The most common question I get asked by aspiring digital nomads is the following:
“What should I base my business around?”
Unless you have to commit huge sums of money upfront, the answer almost doesn’t matter. Does. Not. Matter. Here’s why.
Most people want to have everything lined up before they start. They want a perfect business plan that will guarantee them success. Well, it rarely happens that way. It takes a lot of trial and error to hit upon the right plan and idea for your business, specially if this is your first attempt. Don’t sweat it.
Having a business plan is no guarantee of success. In fact, it’s simply just an educated guess as to how you *think* things may go. So don’t waste your time planning things to death. Sketch out a broad outline, get on the driver seat and smash the gas pedal. That’s progress.
The advantage of starting an online business is that you’re not locked into a specific business model forever. Unlike a traditional brick-and-mortar retail business, with an online business there is no lease to sign, inventory to purchase, signage to commission, or business cards to print. It requires very little in the way of start-up money. So if an idea strikes your fancy, it doesn’t matter how you start, or what your initial business plan says. You can always tweak it and adjust on the fly.
The initial “what” doesn’t matter as much as the act of actually starting something. But what is that “something“? I can almost hear you ask.
The basic premise to get started with any business is that you
a) have an idea you wholeheartedly believe in,
b) that is commercially-viable.
Your “something”, or idea, will be shaped by what you believe is worth telling other people about. But you first have to believe in the merits of your idea. You can’t launch unless you’ve given yourself the green light to go ahead and pursue it.
Do You Believe in Your Idea?
Do you care enough? Do you believe enough in your idea to speak of it to anyone who will listen? Whether it’s saving kittens, building the next operating system, or writing the next Great American Novel, you have to believe in that which you’re presenting to others. If you don’t care, why should anyone else?
Many people fall into the trap of trying to develop a “me-too” business. They see the success of others and want to copy the same business model. This is a hard way to make a living. No one can be as good a representation of you as yourself. There’s nothing wrong with having role models, but if I were to shave my head, wear nerdy glasses and insist people call me Seth, that would just be… creepy.
You are your best asset. Your combination of skills, experience and talent makes you one-of-a-kind. What you decide to do with it is up to you.
That idea you may wholeheartedly believe in doesn’t have to be a brand-new thing that no one’s ever heard of, ever. What you bring to the table is what makes the difference. Your life experiences are what breathe new life and perspective into any project you have control over.
Odds are you’ve often noticed products and services that don’t work as well as they should. Maybe you’ve had a flash of inspiration about how something could be made better. That’s your brain doing what it’s made to do. Your brain is wired to seek solutions and improve processes.
Instead of whining about what is wrong, focus on possible solutions. Don’t ignore what your gut is telling you. Your brain is comstantly generating ideas and passing them through the filter of your experiences. It’s telling you there’s an opportunity to make things better, to improve your life and that of others. Seize those flashes of insight.
Is Your Idea Commercially Viable?
In other words, “will it sell?” A lot of people get hung up on this question. Because of doubts, they refuse to pull the trigger on an idea. Even if they totally believe in it.
You may think you need the perfect website, or a big enough audience. Both are myths.
There’s no such thing as a perfect website. And just because you have a big audience that doesn’t necessarily translate into customers automatically. Facebook has a HUGE user base, but they’re struggling right now to convert those users into customers. Depending on your business model, you can have more work than you’d ever want with as few as 10 customers.
There are a number of ways to try and figure out whether a product is viable, even before you launch it. I’ll give you a quick, effective way to know whether you should proceed with your idea. You should ask yourself “Would I buy this?”
If you’re not willing to use your own product or service, then it’s time to head back to the drawing board. Can you scratch your own itch? Just remember that even though you may start by addressing your own needs, eventually you’ll have to turn your focus outward. Your business will not survive if you’re it’s only customer. Provide a solution to others.
The two things I’d like you to take away from this are:
1. Believe wholeheartedly in the business project you’re about to start,
2. Create something that matters to you and that solves a problem for others.
What’s stopping you from giving your idea a go?
Image: Flickr @ A_of_DooM