Getting started – it seems to be the main thing that stops us all, whether its that blank piece of paper you’ve been staring at for hours, those dishes that refuse to wash them selves, those legs that just won’t head out the door to take you on that much needed jog around the block or that business you’ve always  wanted to start!  So many of us stop BEFORE we even start! 

When it comes to starting a business of your own many people seem to get stuck on what to create a business around.  When I start talking to people they generally already know that its an online business that they’d like to start, but they have no idea where to go from there.  I believe it is the desire to have some control over their future, to be able to make decisions about what they do each day and how much money they make, that pushes many people down the “I just want to start an online business but I don’t know what kind of business it will be”..  This self discussion often leads to a little research online.  They search for “how to start an online business”, or something similar.  That then results in some rather interesting results from filling in surveys to various pyramid like programs to affiliate programs to selling on eBay to creating ebooks to selling on Amazon and being a virtual assistant.  The list could go on and on – inevitably people get overwhelmed and feel jaded – the self employment business bubble gets popped as they drag themselves back to a “job” feeling even more depressed than they were before.  For a brief moment they could see their new lives and how much better it was going to be!

If I’m lucky enough to get to people BEFORE they throw their hands up in despair and run back to the “job”, we go through a very simple set of exercises.  Now I’m saying that they are simple but they are not easy!  This is a mistake that many people make, they think its easy because all of the exercises revolve around you examining your self and your motivations.

This is an exercise that I was taken through myself many years ago by one of my business mentors and I have since heard it repeated on numerous occasions by other business leaders.  We can go through the exercises here but if you’d like a little more help, feel free to download a workbook I created to help my students tackle this fundamental issue.

There are three areas we need to delve into – your skills, your passions and what people are prepared to pay for.  Sound simple doesn’t it?  And it is, but please don’t let that mean that you don’t give it the time it deserves – after all you want to start an online business don’t you?


Ok, draw three intersecting circles like you see in the diagram above.  Label them as you see above – Skills, Passions and Money.  If you download the workbook you’ll be able to use that to work in. 

Now on a separate piece of paper I need you to list all the things that you have skills in?  For many people this is one of the hardest parts of this exercise – so many of us find it hard to look at the things we’re good at and acknowledge them.

So to help you get over this hurdle here are a few things you can do:

  • email your friends and family and ask them what they think you’re good at – I’ve done this and was very surprised by some of the things that came back.  You see we don’t always ‘see’ ourselves and can often be very critical of our own talents.
  • second write down all the things that people (anyone) have ever told you that you’re good at.  Even little things like the time your second grade teacher told you that you were great at helping others. 
  • lastly do a massive brain dump and leave your modesty at the door.

I’ve also created a video (see below) to help explain the technique a little more …

The idea is to get down as many things as possible, its a list that should exhaust you to complete.  List solid skills like writing, cooking and organising, but also list more fluffy skills like being a team player, being relaxed/easy to have a conversation with and great at inspiring people.  If this list doesn’t have at least 20 things on it, you’re not trying hard enough.  The email, conversations with family and friends should have given you some ideas, as should the thinking back to times when you’ve been complimented.

Next, lets work on your passions.  Again this should be a long list and will take some forcing of your grey matter!  List down all the things you have a passion for or you have a desire to explore.  Have you ever wanted to learn painting or french cooking?  Good put that down.  Do you like trains, or do you have a stamp collection?  What do you do in your spare time?  Why do I think that it is important that you really like what ever your business ends up revolving around?  great question – It is my opinion that if your business is to survive on the internet these days you need to create a community and you need to nurture that community.  This is a very hard things to do if you’re not that in love with your topic.  In fact you should probably go back to the “job” because you will end up hating your business.

The other reason I take my students through this processes is because it helps them get in touch with who they are in relation to the business they are about to create.  When you are able to articulate your place in your passion business by inserting your personality (your story), you are actually providing your business with one of the best weapons against competitors – you see no one else can be you!  When your personality and story is wrapped up in your business you come across as a very authentic character which is vital for small business success online.  In the online space it can be hard to stand out from the crowd – creating a business around something you love that ouse’s your personality is a sure fire way to combat this.

The last circle in the diagram is all about money – as a potential business owner about to create a business your passionate about, this is actually a vital step – if your new business can not sustain you then you have created an expensive hobby (not that there is any thing wrong with that ;-)).  Very simply put, what things can you do that people are prepared to pay money for?  I would start this exercise by just dumping down everything that you can think of that people would pay money for (online in particular).  Then look at your 2 other lists, which of these do people pay money for?  Put them in the money list too.

Now stand back and look at your three long lists – start placing them in the appropriate circles, but don’t just put them in the circle that corresponds with the particular list, ask your self if they fit in either of the other two lists?  If they fit in all three place them in the intersection between all three circles..  And yes you have a winner every time you’re able to place them in the middle!

I’ve done this exercise with many people and numerous times on myself – you will always find at least one or two things that your good at, you have a passion for and people will pay money for.  Many times you will need to meld them together, for example:  you may be really good at designing/cooking kids birthday cakes (in fact people are always asking you do to it for them) – should you start a baking business?  Ask yourself – “do you love baking, would you like to bake ALL day?”, if the answer is no do not despair!  What is your passion was taking photos, in fact one of the reasons people are always saying how fabulous your cakes are is because you take amazing photos of them 🙂  Well I can think of at least two things people would pay for that would combine your passion for photography and your awesome skill of designing/cooking kids party cakes.  Firstly you could start a business around teaching people to design their own unique party cakes or you could sell your designs including some videos showing how to put them together.  The other thing that comes to my mind that people would pay for is to learn how to take great pictures of food – you could start a business helping people do just that.

The possibilities are endless and only limited to your imagination.

Does this technique always work?  No.  For example, I like to run, as a result about 13 years ago I actually wrote a book on how to run forever, you can see it here Run Forever.  I have sold a few of this book but not that many.  So it didn’t become my online business but it was a part of me learning the skills I needed to go on and create a successful online business

Don’t get me wrong you will make mistakes, in fact if you don’t you’re probably not doing it right 😉  One of my favourite sayings goes something like this: “just start taking action” – if you stay still you will never make any progress and you will not be able to adjust your direction, i.e. a misplaced step is much better than no step!  If you don’t actually start you will never know what works and what doesn’t.  Do this decision exercise will help you start in the right direction (at least right at the time).  Being flexible and being prepared to pivot if need be is all a part of being a successful business owner – an entrepreneur.

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