I’m going to take a wild guess that at least one of your New Year’s resolutions is to make more money.
In Seven Years to Seven Figures, Michael Masterson (Mark Ford’s pseudonym) explains that the first thing a person should do to create a seven-figure net worth is to radically increase their income. One of the best ways to do that is by starting a business.
As luck would have it, as a web writer, you’re already cultivating many of the skills that can help you grow a business, and finally attain the financial independence you’ve been looking for.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you’ve caught the entrepreneurship bug.
Come up with lots of ideas
As a writer, you know it’s good to have a surplus of ideas because not every idea will work out. Brainstorm your business ideas, just as you would story or article ideas. If the idea is written down, you are more likely to act on it.
Don’t worry if the ideas are simple, like, “Wouldn’t it be great if milk cartons had two handles so it would be easier to pass across the table?” or silly, like my idea to combine a bottle opener with a baby pacifier. You never know what ideas will take off.
The best ideas solve a problem that actually exists. Keep an idea journal and write down problems you face in your everyday life, and see if you have a novel way to fix them.
For example, I recently had my daughter baptized, but I had a hard time scheduling the Baptism class at our church. The next class wasn’t scheduled until after the Baptism! Could I, as a web writer, solve this problem by starting a company that converts religious classes into online religious classes? Maybe. It could either work as a business or as a target market possibility.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, coming up with the idea is the very first step. Here’s what to do next …
Test your ideas
The truth is, the vast majority of businesses fail within the first year. You need to ask yourself whether you have the time, energy, and resources to make it through that first year.
That’s why it’s so important to choose an idea you are passionate about. But there’s something else you need to consider: What do other people care about?
Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, argues that you need to find common ground between your passion and what other people care about. He writes, “Convergence represents the intersection between something you especially like to do or are good at doing (preferably both) and what other people are also interested in … Where passion or skill meets usefulness, a microbusiness built on freedom and value can thrive.”
Prioritize your list according to how much you personally enjoy the idea, and how much other people are interested.
Before you jump into the first item on the list, find a cheap and easy way to determine how much other people are interested.
Direct marketers do this all the time: they send their packages to smaller lists to see if it’s a winner before they roll it out to a larger list. Some information marketers have even placed ads for books and other products before they have been created to gauge whether people are actually interested before investing the time and energy it takes to create the product.
Find an inexpensive way to test your idea before you launch into full production mode. Some ways you can see if people are into your idea are:
Enter an elevator pitch contest and share your idea in front of like-minded entrepreneurs. Even if you don’t win, you will get useful feedback.
Tell everyone about your idea. Ask questions and find out who would actually use the product.
Give people a chance to try it for free and see how they react.
Set up a “Coming Soon” landing page to collect email addresses of people who want to use your product. You can set one up for free at LaunchRock.com. Send all your social traffic to it and see if you get any email signups. “If no one signs up, you might consider choosing a new idea,” said Nik Seet, the founder of www.sivi.com, an online accelerator for aspiring entrepreneurs. “If you get 5-10 signups, email them and ask what they like and whether they’ll buy. If you get more than 20, you’re onto something.”
Sometimes people will like your idea, but would never spend money on it: I recently won $500 for the “most amusing idea” at an elevator pitch contest. Whenever I told people my idea, they always laughed. But when I tried to raise money using a crowdfunding campaign, nobody gave me money!
After I stopped crying, I asked myself why I was getting zero support from friends and family.
In my case, the idea was funny, but it was based on a problem that wasn’t really a problem. When I asked for money, I got laughs, but people weren’t willing to invest. (One of the reasons why it’s good to have many ideas.)
Which brings me to the next step.
Find out whether people will pay for your idea … and then start selling
Getting positive feedback is great, but you need to find out as soon as possible whether people will be willing to give you money in exchange for what you are offering.
The truth is, without paying customers, you don’t actually have a business.
Don’t put off asking people whether they would pay for your product.
“Do you know anyone who fits the market demographic? If so, ask them if they would spend money on whatever you want to offer,” said Michael Ham, an entrepreneur who developed an iPhone app called Glif. “If not, ask if anything would help persuade them to use it.”
Some entrepreneurs spend too much time asking people if they would consider buying their product, and not enough time actually selling it.
My advice? Put most of your energy into making your first (and then your second and your third) sale. Because the reason that most businesses don’t make it is that they fail to make a profit (i.e., they fail to sell their product). Don’t let that happen to you!
We writers have an important edge over other entrepreneurs — we know how to use our words to sell. Test different offers to find one that works the best. Treat your business (and yourself) like your most important client. With a little luck, your new business will help you reach your financial goals.
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