Do you go through every day feeling like you were meant to be your own boss? Man, I sure as hell do.
The problem for me a couple of years ago was not knowing what kind of small business to start. If you are like me, you have literally been banging your head against the wall trying to figure it out. The answer I came up with won’t make you feel any better, but neither will spending another year kicking your own ass for lacking any ideas that motivate you to get started.
The type of business you start doesn’t matter all that much. Sorry. You can look at popular lists of ideas like this one all day long, but what you will find in the end is that they all come down to one task for success. Promotion and sales.
I Learned This Lesson the Hard Way
Every business is a people business. Period. Promotion, traffic, customers, sales, and everything else that comes with closing whatever type of deal that results in getting paid eventually hits every entrepreneur square in the face.
I know. I sound like a total downer, but you can be the best concrete finisher in the world that nobody has ever heard of. Being awesome at something is art, and being paid for it is a business. Art is what you do for yourself, and business is what you do for others.
Making your business focus on solving problems for other people and your ability to find those people in need are what will determine your success regardless of what else your business does. And that is why the type of business you choose doesn’t really matter.
It also helps to answer some questions about why you want to own your own small business too. These are some of the questions I should have answered before starting BidVoice:
- Do I want a product or service?
- Would I prefer to live anywhere, a busy metropolis, or hidden away in the countryside?
- Is there any people in my circle that have a common problem that I could solve?
- Do I want to be self-employed, financially independent, or be a traditional business owner?
- How much spare time do I have to commit to the business?
- Do I have any specific skills that would give me an unfair advantage over most people?
- Am I willing to constantly learn about business and people?
- Will I regret monetizing something that I have been passionate about in the past as a hobby?
To me, those questions are more important than what exact business you will have some day.
Basically, I wanted a service that allowed me to be financially independent and self-employed. Most of us assume we have little spare time, but that is not true at all. I work 50-55 hours every week at my day job and had no problem blocking out an extra 10-15 hours each week to work on BidVoice. Most people play video games, troll social media, or watch TV that much already.
As a web developer, I decided to make a website because I enjoy doing it and it gives me a nice advantage over most people. There is also a half dozen or so small business owners in my family and most of them have hit me up about installing various programs so that they could invoice customers.
So, I finally got tired of pounding my head against the wall and took the easy way out. My business idea was literally knocking at my door for several years before sinking in. Pay attention to the needs within your circle because there is probably a business opportunity in there somewhere.
One day it literally hit me like a lightning bolt. “Hey stupid! Every small business owner you know is asking for a simple solution to invoicing customers by email. Stop moping and make it happen.” Much of the tension in my life disappeared at that moment. I now had direction and purpose.
Then I spent the next year, including all 3 weeks of my vacation, building BidVoice like a madman, which is where I went wrong.
I didn’t realize that every business is a people business, and this is the moral of this story. Start networking now. Yes now. Before you even have a product, service, or idea in your head.
If you have read this far, some day you will have all of those things mentioned above, and you will thank God for every person in your network when it is time to launch. Remember. Whatever it is you decide to monetize, it will take people knowing about it to bring you home from the day job.
This is the reason my startup journey begins on the road to 10 paying subscribers instead of 1000. I took the scenic route so, hopefully, you don’t have to.
What I Believe Makes a Good Side Business Good
The best side business is the one that makes sense to you. You are the one that has to get up every day and promote it as an extension of “you Inc.” I am not a huge fan of turning hobbies into businesses, but you do need to be passingly interested in what you decide to do. If you choose to monetize a hobby, just be aware that turning it into a business runs the risk of ruining your hobby because doing things for money is a huge departure from doing the same things for pleasure.
Another very important aspect of owning your own business is being able to help others solve their issues. Let’s face it, we are a community and helping others makes us feel good. Sure, new bathrooms cost a fortune, but the people buying them obviously see the value in it and couldn’t do it themselves.
A good side business allows you to make some income and progress towards early retirement from the job scene. Giving things away for free makes it appear to not have value. If people aren’t willing to pay for your product or service, then they aren’t your customer. Learn a lesson from your dog: kick some grass over that shit, and move on!
Don’t do anything too cheap either because once you start offering discounts and specials, you will always have to offer discounts and specials. You don’t want to end up like those furniture stores that have the constant “going out of business” sales all the time. They have conditioned people to expect good sales, so now they only sell furniture during those sales.
Try to go in with an angle that allows you to avoid being the “cheap” company. I chose my angle as simple invoicing without all the fluff because all the big cloud accounting companies charge 5X what I do for all sorts of needless features. Sure, they allow free invoicing, but that means you will pay $30 a month for the rest of their site that you don’t even need.
A side business should also help you get out of debt before making the full-time business owner leap so that you have a much better chance of maintaining your independence during the dry spells. Shit happens, and preparing for it up front can make a big difference in your future.
Your side business should not be designed to appeal to everybody. Industry giants spend vast fortunes marketing to “everyone” with their junk. Don’t spend your time getting your ass kicked all day in a bland space.
I read somewhere that the opposite of love is hate, and you can’t give people something to love if you aren’t giving others something to hate. I only offer proposals and invoicing at BidVoice. The freelance crowd likely hates the lack of features, but that’s okay because the painting company down the street is totally thrilled with the lack of complexity when all they want to do is send invoices by email.
My website is clearly designed for a specific target audience. Being a bit exclusive is a good thing because it is more valuable to your real customers, and you don’t need to scam or mass advertise to everyone in the middle.
What A Good Side Business Is Not
First off, a good side business is NOT one that makes you miserable. It’s NOT something that makes you go broke either.
And it is definitely not a cheap resource for everyone you know to get a good deal at your expense. It’s like being a hairdresser and having all your relatives show up at your front door instead of the salon looking for free services. It’s okay if they come to the house since they’re family, but they need to bring the green with them.
When things like this happen, show up at their house the next week and make them do whatever it is they do to earn a living for free. Make something up if you have to. They’ll get the message and pretty soon the whole family with begin respecting your business and craft.
To close, a good side business
- is something that will fulfill most of your needs that led you to think about starting a business in the first place.
- is something that helps solve an issue for others that you are willing and capable of solving while earning you a profit without making you miserable.
- is made for a specific customer with a specific problem instead of every human on the planet.
- is valuable enough that people will pay for your products or services, but not so expensive that they will go elsewhere.
After that, we come full circle: every business is a people business. Period. Start building your network now so that you can eventually begin your own startup journey at 1000 customers instead of 10.
That concludes the lesson I learned this month.
Keith | BidVoice