be things that you have always been interested in. Just list things that you've been studying or thinking about. Have you been challenging yourself to going gluten free? Write it down, even if you think it's just a phase.

2. Create a Table

Or just download a pre-made table that I've created for you by clicking here to sign up and get it emailed to you.

If you want to create the table for yourself, draw 5 columns. One will be the one you write your row topics in, and the other four will be populated with the five things you just wrote down. Then, in the rows, write:

a) Topic ideas

b) Income ideas

c) Platforms

d) Interest rating

3. Rate Each Interest

Rate each interest in the appropriate column as follows: a) Topic ideas Brainstorm as many topics related to each interest you can think of. If one interest is sushi, you might be able to think of 8 topics off the top of your head: how to make sushi, the origins of sushi, how to roll sushi in the perfect way, best types of equipment to use for making sushi, flavour and texture combinations for sushi, the nutrition of sushi, which type is best for you, and how to price sushi. Write them all down. b) Income ideas In this column, you need to consider how you could generate an income from the interest. What could you do to make money? Using the sushi example, it might be: creating an eBook on the best sushi restaurants around the world, creating a sushi blog and advertising on it, selling a sushi-making course or Webinar. During this exercise, consider:

  1. Who would my target market be? (Ie sushi restaurant owners, college students in culinary school, gastronomy travellers)
  2. Could my target market pay, and if so, would they ? (College students may not be able to pay. Sushi restaurant owners would probably be able to pay, but they probably wouldn't).

List these, but make sure they are realistic. Don't be writing “professional sushi taste tester” in the income column. That is not a thing. c) Platforms In this column, write down what type of platform this interest would be best suited to. Remember that this is something that you are starting right now, and that it doesn't have to be the perfect thing. If you are brainstorming for sushi, it's probably not realistic to be considering opening a sushi restaurant, but a platform to get yourself started might be a blog. If your major interest is sketching, maybe your platform is starting an Etsy shop with your sketches. If you love writing and juicing, maybe you start a juicing podcast. Hate writing? Start a Youtube channel. A podcast. A forum. Do anything that will help you build some sort of following or audience – this is the point of figuring out a platform. Because almost all businesses these days start with building an audience. d) Interest rating Out of five how interested are you in each topic? 1 is mildly interested, 5 is so interested that you read or watch anything you can get your hands on to do with the topic. The higher the interest rating, the more likely you are to stick with it.

Now Start on the Clear Winner

After doing this, you'll probably notice at least one clear winner. Two if you're lucky. Don't just file this information away and move on. Start on the winner. Starting something is better than starting nothing.

3 thoughts on “Not Sure Where to Start? Here's Where.

  1. Aaron Billings says:

    Sarah, I’m looking for your sidebar with you short About section. I was going to follow your example.
    Did you change your strategy?

    • Sarah says:

      Hey Aaron – I find sidebars distracting, so I removed it. All of the information is in my “About” page. I just used Illustrator to put a photo of me and then include a very short “tagline” style blurb about myself and Unsettle, though.

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