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The “Find a Need and Fill It” Approach to Small Business

This week has been a particularly busy one for me in terms of blog consulting. People may not be ordering extensive new websites, but it seems that more people are trying to spruce up the websites where they sell goods and services, create personal websites to make them more attractive to employers (if that’s useful in their field), or just make their blogs more professional and monetize them.

It’s all gotten me thinking about the “find a need and fill it” approach to having a small business. Whether you’re earning money on the side or consulting while you look for a new job, I think it’s important to keep this principle in mind.

Starting a business does not always mean having an initial business plan, coming up with funding, etc. Those may be steps you take along the way, but if you think of having a side-business as an intense and organized project, you’re likely to miss out on actually getting started.

You will need to keep records, but at first you probably won’t need business cards, a formal plan, incorporation, etc. You don’t even need to know how to start a blog. Instead, start using your skills and see where it goes.

For example, I know a woman who runs a small business (this one is incorporated because it has 2 partners). It all started when these two women had daughters on the same swim team. Swim teams need suits. One woman is good at sewing and the other is good at decorating. They started making team suits. People liked the suits. They started making more suits. Now she’s making suits for teams all over the country!

They didn’t spend a lot of time initially. Once they realized that this might catch on they did come up with a partnership agreement, etc. You may not even have to do that if you’re a sole proprietor.

I started out freelancing by writing and editing. But I was also helping people with their blogs and realized that I enjoyed that a lot more. So I transitioned into blog consulting. Eventually I set up a blog consulting website.

My advice is to just get started. Look for places where your skills can be useful. Pitch a few friends and acquaintances. Let them know you’re looking and they may recommend you–not even because they know your skillset but because they know your character. Do a few things for free and get feedback/recommendations. Network with other people doing related things and see how the two of you can interact. I have some logo designers that I recommend and they send me clients who need coding done or setup help.

Start small. Just start.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael March 27, 2009 at 5:42 pm

That’s good advice. By the way, did you ever answer the question I submitted? 🙁

Keith March 28, 2009 at 10:57 am

Great job on the article! You offer good advice because it is a good idea to start with what you’re good at and see if it is going to go anywhere and if it does, then do the other things like incorporating etc. This approach could save you a lot of time and money.

Kim March 31, 2009 at 2:12 pm

That is exactly how we did it. By accidentally filling a need. Once we broke $10,000 we finally sat down and wrote a business plan. That in its self helped to streamline the feel of our website.

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