So you’re ready to swap your corporate job for the entrepreneurial life. You want to be your own boss, make your own money and you’ve got bucketfuls of drive and determination. There’s just one problem: you know you want to start a business, but you have no idea what that business should be. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. But rather than despair, ask yourself these five questions to figure out the best business idea for you.
What topic can I happily live and breathe?
There’s a reason entrepreneurs often refer to their businesses as their babies. If you’re ready to start a business, you’ll also need to be ready to eat, breathe and sleep it. Business is physically and emotionally all-consuming, especially if you’re doing it entirely on your own. That’s why it is crucial to pick a business idea you truly care about and can happily spend lots of time on.
If you’re currently unsure of the business idea to move forward with, take a moment to consider the topics you are genuinely interested in. Business is hard, but it’s easier to hang in there if you’re doing something you care about. Remember to prioritise that over picking a business idea that everyone else is doing or that you believe will make you money with ease.
Am I too passionate about it?
This may seem like a strange problem to have, but as we’ve pointed out in the past, choosing to turn your passion into your job isn’t always a good idea. Businesses quickly become about money, targets and strategy, which can suck a little of the fun out of a passion. If there’s a hobby that you consider your escape – the thing you do to get away from the stress of life and work – you’ll most likely need to hold onto that fun activity as your go-to thing for destressing when the pressure mounts in your business (and it will).
But if you make that specific passion your business, you may eventually find yourself feeling stuck or resentful of the thing that once brought you great joy. Of course, there is no hard and fast rule – many people happily do their passion for a living – but it is important to consider this before you choose to turn your biggest passion into your new business.
What is a real problem I can solve?
Budding entrepreneurs are well known for getting carried away with an idea they believe is great and forgetting to seek the opinion of potential customers until it’s too late. It doesn’t matter how groundbreaking your idea is, if it doesn’t solve a problem, you’ll always struggle to convince people to buy your product or service – this is why many businesses fail early on.
The problem your business solves doesn’t have to be a game-changer – the most successful businesses at present solve very simple problems, such as boredom (think Netflix) and hunger (think McDonald’s). Similarly, you don’t have to focus on traditional problems – companies like Instagram are breaking new ground by monetising the human need for community, voyeurism, egotism and social belonging.
Tip: Check out the book The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick for killer strategies on how to make sure your business idea is a good one BEFORE you launch it.
Will people pay for this?
Even when you’ve identified a great idea that solves a great problem, you still can’t get going until you’re pretty sure that your idea is something someone will pay for. So, how can you do this? The key to knowing if people will pay for your idea is to focus on the problem it solves. If the problem your business idea solves is big, common or inconvenient, it’s likely that you have an idea that’s easily monetisable. So, ask yourself, what are the problems you encounter every day that you’d happily pay for. Your big business idea may lie there.
Tip: Avoid validating your business idea by simply asking people if they would pay for your idea. This is the quickest way to receive skewed feedback. As Rob Fitzpatrick points out in The Mom Test, people will rarely tell you the truth about your business idea if you ask them directly. This is why it’s vital to focus on exploring peoples’ needs and if those needs are pressing enough to get them to part with their money.
Do I have enough money to fund this?
Money shouldn’t be your first consideration, but ask any business owner and they will confirm that starting and running a business usually takes a lot more money than first imagined. Some businesses require greater financial input either because of the overheads associated with the daily running of the business or because you need to pay to create a product (as well as to store, market and ship it) before you can sell it.
It’s therefore important to make sure that if you plan on funding your business yourself, you have enough money to do this AND to live off as well. If you don’t, you will need to explore how you can fund the business before you get moving on your idea OR you may need to focus on a business model that requires less initial capital.
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