How to start a business (even if you don’t have a business idea)

don't have a business idea

Here’s something I hear often: “you need an original business idea, otherwise you’ll fail”.

It’s a statement that is so widely perpetuated, if you don’t have a completely unique idea, you’re made to feel that you may as well give up, or go back to the drawing board until you find The Next Big Thing.

And if you’re a parent who has decided to give up the corporate “Nine to Five” (which we all know really means “Eight till Eight”) in favour of a truly flexible working career, being told that you can’t until you find The Next Big Thing can leave you in angst.

If you have stumbled across The Next Big Thing, then that’s fantastic, of course.

But if you haven’t, probably even better.

Here’s why.


The Truth About The Next Big Thing

Of course it’s wonderfully exciting to see a completely different idea.  Here are some hot picks from Springwise.  

But I’m willing to bet those hot picks took years of pure blood, sweat and tears.  And just because they’re the hot picks for 2014, doesn’t mean they will still be here in 2015.

The truth about The Next Big Thing is that hunting around for it – or in other words, waiting for inspiration – is a waste of time.

A waste of valuable time that you could be spending on far more fun and interesting things instead..

Here’s what you should do instead.


Hone your existing skills

There’s good reason why we’re often told to “stick with what we know”.

It’s nothing to do with fear of stepping outside your comfort zone (which frankly, isn’t always that comfortable). Sticking with what you know is good old common sense because at least you have something that you are familiar with and quite likely an expert in.

So take a closer look at some of your existing skills, not just the hard skills that you’ve used in your working career, but some of the softer skills too, such as:

  • negotiating
  • problem solving
  • communicating
  • organising
  • and so on

What on your list is your favourite skill, and why?  Which one, if you honed with more training or practice, would you become even better at?

By taking a closer look at your existing skills in this way, you already have a clue as to what your ‘new’ business could be.


Put your stamp on it

Here’s where originality comes into the mix and where it should be fun rather than an exhausting exercise.

Put your personality, your stamp on it.

It’s not a prerequisite for success and might not be suitable for all types of businesses, but chances are it will get you noticed in that crowded marketplace out there.

Let’s take an ordinary service like accountancy.  How many thousands of accountants are there out there?  How many dare to make accountancy fun and exciting?   Not many? Possibly because we’re not supposed to think of accountancy as fun and exciting.  It’s number crunching, after all.  Serious business.

Which is why I had to smile at this accountancy service for freelancers and sole traders  One Man Band Accounting.   Cake happens to be an integral part of their marketing strategy because of the founder’s love of baking.  (Cake would definitely have made my self-assessment easier to bear).

It doesn’t matter if 8 out of 10 people don’t get you, or think it’s rather silly to associate cake and cookies with accounting.

If 2 out of 10 people do get you, convert to clients and then refer you to two of their friends, who also convert to clients and so on, that’s far better than trying to appeal to every and anyone.  Because when you try to appeal to every and anyone, you end up appealing to no-one in particular.

It’s not about being gimmicky.  It’s simply about being original without the hard slog.

Just be you!


Change the way you deliver it

Another way to have an ‘original’ business, is to deliver it differently.

If all the other coaches out there are blogging for England, podcast instead.  Or do video tutorials. Or webinars.

Pat Flynn has made an international name for himself, with well over 75,000 subscribers (including me) who listen to his podcasts and watch his videos on the Smart Passive Income Blog.  He also happens to have an exhaustive stash of resources too.


So if you have always wanted to work for yourself, don’t sit around waiting for inspiration.

It’s often easier to stick with what you know, hone those skills and put your own individual stamp on it!

If you’d like some more ideas on getting started, who not download my PDF eBook, “Turn Your Hobby Into a Paying Business.”


photo credit: Jason Irons via photopin cc


I’m Mary Cummings, a ghostwriter, collaborator and all round word doctor. I help business owners write and publish business books; I'm also passionate about helping creative freelancers find work that they love - their work sweet spot with work on their terms, projects they love and clients who are a dream to work for.

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