How to Transform What You're 'Good at' into a Scalable Business

If side-hustling is one of your 2016 New Year's resolutions, here are five good questions to get you started.

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By Matthew Toren

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It's commonly said that if you do what you love, you'll never "work" a day in your life. And, while that may not be absolutely true, much can be said for transforming your passions, interests and natural (or developed) talents into a scalable business.

Related: Need a Business Idea? Here are 55

Of course, running your own startup will take more than just passion, but it's a good place to begin. So, how do you transform your talents into a scalable business?

Here are five important questions to ask yourself as you begin to hone your skills into a business that can thrive.

1. How is what you're good at unique?

You have skills that make you undeniably unique. The key is to explore how those skills are special and how you can market them. I've met very successful entrepreneurs who do everything from designing and selling pilot-themed t-shirts online, to making beard ornaments (yes, ornaments you put in your facial hair!), to putting together epic PowerPoint presentations.

There is literally something for everyone out there in our endlessly vast and expansive global economy. So, how can you market to the world what is different and unique about you?

2. How is what you're good at quantifiable?

Once you make a robust list of skills you're good at, consider how to transform some of them into a quantifiable business. One good path toward this transformation lies in the recollection of someone having once told you: "Hey, you're really good at this; would you do it for me?" I once met a woman, for instance, who was skilled at murals. She just happened to love painting and had painted her baby's nursery.

Then a friend came over and loved the results so much she asked the woman to paint her own baby's nursery. Shortly thereafter, a friend of that friend saw the mural and asked where she'd had it done. You get the picture: There's a compounding effect here. The muralist quickly realized she had a quantifiable potential business judging from the numerous people who'd said, "Wow, that's really cool! Could you do my child's room?"

So, think back to things you've done or skills you have that have been complimented and praised. Then brainstorm how you might quantify those things into a business service or product. What service can you perform that people would be willing to pay for?

Related: How This Teenager Turned Her Childhood Hobby Into a Global Business

3. What is the market demand for what you're good at?

Word of mouth is always a great way to get started with a small side project you're trying to test out; but if you want a real scalable business, you need to consider the market demand. For example, if you are a talented accountant, but live in a very small town, the local market demand for your services simply may not exist within your geographic location.

Luckily for you (and all of us), we live in the age of the Internet. How can you grow a scalable accounting or bookkeeping service over a larger geographic area with the Internet? Online sales should be a key growth component of your addressable market, regardless of your business' physical location. Online is a great way to supplement and grow your income over time and has fast become a business norm. If there is any way to scale your own business online, factor that in and go for it.

4. How can you scale your skills with the help of others?

One important but often overlooked aspect of turning your natural talents into a business is to determine how you will bring in others to help you scale your business. You will be in charge of starting that effort, but if it's going to scale, you'll need others' help to handle the growth.

While other team members or freelancers won't have your exact skills, they will have their own talents to contribute. How can others use their skills to scale yours? Think of designers, website admins, accounting and legal professionals and other important sales and marketing team members. You'll need some or all of these to grow from a one-person shop to a burgeoning enterprise. Check out sites like Fivrr to find them.

5. When can you get started?

The biggest key to growing a scalable business out of your natural skills is simply to start as quickly as possible. Don't be paralyzed into inaction at the amount of things you'll need to do -- try it out!

If you must, use a phased approach to get started, and grow your business on the side. But the most important part is to get going now!

Related: Entrepreneurs Who Turned Hobbies into Million-Dollar Businesses

Matthew Toren

Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.

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