I’ve spent an ungodly amount of time reading about online business. Here’s a funny little coincidence that I must have seen a million times across pretty much every industry.
Somebody in their infinite wisdom says, “Should I Start An X Business?” (Pro-tip: Don’t ask this retarded question ever. We’ll come back to this in a minute.)
What follows is mostly unadulterated nonsense that comes from people who a) Don’t run a business and b) Don’t bother to mention that fact, instead spewing absolute word-junk every which way they can.
Now, that’s nothing new to the good readers of this blog, and regular readers are probably thinking, “Oh boy! Here we go again…”
I haven’t mentioned this before though: Here is a list of things that you’ll routinely hear:
- “This industry isn’t like any other”
- “It’s too saturated”
- “There’s no money to be made in it… you have to do it for love”
- “You need to be really unique and stand out from the crowd”
- “Unless you have eighteen decades of experience in this field then you have no chance”
- “Oh, you have worked in this field? Unless you’ve been everything from the janitor to the CEO, you don’t have the relevant experience”
- “This industry is dying and by the time you can make money, it’ll be replaced by robots”
- “The market isn’t big enough… you should concentrate on selling life advice protein powder something else.”
- “What about this totally real and not in any way overblown obstacle that a halfwit couldn’t possibly figure out in five minutes?”
- “You need at least three trillion dollars to start in this business… think about all the paperclips you’ll need!”
There are all the other usual offenders here like “providing value” and so on, but what they all have in common is this: Every single industry thinks it’s somehow materially different to all the others.
I’ve read the same arguments about publishing as I have about clothing as I have about real estate.
(News flash… landlords aren’t buying up properties to rent “because there’s no money in it.”)
All of them think they’re the exception to the rule. It’s like a guy saying, “I’m not like those other guys” right before trying to get in the girl’s underwear… just like all the other guys.
(Or, in the interests of gender fairness, like the girl saying, “I’m not like those other girls” before acting exactly like the other girls.)
Business Is Business
Every single business works in exactly the same way.
You exchange something valuable for money.
The details change – low value items are cheaper and so you have to sell more of them. Luxury items cost more and you sell less of them.
But the basic underlying principle of any industry is exactly the same. (I tell a lie; non-profit organisations are slightly different, but I don’t know enough about that area to comment on the reality of it.)
You sell products or a service.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling plastic curtain hooks which you buy by the tens of thousands or whether you work with creative artists one at a time; you create the product and you sell it.
The only things that change are the details.
A guy serving coffee in your local Starbucks does exactly the same as a lawyer to a financial firm; they provide a service and their time is billed out accordingly.
Even though one gets paid minimum wage and the other gets paid $200 an hour… even though one has ten years’ of schooling and a law degree and the other has… probably ten years’ of schooling and a law degree too, it’s all the same.
Generally, it costs more to provide legal services (you’re recouping the costs of training and the stakes of being wrong) than it does to serve coffee, but the basic fundamentals are exactly the same.
Next time somebody says, “you don’t understand the publishing industry… it’s not like any other,” remind them that:
- The publishing industry’s whole point is to sell books
- There is a distribution chain in place to do exactly that, just like every other industry
- The authors, artists and editors are literally equivalent to the raw material cost and construction costs in other industries
It’s exactly the same.
Bear that in mind before you ask this stupid question.
Should I Start An [X] Business?
If you’re asking this question, then the answer is no.
Not yet, anyway.
Don’t get me wrong, you can start whatever business you want. I’m not your mum.
It’s just that if you see a good idea and your first inclination is to go online and ask a bunch of anonymous people who could be god-knows-what what they think about the possibility of you starting a hypothetical business in an arbitrary area, then you haven’t put enough thought into it.
You also probably haven’t internalised this article either.
It is possible to start pretty much any business on the planet in any industry.
If you’re thinking, “Is this possible?” and you’re not talking about something ridiculous like building Metal Gear or flying to Jupiter, then read this article again until it sinks in.
Once you’ve gotten over that hurdle, think about what you actually need to know. What are the real questions you should be asking?
- What are the basics of this idea?
- What’s the product?
- Who are the audience?
- How do I build something relevant and useful for this audience?
- How do I get the audience to look at the product?
- What are the logistic hurdles?
- Are any of the above hurdles insurmountable for me?
- Is it worth it?
From there, you delve into better questions. Logistics and sales for any specific market are almost infinitely deep, and so you’re going to have to do a lot of research if you want to get any of this right.
You’re probably going to need to buy yourself a notebook and follow this guide.
“Should I Start [X] Business?” is a stupid question.
It’s almost as stupid as the answers you’re going to get.
Business is business and if you can start one business, then you can start a lot of businesses. The question isn’t, “Is this business possible?” It’s more a case of, “What are the hurdles to starting this business and is it worth the time and effort?”
Unsurprisingly, the above is not the advice you’re given very often. Most people are blinkered by their own experience, and don’t see the forest for the trees. The forest in this instance is the fact you can supply pretty much any product to anyone, the trees being the specific hurdles – all of which are basically surmountable in most cases – and personal opinions which aren’t often based on reality.
Don’t waste your time asking whether a particular business is possible – instead ask the real questions about its viability… and yours while you’re at it.