Due to the current health crisis, millions of people are out of work and unsure of what the future might bring. Furloughed employees wonder if they will even have a job to go back to and business owners wonder if their entrepreneurial dreams will be crushed for good. So if you’re looking for a new career to move into, figuring out which industries will survive this crushing blow depends largely on how long it continues.
On the bright side, if you have some extra time on your hands, here’s something else to think about. There are a number of different skills and talents that can be monetized to at least some degree, depending on factors like demand, value, and so forth. If you can figure out how to make this work for you, your own world might begin to look brighter.
I’m not saying you can do this with every skill, but you’d be surprised at what others have done in far less desperate times. There’s a fair chance that someone out there has made money off of something you’re good at and if you’re struggling to make ends meet, it might be time to take a serious look at what you already have to offer.
Here are some steps you can take to get started.
1. Identify Your Gifts
The first step is to determine what you’re good at. For example, if others are always pointing out what a great fashion sense you have, this could be a sign that there’s some kind of designer living inside of you, waiting to come out.
Are you good at working with your hands? Maybe a mobile oil change business would work for you. Do you play an instrument? In the age of the Internet, there are far more workable paths than there used to be for those who might ordinarily view music as little more than a hobby.
Before you commit yourself to anything new, you have to do your research. This is particularly important, because if you don’t know what your potential customers want, no one’s going to pay attention to your business.
What are others in your industry doing? What products are your competitors selling and what strategies are they employing? Who are the customers they are appealing to and are they reaching them successfully?
Before you get in too deep, find out how saturated that market is. You don’t want to jump into a crowded pool where you have no chance at success. If it is oversaturated, is there a sub-niche within that field that you can tap into that offers less competition?
Also, don’t forget to consider the geographical area you’re planning to do business in. Is there anything different about that area that offers advantages or disadvantages for a business like yours? Are the people who live there people who would even be interested in what you have to offer?
Another important thing to consider at this current point in time is the Covid situation. How does that affect what you’re trying to do? Are there ways to work around the issues you’re likely to face and how willing is your local government to work with businesses like yours, as far as allowing you to operate? It’s one thing to think you’re an “essential” business, but entirely another if your local politicians don’t view it the same way.
When it comes to workarounds, think about some of the innovations the restaurant industry has had to come up with. Even though restaurants in many areas have begun opening again, it’s usually with reduced indoor capacities. Because of the need for social distancing, most are only utilizing half of their available dining tables and turning to food delivery and curbside service to make up the difference.
Even some of the pizza places are offering touchless pickup services, where they can either bring it to your car or you can go inside and punch in an assigned number to get your own pizza out of a specified slot in the warmer. I also know a couple owners of bar and grill type establishments who have installed plexiglass dividers at their bars for the health and safety of both their patrons and employees. Remember the old adage about “where there’s a will, there’s a way?” These are great examples of what determined entrepreneurs will do to weather a storm that stands in their way.
Smart entrepreneurs know that at the present time, their focus needs to be on current needs. It might sound like a great idea to own a large restaurant, especially if it’s been your dream for years, but the restaurants that are doing better right now are often the smaller ones that cost less to operate and offer some type of pickup and/or delivery services for a competitive price. Think about the pizza chains that operate out of small suites in strip malls with little or no indoor seating. Their business model has proven to be one of the least-affected of all, primarily because they never relied on indoor seating to begin with.
My point in mentioning this is that if you’re thinking about opening a restaurant right now because you have a knack for cooking delicious recipes, it might be better to start with something like a food truck or catering service. After all, this can be expanded upon when the public health situation improves. At that point, you will have already established a reputation for yourself and a brand that people will recognize. When the time comes to open a physical location, people will already know who you are. You will have weathered the worst of the storm by playing it smart from day one.
3. Develop a Plan
Once you’ve done your research, you need to start mapping out how you’re going to pull this off. The best approach to this is to determine the end-goal you’re striving for.
For example, suppose you’re doing this because you got laid off from your job during the COVID pandemic and need a new line of work. How interested are you, really, in what you’re about to undertake? Is your intention simply to do this temporarily, until you can get another job in your old field or would you consider making this a permanent?
Maybe this is something you’ve always wanted to do, but weren’t able to before and the current situation has left you with no other choice. If that’s the case, you’re essentially making lemonade from the lemons life has thrown at you and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Just remember that your entire approach needs to reflect this by going all-in and giving it all you’ve got, because this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Once you’ve established this much, you can then identify all the major expenses that are likely to arise and come up with ways to fund them. Maybe you can deliver pizzas for a while to help raise enough funds to start on a small scale. Is the business you’re moving into highly regulated? If so, you’ll need a complete list of all the different licenses and permits you’ll need, so you can start getting them.
On the subject of licenses and permits, this is why I suggested that you determine what your end-goals are going to be. If you’re only doing this for the short-term, something with extensive licensing requirements might not be worth the trouble. However, if you really plan to set a new course for yourself, licensing will be just another fact of life from this point on and something you’ll have to learn to live with.
Next, start thinking about how you’re going to reach your customers. If you plan to operate locally, consider posting fliers at laundromats and leaving them on cars. This is ideal for those who might be considering something like a mobile auto repair or food-based business. If you’re planning to appeal to a wider audience, such as with an online business, you’ll definitely have to utilize social media, probably on multiple platforms.
You’re also going to have to think about what you’re going to charge. If you did your research properly, you should already know what your potential competitors are charging for their goods or services. While it makes sense to try to beat their prices, this might not always be possible. Sometimes it’s better to use their prices as a rough guide with the knowledge that you may have to adjust yours, especially if you haven’t yet established the relationships necessary to get the best prices on materials and supplies.
The key here is to make sure you can justify your prices, in some way. If you can do that, customers that truly enjoy their experiences with you will continue to come back for more. Maybe you can offer better customer service, a better warranty, or include some less-expensive products for free, in some kind of a package deal, especially if it’s something your competitors don’t offer.
4. Pick a Platform
Regardless of what business you go into, you’ll need some kind of platform from which to operate and there are plenty to choose from. You shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel to sell anything, because whatever you’re doing, someone else is doing something similar with an existing platform and most likely enjoying some level of success.
Take eBay, for example. As far as online storefront platforms, you can sell pretty much anything there, provided it’s not illegal or stolen. Believe it or not, you can even sell cars and car parts on eBay motors, which demonstrates just how far we’ve come over the past few decades. So if you’re buying used cars to fix up and resell, that’s a pretty solid platform to make use of, especially if you combine that with ads focused on your local area.
Amazon and Shopify are other online platforms you can use to sell various types of goods. Etsy has become quite popular among artists and those selling various types of homemade crafts. They all have their pros and cons, but remember that you don’t have to stick with any of them. At this point, your focus should be on just getting your foot in the door as quickly and easily as possible without spending anymore than is absolutely necessary.
Now if you’re planning to operate strictly in your own local area, you can either do that out of your own home or lease a dedicated space for that purpose. It goes without saying that this is usually the most expensive and labor-intensive type of storefront to operate, but depending on the nature of your business, sometimes it’s still the best way to go. The problem with doing that at this particular moment in history (2020-2021) is that given the COVID-19 situation, your local jurisdiction have operating guidelines that make this particularly difficult. As with anything else, this is a decision that only you can make and only after taking all existing factors into consideration.
And finally, you can always create your own website to sell whatever you have to offer. The advantage of operating your own website is that you don’t have to adhere to any of the guidelines put forth by larger platforms like eBay or Amazon. Although there’s more work involved in putting your own site together and driving traffic to it, sometimes that’s the best way to go. After all, there are countless ways to promote it and there’s no shortage of books and articles dedicated to doing just that.
Before moving on, I’d like to remind you that it’s important to take cost into consideration, when deciding on an appropriate platform. Keep in mind that eBay and Amazon have various fees that everyone who operates from their sites has to factor in. After all, you are using them to make your own job easier, as compared to running a website of your own. To be honest, I think they’re a great way to start, especially if you’ve never sold anything online before. Once you’ve established yourself and understand more how things work, you might find their fees burdensome and be more willing to work at getting a website of your own.
5. Build Your Brand
Once you’ve identified your gifts, done your research, developed a plan, and selected a platform from which to operate, it’s important to create a brand for yourself and promote it vigorously. Creating a brand will help you to stand out from among the competition and carve out a place for yourself within your niche or industry. This will involve coming up with a name for your new enterprise, as well as a logo that grabs people’s attention, so they can easily remember you and what you do.
From this point on, your brand must be given consideration in every decision you make. Any wrong decision you make could impact your brand negatively and it’s far too easy to make poor decisions early in the game, when no one knows who you are, because there are fewer obvious consequences for doing so. Let’s face it, if you’re still considered a “nobody,” or the new kid on the block, your blunders are expected and generally shrugged off. As long as you’re relatively unknown, it’s unlikely that anyone will remember you in a few months. However, once you’ve created a professional name for yourself and thrown it out there for all to see, you’ve made yourself accountable for all of your professional choices. That’s truly the best way to be taken seriously by both your customers and your competition, so you have to take care of that good name.
In today’s world, social media can be indispensable in the establishment of your brand. It’s one of the best ways to market products and services, because they will be instantly associated with an online presence that interested parties can easily connect to. For better or for worse, those who have experiences with your products can quickly and easily spread the word by sharing links to your pages with their friends and associates. This not only introduces your business to potential customers who have already heard a thing or two about your company from whoever shared the link, but also helps spread your logo and company name around the web, creating new impressions along the way.
6. Other Considerations
Finally, it’s important to note that whatever sort of business you’re trying to create, it doesn’t really have to be “new.” You don’t have to reinvent the wheel and it’s probably best not to. What’s important is to make your business stand out above other similar businesses. That’s where your opportunity is to shine and if you can demonstrate why your business is a better choice, the results should speak for themselves.
Another consideration is what other skills or talents you have that can also be monetized. The reason I bring this up is that in case something goes wrong with this first attempt, you will have some type of backup plan. Even if it goes well, depending on what those other skills or talents are, you might be able to incorporate them somehow into what you’re already doing.
Take a good look at all of your other skills and think about whether they could be useful in what you’re attempting. Think of this in terms of adding “branches” to the tree. I’m not saying you have to follow through on this right away, but you should be taking note of these things early on, so you’ll have options at your disposal later that you’ve already given some thought to. And as with any business idea, think in terms of scalability.
I’m going to end this by reminding everyone that none of us know when the current health crisis will end, vaccine or not. The only thing we can be sure of is that these types of situations tend to get harder before they ever get easier. There will always be challenges in life and it’s up to us to choose how we will handle them. We can either attack them strategically or give up and allow them to dominate our lives. But somehow, I suspect that if you’re taking the time to read this type of content, you’re probably not that type of person and maybe all you need is to step back and put it all into perspective.
As always, best wishes!