Do You Have What It Takes to Start an Online Business? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions.
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
The following excerpt is from Shelby Larson’s book Moonlighting on the Internet. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes
Shelby Larson presents the most reliable and proven ways you can create an extra paycheck for the short term and establish a continual revenue stream for the long term with your own website. In this edited excerpt, Larson reviews the six questions you must answer before attempting to start making money online.
When you decide to start on online business, you need to ask yourself a number of questions to determine whether this is the right path for you. Let’s explore six of them.
1. Do you want to work for yourself or own your own business?
While working for yourself does mean having your own business, the distinction is that you’re relying on your skills, talents, or resources for your monetization. A great example of this is being a freelance writer. You’re writing content for money, and your income is dependent on your ability to write quality content.
By contrast, if you were to choose to try your hand at ecommerce, you’d be developing channels online to sell products, either digital or physical. So you’re definitely still working for yourself, especially in the beginning, but the “thing” you’re selling doesn’t rely on your individual work, generally speaking. While you’re still putting time and effort into your company, and therefore working for yourself, your point of monetization is something outside the work you do.
2. What are your personal skills and talents?
Everyone has marketable skills. By creating a list of your skills and talents, as you evaluate different opportunities, you’ll more quickly be able to assess what things you’ll need to hire or acquire to be successful, and if that’s realistic for you at this time.
Everything should be taken into consideration. This should be a fact-based list without emotion attached to it. Even if you don’t understand how a particular skill or experience could be beneficial, write it down. Also write them down without respect to whether you enjoy doing them.
Next, rate your skills and talents based on how much you enjoy doing each of them:
- I LOVE doing this.
- It’s not my first choice, but I’m good at it, so if it needs to get done, I can do it.
- I’m neutral. I could take it or leave it.
- While I’m good at this, I don’t want to do it any longer than it takes to replace myself.
- I’d rather eat dog food than do this skill for any length of time; it’s a deal breaker.
Being aware of the skills you bring to the table and how you feel about each of them helps you make long-term and short-term decisions and set goals. It gives you clarity about whom you might need to hire when looking at any specific business and helps you evaluate what areas you may need to finance vs. sweat equity. It also helps you make outsourcing and partnering decisions, and will greatly impact how you look at your implementation timelines and processes.
3. What are your hobbies, passions and experience?
Making money online is exciting. Making money online about a topic you love is even better. That’s when your work doesn’t feel like work. For this reason, listing your hobbies, interests, and topics so you’re aware of niches and industries you have some advanced knowledge in will be very helpful to you.
There’s no interest that doesn’t count. Here are a few ideas to help you brainstorm.
- Hobbies. Do you have hobbies about which you’re passionate? Perhaps you belly dance or sail or are really into massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) games like World of Warcraft. Do you show dogs? Do you run a playgroup for moms? Are you an artist? Do you play any sports? Do you love to travel? Are you an avid photographer? Do you sew?
- Education. Do you have a degree or certification in anything? Do you have a psychology degree? Are you a certified doula? Did you get a certification or training program in something else?
- Profession. Are you or were you at any time a nurse? Have you worked as a dental hygienist? Did you work in a flower shop and can make wicked flower arrangements? Do you have experience in event planning? Have you worked in real estate off and on your whole life?
- Everyday life. Are you a fashionista? Do you follow the current music scene? Are you interested in politics? Are you a parent? Are you a corporate executive? Are you an extreme couponer?
These are just a few examples to get your juices flowing. Trust me, if you have something you are passionate about or interested in, there are tons of other people who are, too. There very well may be a business in that industry for you, so be thorough!
4. What are your financial resources?
Your first step is to take inventory of what capital you could draw from should you need or choose to. Then ask yourself: Are you good at managing money? In my opinion, whether or not you’re naturally gifted at managing money isn’t as important as knowing whether you are. So whether you’re “good” or “bad” with finances is less important than whether you have a realistic understanding of your strengths or weaknesses in this area so that if, by chance, you tend to be bad with finances, you can compensate for that weakness. If your answer is yes, then great. If your answer is no, then it needs to be on your radar so you can put a financial plan in place.
5. What are your personal limitations and lifestyle?
Time is by far one of the most precious, sought-after commodities you possess. You may not think of your time as a currency, but you absolutely must while working to make money online. For most people, their time is more valuable than money. It must be treated as the treasure it really is.
How much time do you realistically have to spend each week creating your new profit path? Can you carve out one hour per week? Two? Five? More? If the opportunity were good enough, could you temporarily devote more time to it? Remember, “no” is an acceptable answer. The point of this process is to know what resources you have available to you and how you’d get them if you needed or chose to.
Patience is another currency that’s not infinite. The more you’re balancing on your plate, the more patience will be demanded of you. Add to this list positivity, coping ability, and energy -- these are all critical in all areas of our life. I bring this up because burnout is a very real possibility. Wherever you’re spending your various currencies, you’re taking away from another area of your life.
Think carefully about how you’ll stay balanced, and how you’ll know when you’re not. Sometimes you’ll choose to run with your time and resources unbalanced in the short term to get a dream off the ground. That’s OK. The point is, you’re doing it deliberately. Trust me when I tell you it’s not pleasant to crash because you’ve been running unbalanced for too long and you have no idea how to course correct.
Who’s your support system? Is it a spouse? A best friend? Does your dog help you stay balanced and happy? Who can you lean on? Who’s a resounding voice of reason who can help you evaluate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it when things get stressful? Everyone needs a support structure, so who’s on your “Team Awesome”?
6. What are your deal breakers?
The last thing to evaluate are your deal breakers and/or limitations. For instance, you may have an allotted amount of time you’re willing to devote to your profit path, and if it consistently requires more time than that, then it’s not a good match for you. Another example is travel. For some people, having to travel frequently would be a deal breaker. For others, the thought of being required to do any public speaking would kill the deal.
So what are your non-negotiable and personal limitations? Take some time to compose your own list of deal breakers. Ultimately, this deep dive into your skills and resources is about really understanding what’s important to you and what you bring to the table that you can leverage to make the most intelligent plans for moving forward.