How to test out a new business or career idea — risk free!

Apr 30, 2020

Let me ask you a question.

Have you been thinking about starting a business or pursuing a new career path?

But you’ve not taken this idea any further because there’s a lot at risk. You’re not sure if it’s financially viable — and have no idea where to start.

I get it. I’ve been there too. And it’s normal to feel even more paralysed or cautious in the current climate.

Here’s my take.

Yes, the world has changed. But in reality, we’ve never been able to control the economy, our job security or what might happen in the future. These are circumstances outside of our control.

Many individuals are waking up to the fact that the job they always believed was ‘safe’ — might not be as secure as they once thought. The smart ones have seized the opportunity. By starting a side hustle or deciding to go all in on their own business to take control of their financial future.

Recent events have also forced a lot of people to reflect on the big questions. Who am I? What is my purpose and what do I really want? For some, their answers may be pointing to starting a business or making a change professionally.

So, if you know you’re ready to make a change — where do you start?

Read on to discover the exact process I used to change my business model, pivot careers and launch my coaching practice. It’s the same method I apply today whenever I’m considering a new idea or offer in my current business.

You’ll learn the specific steps to follow to quickly and easily test out a business idea or new career path. As well as the right questions to ask to validate your idea and minimise any risk with your move!

PART ONE: TEST

STEP #1 — FIND SIMPLE, FAST WAYS TO TEST OUT IDEAS

Start by finding quick, easy ways to test out your business or career ideas. Think about volunteering, taking on an additional project at work, or simple projects outside your day job. To explore my interest in coaching, speaking and facilitating, I volunteered once a month doing 1:1 coaching and running workshops and was the MC at a friend’s event.

Also, consider webinars, online programs or short training courses to try out your ideas. And this doesn’t need to be a big investment of time or expense like signing up to a full master’s program! Before retraining as a professional coach, I watched short 30 minute webinars from various training providers, then did a weekend foundational course in Singapore with my chosen coaching school before committing to a 9 month certification program.

STEP #2 — START WITH ONE

Next, test out your ideas one at a time. It’s important to follow all the steps to fully validate each idea. Be sure to run through this entire process before moving on to testing the next one.

Too many business ideas or potential career paths of interest? Always start with the one that’s the easiest to test out and validate!

Recently, I was talking to a friend who was considering starting her own business. As a qualified coach with a long corporate career in marketing, she was torn between starting a marketing consultancy or launching a coaching practice. My advice?

Have exploratory conversations with potential clients and other business owners operating in both sectors. But start with the idea that’s easiest to test out. And fully validate it before moving onto the other!

STEP #3 — HAVE REAL CONVERSATIONS (WITH REAL PEOPLE!)

As I hinted above, the best way to test your business idea or potential career path is to have real conversations with people! With this step, I recommend you have two separate types of discussions with two different groups of people:

1. Informal career chats with entrepreneurs running your dream business. Or, for those testing + validating a new career path, people doing work that you’re interested in
2. Customer research conversations with your ideal target clients

1. Career conversations

To test your business idea, start by speaking to individuals running a similar business. Let them know why you love their business or the work they do. Explain you’re considering starting something of your own and ask if they’d be willing to spare 10-15 minutes for a brief phone call or virtual coffee to share their insights and experience.

Alternatively, if you’re a looking to make a career pivot, reach out to other professionals you admire with a similar approach. Make it clear you’re not looking for a job. See if they’d be happy to share their career journey and any advice as you consider your next professional move.

Always make these approaches about the other person, not you. I adopted this strategy before pivoting my business and career back in 2017 and was pleasantly surprised that all the warm (and cold) contacts I reached out to were willing to share, very generously. As human beings, we love to help — as well as talk about ourselves!

For both conversations, prepare questions in advance and make sure the other person does the majority of the talking. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Talk me through a typical day in your role — what does it look like?
  • What do you love about your work or business?
  • What do you find the most challenging about your industry or role as a business owner?
  • Tell me about your business or career journey and how you ended up in this role?
  • What does it take to be successful in this field?
  • What other advice would you give to someone in my position?

2. Customer research

Conducting research based conversations with your prospects is a crucial piece to testing your business idea. Before reaching out to people to arrange a chat, consider the following:

Who do you want to serve? Get crystal clear on your target client. Think about demographics (profession, industry, age, location) and their pain-points.

What do you offer? Make sure you can clearly articulate your offer — the solution to your client’s problem. Plus, the benefits that your service provides.

Next, identify 7-10 people who represent your ideal target client. Reach out to them to arrange a chat via Zoom. During these conversations, you want to dive deeper into their psychology to understand their motivations, challenges and buying behaviour.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What are their biggest pain-points or challenges as it relates to your offer?
  • How about their dreams, goals and ideal solutions?
  • What steps have they taken to attempt to resolve these problems or reach their goals — and what worked/didn’t?
  • Have they purchased similar services before? If so, what was their experience?
  • What worked and what was missing?
  • Would they purchase these services again — why or why not?

Next up, you’ll be using the information you’ve gathered from these discussions to validate your business or career idea and decide if it’s worth proceeding with.

PART 2: VALIDATE

STEP #4 — FINAL VALIDATION CHECKS

Once you’ve tested your business or career idea using short experiments and conversations, move on to Part 2 — validating your idea.

At this stage, run your idea through a series of validation checks. The goal here is to confirm that this business idea or career path makes sense in terms of your strengths, passions, profit goals, purpose and ideal lifestyle. Ask yourself the following validation questions as it relates to your business or career idea:

  • Strengths: Do I have the skills and experience to start this business or pursue this career — or the ability to fill any essential knowledge gaps?
  • Passions: Do I enjoy this enough to spend the majority of my time on it every day AND to commit to it long term?
  • Profits: Are there people who are willing to pay and is the financial payoff worth it?
  • Vision + Purpose: Does this idea align to the greater impact I want to have on the world and the type of lifestyle I want to create?

Only proceed with your idea if your answer is a clear YES! to each of these questions.

STEP #5 — DECIDE TO PROCEED OR PIVOT

If you’ve made it this far, we’ve worked through a number of practical steps to ensure your business idea or desired career path is logical and financially viable. But don’t forget to step out of your rational mind and check that this idea makes sense at an energetic level! Here’s what I mean.

Does the idea of proceeding with this business or career fill you with excitement — or dread? Do you feel expansive, or contractive? Lighter or heavier?

Check in with your body and pay attention to the feelings that come up. Our bodies are full of wisdom and knowledge. Before committing, this idea needs to resonate at a deeper heart and soul level too!

If the first idea you’ve tested and validated isn’t right — pivot! Use the insights and knowledge you’ve gained and try out the next one. And of course, don’t forget to fully test and validate it using the same process!

Making any change in your business or career is tricky, especially when there’s a lot on the line. These steps have helped my clients and I launch the right business, new offer or transition into the correct career — whilst minimising risk in the process. I hope these tips support you too!

Want to dive deeper and get the dedicated support you need to launch your dream business or transition into your ideal career? Click HERE to book a free Strategy Consult and find out how coaching with me can help you!

Stacey Back is an online business coach, career strategist and the Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving professionals go from feeling trapped in their corporate careers to starting a side business — or transitioning full-time into their own consultancy.

Stacey also supports existing consultants who are stuck in a business model they hate, working longer hours than ever or struggling to stay productive and make money in the current market. She helps them set the right foundations in their business so they can find more time, attract the right clients and create a consulting business doing the work they love — one that supports their ideal lifestyle.

Stacey works virtually with individuals based across Australia and internationally.