I had a long, yet fantastic consultation with a client the other day. We chatted about how to install and design a good website, but he really wanted to bounce some very niche business ideas off of me.
I went into this conversation (in which he had paid me a tidy sum for my time) nearly blind. It was booked just one day in advance and we jumped on the call. He said there would be enough time to explain everything.
Just dive right in.
I like that.
In any case, I did know he was going to run some niche business ideas by me, so I took some notes as to what I would do when evaluating a new business idea. These days, I’m presented with a lot of them. I’m learning to be more choosy. I’m learning to walk away. I’m learning to put my foot down. To enforce boundaries.
And yeah—I’m trying to get better at saying NO.
Let’s run through the general criteria first.
Going to start with the basics here. Stay with me.
A lot of people have a dream. It does not make it a business. This blog for me was a dream, and it’s a modestly successful business—now.
One year ago in March 2016, this site made me just over…three figures. Yes, that’s a 3.
You have to ask yourself if your idea is really capable of making money. Let’s use a theoretical example here—food trucks.
At a basic level, you know a food truck is a business that can indeed make money. Sure, there are plenty that fail, but you see them everywhere. Obviously there’s money in it or people wouldn’t be practically living out of the things.
But, let’s take that a step farther. Say you’re presented with two options on which type of cuisine to serve at your food truck.
Option 1 is typical Mexican fare—tacos, burritos, nachos, etc. You can buy any and all of your ingredients at any local grocery store. Nothing perishes quickly, everything is cheap and easily replaced, and there’s always a high demand for Latin fever.
Option 2 is a fresh-caught salmon food truck. Salmon itself is a seasonal dish. It only comes from certain locations in the world—so it’s not “readily” available. It’s fairly easy for it to go bad (I really have no idea if this is true, but I’ve been Googling “foods that go bad” for the last 5 minutes and I’m done with it). And…well, who knows what the demand will be. Some people hate fish.
Sure, the salmon food truck might do okay. You’d sure as hell be unique. But can you look at a salmon food truck and say that it’s definitely going to make money?
I’ve said it before: I could make much more money had I focused on the smaller niche business ideas. But that also comes with risk. If Google decided that it didn’t like me one day, I’d be boned.
Whereas with Trouble, I’ve got a huge email list. RSS subscriptions. Social media presence. Everyone’s got my site bookmarked because they know I post every single day, rain or shine.
Yeah, the blog was the longer term play, but I knew that. I had enough money in the bank when I quit my job last year that I knew if I didn’t make a single penny off of this website, I could survive for a year. Although it would have been off of Ramen.
That’s the next question you must ask yourself: how long is it going to take to build this idea you’ve got?
How long will it take to secure distribution, permits, and more for your salmon truck? Is it a longer process than making tacos?
Do you have other sources of income present that can cover your ass in the meantime?
I do believe there is a certain motivation, drive, and fire that comes when you have zero fallback options. I think it got me to where I am. But that isn’t necessarily the best option for everybody. Not all people work well under pressure. Most don’t, from what I’ve seen.
I’ve hired some employees lately. I’ve also partnered with some people on some small niche business ideas.
Across both enterprises I’ve learned some hard lessons. Many of the writers I’ve hired just were not very good. I gave them one job, it came out below mediocre, so I canned them and moved on to the next. Eventually I found one I liked who put out reasonably priced content at a fantastic price. Plus, she’s easy to work with, motivated, and does an excellent job communicating.
On the small businesses (well, niche websites), two have gone well and the third partnership has had it’s struggles. My patience has very much been tested. Unfortunately there comes a point where the frustration caused by a bad business partner actually outweighs the good, and it even spills over to other parts of your work. I was/am a victim of this. And it’s partially my fault, I can admit. I’ve let it get to me and affect my mindset. I need to let things go at times and not let them aggravate me.
Still, 2 of 3 isn’t bad.
My point is that you might have to kiss a few frogs before you find a princess.
Relying on others is a recipe for disaster.
Expecting the same from others as you do for yourself will only cause you grief.
And thinking that you will hire correctly on your first attempt is probably also foolish thought. At least until you have some experience doing it to begin with.
The best advice I can give is to talk to other people whose opinion you know you can trust. In the case of this client, he had several ideas. After logically talking them all out with me, it was a pretty fair conclusion that some of them of his niche business ideas were bad, and others were probably a solid call.
Get the opinions of others but don’t let them rule you.
Listen to your gut. In most cases, it’s right for a reason. But remember that sometimes you have to have had the experience to get that gut feeling. If you can’t seem to put a finger on an idea, come back and reference this post. Ask yourself these questions.
If you can answer them in an honest way and conclude it’s a good idea—God Speed.
If the answer is no—start running, and don’t look back.
PS: Is a blog the right business for you? Find out in my free guide. Click here to learn more.