How to start a business (when you're too scared to start a business)

You want to start a business. Break out of the 9-5, quit your job, and be your own boss. Bootstrap a business, get venture capital funding, sell the company, and go live on a yacht. Right?

Don't start ordering that yacht just yet, Steve Jobs. Things aren't that simple. Most tech companies never get funded or even make it to funding stage. Of those that do, most VC-backed companies aren't profitable for their investors or owners. Only a tiny fraction of those startup owners are prosperous and happy.

That scares you. It should, it's overwhelming and the odds aren't in your favor. It scares you so much that you haven't started your own business because you just don't know what to do. And that's okay, because there's a better way.

I want you to dream small. You'll increase the odds of your success by pigeon holing yourself, niche-ing down, and solving just one problem for your future customers. Forget about building the next Facebook and going IPO. You can do that later. Right now I want you to just brainstorm.

Somewhere in your life there is an intersection of your skills, your interests, and a pain that you can solve for people. Think about that. You can help people doing what you love because you're great at it. That's the mindset you've just adopted to think like a Businessman.

Maybe you have six ideas right now (if so, skip this paragraph, you maverick), or you may not have any yet. That's okay, you've only been wearing your Businessman hat for a moment now. Finding your first business idea is as simple as finding a problem you can solve. Talk to people. Your friends, family, local business owners, or even people you know through social media. Interview them, and you'll find a list of problems that your business could solve.

Once you've identified your business ideas, how do you know which is right? To shore up your chances of success, I want you to pick the simplest for you to implement. Promise me. For your first business, your first goal should just be to get it off the ground. And that means choosing the idea that requires the least investment of your time. That's important if you're going to see this through.

I'm going to use myself as an example. My skill is that I'm a good web designer. I love helping people grow businesses. Several of my small business clients were coming to my with a similar pain: they had good but aging websites, recognized the need for improvement, but didn't want to invest the time and money into a full redesign. The business solution I built around that pain is WebsiteRescues. At its barest bones, launching that business involved nothing more than creating the landing page. No complex software, no VC funding, and no months of building. Just me doing what I love, helping others, and getting paid to do it.

There's nothing different about me that makes me anymore equipped to run a business than you are. The biggest hurdles you'll encounter in starting your first business are psychological. I absolutely believe in myself. It's time for you to do the same.

If you have questions about your business, ping me on twitter and I'll give you feedback or point you in the right direction.

Photo courtesy of picturesofyou- via Flickr.

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About the author

New Hampshirite building web apps in Florida. Creator of Surreal CMS, Postleaf, and DirtyMarkup.

Need to get in touch? Catch me on Twitter.