Everyone seems to be working on a business nowadays and that’s amazing. I mean, why not? It’s easier than ever to get a marketable product or service up and running, thanks to various cloud software and productivity suites. So what’s stopping even more people from starting their own business?
One of the “easier-said-than-done” parts is actually coming up with an idea in the first place. It can be frustrating when you desperately want to start your own business and you don’t have an idea. So what should you do if you want to start? You need to refine your process of tracking and evaluating ideas that you do come up with, and also sharpen your entrepreneurial skills to prepare yourself for when you do finally act on that ‘aha!’ moment. Here are my suggestions:
First, be very sure that you don’t already have an idea
Really? You’re honestly going to tell me that you don’t have an idea that you’ve been itching to start? When most people who claim they don’t have a business idea are pushed to tell their best one at that very moment, they will have something to say. But for some reason—usually unfounded—they’ve convinced themselves that it’s not a feasible idea and that they shouldn’t act on it.
In this situation, it usually helps to flip your thought process—instead of thinking why a certain idea can’t work, think of reasons why it will work. If you’re going to wait until you come up with that great idea, you’ll never ever get started. After all, Amazon started out as just another website selling books, Facebook wasn’t even the first social media network, and Google was just another version of Ask Jeeves. These companies just executed their idea better than anyone else and adapted their business model as they went.
Even if your business ends up failing, I guarantee you that you’ll have learned more than you possibly could have from reading any blog post about starting a business—and that’s invaluable. So I’d say run with that idea that you don’t think will work. You will be more prepared the next time around if it doesn’t work out, and be pleasantly surprised if it does.
Seriously don’t have an idea? Fine. Keep track of your ideas as you come up with them
You need to keep a running list of ideas that you come up with, regardless of how big or small, feasible or unfeasible, life changing or completely irrelevant they are. I use a Google Doc, but Evernote would work just as well. Jot down your ideas in a few sentences, and under it you should bullet point a makeshift business plan with some key marketing tactics, goals, and objectives. This really gets your creative juices flowing, and you can continually build on an idea as it develops in your head. It probably won’t happen all in one sitting.
Every once in a while, go through your ideas, expand on your thoughts, and add to them. Here are some important things to consider:
What is the absolute minimum amount of time and money necessary to get this idea up so I can test it?
What is the absolute minimum amount of time and money necessary to market this idea so people know it exists?
How am I going to market this?
How am I going to automate this?
How am I going to scale this up once I verify the idea?
I’m a firm believer that for a majority of business ideas, the best path to market is the cheapest and quickest route possible, even if that means slight imperfections. Gone are the days where a significant amount of time and/or money is necessary to launch a business.
Over time, that stupid idea you almost overlooked is all of a sudden a well thought out and executable business idea. This is exactly how my company Raw Athletics was conceptualized.
Once you have an idea you think you can execute, just do it. If you start your own business and relentlessly try to make it succeed, you’ve already won. Like I’ve already said, I guarantee you that by simply being through the process of starting up, you’ll gain so much invaluable knowledge and so many new skills that you’ll be able to better analyze and execute your future ideas.
Still don’t have an idea? Consider becoming a cofounder at another startup
Another great option is to team up with another startup. A great resource I love browsing through is CoFoundersLab, a website that connects aspiring entrepreneurs with pre-existing startups looking for cofounders. Some startups are early stage, some are later stage.
I’d also be willing to bet that you have a friend or a friend-of-a-friend somewhere who needs a partner to start up an idea that they already have. Why not ask around? Ping your network and see what kind of leads you get—your network can be very powerful for situations like this.
You could also check out the Angel.co job board
Angel.co is a leading platform in startup funding. Think of it as a social network for startup businesses, angel investors, and venture capitalists. They have a very robust jobs board that only posts open positions at startups. You can expect to earn a salary and equity, which give you very nice upside potential with the security of a steady salary. LinkedIn’s jobs board is also a great place to check out—just make sure your LinkedIn profile looks polished.
Or freelance for other companies…
Working as a freelancer is basically working like a consultant. It’s a great opportunity to hone your entrepreneurial skills, get involved with other startups, and make some money doing so.
One of the greatest lessons you will learn from being a freelancer is the art of the pitch. You will be competing with plenty other freelancers on any given project, so you will need to learn how to present yourself in a positive fashion if you want to win any business. No matter what your next job or startup role is, being able to pitch yourself and your ideas is a skill you will be able to leverage. Along with these skills, you will also undoubtedly be hired to help businesses through tasks and issues that you will likely run into yourself on your own startup.
I hope these tips help you conceptualize a great idea and empower you to take the next step to starting your own business.