The Complete, 4-Step Guide to Starting a Business

Thousands of professionals have dreamed about starting their own consulting business. It seems like a great career path: Hang a shingle, bring in clients, be your own boss, do awesome stuff and make bank.

Yet consulting, as it turns out, isn’t sexy, glamorous or easy. It’s downright hard — harder than you might think. I encourage anyone with the moxie to start a consulting business. But I also offer cautions — a few “yield” signs that could save you a lot of grief and get you closer to achieving your dreams.

There are no limits on who can become a great entrepreneur. You don’t necessarily need a college degree, a bunch of money in the bank or even business experience to start something that could become the next major success. However, you do need a strong plan and the drive to see it through.

If you’re on Entrepreneur , odds are you already have the drive, but you might not know how to start building your empire.

That why we are here.

Check out this step-by-step guide to help turn your big idea into a successful business.

Related: 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting an Online Business

1. Evaluate yourself.

Let’s start with the most basic question: Why do you want to start a business? Use this question to guide what kind of business you want to start. If you want extra money, maybe you should start a side hustle. If you want more freedom, maybe it’s time to leave your 9-to-5 job and start something new.

Once you have the reason, start asking yourself even more questions to help you figure out the type of business you should start, and if you have what it takes.

  • What skills do you have?
  • Where does your passion lie?
  • Where is your area of expertise?
  • How much can you afford to spend, knowing that most businesses fail?
  • How much capital do you need?
  • What sort of lifestyle do you want to live?
  • Are you even ready to be an entrepreneur?

Be brutally honest with your answers. This will create a foundation for everything you do moving forward, so it’s better to know the truth now than later.

Related: 15 Free Online Learning Sites Every Entrepreneur Should Visit

2. Think of a business idea.

Do you already have a killer business idea? If so, congratulations! You can proceed to the next section. If not, there are a ton of ways to start brainstorming for a good idea. An article on Entrepreneur, “8 Ways to Come Up With a Business Idea,” helps people break down potential business ideas. Here are a few pointers from the article:

  • Ask yourself what’s next. What technology or advancement is coming soon, and how will that change the business landscape as we know it? Can you get ahead of the curve?
  • Fix something that bugs you. People would rather have less of a bad thing than more of a good thing. If your business can fix a problem for your customers, they’ll thank you for it.
  • Apply your skills to an entirely new field. Many businesses and industries do things one way because that’s the way they’ve always been done. In those cases, a fresh set of eyes from a new perspective can make all the difference.
  • Use the better, cheaper, faster approach. Do you have a business idea that isn’t completely new? If so, think about the current offerings and focus on how you can create something better, cheaper or faster.

Also, go out and meet people and ask them questions, seek advice from other entrepreneurs, research ideas online or use whatever method makes the most sense to you.

And, if you’ve exhausted all your options and you’re still stuck, here are 55 great business options you can start.

Related: 63 Businesses to Start for Under $10,000

3. Do market research.

Is anyone else already doing what you want to start doing? If not, is there a good reason why?

Start researching your potential rivals or partners within the market by using this guide. It breaks down the objectives you need to complete with your research and the methods you can use to do just that. For example, you can conduct interviews by telephone or face to face. You can also offer surveys or questionnaires that ask questions like “What factors do you consider when purchasing this product or service?” and “What areas would you suggest for improvement?”

Just as importantly, it explains three of the most common mistakes people make when starting their market research, which are:

  1. Using only secondary research.
  2. Using only online resources.
  3. Surveying only the people you know.

Related: How to Start a Business Online

4. Get feedback.

Let people interact with your product or service and see what their take is on it. A fresh set of eyes can help point out a problem you might have missed. Plus, these people will become your first brand advocates, especially if you listen to their input and they like the product.

One of the easiest ways to utilize feedback is to focus on “The Lean Startup” approach (read more about it here), but it involves three basic pillars: prototyping, experimenting and pivoting. By pushing out a product, getting feedback and then adapting before you push out the next product, you can constantly improve and make sure you stay relevant.

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