If you’ve been contemplating starting
a business, now is the perfect time. All of us are being asked to self-isolate
to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
We suddenly have extra time on our hands.
Why not use it to learn more about starting a business and take actual steps to
make it happen?
Here are 5
activities you can do from home in preparation for starting your business.
Brainstorm Business Ideas
At our age, with decades of experience
behind us, we tend to be multi-passionate, have countless skills, and love
doing many things. It can be difficult to narrow and refine our business ideas
to a single working one.
But don’t despair. Here’s a 20-minute
exercise you can try:
censor your answers. Don’t stop to question what you’re writing down. Just
Grab a piece of paper. Draw two
columns. Label the first one I LOVE TO DO (LOVE COLUMN), and the second one I’M
GREAT AT (BRAG COLUMN).
Take 5 minutes to write down
everything you LOVE to do – from cooking to accounting to art to event planning
– regardless of how good you are at it. (5-minute mark)
Take the next 5 minutes to write down
everything you excel at doing. Go all out, even though your mother taught you
it wasn’t nice to brag. Do it here. Note: Some items may overlap with your LOVE
COLUMN. Include them again. (10-minute mark)
Walk away. Get something to drink.
Stretch. Take the dog out. (15-minute mark)
Come back to your brainstorm. Look at
both your LOVE and BRAG columns.
similar items, such as,
you LOVE helping women and you’re GREAT at mentoring. What about starting a
Or, you LOVE gardening and you’re
GREAT at flower arranging. Could this lead to creating and teaching a flower
arranging course (online or on-ground)?
Also look for
‘mashup’ opportunities – putting unlike items together to create a unique
For example, you LOVE dogs and are
GREAT at organizing. How can you put these together to form a business? What
about pet services for busy pet owners?
Another example: You LOVE researching
local history and you’re GREAT at writing. What about building an online course
to teach people how to research and write their local history. (20-minute mark)
Lastly, pick ONE idea to move forward
with. You don’t have to marry it, but you do need one idea to learn more about
to see if it’s ‘the one’.
Use Google and social media (Facebook,
YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn) to learn about the type of business you want
to start, for example, a pet service business.
searching on Google, scroll to the bottom of the page to find “Searches related to ‘pet service business’.”
This will give you additional search terms to use on Google and the social
you should look for in your research:
Resources about your idea, including blog
posts, YouTube videos, organizations, how-to articles.
The topics that come up. For our
example, pet service business,
there are various results – from “12
Unique and Useful Pet-Inspired Businesses”to “Pet Business Insurance”to “9 Steps to Starting a Successful Pet
Sitting Business.”Bookmark them.
Take notes. How can you use these to refine your business idea?
What products and/or services are your
competitors offering? How can you differentiate your business from theirs?
Next, use the same search terms (i.e.,
pet service business) on the different social media platforms.
you find useful videos on YouTube?
Facebook Pages or Groups related to your idea that you can join?
The goal of research is to get a broad
understanding of the overall market you want to enter and start getting
familiar with the specifics of getting started. You want to learn as much as
you can, before you go all in, so you’re sure it’s the right business for you.
Invite potential customers to a phone
call or virtual meeting room, like Zoom, for a ‘discovery call’. Tell them
about your business idea. Get their feedback. Find out what they really want (and don’t).
ask them about price or what they’d be willing to pay for your product or
service. It’s premature. Until you have a product or service and can
communicate the value, you won’t get useful responses.
questions you can ask:
- What’s your biggest frustration when it comes to [FILL IN YOUR BUSINESS IDEA]. For example, “What’s your biggest frustration when it comes to hiring pet service professionals?”
- If I could wave a magic wand and get you the results (exact product or service) you want, what would it look like? For example, “If I could wave a magic wand, what would your ideal pet service look like?”
- What services/products have you already tried? What worked about them? What didn’t? For example, “What pet service businesses have you tried? What worked about them and what didn’t?”
- Why would you purchase a product/service like this? For example, “Why would you hire a pet service business?”
- What else can you share about your need for [FILL IN THE BLANK]. For example, “What else can you tell me about your need for a pet service business?”
Take notes or record the conversation
(with their permission). You want to capture the precise things they say. You
can later use their words in your messaging and promotions. You’ll also have
loads of data to draw from when crafting your product or service offer.
Discovery calls were something I
didn’t prioritize when I first started my business. They took ‘too much time’.
Once I did them, though, I wished I had done them much earlier. The information
you gather is invaluable.
Tackle Some Tech
Having a business today means using
technology. There are tools and online applications we simply can’t do without.
Take some time to learn a new online tool or app that you can use in your
Note, these free (or less expensive) tools I find indispensable in my business:
Learn how to create a Facebook
Business Page and use it to get your business in front of customers.
Here are a
few free videos to get you started:
Dig into the Google Suite of tools (the service starts at $6 per month). This cloud-based system is an entrepreneur’s dream productivity tool. It’s an all-in-one toolbox and includes:
and file storage (Google Drive)
Google calendar app to keep all of your appointments and important project
dates (Google Calendar)
processing tool (Google Docs)
tool (Google Sheets)
tools (Google Slides)
You can sync everything between your
laptop and your Google Drive cloud so you have access to everything from wherever
you have an internet connection.
Canva.com is a particularly fun and useful tool. It’s a graphic design tool for non-graphic designers. The FREE version is plenty robust.
Learn this tool and you’ll be able to
design just about anything from letterheads and logos to social media graphics,
brochures, and business cards.
There are many how-to and design
tutorials on the site, and Canva provides thousands of templates so you don’t
have to start any design from scratch.
I use Canva every day in my business
and being comfortable using it makes the work go much faster.
Take Some Courses
Tip: Take one
course at a time. Execute what you learn. Then consider the next course.
A successful online business has many
moving parts. It’s an on-going learning process.
Take this extra time to look for
online courses that will help you build your skillset. Perhaps you’re new to
marketing or you’re not sure how to sell using a specific platform, such as
Etsy or Amazon? There are plenty of online courses to teach you.
Investing in education is time and
money well-spent. You’ll move faster and more efficiently in your business.
You’re also more likely to get it right the first time. Consider learning an
on-going activity in your business.
Timing Is Everything
So, if you’re ready to become your own
boss, now is a great time. Tackling these 5 practical activities will move you
closer to your goal and provide a productive distraction in what is shaping up
to be a tumultuous time.
We know from experience this current
crisis will pass. Won’t it be wonderful to come out the other side further
along in your business?
How are you using your self-isolation
time? Have you come up with a business idea? What are you doing to progress it
into a real business? Do you have any tips to share? What issues have you
faced? Please share your thoughts below. We’d love to know more!