Have you ever thought about starting your own online business, but you aren't exactly sure how to create a business from what you have to offer?
You have many interests, passions, skills, strengths and a lifetime of experiences, and you desire to make a difference in the lives of others, but you don't have your one distilled, clear, viable business idea.
This is a common struggle, I can assure you.
To get your ideas flowing, it might be helpful to do a little self-reflection, research and imagining on the front end of your journey to help "stir the idea pot" before taking action.
By doing so, you may discover a key clue or idea (that otherwise would have gotten overlooked) to give you more clarity on your idea.
What You Will Learn In This Post
In this post, I'll share a series of three worthwhile exercises to take yourself through to "kick the bushes" (one of my old sales managers liked to say that ... haha!) and shake out some possible ideas or clues for your personal online business.
If you're already doing business online, this post may help you discover some new threads about yourself that you can weave into your brand's online content.
Going through these three exercises was a great help to me, which is why I want to share them with you!
And, to make it easier for you, I've created a 7-page guide that you can download to walk you through the 3 exercises I discuss. You can grab it right here or look for this red button again at the end of the article.
Why So Many Struggle With Deciding On Their Online Business Idea
One of the biggest struggles of those who desire to create an online business is zeroing in on their online business idea.
In other words, how should they package their interests, strengths, skills and life experience in such a way to create a viable online business?
There's no wonder this process can be confusing and overwhelming because there are many variables at play, and the slightest tweak of those variables changes the whole focus of your business.
Before taking action, questions like these should be answered:
- What is going to be the main purpose of my online business?
- Or, rather ... How can I blend 2 or 3 of my interests to come up with a viable business idea?
- Who specifically will my business serve?
- What problem am I solving for my community?
- How will I get paid for my time and effort so I can sustain doing what I love?
Without crystal clear answers to these questions, you're doomed because you'll delay taking action, eventually get stuck, and/or flounder around aimlessly, most likely wasting your energy, time and money.
Since I started blogging, I've been stuck a few times along the way because my ideas and vision weren't clear enough.
But I didn't give up and ultimately sent myself back to the drawing board.
So, without further ado, here are 3 activities I suggest trying before nailing down your online business idea:
Exercise 1: Write Down Your Entire Life | Self-Reflection
The idea to write down my entire life came to me out of the blue one morning before anyone in my house was up. I grabbed a legal pad and a pen and began writing out my entire life.
The almost 3 hours that had passed by the time I was done felt like 30 minutes. I was totally engrossed in "getting it all out."
There was something so refreshing about doing this. It was almost like I had been carrying my life around in my head for so long and letting it out all at once was such a relief.
I began with the day and place I was born, then moved onto elementary school and all the way through college and beyond.
As I went through time, I listed the following things for each phase of my life:
- Activities I loved
- My friends
- Sports and other activities I participated in
- Things I loved doing in my spare time
- The different music I listened to
- Books that made the most impact on my life
- Schools I attended (elementary through college)
- My relationships
- My places of employment, my bosses and co-worker friends
- My apartments when I was single
- Life-changing events and crossroads
- The favorite places I've traveled to
- The births of my children
- Places my husband I lived/moved to with our kids
- My kids' milestones and where they are currently
As I was remembering and writing, I stopped to take note of the emotions that came up. It almost felt like I was stirring the pot of my life, which helped stir up ideas.
Yes, there were lots of ups and downs, but I felt a sense of pride as I considered where I'd been and how I navigated to get to where I am today.
Some of the following "clues" about who I am surfaced as I looked at my life:
- The different versions of myself through each phase
- What I naturally gravitated towards (and possibly abandoned along the way) and why?
- My natural strengths
- Skills I've learned
- What I've enjoyed doing over the years and why?
- Who were my favorite people along the way and why?
- Where I've had success and failure
- When and where I felt most myself
- How I moved through and transitioned out of the peaks and valleys of my life.
- What were the main impactful events of my life and why?
- Am I currently at the beginning, middle or end of a phase in my life?
As I flip back through the pages, I notice recurring themes of what I enjoyed, disliked, was successful in, didn't do well in, etc. For example, starting from an early age, I noticed a theme that I enjoy helping and teaching others. I also saw a common thread of creativity from an early age.
Some of the themes you discover may be parts of you that you abandoned as years went by and you'd like to incorporate them into the nature of your business.
I will add that in no way was this a waste of time, and I have referred to the pages several times since to help me.
By writing down your entire life and seeing it on paper, you notice common threads and special themes about where you can go with who you are. These clues may not necessarily surface just by jotting down quick lists of your current interests.
Finally, what was clear is that I am at a crossroads in my life. It was obvious that I am at the end of a phase heading into a new one.
So, what did I do next?
Exercise 2: Observe & Listen To The Desires & Struggles Of Yourself & Others
Once you have an idea about how where you've been has made you who you are, as you speak to people in your local personal network or listen to those in any online communities you participate in, observe exactly what yourself and others are struggling with and how you may be able to help.
Here are some questions (to ask yourself) to help you with this exercise.
- What am I struggling with? (Hey, many people teach what they need to learn.)
- What are my friends and people in my social circles struggling with? (Are their struggles similar to yours, meaning there's an untapped demand for this problem to be solved? Or, have you already been successful solving or mastering their challenge?)
- Why do people seek me out for help? (Do you have specialized knowledge, skills, or strengths that present a business opportunity? Is there something I naturally help people with? Do I enjoy helping others with what they seek my help with? Can I teach people online what I do in-person at my job?
- Have I overcome a personal challenge in life? (If so, there may be people out there who would love to learn from you, given your first-hand experience.)
After gathering this info, see if any of the recurring themes that you uncovered in your life (what you love doing, skills you acquired in your past jobs, personal life experiences, or your natural strengths & abilitites) intersect with these needs and make a list.
Chances are if you and/or people in your immediate social circles are struggling with something, there are many others you can reach on the internet who are struggling with the same challenge as well.
For me, I had a lightbulb moment when I ran into a mom I know, and we started chatting about how we've been at home raising kids for some time, and how we both want to put our skills to work for ourselves.
Personally, this was my current biggest challenge, but hearing it reflected back to me when this other mom had the same challenge was my "aha" moment.
I just knew there are countless other women wanting to get back to work and would consider putting their skills, passions and life experience to work for themselves to help others.
Over the past few years I have been educating myself about building an online business so it made sense to put those skills to work. I will also be able to use the skills I acquired in the corporate world as well as weave in many creating things I enjoy doing too.
Most importantly, by creating this blog and helping others, I'm also helping myself.
How can you do the same?
Exercise 3: Your Future Self | Imagine & Write Down Who You Want To Become
Ok, so once you have some ideas of what you and others are struggling with and how you can help others with that struggle, now is the time to imagine who you will become on that journey. I believe there's power behind using the imagination to manifest reality.
At the top of another clean page in big letters write: "Next Phase: Who Do I Want To Become?"
To give you an example, my list goes something like this:
- A successful entrepreneur who helps others by using my skills and experience
- A published author
- Someone who is real and not afraid to share and be vulnerable
- A leader of a creative community (This is surprising because I've always shied away from being a leader, but this is something I see myself doing in the context of my blog and helping others.)
- Inspire others by sharing my perspective and learned insights
Ok, you get the idea, but seriously, envisioning where you'd ultimately like to be is the first step in getting there.
Some questions to ask yourself to prompt your imagination to envision your future self are:
- What's important to me today? (values, morals, beliefs)
- What do I know I'm capable of if I put in the time/work?
- Is there something I feel called to do?
- Am I willing to bridge the gap between who I am today and who I need to become to develop myself?
- What's that "one thing" that if I don't do, I'll regret it?
- What qualities and skills do I want to develop in myself?
Once you've come up with a description of your imagined future self, keep it in front of you so you can see it every day to bring more strength to your vision.
Finally, what dawned on me is that getting to my ideal "Next Phase/Future Self" will require a great deal of personal growth and dedication on my part. Becoming a better version of yourself is a huge benefit of starting your own personal online business.
Starting a personal online business is the first step in a new phase of your life. When we know where we want to go, the first steps we take not only begin to create the business but also the person we need to become.
Recap & Let's Do This!
I realize this post was lengthy and I covered a lot so let's take a minute to recap before taking action ...
First, it's perfectly normal to desire to pursue work that makes a positive impact in the world, but it's also perfectly normal to be unsure about how you can combine what you have to offer to make an impact.
So why don't you take a little extra time to stir up your best ideas before taking action?
Again, the 3 helpful exercises I outlined above to help you stir up some ideas are:
- Self-Reflection | Write Down Your Entire Life (You'll be happy you did this!)
- The Desires & Struggles Of Yourself & Others | Observe & Listen (An idea could be right under your nose!)
- Your Future Self | Imagine & Write Down Who You Want To Become (I know and you know that you can do anything you set your mind to!)
Ok, now it's up to you to take action on what you just read!
To help walk you through the 3 Exercises To Help You Find Your Online Business Idea, I created a printable, 7-page guide to help you! You can have it sent directly to your inbox by clicking the button below.
After you're done with the three exercises, I'd love for you to leave me a comment here to let me know how it went!
Good luck and most importantly, have fun taking action! ~Ellie