If you’ve been contemplating starting a business, now is the perfect time. All of us are being asked to self-isolate to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

We suddenly have extra time on our hands. Why not use it to learn more about starting a business and take actual steps to make it happen?

Here are 5 activities you can do from home in preparation for starting your business.

Brainstorm Business Ideas

At our age, with decades of experience behind us, we tend to be multi-passionate, have countless skills, and love doing many things. It can be difficult to narrow and refine our business ideas to a single working one.

But don’t despair. Here’s a 20-minute exercise you can try:

Pro Tip: Don’t censor your answers. Don’t stop to question what you’re writing down. Just brainstorm.

Start Blank

Grab a piece of paper. Draw two columns. Label the first one I LOVE TO DO (LOVE COLUMN), and the second one I’M GREAT AT (BRAG COLUMN).

Love Column

Take 5 minutes to write down everything you LOVE to do – from cooking to accounting to art to event planning – regardless of how good you are at it. (5-minute mark)

Brag Column

Take the next 5 minutes to write down everything you excel at doing. Go all out, even though your mother taught you it wasn’t nice to brag. Do it here. Note: Some items may overlap with your LOVE COLUMN. Include them again. (10-minute mark)

5-Minute Break

Walk away. Get something to drink. Stretch. Take the dog out. (15-minute mark)

The Intersection

Come back to your brainstorm. Look at both your LOVE and BRAG columns.

Look for similar items, such as, you LOVE helping women and you’re GREAT at mentoring. What about starting a Coaching/Consulting business?

Or, you LOVE gardening and you’re GREAT at flower arranging. Could this lead to creating and teaching a flower arranging course (online or on-ground)?

Also look for ‘mashup’ opportunities – putting unlike items together to create a unique business concept.

For example, you LOVE dogs and are GREAT at organizing. How can you put these together to form a business? What about pet services for busy pet owners?

Another example: You LOVE researching local history and you’re GREAT at writing. What about building an online course to teach people how to research and write their local history. (20-minute mark)

Lastly, pick ONE idea to move forward with. You don’t have to marry it, but you do need one idea to learn more about to see if it’s ‘the one’.

Research

Use Google and social media (Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and LinkedIn) to learn about the type of business you want to start, for example, a pet service business.

Pro Tip: When searching on Google, scroll to the bottom of the page to find “Searches related to ‘pet service business’.” This will give you additional search terms to use on Google and the social media platforms.

Here’s what you should look for in your research:

Resources

Resources about your idea, including blog posts, YouTube videos, organizations, how-to articles.

Topic Variations

The topics that come up. For our example, pet service business, there are various results – from “12 Unique and Useful Pet-Inspired Businesses”to “Pet Business Insurance”to “9 Steps to Starting a Successful Pet Sitting Business.”Bookmark them. Take notes. How can you use these to refine your business idea?

The Competition

What products and/or services are your competitors offering? How can you differentiate your business from theirs?

Next, use the same search terms (i.e., pet service business) on the different social media platforms.

  • Do you find useful videos on YouTube?
  • Helpful Facebook Pages or Groups related to your idea that you can join?
  • Useful articles?

The goal of research is to get a broad understanding of the overall market you want to enter and start getting familiar with the specifics of getting started. You want to learn as much as you can, before you go all in, so you’re sure it’s the right business for you.

Discovery Calls

Invite potential customers to a phone call or virtual meeting room, like Zoom, for a ‘discovery call’. Tell them about your business idea. Get their feedback. Find out what they really want (and don’t).

Pro Tip: Don’t ask them about price or what they’d be willing to pay for your product or service. It’s premature. Until you have a product or service and can communicate the value, you won’t get useful responses.

Sample questions you can ask:

  • What’s your biggest frustration when it comes to [FILL IN YOUR BUSINESS IDEA]. For example, “What’s your biggest frustration when it comes to hiring pet service professionals?”
  • If I could wave a magic wand and get you the results (exact product or service) you want, what would it look like? For example, “If I could wave a magic wand, what would your ideal pet service look like?”
  • What services/products have you already tried? What worked about them? What didn’t? For example, “What pet service businesses have you tried? What worked about them and what didn’t?”
  • Why would you purchase a product/service like this? For example, “Why would you hire a pet service business?”
  • What else can you share about your need for [FILL IN THE BLANK]. For example, “What else can you tell me about your need for a pet service business?”

Take notes or record the conversation (with their permission). You want to capture the precise things they say. You can later use their words in your messaging and promotions. You’ll also have loads of data to draw from when crafting your product or service offer.

Discovery calls were something I didn’t prioritize when I first started my business. They took ‘too much time’. Once I did them, though, I wished I had done them much earlier. The information you gather is invaluable.

Tackle Some Tech

Having a business today means using technology. There are tools and online applications we simply can’t do without. Take some time to learn a new online tool or app that you can use in your business.

Note, these free (or less expensive) tools I find indispensable in my business:

Facebook

Learn how to create a Facebook Business Page and use it to get your business in front of customers.

Here are a few free videos to get you started:

How to Test Drive Your Business Idea (for FREE) on a Facebook Business Page

A Facebook Business Page: Why You Should Create Yours Today

Facebook Round-Up: Groups, Business Pages and Personal Profile

Google Suite

Dig into the Google Suite of tools (the service starts at $6 per month). This cloud-based system is an entrepreneur’s dream productivity tool. It’s an all-in-one toolbox and includes:

  • Document and file storage (Google Drive)
  • A Google calendar app to keep all of your appointments and important project dates (Google Calendar)
  • Word processing tool (Google Docs)
  • Spreadsheet tool (Google Sheets)
  • Presentation tools (Google Slides)
  • And more…

You can sync everything between your laptop and your Google Drive cloud so you have access to everything from wherever you have an internet connection.

Canva

Canva.com is a particularly fun and useful tool. It’s a graphic design tool for non-graphic designers. The FREE version is plenty robust.

Learn this tool and you’ll be able to design just about anything from letterheads and logos to social media graphics, brochures, and business cards.

There are many how-to and design tutorials on the site, and Canva provides thousands of templates so you don’t have to start any design from scratch.

I use Canva every day in my business and being comfortable using it makes the work go much faster.

Take Some Courses

Pro Tip: Take one course at a time. Execute what you learn. Then consider the next course.

A successful online business has many moving parts. It’s an on-going learning process.

Take this extra time to look for online courses that will help you build your skillset. Perhaps you’re new to marketing or you’re not sure how to sell using a specific platform, such as Etsy or Amazon? There are plenty of online courses to teach you.

Udemy.com or LinkedIn Learning is a good place to start. Courses range from a few dollars to a few hundred.

Investing in education is time and money well-spent. You’ll move faster and more efficiently in your business. You’re also more likely to get it right the first time. Consider learning an on-going activity in your business.

Timing Is Everything

So, if you’re ready to become your own boss, now is a great time. Tackling these 5 practical activities will move you closer to your goal and provide a productive distraction in what is shaping up to be a tumultuous time.

We know from experience this current crisis will pass. Won’t it be wonderful to come out the other side further along in your business?

How are you using your self-isolation time? Have you come up with a business idea? What are you doing to progress it into a real business? Do you have any tips to share? What issues have you faced? Please share your thoughts below. We’d love to know more!

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