COLUMN – What I like most in my spare time is brainstorming new business ideas. I like to think about problems and solutions in the form of innovative, unique and interesting side activities. My friends know this. And sometimes – at any dinner party or phone call, really – I ask them if they want to talk about random ideas. Then we look at whether one of them can potentially be successful.
It’s easy to come up with a long list of ideas. But if you want to take the time to check whether they can really become something, you have to take a number of practical steps.
Here are six ways you can test an idea before investing money in starting a business.
1. Make sure your idea has an audience
Side hustles have to solve a concrete problem. Even if you think you have a brilliant idea, you can’t really appreciate it until you present it to an audience and gauge the response.
For example, if you are thinking about guiding the career switch of women in their thirties, look for 10 to 15 people who meet these criteria. Spend 30 minutes to an hour understanding their motivations, what kind of coaching they aspire to and how they feel about your idea. If you want to make a modern stress ball for people who have an energetic and fast career, talk to this target group first to see if they want to use this ball at all. Then create a test version for them to try before you make the real product.
With this data you can adjust or change your company or product. The more you understand what your audience wants, the more you can build something of lasting value.
2. Keep your finger on the pulse of industry trends
Entrepreneurs normally start conversations with a side income in an industry they are already familiar with. But sometimes newcomers see problems and solutions that others overlook. So keep your finger on the pulse of trends and innovations in certain sectors. An easy tool is to set up free Google Alerts for topics and keywords within an industry, so you can get daily updates on what’s going on. Also read industry blogs, listen to podcasts and attend conferences.
The knowledge will help you come up with ways to make your sideline business stand out. It also allows you to better respond to the ever-changing needs of your customers.
3. Understand your competitors
Before going in-depth with your idea, make sure you understand your competitors a bit.Check their websites, subscribe to their newsletters, and use analytics tools like Rival IQ to get a better understanding of how your competitors are doing on social media. Focus on your business plan
A good way to really see if an idea has the potential to grow into a successful business is to prepare a business plan. Then you get a clear picture of how your company will grow and scale, what budget is required and what the solutions are to the problems of your customers. Only then will you have the required blueprint for your next steps. Print a free business plan and see how much you can fill in. Over time, seek advice from mentors and other experts in your industry to further develop the business plan and see if the idea has potential or is just “a good idea”. Read more: Making a business plan? Avoid these 4 common mistakes
Find out more: Control freak? 6 ways to make it easier to delegate work.
5. Talk to a handful of mentors
The power of successful ideas is that you share them. The more feedback you collect from experts, the better you can refine your product, service, or proposition. Join communities where such experts reside such as Facebook groups or conferences and request 15 to 20 minutes of their time. Make sure you have prepared questions and that they are tailored to the expertise of your conversation partner. Be prepared to change your idea
Many successful companies once started as something completely different. Take Amazon. What started as an online bookseller has now grown into a platform where you can buy everything you need and have it delivered quickly to your home.
Don’t dwell too long on an idea that doesn’t get a good response from your audience or expert panel. Pause, turn around and plan again. Be flexible enough to change your original idea. Jen Glantz is an entrepreneur and founder of the Bridesmaid for Hire company.