Everyone seems to be working on a business nowadays– and that’s amazing. I mean, why not? It’s cheaper and quicker than ever to get a marketable product or service up-and-running thanks to various cloud software and productivity tools. So what’s stopping even more people from starting their own business?
One of the “easier-said-than-done” parts of starting your own business is actually coming up with an idea. Desperately wanting to start your own business but not having an idea can be very frustrating. So what should you do if you want to start a business but don’t have an idea yet?
It really just comes down to refining your process of evaluating and tracking ideas that you do come up with. Many people have great ideas, they just either don’t realize it or don’t know how to start, so they write them off as bad ideas. Here are my specific suggestions to get those creative juices flowing–
First, be very sure that you don’t already have an idea.
Really? You’re honestly going to tell me that you don’t have an idea that you’ve been itching to start? REALLY? When most people who claim they don’t have a business idea are pushed to tell their very best business idea at that very moment, almost everyone will have something. But for some reason, they’ve convinced themselves that it’s not a feasible idea and that they shouldn’t act on it.
In this situation, it usually helps to flip your thought process– instead of thinking why a certain idea CAN’T work, think of reasons why it WILL work. If you’re going to wait until you come up with that universe-altering idea, you’ll never ever get started. After all, Amazon started out as just another website selling books, Facebook wasn’t even the first social media network, and Google was just another version of Ask Jeeves– these companies just executed their idea better than anyone else, and refined their business model as they went.
Even if your business ends up failing, I guarantee you’ll have learned more than you possibly could have from reading any blog post about starting a business. So I’d say run with that idea that you don’t think will work– you will be more prepared the next time around if it doesn’t work, and be pleasantly surprised if it does. If you start the business with little or no money, you really have nothing to lose but a lot of experience to gain.
Seriously don’t have an idea? Fine. Keep track of your ideas as you come up with them–
You need to keep a running list of ideas that you come up with, regardless of how big or small, feasible or unfeasible, universe-altering or completely irrelevant they are. I use a Google Doc, but Evernote would work just as well. Jot down the idea in a few sentences, and under it you should bullet-point a makeshift business plan with some key marketing tactics, goals, and objectives– maybe 3-5 lines total. This really gets your creative juices flowing, and you can continually build on an idea as it develops in your head– and that shouldn’t and probably won’t happen all in one sitting.
Every once in a while, go through your ideas, expand on your thoughts and add to them. The most important things to be considering are-
What is the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM amount of time and money necessary to market this idea so people know it exists?
How am I going to market this?
What tools can I use to automate the business as much as possible?
How am I going to scale this up once I verify the idea?
I’m a firm believer that for majority of business ideas, the best path to market is the cheapest and quickest route possible, even if that means slight imperfections. Gone are the days where a significant amount of time or money is necessary to launch a business.
Over time, that stupid idea you almost overlooked is all of a sudden a well thought-out and executable business idea. [NOTE: This is exactly how Raw Athletics was conceptualized.]
Once you have an idea you think you can execute, just do it. If you launch a business and relentlessly try to make it succeed, you’ve already won. Like I’ve said, by simply being through the process of starting up, you’ll gain so much invaluable knowledge and so many new skills that you’ll be able to better analyze and execute your future ideas.
STILL don’t have an idea? Consider becoming a co-founder at another startup
Another great option is to team up with another startup. A great resource I love browsing through is CoFoundersLab, a website that connects aspiring entrepreneurs with pre-existing startups looking for co-founders. Some start-ups are early stage, some are later stage.
I’d also be willing to bet that you have a friend or a friend-of-a-friend somewhere that needs a partner to start-up an idea that they have. Why not ask around? Ping your network and see what kind of leads you get— your network can be very powerful for situations like this.
Consider working for another startup in the interim
Working for a startup while you’re still in your brainstorming phase will give you a significant advantage. It will allow you sharpen your entrepreneurial skills to prepare yourself for when you do finally act on that ‘ah-ha!’ moment. Plus being in the middle of the startup world will help give you the tools to better analyze the ideas you do come up with.
Angel.co is a leading platform in startup funding. Think of it as a social networks for start-up businesses, angel investors and venture capitalists. They have a very robust job board for startups. You can expect to earn a salary and equity, which gives you very nice upside potential with the security of a steady salary.
[I often tweet about the startups community, so follow me at @SL_Steinberg!]
Linkedin Job Board might also be a great place to consider checking out, just make sure your Linkedin profile is polished!
Or Freelance for other startups
Working as a freelancer is basically working as a consultant, and it’s a great opportunity to hone your entrepreneurial skills, get involved with other start-ups, and make some money doing so.
One of the greatest lessons you will learn from being a freelancer is the art of the pitch. You will be competing with plenty other freelancers for any given project, so you will need to learn how to present yourself in a positive fashion if you want to win any business. No matter what your next job or start-up role is, being able to pitch yourself and your ideas is a skill you will be able to leverage. Along with learning to pitch yourself and your ideas, you will also undoubtedly be hired to help businesses through tasks and issues that you will likely run into yourself with your own start-up, so you will gain valuable experience as well.
You can check out freelancing marketplaces like Odesk, or you can even cold-approach local businesses offering your services.
I hope these tips help you conceptualize a great idea and empower you to take the next step! As always, feel free to ask questions in the comments and I will try my best to answer them.