Q: I really want to be in business for myself but don't know what kind of business to start. How do I figure that out?
A: You may have heard that if you can just find something you love, the money will come. Well, that's kind of true. You definitely want to pick something you enjoy, but you also have to find something that has a market of paying customers. Remember something our friends at E-Myth Worldwide say that I think is right on: "There is a big difference between doing the technical work of a business and running a business that does that work." If you enjoy the work, get a job doing it. However, if you are going to be successful at running a business, you won't be able to do much of the technical work.
So how do you start your search? If you are starting from scratch, Entrepreneur.com's Startup Kits are resources to consider. You may also want to look into buying a franchise or business opportunity. Here are three sources to get you started:
- Low-Investment Franchises: Most of these cost less than $50,000, and some even cost less than $25,000.
- How to Research a Business Opportunity: Business opportunities are not as heavily regulated as franchises, and they don't offer as much of a "business in a box" as a franchise does, but they can be a great place to start, and are considerably more defined than starting from scratch.
- Entrepreneur's Guide To Franchising: This guide helps you understand the differences between franchises and business opportunities, as well as how to do your due diligence when shopping for franchises.
Don't worry if you don't have a lot of money. These books can provide you with guidance:
- Success for Less: 100 Low-Cost Businesses You Can Start Today by Rob and Terry Adams: This book is free in Entrepreneur.com's bookstore. (You just pay for shipping.)
- Starting on a Shoestring: Building a Business Without a Bankroll by Arnold S. Goldstein and Edward P. Myers
- Turn Your Talents into Profits: 100+ Terrific Ideas for Starting Your Own Home-Based Microbusiness by Darcie Sanders and Martha M. Bullen
Those are just a few examples of the many books available on business ideas. For more, try searching Amazon.com, Half.com and your local library and bookstore.
Another venue you might want to look into is eBay. Many people have become very successful selling products on eBay. Go to Entrepreneur.com's eBay Center for more information.
In fact, I have a friend who has a very successful eBay golf club business, and I asked him if he'd share some of his secrets. (You can check out how he operates by searching eBay for the user ID firstname.lastname@example.org.) The following is based on his advice:
There are three hard and fast rules to follow for selling on eBay:
- Sell a product you know. If you don't know your product, you cannot accurately answer all the questions you will get from potential eBay buyers. A poorly answered question will not get you another bid.
- Use eBay as your buying guide. If you find something you think will sell on eBay, search the completed items listings to see what like items have been selling for. Don't pay more than 65 percent of what the eBay completed sales history tells you.
- Ship paid orders the same day every time. Buyers like fast shipping. Fed Ex offers online shipping and will give you a 10 percent discount right away. As your volume increases, it could go as high as 30 percent. For more information, contact a sales rep.
Also, there are tons of little things that will help you be successful on eBay, such as listing on a Thursday for 10-day auctions. That means the auction ends on a Sunday, when people are home.
As you can see, there is no shortage of great business ideas. You could spend years just researching them. Take your time, narrow your list, do as much due diligence as you can and then take the dive! Starting your own business can change your life forever--it certainly did mine.
Keith Lowe is an experienced entrepreneur who is a founder and investor in companies in several industries. Lowe also mentors new entrepreneurs; serves as past chairman of the board for Biztech, a nonprofit high-tech business incubator; and is a co-founder and officer for the Alabama Information Technology Association.
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.