How to start a successful business when you don’t know what to do

This week – in between drinking beer, listening to terrible pop music, getting everywhere bang on time and generally acting out the German stereotype to a T – we’ve been analysing and categorising the questions we get asked by readers. Which seems pretty German-style efficient in itself.

And the question we get asked most often is… “What’s your favourite London Tube line?” Just kidding. Although we really want to have that conversation with you all one day.

No, what we get asked is: “I want to leave my job and start up my own business, but I don’t know what to do. I read Seth Godin and I listen to Mixergy and I watch The Rise To The Top and I’ve read The 4-Hour Workweek and I LOVE Marie Forleo and and and… but I’m stuck. I can’t decide what to do. How do I decide?”

And here’s the answer we often give – although this time we’ve included our own real-life examples:

JUST EFFING START SOMETHING!! Please! All the books, blogs, podcasts, etc. in theresources list on our site will get you so far (and they’re even more useful once you’ve started), but at some stage you just have to coil up your earphones, turn off your Kindle and stop checking your RSS.

Because here’s the thing: whatever you start will be a bit crap. You’ll try to create something perfect, but you won’t – no matter how much time you spend preparing it. Once you’ve started something, you’ll come across problems and have ingenious ideas that you’d never have anticipated during the preparation stage.

Here are two examples:

Mortified Cow

Our company Mortified Cow took forever to launch, because we wanted to get everything perfect. And now? We’re doing a big ol’ business pivot…

We started out by positioning ourselves as web designers, because although we specialise in (and prefer) brand consultancy and copywriting, we thought we’d get people through the door more quickly if we say we do web design. (It’s the whole “sell them what they want; give them what they need” mentality.)

We’re changing that because we’ve realised that we actually get far better clients if we position ourselves as brand consultants who figure out their businesses’s problems and then go about solving all those problems – which can include web design. (In fact, before the pivot, we were getting the worst types of stingy, difficult, non-trusting clients who just wanted a website for the sake of having a website.)

This is a very very cut-down version of the story, but please believe us: it was only through starting that we were able to figure out the best way to run our business.

Making It Anywhere

Our blog started out as a travel-esque blog, because we didn’t know what else to write about really. But we wanted to start writing something, anything, to give ourselves an online presence and show off our writing a little bit. It was only when we introduced the odd ad-hoc business-related post (because there are only so many times you can talk about deer in your backyard) that we got a surge in interest and even new clients through it.

Today, MIA is all about helping you do work you love on your own terms – with a few travel-related and silly posts thrown in for old times’ sake. But at the beginning, we never thought MIA would turn out this way.

So please just start something!

It won’t be perfect. It’ll probably be shit. Don’t spend loads of money on it (look at lean startup techniques if you like), and iterate along the way. You’ll get there – even if what you eventually end up with is completely and totally different from your original idea.

Now that’s sorted, we’re hitting up YouTube for some German-language lessons. (Oh, and by the way, YouTube began life as a video dating site…)

  • Nick Loper

    Thanks for the link! The Fiverr story of AnarchoFighter is super-inspiring. Ever since our call I’ve been brainstorming all the things I could put up for sale on the platform :)

    Now time to decide and take action!

    • Mish @ Making It Anywhere

      Thanks for the comment Nick – would love to know what you decide on!

      We’re loving the blog, and really looking forward to the next podcast!

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