Q: I've heard people say, "Do what you love." That can be discouraging if you don't know what you'd love to do. How does someone like me proceed?
A: We understand there's more to the choices people make than doing what they love. In fact, a recent study by Roper Starch Worldwide found that 29 percent of American adults choose work that pays well even if they hate the work. Personally, we learned from interviewing hundreds of people while writing Finding Your Perfect Work (Tarcher/Putnam) that many don't choose a business based on work they love. We've determined four productive "paths" people take: building on a passion; following a sense of mission, which often grows out of a desire to right a wrong; drawing on a talent; and capitalizing on an asset, such as equipment or contacts.
We strongly advise against doing something you dislike. While some may be able to sustain a job they dislike due to the structure an employer provides, entrepreneurs lacking passion typically lack motivation. Also, those who force themselves to do something chronically unrewarding may become ill. Thus, you should score your business idea at least 7 on a "likability" scale from 1 to 10.
If you still can't think of potential businesses, perhaps you haven't dug deep enough. We love the story of a woman in Los Angeles who likes watching TV and going to parties. She stitched together a business matching celebrities with charitable events and causes. Now she watches TV to see who's "in" and then attends the parties she's helped line up celebrities for. You, too, may find a combination of things you like, if not love, and turn it into a profitable livelihood.
Small-business experts Paul and Sarah Edwards' latest book is Home-Based Business for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide), co-authored with Peter Economy. If you have a question regarding a start-up business issue, contact them at www.paulandsarah.com or send it in care of Entrepreneur