“I want to do something, but I don’t know what.”
Since we launched The Business Boutique, I’ve gotten this comment more than any other. Many people are motivated to start a side business and want the flexibility of working from home, but they don’t know what they want to do.
While I can’t tell you what your specific business should be exactly, I can give you some things to consider to help you discover it. These questions helped me decide to start my first side-business boarding horses and my second side-business doing life and business coaching. These will help you think through the possibilities that will make you the most successful.
If you want to start a side gig but aren’t sure what to do, think through these five questions.
1. What are your strengths?
What skills, education or experience do you have? This is the best starting point to look at what kind of business to start. It will save you the most money, because you already have the talents to build the business. And you will enjoy it the most, because people tend to have more fun when they are doing things that they are actually good at!
I’m not good at singing, so no one is going to hire me for voice lessons anytime soon. But I am great at coaching others towards their goals. Understanding that strength is what led me to become a credentialed life and business coach and start my second side-business years ago. Identify your strengths as a starting point for figuring out your business.
2. What do you enjoy?
Instead of trying to dream up something you would like to do from all of the infinite possibilities out there, instead try to remember what you’ve always liked to do. What hobbies did you enjoy as a child? I’ve loved horses and farms for as long as I can remember so a horse boarding business was a perfect fit for me. What types of things would you do just because they were fun?
When I asked women that I interviewed in my research how they got the idea to start their side business, they all said the exact same answer: “I have always
loved . . .” “I have always loved music. I have always loved organizing. I have always loved design.” When you think of things that you “have always loved,” it helps you get one step closer to figuring out what kind of business to start.
3. Where is the money?
The point of business is to make money. Of course we want to help people, but the way we are able to do so is from the profits we create. Your business idea has to have some type of financial return and profit-earning potential or it won’t work.
What problems can you solve? What needs can you fill? What is something unique that you can offer? Your ideas and answers to those questions will help point you to where the money is, because those are the types of things that people are willing to pay for.
I’m all about pursuing your passion, but if your business can’t make you money, then it’s not a real business. It’s a hobby.
4. What do you already have to work with?
Your business has the best chance to make money, and therefore be successful and sustainable, if you keep costs down. A great way to do that is to start with what you have.
For example, when I moved to my 40-acre farm in Bellevue, there was an 11-stall barn on the property. It was that barn that I had to work with, combined with my childhood love of horses, that gave me the idea to start my horse boarding business.
Do you have a swimming pool? Maybe you can teach lessons. Do you have a sewing machine? Maybe you can sell handmade bags. Sometimes just looking around your house can give you ideas of what type of business to start.
5. What are you passionate about?
I saved this for last because while most passions may come from within you, I believe you can find passion in almost anything you do if you choose to.
Let’s say that you have an idea for a business that is in your strengths, that you enjoy, that can make you money, and that you already have what you need to get started. Let’s say that business is building custom furniture. Maybe you aren’t particularly passionate about a table, but if you dig deeper, you may find something you are passionate about: people.
See, on the other side of every business transaction is a person—a person you’re helping, serving and loving. And when you focus on that person on the other side of your business that you’re taking care of, it’s no longer just a table. It’s the place where a family gathers. It’s the place where meals are shared, memories are made and lives are built.
When you look at your business through the lens of the impact you’re making, your passion becomes ignited by the people that you’re serving. It’s not the product you’re selling, but the difference you’re making that becomes what you’re passionate about.
While you don’t have to have a business idea that meets every one of these five criteria, the more that you can align them with your dream, the more successful you will be.
But the best part is not that your business will be successful, the best part is that you’ll be living and working in what Ken Coleman describes as your “sweet spot.”
And I can tell you from experience, there’s no better place to be.