Like a lot of folks, I’ve spent my fair share of time searching online for that one idea that was going to get my heart racing and make everything click into place. Over the years, I’ve killed countless hours bookmarking and reading (more like skimming) through list after list of small business ideas – and the more ideas a post had, the better. After spending more hours than I’d care to count doing this, however, I’ve come to realize that those small business idea lists are a huge waste of time.
The Passion Is Gone.
If you’re going to be truly successful with any business, you must be passionate about it. You have to love it. You have to want to do it more than anything else—you’ll lose sleep, miss meals, postpone doing your favorite hobbies. While not necessarily the best quality for maintaining other aspects of your life, this laser focus and devotion is absolutely vital to launch, and nurture, any fledgling business beyond the initial stages. With about 50% of small businesses failing within the first 5 years, maintaining the drive necessary to keep things going during this difficult time just isn’t possible without an undying passion for what you’re doing. Unfortunately, you’re going to be hard pressed to find something that ignites your passion on any of these business idea lists.
Big Money? Nope. Little Money? Not That Either.
While there were certainly times I’d search these lists just looking for inspiration, there were plenty of more desperate times that I’d search just to see what ideas might have the potential to make the most money. Especially quick money—and if it was easy and quick, well that was perfect. The problem here is that while it is possible to make some easy money and some quick money, it’s usually not possible to do both in a long-term, sustainable manner. Yes, yes, there are always stories of someone who stumbled on something and was an overnight success, but those are rare exceptions and definitely not the rule.
Whenever you search the interwebs for “how to make easy money”, you’ll get an endless amount of posts and articles with “creative ways to make money fast!” Unfortunately, these ideas—like getting paid to take surveys, watch videos online, download apps, and be a secret shopper—aren’t worth your time to explore. Best case scenario, they won’t pay you much (if anything) and worst case, the sites are phishing for your personal info. Either way, you’re wasting your valuable time.
The fact is, unlike what you may see on social media, or on “reality” shows, making real money and finding success in your business isn’t always flashy or exciting. It requires hard work, steady determination, and most importantly, time.
An Expensive Fishing Expedition
While there are definitely lists of small business ideas out there with the goal of actually trying to help folks, there are too many that are there just to try and sell you something. Whether it’s an e-commerce site looking to sell you on their platform, a business site trying to get you to download their “free” reports, or someone trying to get you to sign up for their online course, you need to recognize the ultimate goal of the vast majority of these lists. It’s not to help you, it’s to get you to visit and sign up for something else.
The fact that 99% of these “creative” lists of small business ideas are almost identical should be enough to show you that they aren’t really interested in actually helping you. If they were, the authors would spend more time creating a list that was unique and helpful. And yes, those lists do exist – the problem is it takes way too much of your precious time to try and sift through them all to try and find them.
What’s A Budding Entrepreneur To Do?
The fact is, with technology today, just about anything is possible. With platforms like Alibaba and online directories, anyone can connect up with manufacturers. With email, text, and the web you can work from anywhere. With sites like Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer you can find freelancers to help you with everything from accounting to web design to customer service. Don’t want to wade through all of it alone? There are consultants out there to help provide guidance and support every step of the way.
The fact is, these endless lists of small business ideas aren’t necessary and, like a lot of stuff online, tend to be a complete time-suck. This is fine when you want to mindlessly search the internet (it’s fun sometimes!), but it can be less than ideal when you’re looking to do something specific. Rather than spending your time looking at list after list, spend your time making your own business idea list.
What are you passionate about? What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? What unique skills do you possess? In a perfect world, how would you spend your day? It’s key to keep in mind that when you’re initially brainstorming your own list, you’re not thinking about things like how you’re going to fund it, if there’s a market for it, what the target market is, or what the competition is like. During this initial stage, you’re simply looking for inspiration and ideas. Don’t let reality creep in (yet).
Work on your list with an old fashioned pen and paper so you don’t have any distractions. I bulk buy index cards and have them stashed everywhere—my bag, car, nightstand, bathroom, kitchen, end tables—you never know where inspiration will strike. Often the best ideas come when you least expect it and you need to be ready to write them down when it does.
By making the commitment to avoid falling into the trap of those endless lists of small business ideas available online, and focusing on creating your own, you will be investing your time in your ideas, not someone else’s. You’ll be exploring and nurturing your own strengths, interests, and passions which will give you a stronger base to build a solid business you’ll love.