Great entrepreneurs have one thing in common: passion. They love what they do, which drives them to keep moving forward despite setbacks and ambiguity. Being able to monetize the thing you care most deeply about is a gift, and a great way to find fulfillment in your work life.
Now that 2018 is in full swing, it’s time to get into the groove of what you actually want to accomplish this year. And if starting your own business has been your biggest unachieved goal, there’s no better time than now to take it off the back burner.
But how do you actually start? You may have a great idea for a new business, but without follow-through, even the best ideas hold little weight.
Don’t panic—it may take a lot of effort, but if you’re serious about turning your passion into a full-time business, you can certainly make it happen. Here are the 5 steps you need to follow to turn what you love into a business in 2018.
1. Learn as much as you can.
Once you’ve found the thing that motivates you and decided you want to turn that into a business, you need to focus on one thing: becoming an expert.
A problem that so many aspiring entrepreneurs have is that they simply jump into a position of authority without the experience to back up what they have to say. Being a great leader doesn’t always mean knowing the most — in fact, some would argue that being a leader doesn’t mean being the smartest person in the room, but rather knowing who the smartest people in the room are and how to utilize them.
But being a leader does mean acting as an authority, and for that, you do need to learn your stuff. Whether or not the idea you need “10,000 hours” of practice to become an expert is arbitrary, there’s plenty of truth to the thought that you need to have plenty of experience to know what you’re talking about. If you have a passion for something and want to turn it into a business, it pays to learn it inside and out.
2. Find a specific need your business could fulfill.
Some of the best ideas for businesses over the years started as simply as someone noticing there was a hole in the market and then figuring out a way to fill it.
If you’re passionate about a certain industry, you can also likely think of a way it can be better. Maybe you’ve always loved web development, and you know that UX (user experience) design is something more small and local businesses should be thinking about. Instead of starting a basic web development firm, you then decide to start one that specializes in UX.
Accept that your business is not going to invent the wheel. You do not need to start something entirely new and forge a unique path. Rather, filling a void that already exists (and needs filling) will be much more valuable and sustainable. If your new business can fix a problem that plagues a bunch of people in the same industry, that’s a classic big-fish-small-pond scenario, which is good as gold.
3. Create content in the spaces your customers will actually be searching.
Again, instead of focusing on creating an entirely new industry and/or audience, focus on building a space for your business in a market that already exists. Putting solid, expert content into the world is a great way to do this, especially when it comes to online businesses.
Of course, building your brand voice takes time, as does establishing your role as an industry expert. But creating content, whether on your own blog or as a guest contributor for existing websites, is a simple, straightforward way to establish your voice in your chosen industry.
As your business gains traction, more people are going to turn to search engines to learn about it—and you, as its founder. Or, they may be reading an industry publication and come across an article you’ve written, and want to learn more. Additionally, keeping a blog and guest posting content across the web is a great way to start link-building and boosting your website’s SEO.
It all boils down to this: If your business is based online, the more places people are able to find you, the better.
4. Open the door for various streams of income.
You’ve probably heard how important it is to diversify your portfolio. But what about your income?
One thing that trips up many small business owners is relying simply on one stream of revenue. For example, a blogger may see that they get the most consistent chunk of change through their in-post ad units, so they rely on those instead of monetizing in other ways, such as sponsored content, affiliate linking, writing for other websites, or utilizing a service like Patreon.
But what happens if the search engine algorithm they’ve been relying on changes, and their numbers drop drastically overnight? What if a new ad blocker gains popularity, and none of their loyal readers see their ads anymore, meaning their ad revenue all but vanishes?
Simply put, you need to find different ways to monetize your business. Successful fruit stands don’t typically offer just one kind of fruit—they give their customers options. If you rely too much on one stream of income, it could disappear without any prior notice, leaving you and your company in the dust.
5. Hire like-minded people—when you can afford to.
Oh, the hiring process. You either love it or you hate it—but regardless, you don’t want it to take up all your time.
Adding new positions as your company grows means adding more opportunities for revenue. But hiring before you can really afford to do so means those new employees will be out the door faster than they came in.
High turnover can be hugely expensive for a business of any size. Instead of just focusing on warm bodies, your business needs employees who are in it for the long haul (especially when it comes to higher-ranking positions). You need to find the right people who believe in what you’ve started—and you need to be able to pay them accordingly.
If you’ve spent the past few months or even years daydreaming about starting your own business—now is the time to start. You’ll never have all of the answers, and sometimes in life, you just have to jump headfirst into the abyss, comfortable with ambiguity.