How to start a business… on your coffee break 1



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Seth Godin (acclaimed author and teacher) says to start your first business this way:

  1. Begin with the smallest possible project in which someone will pay you money to solve a problem they know they have.
  2. Charge less than it’s worth and more than it costs you.
  3. The beauty about doing so with an online business is that not only is it simple to do; it can be done far more cheaply than to go a more traditional route.

Don’t worry so much about the ‘online’ part. It is only a tool, a mechanism to reach people who need to know about you’re your business is doing. Instead, figure out how to create value. The online part will take care of itself.

Also, don’t quit your day job (whatever that means to you) or use all your savings. Start evenings and weekends. If you don’t want to have to start from scratch, buy a small online business to practice on. The best way to move from Learner to Practitioner is to DO stuff and figure it out with small failures.

Doing so also helps you build a public reputation (which can remain online only). Build a good one, and be sure that you deserve it, and that it will hold up to scrutiny.

If you can figure out how to create value face to face, it’s a lot easier to figure out how to do the same digitally. The web isn’t magic, it’s merely efficient.

Then, all you need to do is become the best in the world at something that people value. It might seem easier said than done, but it’s worth more than you might think.

Ensure you hang out with people who aren’t looking for shortcuts and learn from them. Find and pay for advice that has not only credentials but also a robust track record.

And perhaps most importantly: fail. Fail often and fail cheaply. This is the very best gift the web has given to people who want to bootstrap their way into a new business.

Another thing which is valuable is learning to code, to write persuasively, to understand new technologies, to bring out the best in a team (especially if offshore), to find underused resources and to spot patterns.

Here’s a novel first seven steps to get you going:

  1. Pick your Topic
    Create a strategic map of all that is going on within that topic and start checking for gaps and patterns
  2. Keywords
    Concentrating on both the industry players and their likely customers, create a list of keywords that is used to find them and are relevant to your topic
  3. Search
    Using these keywords, start searching and note what you find. Again what are the questions being asked that does not appear to have answers?
  4. Top 50 pages
    Record what the top 50 pages are that come up for the questions. Explore them for the answers being sought. What’s missing?
  5. Extract contact details
    Feed into your database/spreadsheet
  6. Create an “offer”, with the view to discussing what’s missing with the top 50, highlighting how you are the one to assist in plugging this gap (and to project manager it for payment).
  7. Rinse and repeat

Following steps like these will enable you to potentially play in a space you may be more familiar in i.e. the more traditional business, and together, craft and execute an online business model that you has you part of the action.

And it certainly opens the door to a useful conversation about whether your personal goal is useful, your strategy is appropriate and your tactic is coherent and likely to cause the change sought.

In your offer, address:

What’s it for?
When it works, will we be able to tell?
What’s it supposed to do?

Who is it for?
What specific group is this designed to resonate with?

What does this remind you of?
Who has tried this before?
Is it as well done?

What’s the call to action?
Is there a moment when you are clearly asking people to do something?

Show this to ten strangers. Don’t say anything. What do they ask you?
Now, ask them what the material is asking them to do.

What is the urgency?
Why now?

Your job is not to answer every question; your job is not to close the sale. The purpose of this work is to amplify interest, generate interaction and spread your idea to the people who need to hear it, at the same time that you build trust.

You will rarely achieve this with one fell swoop, so be prepared to drip your way through countless swoops until you’ve earned the privilege of engaging with the audience you seek and them seeing the value in what you’re proposing.

As simple as Seth’s advice is, it is also extremely powerful. Follow it, together with the steps outlined and you will be well on your way.


Share your thoughts below.

Denise Hall

Denise Hall BTD CPBB(AIBB) CAR(REIV) MIMC "Saleability" and Broker of Online Businesses "Bringing Business Buyers & Sellers together, within Market Realities"

  1. In 1998 while I was studying for a Master’s in internet commerce, I wrote a couple of ebooks (training and recruitment related) and put them on my sales site. Every day after work I’d get home and crank up the computer to see what I had made. Nothing!
    This went on for five or six weeks and one day I came home and bingo, an email message from Clickbank telling me I’d made a sale. Twenty dollars felt like a thousand.

    Since then I’ve sold thousands of ebooks online and made some respectable income, however, eventually it all became boring and I’ve not bothered to update my ebooks and have taken them off line.

    The point is, you can make money online if you persist and have a product/service that a large number of people are willing to pay for. Finding something not already done is difficult, but worth the effort.

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