How To Start Your Own Online Business
Part 1: Coming Up With A Business Idea
Do you want the freedom and flexibility that comes with working for yourself? Would you like more time in the day to spend with family, on your hobbies or just doing work that you love?
Maybe you’ve said to yourself:
- I wish I had an idea I could turn into a thriving lifestyle business?
- I have an idea I’d love to turn into my job but how do I know if it will be successful?
- How will I know if I’ll make any money?
If you have, you’re not alone. But what if I told you there’s one thing, just ONE thing that can make a shift so you realise that this is the best time in history, in life, for you to create a full time lifestyle business doing what you love?
As Editor of THE LONDON MOTHER and founder of social agency TLM Social, I have over 10 years experience in the online lifestyle space. The most common questions I’m asked is: “How did you go from turning your hobby/passion into a full time business?”
Instead of answering 100 different emails, I’m putting everything I know into a new two-part series on how to start your own profitable lifestyle business.
In this first article you’re going to discover a new framework for creating your own ‘laptop lifestyle’ and having the confidence to take your business idea from dream to reality.
It’s something I call The Passion to Profit Framework and I’ll walk you through the strategy in just a second.
This framework will help you obtain the freedom of working for yourself coupled with the confidence you need to turn your passion into a full time job. Once you have this knowledge, you will know the exact steps to take to launch your own profitable online business.
The goal of the series of articles is simple, to show you tried and tested methods on how to make it happen – where to start, what to do (and what not to do) - and ultimately, how to make money from your online business so you have the flexibility and freedom to work from anywhere, to turn that passion into profit and to have more time to spend with the ones you love.
In this first article, you’re going to learn how to come up with a business idea. I’m going to show that your idea for your own lifestyle business is already inside you!
Second we’re going to look at how you can find out if your business idea is profitable and if there’s demand for your lifestyle based product or service.
Third, we’re going to see how you can build a brand on a shoestring and start gaining authority, credibility and ultimately – sales!
Let’s start with a little backstory: I used to work full time in the city, juggling life, a family, and a job all the while knowing this wasn’t how I wanted to live. I had a big desire to work for myself, to work on my terms and to do something I loved but without going broke in the process!
But I often thought to myself, how could I know if self-employment is right for me? Would anyone buy what it was I wanted to sell? Would I actually make any money?
I made a discovery that if I was really passionate about my idea, if I could test the market before I launched anything or made any changes to my life, if I could know with a degree of certainty that people were already interested in my business ideas then I’d know I’d be able have the freedom and flexibility to work on my terms - from anywhere! And so the freedom and flexibility framework was born.
After creating and following this framework, I finally discovered the one thing that really made a difference! I was able to quit my job, earn more money than I ever had and more importantly, have time to spend with those I love, time to travel, and have time to discover old and new hobbies and interests. And actually do them!
You might think you have to have a degree in business development or in sales and marketing to launch your own business but that’s not true. I’ve made money in the high 6 figures in the lifestyle space without a degree in either of those.
The first thing we’re going to look at is how to come up with a business idea in the first place.
But let’s quickly define what we mean by a business in the lifestyle space.
What is the lifestyle space exactly? When we say lifestyle we mean the following areas:
- Health and fitness
- Homes (anything to do with homes from buying and selling them to decorating, candles, gardens, flowers,)
- Blogging about any of the above
- Anything you enjoy as part of your Leisure activities
When you see how broad the lifestyle genre is, you see how much opportunity there is for you to make your own unique mark. We want to get the creative juices flowing so are going to try a series of exercises:
Grab a pen and paper and make a note which of these genres ‘speaks’ to you. One or 2 might stand out in particular but what If you love them all equally?
- Which of these lifestyle genres do I identify with the most?
- If I had a few hours spare later today, which of them would I choose to do?
What are my hobbies? Would I like to spend an hour baking? Or gardening? Or flower arranging? Or decorating? Or shopping? Or making something? Or helping someone to do one of them? Would I like to help someone decorate his or her home?
Or would I like to advise someone on how to dress for a fuller figure? Or would I like to design clothes for children?
What do you love doing? What are you most passionate about?
On the same bit of paper, note down how you’d choose to spend that spare afternoon.
Another way to find your passion is to think about what other people say about you? Do you make something – a dish, a cake, a candle, your own clothes – and people say when enjoying it ‘oh you should sell this’ or ‘ooh I’d buy this’ – has anyone ever said that to you about something you make? There’s some free market research right there.
The only caveat might be to add if it’s only your loving parents saying these things to you. As your biggest cheer squad they probably love everything you do, so try and think if anyone other than mum and/or dad has said things like this to you.
If cooking is your passion, when you’re invited to someone’s house for a meal – what’s that one thing everyone always asks you to bring? And how do you feel when you’re making that one thing – does it feel like a chore or do you love making it?
Perhaps you’re not much of a hands on person – is your strength in organising? Would you be better suited to providing a service? Could you help someone in the execution of his or her passion? Are you the organiser of your friend or family group?
If people are moving or getting married are you the first person they call on? Are you always the one organising the girls’ night out? Perhaps you’d be better suited to a business in the services industry? Wedding planner? Party planner? Make a note of it.
Another way to find your passion project is to ask yourself what do you know the most about? If you had to write 1000 words on something (sounds like a lot but is really equivalent to 2 sides of A4), what would it be? Write that down too.
Think about your day job - is there a particular aspect of your job that you love? If you’re in an office, do you love it when you get to work with the marketing department? Do you like writing for the company newsletter? Organising the Xmas party?
Make a note of what it is you love about your day job? Or what you wish your day job was!
Another way to find your passion is to think about your friends or family – what do they come to you for advice on? Is it relationships, careers, fashion, beauty, kids, food, parenting – is there something your friends/family know they can turn to you for good advice on? Make a note of that too.
Yet another way is to think about what people compliment you on? Your style, your home, your cooking, your listening, your organising – if someone is in a particular jam, what do they know they could call on you for?
By now you should have a few ideas written down and some kind of pattern is emerging. Maybe you’ve noted down that you love baking, people always ask you to bring your cakes to the dinner party or family get-together. Could your lifestyle biz be in baking?
Or maybe you’ve written that you love writing for the company newsletter and people always ask for your relationship advice. Could you start your own family and/or relationships blog?
Maybe you’re the organiser of your friend group – you can always be relied on to find a cool new place to go for drinks or your mummy/daddy friends always rely on you to organise the kids’ days out? Would you like to provide this as a service? Or write an online magazine about the best things for families/singles/grandparents to do in your town or city?
Still not sure – ask other people? Send an email to a group of close friends or family or work colleagues if they can be trusted to be discreet. Tell them you’re thinking about starting your own side business and you’d love their input! Tell them you think they know you well and you value their opinion and just ask them – what do you think I should do? You might be surprised at what you get back!
If you’re still feeling stuck, think about your day to day life – what frustrates you about a particular product or service and again, as it relates to the lifestyle niche? Have you ever been in a situation and thought – I wish I could pay someone to do this for me? Could that be your new business idea?
Or is there a family member or friend who has to miss out on something (maybe eating something) that you could fix? Does your nephew for example love a certain cake but because of his allergies cant have them? Are you called on to make something he can have?
Or when it came to a sad situation in life – maybe the death of a relative – was it stressful for all but you managed to keep your head above water? Did you enjoy helping people in their time of need? It may sound odd but could you be a funeral planner?
Or what problems do you or your friends regularly discuss as it relates to the lifestyle niche? Ever said I wish someone would come up with an X that does Y? Why can’t you be that someone? Maybe you wish there was a service or a shop that sold clothes for tweens that were very tall for their age but were still kids so too tall for kids clothes but not mature enough in age or body for adults clothes. Could you make those clothes? Or could you have an online shop that has curated those clothes?
Buy now you should have a few ideas jotted down and hopefully a pattern is emerging and your passion is clear. Your strengths, your hobbies, maybe it’s an email from a friend, maybe it’s something you’ve always wanted to do – whatever it is its unique to you and no one can do it quite the way you can.
If an idea isn’t fully formed yet, don’t fret. You’ve planted lots of seeds in your mind today and maybe they just need a little more time to germinate. I bet that over the next few days and at a time you’re not expecting it, an idea is going to just pop into your head!
And that’ll be it; your passion project has sprung to life!
So now you have an idea, how do you know if it’s going to make you any money? Say hello to competition!
We’ve been conditioned to think that competition is a bad thing but when it comes to business, competition is great! Why do you want to take the risk and bring a completely brand new product to market? You’d have no idea if anyone wants it, needs it or likes it. Wouldn’t you rather launch a business with a little certainty that at least a few people are likely to be interested in it? Of course and that’s where competition comes in.
Let me give you some examples in the product space:
A bucket. People always need buckets. You never think of a bucket until you actually have to use one. Enter the Leaktite Big Gripper bucket, designed with ergonomic improvements, as well as better grips, and a redesigned spout so it only pours when you want it to.
Post its – whoever invented them is a genius and probably a millionaire. But if you want to flip them over and use the other side, you sacrifice the stick factor. Not so with Ecostatic sticky notes. Instead of adhesive, they use static electricity, so you can use them over and over for weeks on end.
Or food – enter drip cakes. My faves are by Reshmi at Anges de Sucre. She’s doing amazingly well selling these so when another company wanted to do something similar – but instead of cake they use cheesecake - they knew there was a market there and that they weren’t going in blind. Do you see what I mean?
Competition is a great thing because it lets you know that people are already interested in your potential business idea. So, if you want to find out if your business idea is going to make any money, look and see if someone else is already doing something similar.
But what if you already know of at least three businesses already doing something similar to what you want to do and in fact, they’re doing exactly what you want to do?
This is where going niche comes in. Providing a product or service that everyone wants is too difficult - you’re trying to reach everyone and will end up connecting with no one.
But if you can be niche – meaning your lifestyle biz doesn’t appeal to all 8 billion people on earth – but instead appeals to a smaller group of people – say mums of teens, or organic baked good lovers, or vegetarians, or parents in a particular city, or busy people who live in the city – you have a much higher chance of success.
Now let’s look back at what you’ve written down as your business idea. How can you make it niche?
Think about what you could add – product plus service – or take away – a certain food without dairy or gluten – or wedding planning in the city on a budget - to make it highly appealing to a small subsection of the population.
Once you have your broad market and have niched it down, you know your lifestyle business is in it for the long haul!
Now you have your idea and you know it has the potential how do you go about building a brand without spending a fortune!
The answer is simple, social media.
Over 1 billion people use FB every month and over 500 million use Instagram so opening accounts on these two platforms alone puts you in touch with a potentially massive audience.
A few words of caution – you are building a lifestyle business not a personal page – so I suggest you have two accounts, one for your friends and family and one for your business. And you only post business related content on your business page. So pictures of your gorgeous wild flower weddings go on your business page and pics of you on the beach in Spain stay on the personal page!
What else can you do to build a brand on social media?
Find five to ten people operating in your lifestyle business and follow them! Social media is social so join in any conversations happening on their feed. Don’t be pushy trying to sell your product or service, just be polite, friendly and where relevant, give your opinion, answer any questions they’re asking.
Look at who follows them and who they follow. Can you engage in conversations on these pages too?
In time, you’ll have a small but focused audience as you haven’t wasted two hours looking at the latest Kardashian/Hadid/Jenner is up to; instead you’ve been engaging with people who like brands similar to yours, leaving comments, asking questions and slowly but surely growing a reputation and a community online.
Remember that social media is very visual so make sure any pictures you post on your feed are of the best possible quality. You don’t need to go out and buy an expensive camera – simply cleaning the lens on your phone before you shoot a pic helps.
Never use out of focus pictures, if you wouldn’t want it in the pages of Vogue or whatever the biggest publication in your field is, don’t use it on your social media pages either.
Now you know how to come up with a business idea, the big question is – how do I launch and run a new business if I have no business development and strategy or sales and marketing experience?
And really, this is an important key to having a successful business in the lifestyle space. Because if you don’t know with some degree of certainty that you can successfully run a business, you’ll never have the confidence to go ahead and start.
So, the question is, how do you gain the confidence to make that change and start on the path to business ownership?
That’s exactly what I’m going to show you in the next article in the series.
Make sure you come back next week Monday to find out why a lack of business or sales/marketing expertise isn’t a problem in any way.
And why not share this article with someone who’d also like to start his or her own business in the lifestyle space.