Starting a business isn't for everyone. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, frustrating and exhausting. On a good day, however, it can also be exhilarating and rewarding. If you're not comfortable with uncertainty and ready to take chances, a corporate job may be a better choice for you — without a doubt, 9-to-5 jobs come with fewer headaches, risks and responsibilities than entrepreneurship. That said, they also tend to come with much less freedom and opportunity.
Particularly in the beginning, starting a business is difficult because you don’t have any traction and you don’t yet understand your customers. This means you have a lot of market research to do: who is using what; why people will use your product or service over someone else's, etc. But if you believe in your idea — if it doesn’t feel like work — then don't be afraid to take the leap.
If your business fails, it won't be the end of your career. Try not to let your fear dictate your business strategy; the main thing is not to lose momentum. Even if you fail this time, you can look at it as a fantastic learning experience preparing you to succeed in your next venture.
On the other hand, if you do succeed at building something interesting, it will change your life for the better in remarkable ways. You will see something amazing come to life, and you will learn more than you ever thought was possible.
This is going to be a very different kind of business article. We’re not going to look at why businesses succeed or fail, or what makes a “good business plan.” Business books tend to be written by people who want you to follow the same model they did: the author's idea of success, their method, and their experience.
This article is more ambitious than that — it’s about how you identify and capitalize on an opportunity in a way that makes sense to you. It will guide you through the process of starting your own business in 2022 and teach you how to use the latest tools and strategies to find success in even the trickiest markets.
Even more importantly, this article will show you how to avoid common pitfalls and get ahead faster. True success is less about money than it is about freedom, and I'll show you how to achieve that freedom.
We all have passions and dreams, but very few people have actually achieved them because they have no roadmap for how to get started. In this article, I'll lay out a blueprint for success that anyone can follow. Let's get started!
So, it’s 2022 and you want to start a business. The problem is, you're not sure how to do it — after all, there are so many options, it can be downright overwhelming.
To reduce their risk of failure, most successful entrepreneurs tend to follow the same general path. Here is the process we will be following:
Sound like a lot of work? It is. You’ll have to learn new skills, perform a ton of independent research, and face a variety of different obstacles.
Fortunately, the right tools can help you with each step. Many of the market’s most valuable tools are cheap or offer a free tier, so anyone can level up their business with cutting-edge technology.
I'll show you what these tools are and how to use them.
Ideas are a dime a dozen, but a business can only succeed if customers are willing to pay for it.
Don’t worry, I ran the math: If each idea has a 10% chance of success, you’ll need to try 29 ideas in order to have a 95% chance of success overall.
That’s a lot of ideas… so what does it mean?
Once you have an idea for your business, your next question should be:
How can I get users who are willing to pre-pay for this?
Asking someone to pre-pay (or pay in advance) is a great way to test if they are willing to buy. It removes the risk of building something nobody wants or something nobody will pay for. If you can't find users who are willing to pre-pay, you might want to reconsider whether you have a viable business.
Another way to validate your idea is by creating an email list and waiting until a critical mass of people have signed up. However, keep in mind that an email list does not mean money in the bank; it’s only a proxy of interest. Asking users to pre-pay is always the strongest signal.
There’s no point developing a great product if you can't attract the customers. In fact, there is no point creating a business at all until you have customers.
The first thing you will need to do is create your lead capture form.
When drafting your form, keep a specific goal in mind. If you don't know what you want your customer to do, how will you know if they did it?
Ask yourself: do you want people to sign up for your email list? Do you want them to pre-pay? Or do you just want them to fill out a survey?
Depending on what your goal is, the way you present it can make all the difference.
Here's a few examples of lead capture forms (notice how simple they are!)
Now that you have a form, you need your potential target customers to see it.
In 2022, social media networks are the best places to validate your business idea. All you need to do is provide a link to your website or product landing page and a great offer to hook your prospects in exchange for their emails/pre-payment/etc.
Getting people interested in your business is easier than you think, especially when you use social media networks like Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram. When you join these platforms, or any other social networks that fit into your niche, you'll be able to build connections with people who might be interested in buying from you in the future. These connections are important because they provide a direct line of communication for marketing purposes as well as customer support.
Focus on the social networks that your target audience uses. Looking for professionals? Try LinkedIn or Twitter. Gen Z? Definitely TikTok. Millennials with money? Give Instagram Reels a shot!
You can also use these networks to attract potential partners for your business. Start following influencers in your industry on social media, and engage with them regularly on their posts. This will show them that you are an active part of their online community, which could lead to future partnerships down the road.
Social media is the most powerful tool to reach your potential customers and build business relationships. However, you have to know how to use them to your advantage. Here are some tips on how to optimize your social media channels:
Here are some examples of new entrepreneurs validating their ideas and telling their story on social media:
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How will you know when you have succeeded? What metrics will you use to measure your progress? How much and how fast do your metrics need to change before you decide that the new business idea is not as good as your original idea or might take too long to succeed? When do you opt to change direction?
One trick I've used for myself is to set a specific time frame for how long I'm going to work on something before I move onto something else. This is helpful because it forces me to decide whether or not I really care about solving the problem. If I can't get enough interest within that time frame, then it's an indication that this business concept is not compelling for my target customers.
More often than not, the answer will be obvious. If you are onto something, you should get plenty of interested customers — sometimes ever more than you can handle. That excitement is the pull of the market.
Don't be surprised if your first idea doesn't find validation. It's very common for a founder’s first idea to fail early, and it's not a sign of failure — it's part of learning what works.
Congratulations! You’ve validated your idea. That means you’re ready to build an MVP (minimum viable product).
Now that you have a list of potential customers who want to use your product, you need to plan, build, and test the MVP with users.
The MVP is a bare-bones version of your product that has just enough features — but only those that are absolutely necessary — to get your target users to try it out and give you feedback on what you can improve on.
Before you decide to build your MVP, you should first determine what features and functionality to include. Scope is a very important factor to consider as you begin developing your product, as it can shape the entire development process. This process tends to be more like art than a science.
Determining which features to include and which ones to leave out of scope is a challenge that every entrepreneur faces at some point. Including too few features will result in a product that doesn’t solve your customer’s main pain point, while including too many will make the product difficult to develop and rebuild in the future.
Be very picky about which features to include. Focus on delivering the core value that solves your customer’s main pain point, instead of just throwing in as much as possible so you can say your product does everything.
Keep the scope of your MVP as narrow as possible so you can deliver a finished product quickly and start gathering feedback from real users. If the MVP is too big and provides too much value, this could prolong the development process or waste time if you build features that aren’t actually necessary.
The next step is figuring out how each feature will be built so you know what kind of technology stack or framework you’ll need for each one.
Every new business requires a tech stack, or the arsenal of tools and processes you’ll use to build your product. The term “stack” is meant to convey the need to view all these tools as a single unit with each element supporting the others. For example, when creating your marketing stack, you’ll want to make sure it can easily integrate with your payment and product stacks to ensure the most seamless user experience. The best way to do this is by considering the type of business you are in and what your goals are for the future.
A product tech stack is a combination of software and other technical tools and services that you can use to create your core application features. A typical product tech stack includes a way for you to store data, a way for users to interact with this data, and usually some type of authentication system to ensure that the data is safe.
For e-commerce, your product tech stack is usually a storefront and a content management system for storing product details.
Different businesses have different requirements for the product stack, so you’ll have to do a fair amount of research here to determine the best tools for your particular line of work.
A marketing stack helps you attract and convert customers — no matter what business you’re in. The typical marketing stack includes an email system, social media tools, and some basic analytics tools to help you figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
Most businesses begin with email as their main marketing tool; it’s simple and affordable to set up, and it offers a great way to start communicating and building relationships with your audience.
Social media comes next, and it’s arguably the most important piece of your marketing stack. From LinkedIn to TikTok and everything in between, establishing and maintaining a social media presence will help you engage with people on a more personal level and create brand awareness. Then there is automation, which helps automate customer communications so you can provide better service without having to hire more staff.
No matter what type of business you’re starting, you need a marketing technology stack to help you build your brand and achieve your marketing (and sales) goals.
A payment stack helps you accept and process payments for your product or service. This may sound complicated, but new technology has vastly simplified this process. For example, Stripe has a great dashboard and numerous integrations that will let you start accepting payments immediately.
A strong payment stack will help you save your customer payment methods and contact info (email address, phone number, etc). You’ll want to be able to issue refunds and other related tasks as well.
To help you narrow down your options, I’ve included some modern day MVP (no-code/low-code) tools at the end of this chapter.
Any time you start working on an MVP, one of the first things you should do is set up analytics. This is essential because it will give you insight into your users’ behavior, allowing you to measure things like:
The right analytics can help you see where your users are coming from, what they’re doing on your site, and where they’re going next.
Analytics should tell a story about how people use your app, letting you compare how different user groups use the app or how user behavior changes over time. For example, if your app is a messaging service, you might find that older people send fewer messages than younger people, or that women send more than men.
If your business requires knowing exactly how users interact with your product, consider using Cohere.io or a similar live screen recording tool that lets you watch users browse your app live.
Analytics is necessary for any successful business, providing valuable information that will help you drive more value out of your product/service. You may also learn which features are most popular or what type of people use it.
Before you launch your MVP, you need to know what success looks like. When you're putting together an MVP, it's important to track the metrics that are most relevant to your business and will give you insight into how successful your product is.
Some example metrics:
Make sure you know what success looks like for your business before you start working on your MVP. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of building a product, but if you don’t know what you hope to accomplish with your prototype, then you might end up with a product that doesn’t have much value to users or investors.
Once you have an idea of what success looks like, make sure you’re tracking metrics related to your specific vision for success.
In general, all successful businesses have a high retention rate (users coming back for more). Whether you are launching an e-commerce business or a software product, a high retention rate shows that there is value in what you are providing.
Successfully building an MVP requires a strong understanding of what success looks like. The clearer the objectives, the easier it will be to track the success of your product and decide whether to pivot or spend more time and energy on the business.
Don't be afraid to launch an MVP — even if it's not 100% ready. If you try to wait until everything is perfect before you launch, you may never get to launch at all!
Your target market will help you figure out what features are most important — gauge their needs by talking to your target market and asking them what they wish your product had.
The sooner you get users in, the more feedback you can get and the more time you'll have to iterate on your idea before it's too late. The earlier you get feedback, the easier it will be to incorporate that feedback into your product development and make changes before anything gets too set in stone.
Ultimately, your goal should be to launch early and adjust, rather than waiting until everything is perfect — this will allow you to test your business concept and get valuable feedback from users.
Cash Drop - Sell products via social media in minutes
Beacons.ai - Create an online store for your “link-in-bio”
Memberstack - Turn your website into a paid membership (gated content)
Gumroad - Sell any digital product
Teachable - Sell online courses
Maven - Sell cohort-based courses
Outseta - All-in-one membership software
Bubble.io - No-code web app builder (with own database)
Softr.io - No-code web app builder (uses Airtable as a database)
Glide - No-code web app builder (uses Google Sheets as a database)
Adalo - No-code mobile app builder
Draftbit - No-code mobile app builder
Circle.so - Customizable community platform
Substack - Start and distribute your own newsletter
When you think your MVP is ready to launch, it's time to get it into the hands of users and start iterating based on their feedback. It's important to launch early; the sooner you can get real people using your product, the sooner you can learn what works and what doesn't.
Consider doing a mini-launch for a small segment of potential users before the official launch of your new product. A smaller launch allows you to get valuable feedback early on, which can be used to improve the final version of the product and will likely result in a more successful final product launch.
A good goal for your beta or alpha release is to reach the users most affected by the specific pain point your product is trying to solve. These “super users” will give you the best feedback on how well your product solves their problem. Not to mention, if they love your product, they will be able to evangelize it and become some of your most passionate brand advocates.
Launching a new product is not just about releasing the best possible thing you can make and hoping it is an instant hit. It’s also important to launch your product in a way that allows you to learn from your customers and helps you gradually ramp up your efforts.
Launching a product is an exciting time for any business, but it can be a nerve-wracking process to make sure your product is ready to go. The goal of this first launch is to gather feedback from your customer base on whether or not your product is solving their problem and how you can improve it. You should also be looking at how willing they are to pay for your product.
Good feedback will help you identify any issues with your product or process before they become major setbacks. In addition, good feedback will give you insight on how to improve your product so it becomes more valuable to the people who use it.
One of the best ways to gather feedback is by running live user interview sessions, either in person or online. Keep in mind that this will be time-consuming, since you’ll need to schedule the sessions and prepare all the questions beforehand. To make the best use of your time, only interview people with the exact problem you’re trying to solve. If you interview someone who is not your target customer, you may waste time or even build the product in the wrong direction.
Another option is to send follow-up emails asking users how they feel about your product. This will take some time as well, but it’s easier than in-person interviews because you can do it from anywhere at any time. Hopefully, your early users will provide thoughtful advice on how your product can improve their lives.
Finally, you can also track your analytics to see how people are using your product. While this isn’t a direct way of gathering feedback, analytics can show you what features people use the most and which ones they don’t use at all, helping you determine where to improve and where you’re already succeeding.
When people first use your product, they will notice areas for improvement or even suggest features you hadn’t thought of yet. Take note of all the suggestions you receive, and prioritize them based on the impact they would have on your business or customers.
Iterating on the product can mean many different things. It can mean the user experience has to be updated, or there are new features missing from the product; it could mean there are bugs in the program that need to be fixed. Before you start your next cycle of product development, think about what specific changes you want to make.
To implement any changes to the product you’re working on, first identify what you want to change and how it might be received by users. Your users want something more from your product, whether that’s more features or a more efficient user experience. Find out what they want and why they want it rather than just giving them more of the same. Once you understand their needs, address those needs with thoughtful and intentional changes to your product. If you look at the problem from the user’s perspective, you’ll often be able to solve it in a better way than by simply adding a feature.
Once you have made changes based on user feedback, it’s time to launch the revised version of your product and gather more feedback from users.
After you’ve iterated on your product a few times and received useful feedback, you’ll be ready to move on to the next step. Remember, final user feedback should indicate they love your product and want to use it over other solutions. This is different from earlier steps; instead of asking users for ideas about new features, you need to find out if they love your product enough to pay for it.
At the end of the day, a business’s ultimate goal is to make money. Once your product is more or less finalized, start charging users money in order to validate that you are solving a problem worth solving. If users are willing to pay, this is a good sign — it means people are showing interest in what you’re doing.
You can start by offering a very good deal for your early adopters and users. A low price point for life rewards these early users for their time and contributions to improving the product. This will also help you build up confidence that you’re able to charge money for your product.
When you’re ready to start raising your prices, experiment with different price points until you find a point where people aren’t willing to pay for it anymore. Most businesses don’t charge enough for their services, so establishing a price ceiling will help you ensure you’re getting the highest return on your investment.
If you’ve made it this far, you already have a few things in common with successful entrepreneurs. The most important step is to take action and make your first dollar. Once you do that, you can find other people who will want to pay you to help them grow their own business. Remember, the first dollar is the hardest!
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