“I want to start my own business but I just don’t know what I’m passionate about.”
I hear this gripe all the time from my would-be solopreneur clients as they grapple with finding a business they want to pursue.
If you’re contemplating starting up a one-man or one-woman shop, chances are you love the idea of being your own boss, working from anywhere, and being in control of your success. It’s everything you’ve ever dreamed of. What could be better?
Nothing. Except, when it comes down to it, you just might not be sure what business you want to build.
It’s not that you lack ideas. Chances are you have a million business ideas, every day. But after a while, the old ideas gradually lose their appeal and you are on to new ones already.
The idea-chasing can be fun, until one day you invariably realize you’ve spent a lot of time and you’re still at the same place: no business, no plan.
When this reality hits, doubts begin to seep in. “Maybe I wasn’t meant to be an entrepreneur.” “Maybe I just don’t know what I want.” These negative thoughts would deflate anyone, and they’d soon turn you away from the dreams of solopreneurship.
I call this the “I don’t know what I want” syndrome, and it often leads to disappointment and underachievement.
Before you throw in the towel and slink away in frustration, let me offer you a solution that has proven to work. One of the quickest ways to get around this mental circus it is to view finding the right business idea as a methodical process.
Adopt an approach that zeros in on your talents, leaves no room for negative thinking, AND pushes you forward. When you do that, you’ll naturally find what you are passionate about and how to translate it into a sound business idea.
To make it even easier, I have boiled down a 7-step process that is sure to crystalize your ideas so you can get on with the business of, well, your business.
Step 1: Know “Why you don’t know”
The first step is to stop fighting yourself. Understand that a typical would-be small business owner thrives on freedom, possibilities and asking “what-ifs.” If you didn’t have these impulses to start with, you’d just work for the man, right?
These same qualities make it harder for you to commit to an idea because something newer and fresher always seems to be right around the bend.
Try going with the flow. Accept your impulses for wanting freedom and new possibilities. Appreciate their vital role in turning you on toward wanting to be your own boss.
Step 2: Define “What’s important to you”
Now that your mind is calmer, pretend for a moment that you already run a successful business. Really live it and feel it. Then ask yourself, “What’s important to me about running my own business?”
Observe the answer that comes to mind. Then ask yourself, “Well, what’s important about that?” Keep asking the same question until your answers start to repeat themselves. This is your top reason for why you want to start your own business. Write it down and set it aside. We will return to it shortly.
Step 3: List your passions
Notice I said “passions” in the plural here. You change your clothes everyday. You rarely eat the same meal twice in a row. Surely, you can have more than one passion.
Whereas your top reason for wanting your own business tells you conceptually why you want to branch out on your own, your passions clarify the actual activities you enjoy doing.
Ask yourself, “What work and leisure activities put me in ‘the zone?’” Also think about, “When do I get so completely absorbed that time simply flies by?”
List these activities. Then narrow them down to your top three favorites.
Step 4: Find your money
Now that you know what activities you enjoy doing, it’s time to “find the money.”
Let’s say you listed “watching TV” as a passion. This isn’t a business opportunity by itself. But, blogging about TV shows can be a business. This is the process of “finding the money” in an activity that you already enjoy – aka a business opportunity you might consider.
This step can be tricky because we all have preconceived notions of what a viable business looks like. Our tendencies here are to censor and block our ideas, something that’s not very helpful.
So make it fun. Grab a friend, slam a shot of espresso, and play a game of brainstorm.
Go through your top three passions (step 3) one at a time, and take turns to brainstorm on “finding the money” for each one. The more and wilder your business ideas are, the better.
Just remember one key rule: no naysaying!
Step 5: Reason your moneyed ideas
Now that you have a lot of business ideas, it’s time to cross some out.
You’ll only keep doing something if it’s truly important to you. So, pull out your top reason for wanting to start a business (step 2) and a red marker. Bravely strike down the ideas that don’t fit the bill.
Eliminate the more obvious ones first and whittle the list down to three to five. Congratulations: these are your top business idea contenders.
Step 6: Test-drive your ideas
Remember that life is not a one-shot deal or a dress rehearsal. Pick one of the business ideas that appeals to you the most, and run with it.
Utilize classes like Creating Fame to learn the ropes of marketing. This will give you plenty of insights into growing a business as you learn “on the job.”
Step 7: Revise as needed
So, what happens if you find that your business idea needs adjusting?
Remember, every successful company revises its business regularly. Why should yours be any different? Stay open to new possibilities, just as long as you put all your new ideas through the 7-step process described here.
The real problem in the “I don’t know what I want” syndrome isn’t so much that you don’t know, but that you don’t know HOW to methodically separate the viable ideas from the impulsive one. So use a proven strategy like the one described here to zero in on your answers.
The point is to not get bogged down and to keep the momentum going. After all, what’s the point of dreaming to be your own boss but to realize it? So act, and make your strides toward your success now.