I have always wanted to own my own business. I looked into franchises, investing in shopping centers or laundromats or car washes, online businesses, playing around with stocks in the hopes of being a day-trader, and other money making opportunities. The trouble was that I was always looking. I looked for years, but never actually owned a business.
This changed several years ago. Now I own two businesses. Both are profitable, but I hate one and love the other. So here’s some tips for you to consider in your quest of owning your own business.
1. Fill a need in your area of expertise: I was a full time teacher when I started my first business. As a teacher, it was difficult for me to find good classroom resources for my particular subject. So, like most teachers, I began making my own. I first offered my resources for free online, but then I realized it made no sense that I had to pay money out of my own pocket for a website so that others could benefit from hundreds of hours of my work. Now I charge a small fee and have found that people are willing to pay for my services. This is the business I love. I loved teaching, I love my subject and now I love my business. Think about your job and hobbies. There is an unfilled need in there somewhere, or even if that need is already filled, maybe you can improve it or do a better job. Most successful businesses come from the knowledge of people already working in a particular industry.
2. Do what you love and love what you do: Following my lead, a family member looked into her life to see if there was any need she could fill. She realized her life long love was with her daughter’s sport, and she realized there was a particular need in that industry. Needing a business partner, I joined forces with her and we now run a business that sells exactly one product for exactly one niche. Believe it or not, it is profitable. More so than my educational resource business. She loves this business, but I hate it. This was her love, not mine. Money or not, I do not enjoy this business, so make sure when you select a business, that you pick something you love to do and not for the sake of owning your own business.
3. Understand the tasks required: Here’s one reason I love my education business. Of all the hours I spend on this business, 99% of my time is spent on the educational aspect and 1% taking care of the business paperwork. In other words, my educational business is pretty much self-sufficient. As far as the sports business is concerned, I spend 40% of my time taking care of financial book-keeping and paperwork organization, the other 60% is spent running back and forth from vendors, performing quality checks, preparing packages and running to UPS, hauling very heavy boxes. I do not enjoy this and when you’re daydreaming of profits, you often downplay the amount of manual labor or tedious book-keeping that is required. Make sure you’re up to the task.
4. There is no easy money: From the outside, my educational business looks like easy money. People pay through Paypal, access is automated by a database, there is no final product except what is available online, so there’s nothing to ship back and forth. But it did not start out that way. Thankfully, my husband uses programming at his day job, so he was the one who put in roughly 100 hours setting up this site and designing every automated process. On that site, each resource I have available has to be made by me, and then checked for errors and uploaded, roughly 2 hours per resource. Multiply that by the over 400 resources I currently have available and I have spent 800 hours creating them. If you want to gain financially from your business, you have to put in the time and work.
5. Start up costs: Since my educational site only required a website, my only start up cost was paying for the domain name and a web hosting service. Still, it is a start up cost. Most businesses, though, will cost a lot more. For the sports business, we had to supply our own start up capital to manufacture a product we weren’t sure people would buy. A word of warning, you will always underestimate start up costs, even if you think you’re overestimating them in your business plan. Many business owners have had to take out a second mortgage and max out their credit cards before seeing any financial gain. If you already have a business idea, think about whether or not you’d be willing to go to these lengths to support it. If not, it may be a sign that you are not 100% invested in your own idea. If you can’t back yourself up 100%, maybe you need to step back and look at your business idea objectively to see if it really is a good idea.