You want or need to work at home. It has to be something that’s flexible and fits your life. And no scams, please! There are a number of companies that hire at-home workers, and we’ll discuss some of those in a post on work at home companies. There are also many direct sales companies that offer opportunities, such as selling cosmetics, health products, and kitchen gear. In this post, we’ll talk about another option: what you need to start an online business of your own.
Decide what business to start
There’s a lot of information involved, so this will be a series. I’ll walk you through the things I’ve learned in the last ten years. No hype, no fluff, just Jeni. Just real information, delivered in a caring and hopefully helpful way. We’ll start with figuring out what business to start.
You shouldn’t have to invest years of your life just to learn what all the experts say. Instead, I’ll put as much information as I can here in one place for you, including recommended books and other resources. I’m not going to give you years worth of reading, however. I’ve already put in that time reading, and I think you should be able to benefit from the time I invested.
In the interest of total transparency (and FCC compliance), you should know that some of the links on this blog may be affiliate links. What that means is if you check out that product/service through a link I give and you use it to make a purchase there, that company will give me a small reward for sharing the good news about them with you. It’s important for you to know that it doesn’t cost you a thing, and that using affiliate links is standard operating procedure in online business. Please use (and feel free to share) the links in my posts. If I recommend something, it’s because I believe it’s truly helpful. That’s true whether it’s an affiliate link or not. Thank you.
Start an online business of your own
The first thing you need to start an online business of your own is something of value to offer to customers. You’ll need something to say— information and experience to share—or a product or service to offer. It should be something valuable and helpful, something you believe in. Without this, we might as well all go home, so to speak.
There are all sorts of resources out there for figuring out what you have to offer. It can be overwhelming and lead to information overload if you try to read it all, subscribe to every blog, and take every test. No matter what stage you’re at, research can also keep you stuck at that particular point if you let it.
Resources for finding your skills
My friend Kevin Miller runs Free Agent Academy (update: temporarily closed as of summer 2015), and, among other things, the courses there are very helpful for figuring out what kind(s) of businesses would best utilize your gifts and skills. Some of the courses include strengths tests, including the DiSC profile and Strengthsfinder 2.0. I especially appreciate the Idea Filter, which is completed at the end of the IDEA course. It took me about a year to put mine together just right (some people do it much faster), but when it’s done, you can run an idea through it in minutes to see if it’s a good fit for you, and it’s a tool you’ll have for life.
If you decide to check out FAA, please tell Kevin I sent you. I don’t have an affiliate relationship with him, but I may someday. I recommend Free Agent Academy simply because it’s a great resource offered by a really nice guy who knows his stuff and has gathered some of the best people to be professors there.
You might be able to figure out what your business should be without outside help. Maybe you already can identify your talents and areas of expertise. If so, great. Make a list of them.
If you don’t know what you’re good at yet, do some research.
Ask people who know you well what you’re good at.
Think of the things that make time seem to fly for you.
Make a list of all the things you enjoy. Enjoyment doesn’t always point to ability, but gems are often found there.
Finally, reach out to others who have identified their strengths and have started businesses that use them.
An important note: You don’t have to limit your ideas to things that you think are “jobs.” I know of a woman who makes a living with a website about polymer clay and a man who got rich from his love of blenders. I know some who have done it with websites about their gluten-free lifestyle, or their child’s autism. There is a way to make a living from just about any interest, skill, ability, or experience, if it’s done right. So don’t censor your list yet.
Be a member of your target market. That’s one of the pieces of advice that’s commonly heard when you’re learning about starting a business. What that means is just what it sounds like: serve people who are like you in some way. It might include gender, age range, interests, abilities, disabilities, wants, or needs. Why? Because “it takes one to know one.” If I tried to sell something to golfers, I’d fail miserably because I’m not a golfer. I don’t know the first thing about golf. They’d probably be able to tell that instantly.
To give you an example of being a member of one’s target market: I’m a stay at home/work at home, homeschooling mom of special needs kids. We’re gluten free and living on a budget. I’m a writer, editor, blogger, and solopreneur. Depending on how you segment the writing, editing, blogging part, that’s eight to ten target markets right there.
I live with chronic illness and chronic pain. Add another target market. I’m an Orthodox Christian. Another. A dog lover. Another. Combining any of those markets would create a niche, a small target. The more you combine, the smaller the segment of people in the world who will be attracted to what I have to offer.
Having a tiny target market might sound like a bad thing, but it’s actually not, as long as that segment is spending money on that area of interest or need. The more focused a person can be, the more likely they are to reach the people in their market. Go narrow and deep, as Susan Friedmann says in her book, Riches in Niches.
What interest or ability do you think is the least likely to work for you to start an online business of your own? Please share in the comments. You might be surprised what can be turned into a business.
Market research—what it is, why you have to do it, and how to do it on the cheap
Starting an online business legally—prevent trouble with a few simple forms.