Every great business started with drive and a passion. Even moguls like Richard Branson, Oprah, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett started at zero.
If you know my story, you know that after I was injured in professional football, my lifelong dream of playing came to an end. I spent a year and a half broke and sleeping on my sister’s couch trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life.
At that time my main passion was sports, and that was my focus for as long as I could remember. I wanted to have the flexibility to do what I love, and make a living that would set me up for the rest of my life. But I had no idea where to begin.
Through equal parts luck and persistence, that year I found a brilliant mentor. I interned with him for close to a year and he paid me about $500 a month. I poured myself into learning from him. I also did whatever I could to earn income on the side working event marketing gigs and other odd jobs.
As I put one foot in front of the other, I started seeing where my passion and skills intersected. I loved connecting people and adding value to their lives. I loved providing whatever service I could to them that would help solve a problem they had. As I pursued the things that interested me, I began to put together networking events. I started to form what would become my business and brand, ever evolving along the way.
It wasn’t as if I had a perfect plan mapped out. I combined my passions, strengths and vision to create the ideal business for me along the way. The most passionate entrepreneurs are driven by more than just money. They’re driven by living a fulfilled life.
If you haven’t yet discovered your passion, I encourage you to do so. That’s part of the reason I started The School of Greatness Academy — to help people pursue their passions. Think about what excited you as a kid, or the thing that when you do it you lose all sense of time and space, you are so lost in the moment. You will be happiest when you follow your passion. I love what Steve Jobs had to say about this:
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
Once you have figured out what you want to do, here are some important things to keep in mind while starting your business from zero:
- Research your market.
Knowing what the competition knows won’t cut it. Go deep. Dive in to your market and study it like an expert.
Search Google for keywords that are related to your industry. Don’t get discouraged if the market seems flooded. You can use this to your advantage. It means that it is working for those people and you can make it work for you. There is money there.
- Set a tangible financial goal.
I set new goals every six months and always stretch my initial mark. Work backwards and figure out what you need to do each day to get to where you want to be. Set a goal that is a stretch for you and look at the steps you need to take every day to accomplish that goal.
- When you create a website, make the content shareable.
It’s great to reference some the leaders in your space, but when you are developing your own brand, it’s important to create unique content on a single hub. A site that your readers and viewers can reference back to, for more of your incredible content. I lean on Derek Halpern who’s a pro at this.
- Build a list.
Email is best form of currency online and building an email list is one of the most important tools in building a business. As you develop your shareable site, begin building a list of emails of the people that visit your site. Then continue to provide them with value. This will translate into buyers for the future launch of your product or service.
Adding in an opt-in form on your website and having a place to store your emails are the first two steps to building your email list. Free resources like HelloBar.com and AppSumo.com allow you to collect email information on your website. To store email addresses, I recommend the program Aweber, which even offers a free 30-day trial.
- Launch a product or service you can sell.
If you have a financial goal that you’ve set out for the next six months, then you have to sell something. Take the time to figure out the biggest challenges your audience is facing and build your relationship with them. Then create something that solves their problem. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s critical. Your leads come from your list, you convert them to customers, follow up and build a relationship.
- Start NOW and improve as you go.
A lot of people waste time thinking about making things perfect before they launch their business. The logo, the website, the copy — everything. This is a waste of time. Sell your product before you make it by offering a pre-order. Focus on getting sales and attracting leads. Successful companies launch all the time and they aren’t perfect.
Think of Facebook and all the changes and improvements it has made. Start with a small product and always be improving. Launch online you can sell over and over and not have to trade time for dollars.
The most important thing is to enjoy the process and know that you don’t have to make it perfect. Start today. If not now, when?