The answer many successful business people always give: find something you're passionate about.
But some of us want more specific instructions than that.
So here's a set of specific instructions.
- Get a large piece of paper, some scotch tape, string, and a pencil. Tie the string on the pencil, and tape the paper and pencil somewhere very easily accessible to you but out of reach for the toddlers in case you have any. This brainstorming activity lasts a few days and needs writing, so you need to make sure you have pencil and paper handy whenever you need it.
- Adjust your mindset. In this brainstorming phase, you are not looking for a business; you are looking for a hobby with benefits! And you are looking for ways you can serve others.
Two of my online mentors, Rhea Perry and Bo Sanchez, have said the same thing: Don't look for ways to earn. Look for ways to serve.
The more you serve, the more you earn. The money is a delicious side benefit. But I can tell you from experience, the joy of serving is delicious too—but like all delicious things, you can't appreciate it until you've tasted it yourself.
- Start listing down things you enjoy doing. Do you enjoy
- taking care of babies?
- teaching a subject?
- giving massages?
- finding misused apostrophes on ad billboards?
- making up stories for your children?
- cooking huge meals?
- cleaning the house?
- washing your car?
- wrapping gifts?
- organizing parties?
My mom, for instance, loves cleaning the house and doing the laundry. On bad days, she goes to my sister's house and my house, takes out all our clothes hampers, and washes clothes like there's no tomorrow. It's almost tempting to gloom up her days just so we can escape doing the laundry ourselves, but we love her too much.
The point is, what others may find tedious, you may find enjoyable. Don't let others' opinions affect your "enjoyable" list.
Don't worry either about whether you're good enough at these to actually charge for them. If you enjoy doing these tasks, you're probably much better at them than somebody who doesn't like doing them at all.
And for somebody who doesn't like to do these but needs them to be done, your service will be a God-send—and you can charge higher for them too.
- List down things you wish you have ever wished you could buy or rent. Have you ever wished you could
- buy prepaid load online?
- rent a stroller for a three-day trip?
- buy a pre-decorated Christmas tree—or rent one, to avoid the hassles of storage?
- buy secondhand or vintage Reader's Digests?
- buy used but decent house clothes for your baby? (Babies, as you know, are often very sanitized and disinfected creatures. They seldom have body odor or athlete's foot. And they usually grow out of their clothes before the clothes have a chance to wear out.)
- rent a chocolate fountain for your baby's first birthday?
If you've ever wanted to buy or rent any of these, chances are somebody has wished the same thing too. List them down!
- After a week or so, you'll probably have come up with a pretty good list. Now you can start thinking about businesses you can do from these list items. If you like cleaning houses, you could offer general or weekly cleaning services. If you enjoy taking care of kids, why not open a family day care of sorts, where friends can take their kids when they want to go out by themselves for a movie and grandma isn't available?
In fact, you don't want a big market yet—not while you're starting and practicing. Remember, this is a side business. You don't want it to take too much time or too much overhead.
Of course, your side business can eventually turn into a fulltime business. Let it grow naturally. Starting slow will let you make less mistakes. Wanting to start big will only keep you from starting at all.
The important thing is to start!
I read this interesting story from The Simple Dollar:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced. All those on the right, solely on the work's quality.
He further said that on the final day of class, he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group. Fifty pounds of pots would earn them an A.
Those being graded on quality needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an A.
When grading time came, a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.
It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.The important thing—I can't say this often enough—is to start.
P.S. We all have our excuses not to start: "I don't have the time." "I don't have the money." "I don't have the skills." "I have small children in the house." "My husband/wife is not supportive." "My landlord will never allow it."
Before you let yourself listen to all sorts of reasons not to start walking towards your dream, watch this video by Wayne Dyer: Excuses Begone! (What's Stopping You from Being Where You Want to Be?).