Q: Where can I get ideas for a new business? I have a lot of diverse skills and want to go into business for myself, but I need some ideas.

A: There are few things in life more exciting and more terrifying than that moment when you begin to contemplate going into business for yourself. Doing so successfully takes guts and brains and hard work and time. Of all these, the one to be most concerned with when getting started is time. Why? Well, once you begin your new business, you'll be putting many hours into it. If it's successful, you'll then put many years into it. So, as you begin to pick a business, your initial overriding concern should be this: What business can I pick that I'll enjoy working at all day, every day, for years to come?

Begin with your passion. What do you love to do? Don't be concerned yet with how you'll turn that into a business-that comes later. Right now you just want to narrow the field. Sit down in a quiet spot with a notebook and answer the following questions:

  • What makes you the happiest?
  • What do you love to do?
  • If you could do anything, what would it be?
  • What are you best at?
  • What skills do you most like to use?
  • What businesses have you seen that really caught your eye?

The answers to these questions will begin to point you in a general direction. For example, I have a female client who, after much consideration, decided she loved to hunt more than anything else in the world. How would a woman turn a love of hunting into a successful business, you ask? She decided to open a shop for hunters. Being a woman-owned business in a traditionally all-male field actually turned out to be a plus because the store was instantly unique and memorable.

What is it you love to do? Do you see other people making a living at it somehow? Open up the Yellow Pages, and discover how many different kinds of businesses cater to people with the same interests. After you're done, surf over to your favorite search engine and type in what it is you love to do. You might be surprised how many businesses cater to it.

Here's another way to get a good business idea: Do you know someone who has a job or a business that intrigues you? Take that person out to lunch and interview him or her. Don't be shy-even if you don't know the person, you can bet he or she wouldn't mind a free lunch and a chance to spend an hour talking about himself or herself.

Finally, check into vocational counseling. Most colleges and employment agencies have vocational tests you can take to see what sorts of occupations match your skills and interests.

This is a special moment-not often do the financial and emotional stars align just right and allow you to head off in a brand new direction. Now is your moment, so choose wisely. If all goes well, you'll spend more time at your new business over the next five years than almost anyplace else. And if you do what you love, you can almost bet that the money will indeed follow. Good luck!

Steven D. Strauss is a nationally recognized lawyer, author and commentator. He is the author of the Ask a Lawyer (W.W. Norton & Co.) series of legal advice books geared toward the layman as well as author of The Unofficial Guide to Home-Based Businesses. Steven is also a business columnist for USA Today.com.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.