This is where it all gets sticky. I'm about to throw a bunch of good solid advice at you, explaining the pros and cons, how to choose something that is viable, but you may need to abandon conventional wisdom to follow God.
Sometimes He will position you in front of a trend, so that you're in the right place at the right time - later. This is going to be one of those things you need to decide upon for yourself. What follows is going to be general wisdom so that you go in with eyes open. If you need to establish something for later, you might want to choose another thing that will make you some money in the short term. Multiple streams of income are always a good thing, but trying to launch several things at once usually doesn't work well. I was coaching a group the other night and compared businesses to children. "You can generally have as many as you want, but usually you birth them one at a time. If you're starting two or three things at once, they need to be extremely similar."
Types of Businesses and Their Pros and Cons
Selling Physical Products
This could be something you sell on Amazon or EBay, and your own website. You could also have a brick and mortar store. It could be your original product, or something you buy wholesale. You could also run a dropshipping business.
With the exception of drop shipping, inventory management and order fulfillment comes into play. There is a little more cost involved in getting this going than some of the other business ideas. It's possible to have this be a low maintenance business if you outsource to a fulfillment house. Fulfilled by Amazon being one of the best known and a reliable money maker.
With drop shipping, you can throw up a website, take orders and let your drop ship company do the rest. Literally all you have to do is market the products. However, if it's this easy for you, it's this easy for a competitor, so you'll need to have the better prices, or some sort of marketing edge. It makes sense to augment another successful business with a few relevant drop shipped products, but baseing your entire business on dropshipping is like building on shifting sand.
Ebooks, audio, software, apps all fall into this category. What's great about these is generally, you create the product and it's done. Sales come in, instant downloads, it's very little work on your part. Your job is marketing and creating more cool stuff. The downside is that it's a tough place to stand out.
Service Based Business
This is generally easy to get going and has a good profit margin. The downside is that it is labor intensive and at least in the beginning, you have to be there to do it. You can outsource work once you build it up a bit.
Most of us have some special skill or knowledge other people will pay money for. Yes, you can write a book or make a video, but I am strongly biased towards the online course, as you can see. It's information vs education. Your customers may get results from your ebook, but it's not the same as having the personal interaction and accountability that happens in a classroom - even a virtual one. I intend to package some of this up into a book, but will the readers actually go through the steps? Where will they get additional questions answered? Who will get them over the humps? Will they have a voice of reason speaking into their lives? Not to mention, you have to sell a lot of ebooks to equal one student's tuition. However, once you've developed a class, you might as well repurpose your material in other formats such as a book to help those who can't/won't pay for the class, and those who aren't looking on your website, but are on Amazon or Kobo or wherever they buy books.
Rubber Meets Road
So, taking into consideration your lifestyle vision, you need to narrow your ideas down for money that will support that, as well as how much money you have to put into something at the moment. I've helped people start a business with 12 dollars before, so you're not out of luck just because you don't have a lot to put down. If your big vision includes a large facility of some kind on land you don't yet own, we need a bridge business to help you get there. Generally speaking, physical product based businesses need a big more cash outlay than the others, although I got Freedom Flowers going on quite little and built it bit by bit.
Wanting to be mobile does not mean you can't have a physical product business, but it will be an additional challenge, and you'll probably have to stay put while you're getting it going. If travel is important to you for your lifestyle and calling, then you might look more toward online teaching or digital products instead. These are the kinds of things you need to take into consideration. Often there's a way to tweak your idea that you feel strongly about so that it works for you. If you don't have a strong pull in one particular direction, that's ok, just pick a model that will best support how you need to live.
If you've decided that you're a great teacher, and an online course is where you want to start, that is adaptable to almost any passion that you have. You just need a clear outcome for your potential students.
Next, we are on to market research! Whoo hoo! Fun right? Yeah, it sucks, but not as bad as pouring your money and energy into a failure. Don't assume you know what people want, and will or won't pay for. Ideally I'd like some proof money in your hot lil hands before you exit this class.
So, first thing, let's look around online. Don't make the mistake of trying to come up with the thing that nobody else is doing because you're afraid of competition. No competition is a red flag that there's no market. Now, if you landed on something that nobody is doing, but you think it's God, then go for it, but it's probably a slow money maker because it's off people's grids. If they don't know they need your product you will spend all of your time apprehending, educating and giving samples. (Ahem, Freedom Flowers.) I also have a very high profit margin and most of my sales come from repeat customers, so it stays afloat and I'm in for the long haul.
So, you do want competition. In fact, you need to find a wildly successful competitor and study what they do. You're going to look at how they market, where they sell, all that they offer and you're going to copy what makes sense for you and vary it by about 20%. See, there will be things you'll excel at that they can't compete with you on. Find those things and that is your USP. (Unique Selling Proposition)
You want a large enough market. Are there active Facebook pages? Blogs? Forums? Associations? If you google it, are there any paid ads in the search results for it? (Ads most likely mean somebody is making enough money that they can run promotions.) Facebook pages have a transparency section that you can click on to see the ads they are running at the time.
Talk it Out
So if all that passes and you're still here, it's time to start talking about it. Find a person who might be interested in your idea. Say to them, "I’m thinking of starting some kind of website around [YOUR TOPIC]. What is your biggest challenge or frustration around [YOUR TOPIC?” At this point it's good to leave your exact idea unspecified and let your person express themselves. This will also help you zero in if you just have a broad category of a business such as you want to do something in the gardening niche.
What you're looking for is not only the issues they express, but the verbiage they use. That is key for you to incorporate later in your information, because the more your target market feels like you understand them, the more you'll have their attention.
Repeat this process as many times as you can and really listen and ask questions. Take lots of notes. These need to be people who actually are your market. Don't listen to your guy friends advice about your plan to sell women's jeans for example. If you're not quite sure about who your market is, then just start talking anyway.
You'll probably wind up with answers that are all over the place. You'll want to set aside the one word answers, or anything super short even if the numbers are there. What we are looking for at this point is passion. This will be found in those who took the time to really state in detail their exact issues. These are your buyers, not the one word guys.
Start a conversation on social media. I know we all have those people who would judge us for having the audacity to think we should start as business. You can't let them quiet you. Either get the resolve to ignore them, or put them on your Facebook "acquaintance list" and then set your post privacy to "friends except acquaintances."
If you would like, you can link them to a short survey form that you can create for free on either wufoo, jot form or Survey Monkey. Name, email, question with paragraph text blank. You might get less response this way though than just asking on social media.
Besides getting you some valuable feedback, this is an extremely non-slimy way to self-promote. You'll be getting the word out, and people are much warmer to your offer when they feel they've had some input to the final product. They themselves have something invested in the success of it, and they may even help you promote when the time comes.
Beyond that, people generally need several exposures to a new idea before they are ready to jump on it. By slowly and gradually presenting it, it's easier to digest rather than secretly working on something and then "Wham!" Sales page in their face.
When I launch a new product, I am talking about it usually for a bit in advance, asking questions, I let the audience name the product, let them vote on graphic designs, etc. I involve as much as I can, while guiding the process keeping in mind that people don't actually know what they want until they see it. I just put you through 3 assignments of "what do you want" questions. Hard wasn't it? Much easier for people to tell you what they are fed up with.
Depending on your business, you can also read through Amazon or Yelp reviews, and forums are a great place to see people's questions and complaints.
Is This Starting to Feel Like a Commitment?
Don't let it. We're just going to try something. We don't have to get it right right now, but you'll never get to your big significant thing without taking some decisive action. You're also not locking yourself into one thing forever. You'll choose something for now, and when it gets up and rolling, you can start another thing that is part of your design and calling. There is no wrong thing. There are only learning experiences and a sharpening of you as a business person. We're doing research and testing upfront so you don't lose. Your risk is minimal and you have everything to gain. Every action you take is forward progress.
Right now, you can be on Idea #1. Idea #5 is the BIG THING that really makes an impact both in your life and countless others who need you to have that business. But you can't get to Idea #5 without building Idea #1. Idea #1 either supplies you with the connections, or the experience or some resource that you need to go forward into Idea #2, and #2 leads to #3, and you do this little side thing in #3 that's successful, so you open that up bigger in #4, and nothing is ever wasted. It's to your advantage to move on your ideas, and not be afraid to redirect at any point you feel God nudging. You'll hang onto these lists I made you compile and in the future, see some of the items differently. You're also likely to have more options than you have right now. Vision brings provision, and right now, you probably have some constraints to work with, that won't be there by Idea #5.
You also might learn that you like the idea of a certain business that you chose better than you like actually doing it. I like all things garden related. It's a passion. But I don't like the actual work involved. That would not be a good service business for me, but I could teach, or offer planning consults, or sell propagated cuttings. Don't be afraid to step out of it or change it to a model that you do like.
Consider this an exploratory phase.
As described above, tell me your idea or ideas that made the cut, and a summation of what you've found out through research.
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