4 Tips to Turn Your Pie-in-the-Sky Dream Into a Profitable Business

Written by Laura Casselman // Also shared on Startups.co.

TL;DR: Turning your passion project into a lucrative endeavor requires some research, planning, and a little help from your friends.


Thanks to the internet, we’re riding the wave of a communication boom that makes the printing press pale in comparison. And during a time when inflation and economic instability has hit America’s working class the hardest, this boom has created huge opportunities for more people to claim their financial freedom — and to do so from the comfort of their couches.

Whether you telecommute, you sell products on Etsy, or you have started a new web-based business, an internet connection is the new cornerstone of commerce. However, the secret to success in this new frontier is not a secret at all. Hard work, persistence, and planning are still critical to taking your business from a pie-in-the-sky dream to a profitable endeavor.

SUCCESS STARTS AT HOME

To fully understand this rising trend, however, we must first break it down a bit. There are generally three categories under the umbrella of homebody professionals:

  • Working from home: You’re employed on an hourly or salary basis, and you perform your work from home. Though you’re still making money online, the mindset is hardly entrepreneurial. Various freelance sites can connect you with companies and individuals. The internet facilitates these relationships, but they’re still employee or contractor relationships.
  • Making money online: You’re looking to make some extra money as soon as possible, so you turn to the internet. While you likely have more of an entrepreneurial mindset, you still don’t quite consider your endeavor a startup. Startups, after all, have capital, investors, and resources — in other words, a means to get started. Ironically, it’s that exact mentality that may preclude you from success.
  • Running an online business: You’re an entrepreneur who set out to either digitize your brick-and-mortar business or start an online business from scratch. Perhaps you began your journey in the “making money online” category. Then, through coaching, mentorship, and perseverance, you developed a consistent income by creating products or exchanging digital goods and services for money.

However entrepreneurial you consider yourself, here are a few tips to smooth out the road to turning your passion project into a lucrative business model:

1. Follow the Money

You won’t find this advice in a commencement speech, and it’s probably not Oprah-approved, but passion matters less than a market full of hungry buyers. Yet following a passion is often the first mistake at-home entrepreneurs make.

Sure, they might be passionate about a booming industry or profitable trend, but most people follow their passion because it’s within their comfort zone — it’s something that remains familiar as they set out to learn a scary new set of technical skills. And they fail because they don’t do the research first.

The key is to follow the money, regardless of the passion. Make some money first by identifying needs in hungry markets and feeding those needs with digital products. It’s much easier to create products for a traffic stream than it is to create a traffic stream for products. If your passion is underwater basket weaving and you want to sell that online, who am I to kill your happiness? But I recommend that you find data proving the business is in demand before you put all your eggs in that underwater basket.

2. Always Be Selling

Treat your new venture like a business from day one. It is going to take money and, in the words of George Harrison, “a whole lot of precious time” to get your idea off the ground. Most entrepreneurs, 64 percent to be exact, start with less than $10,000 in capital. Set aside the daydreams of million-dollar angel investments, and focus on pouring sweat equity into your business.

One of our clients, Omar Martin, started his online business on eBay in 2006. He and his wife were still struggling financially after being homeless for a while, and he’ll be the first to admit that even a small venture takes a lot of time and effort. From building websites to attracting buyers to developing products to then attracting sellers, they had to overcome many learning curves. “We struggled, but we were struggling from home and working for ourselves,” he said. “We were out of the ‘rut.’”

3. Plan Your Work, and Work Your Plan

Running a business is not an improvisational sport. Brick-and-mortar businesses set goals, create budgets, and establish benchmarks. You should, too. Yet according to business development expert Connie Sparks, more than 80 percent of business owners do not have plans or strategies for their businesses. Be the 20 percent. Prioritize and administer your business with a purpose and a plan.

4. Get a Mentor

You can’t build a six-figure business by “winging it.” In fact, trying to piece together a bunch of free bits of information is more likely to cost you money than earn you anything.

There’s no magic fairy dust. There are no instant riches. You need a proven set of instructions. Some people earn prestigious degrees and still don’t land six-figure jobs right out of the gate. It’s unreasonable for you to think you’ll generate big money online in a short period without a solid mentor.

As with any business endeavor, you can’t expect to build a website and just watch the profits roll in. However, take these four tips into account, and you will jump-start your journey to turning your side business into a lifelong career.

Every day we share the TL;DR version of everything interesting happening in the startup world in the Startups Daily Newsletter. Sign up here to get future issues.

Got an interesting story? Awesome. Send it our way!

If you dig our stuff, please hit that little ♥ to spread the word.