In Step 1 you spent some time getting to know yourself, your interests, and you set your long-term goal. During Step 2 you developed skills and built up knowledge in your field of interest. Now you are prepared to leverage your skills in a manner that will let you shape your future in the way you want.
If you live in the United States, as most of my readers do, you are in luck. Starting a business in the states is very cheap and quick. You don’t need to hire a lawyer, consultant, or an accountant; this is about independence after all, right? Everything you need to know (to legally form the business) can be found online through your state government’s business website. Being from the sunshine state, I just went to The Department of Corporation’s website, filled out the 2 page form, paid $125.00 filing fee, and had my LLC approved the next morning. It’s really that simple.
Forming the legal entity is the easy part; actually turning a net profit takes a little more work. This is another time in the process where you will want to take a break from everything, calm down, get yourself in a quiet place where you can actually focus for a decent period of time, and really think about what you can do with your skill-set to make money.
You probably won’t strike gold with the first idea you try out, and you probably won’t with the second one either. But, every time you try something and it doesn’t quite work out, think about what happened. Analyze that experience and separate which parts worked from which parts didn’t. Learn from your mistakes. These lessons are the most potent, most valuable, totally irreplaceable lessons you will ever learn in business.
Going back to my personal example, my first business venture was teaching computer classes. I targeted mostly senior citizens; remember that I lived in southwest Florida, so of course that was my demographic. I started the business as I was ending my one-year term in AmeriCorps, so I simply told my coworkers what I would be doing whenever they asked, “So what are you going to do after you finish your term.” That was it. Just doing that, they would tell me about their parents or friends who needed some sort of one-on-one technical instruction. Then through word of mouth, business slowly picked up. I managed to make enough to get by, but living in the US is quite expensive, so it became evident pretty quickly that I needed more work—actually, I needed more profitable work. So I went back to the drawing board.
How can I make more profit in the same amount of time? The answer was to teach more people concurrently… an actual class. Instead of charging one person $50/hr, I could charge 5 people $30/hr and triple my revenue for each hour. Of course there would be new expenses such as renting a meeting room and such, so maybe I’ll end up with $100/hr profit. That’s still a 100% increase in the bottom line.
Well, that didn’t work out so well. I never did find enough people to fill a class, and I had some trouble identifying what my curriculum would be, how the classes would flow, how many classes to have in a series, etc. I didn’t advertise, and I basically tried to make a bigger leap in growth than I should have. I didn’t have the proper knowledge, and I didn’t do the proper research. Was it a failure? Absolutely not! It was a lesson.
And that lesson was to start small and slowly build my way up, which happens to be Step 4.