Do you want to run your own business?
Do you want to know how to make it happen this weekend?
and… do you want to know how you can achieve both with only following something you are already interested in?
Then this post is for you!
(You’ll also see me building an e-sport business from scratch)
The Crazy Simple Business Model
Starting a real business is way more simple than you might think. And it doesn’t have to feel like an actual business. When hearing the word “business” we’re all instantly thinking about a company selling certain goods or offering a service on a very professional level. It doesn’t have to be that way.
For example, Facebook groups. I personally know someone who recently bought a Facebook group for €10,000 ($11,423) with around 90k members. The former owner probably didn’t only have a great time building that group but also had his own affiliate links in the group. So he was already making money with this group and now had a solid exit. Isn’t this great? He never had to build a website or even spend a single dollar on his business.
If you can read these lines, you’re lucky enough to have all the tools you need available for free. You can literally start this weekend and see the first results coming in.
I believe there are too many people who are overthinking the whole starting process. It seems everyone would like to have everything perfect straight from the beginning. But this is impossible. Being a perfectionist only slows you down. Sure, once your business takes off you have to think about business development and making things better. But in the beginning, you should only focus on the very basics and then figure out if the thing you’re trying to build actually works.
And that’s the point here: validating an idea is probably the single most important thing you have to do as an entrepreneur/creator.
I consider an idea to be validated if the conversion I’m looking for in the final business actually happens. Let me explain.
What’s the #1 goal of an online store? Making sales.
What’s the #1 goal of a content creator? Getting attention (in different size/shapes)
Those are completely different metrics and so the validation of each business model has to look different. An online store idea is only validated if people actually spending money on your products. A content idea is only validated if there are people (not your mom!) who like your content. All the data you might have checked (like Google Trends for example) are worthless if you can’t validate your idea in real-life.
That said, getting on the start line as fast as possible is key. The data in the laboratory might look good or bad but you’ll never know if the thing you are about to do will actually work (or not) without getting out and giving it a real try. The reality is always faster than the data available.
Before validating an idea you have to come up with a business idea.
How to Find an Amazing Business Idea
Why not start a business around a topic you’re personally interested in? Using your personal experience/interest is a huge plus when building something from scratch.
Just take a field you’re already interested in and bring value to like-minded people. This could be anything. From a certain solution to a very common problem to a video course explaining how to do a specific thing. As long as you’re providing value with your idea, you’ll have a real chance to find success.
You don’t have any interests? No problem at all.
You could also start a business around a topic you always wanted to learn. Take Tim Ferriss as an example here – he wrote books he would love to buy but couldn’t find. So for him, the only way to get those books was to write them. Even if no one would have bought his books, he had the books he always wanted to have. He couldn’t lose. And we all know how well his books performed and still perform.
If you still couldn’t figure out an idea there’s also the option left to combine two already existing ideas. You don’t have to invent something. Just find two business ideas and combine them into one new idea.
There’s even more: if you still don’t think you can build something from the ideas above, just use Google.
Google: popular hobbies
Take just one hobby and search for: forum: “[PICKED HOBBY]”
You’ll now only see forums about your picked hobby.
Next step, copy the URL of the top search-result and google: site: [URL] problem
(Important: Between “site” and the URL is no space. Between the URL and the word “problem”, however, is a space.)
Now you’ll have tons of problems people in that field have. Solve those problems and you’ll win.
I don’t recommend to create anything until you successfully validated your idea. Don’t waste time and money on something you don’t know can work out in the end. The process above is only to find an idea. It’s not yet time to actually build the business.
Which way you choose to find an idea doesn’t really matter. The following starting and validation approach is applicable to all.
How to Validate Your Business Idea
The actual steps to figure out if your new idea is a winner is simple:
- Build a landing page to collect email addresses.
- Set a validation goal (at how many sign-ups to you want to move on).
- Promote your business and get people to sign up.
This method makes the most sense if you haven’t built your business yet. We’re trying to figure out if there are people who have a real interest in what you’re about to do.
Business Building Step #1: Build a Landing Page
Go sign up for MailChimp and pick a free landing page template. Edit it a little bit so it fits your needs.
If you need free stock images/graphics, I recommend to check out Unsplash.
This step takes around 10-30 minutes, depends on your experience.
Business Building Step #2: Set a Validation Goal
As we’re collecting emails: at how many email sign-ups do you think there is a demand for your idea? Set an amount and a date when you’d like to have achieved the validation goal.
For example, “10 sign ups in 3 days”.
As you haven’t even built the actual business, you might feel like you’re letting the people who signed up down as you can’t give them instant access to your product/service. As those people haven’t paid anything you shouldn’t care about this. Nobody will get hurt.
If your business idea isn’t a pure free content idea and you want to sell certain goods (physical and/or digital), you have to set a 2-level-validation-goal. The first level is the mentioned email collecting goal. The second one is making actual sales. Just set another goal. How many people out of the subscribers should actually pre-order your product/service?
For example, “1 out of 30 subscribers should pre-order my product/service”.
You don’t have to build a sales page. Simply create your own PayPal.me link, add a /[PRICE OF YOUR PRODUCT/SERVICE] at the end of your link and send it to your subscribers.
Business Building Step #3: Promote Your Business
If you’re building a business around an interest, you probably know the big communities. In the best case, you’re an active member of those communities.
Here are some places to promote your idea for free:
- Facebook groups
- Instagram direct messages
- Personal Social Media Pages
- LinkedIn Groups
- Niche Forums
- (Kickstarter, Indiegogo)
Just pitch your idea and kindly ask if people are interested. Don’t be a jerk.
If you set a validation goal of 3 days, just work as hard as you can for 3 days (or until you reached your validation goal – whatever comes first).
People will always subscribe if your idea is good. If your idea sucks, nobody will sign up. That’s it. No big deal – there are plenty of other ideas you can try. Don’t fall in love with a certain idea.
Don’t worry if the thing you would like to build is out of your current reach right now. “Make it an actual problem” – if you don’t know how to build/create your product/service, you’re forced to be creative. This will bring out the very best in you.
Even if you can’t deliver the exact thing you promised, there’s always the chance to come up with something similar.
But what happens if you actually achieved your validation goal?
How to Launch Your New Business
If you made it to the point where you know that there is at least some demand for your idea, it’s time to build/create your product/service.
Whatever your idea is, work as hard as you can for just one week straight and see how far you have come. If you’re at 70%, release it and give the people who entered your email the opportunity to access it. Don’t try to be perfect here. Your business needs feedback as fast as possible so you can understand your audience’s needs to serve them better.
Remember, the people who entered their email address are very likely to be people who don’t need fancy marketing to be convinced. They really like your idea and want to get your product/service as fast as possible. You don’t have to deliver a fully polished product/service. There’s a reason why all major releases from Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, etc. also have bugs and don’t work perfectly. As long as you’re providing real value, your subscribers don’t care too much. Build momentum instead of trying to make it perfect.
Once you delivered your product/service it’s time to ask for feedback. Maybe your audience absolutely loves what you’re doing and maybe they had completely different expectations. You have to figure out how they like your product/service. If your audience liked the thing you pitched them but hate what you delivered you simply have to make it better. It’s your task to figure out what’s the difference between your promises and your actual product/service.
Ways to Make Money
If your idea contains selling a physical and/or digital product, it’s obvious how you can make money with it. Simply start an online store (I recommend using Shopify: 14 days free to use) and sell your goods.
If your idea is a content idea and you don’t want to sell digital goods like video courses or ebooks, remember the introduction of this post. I mentioned how valuable communities are. Instead of charging money for digital products you can also try to build a niche community with the help of your content.
If you’re providing great content, people will recognize and trust you. With time, you’ll become an authority in your field which will help you with the monetization aspect of your business.
Sponsorships, advertisements, and affiliate links are three great ways to make money once you built a community. All of them doesn’t cost your community any money which they will appreciate.
Whether companies who’d like to advertise in your community will reach out to you or you simply send them an email telling them you have a passionate community of XX members and only charge $YZ for a post. Play around with the numbers to get a feeling of what’s too much and what’s too low. Never forget to negotiate!
Example: “I have an email list of 2,000 passionate home cooking enthusiasts. I’m gonna promote your new cookbook to them for just $200.”
Alright, now that you know how it can be done, let’s see how it looks in the real world.
How I Built an E-Sport Business From Scratch
For me, the only way I can really trust someone’s advice is by seeing results. Everyone can talk about certain ideas but unless there’s no actual proof that this thing (whatever it may is) is possible, I have strong doubts. That’s why I’m personally so obsessed with testing my ideas first and then creating case studies about it. I want to show my actual way. So this post is no different.
I took a topic I’m personally interested in and started a business around it.
I choose to go with counterstrike for this experiment. Even though I was never really deep into video games I always loved counterstrike – played it as a kid and still play it.
For me, the most interesting part about this game is the tactical aspect of it. As I know at least one other person who is also interested in the tactics of this game, I assumed that there are many other people who could be interested in this.
My idea: a weekly newsletter about specific tactics for counterstrike.
I want the emails to be very valuable for the readers. That said, my personal tactical experience is not really worth to share. I’m just an average gamer and don’t want to bore the future readers with average tactics. That’s the reason why I want to share the tactics of professional gamers. They have way more experience and really know what they’re doing. Not too many people have the opportunity to get an insight into a pro gamer’s mind. I want to change this with my newsletter.
I just have to interview pro gamers and share their answers in my emails.
This leaves me with just two main tasks:
- Gain an audience
- Find a way to get in touch with pro gamers
Before spending a lot of time on building this project, I wanted to validate this idea in the same way I described it earlier in this post.
My validation goal: 10 email sign ups in 3 days.
10 sign-ups in 3 days may sound little, but it also means that there is a possibility to have 1,000 sign-ups in just 300 days. In less than 1 year I would have an email list of 1,000 passionate people. But even if I would never get to that many newsletter subscribers I wouldn’t be sad at all. As I’m building a business around a topic I personally love, I only need to get one pro gamer to answer my questions to learn something new from a super experienced person which would help me be better at counterstrike. I simply can’t lose in this scenario.
The very first step for me was to build a landing page with MailChimp.
Building a Landing Page
I signed up for a free account on MailChimp, picked a free landing page template and just created a simple page so people can enter their emails.
The background image is a free one from Unsplash.
Promoting The Idea
Having the landing page set up, it was time to do some promotion. To begin with, I started with:
- My personal Facebook page
- Facebook groups
- Instagram direct messages
Before starting the marketing part, I want to have a way to see which acquisition ways are best ones. This is crucial for growth later on.
I simply created a Google spreadsheet to track my efforts and results.
No time to get fancy.
Business Promotion #1: Personal Facebook page
We all have Facebook friends. Why not let them know what we’re about to do?
I posted just one post on my personal Facebook page.
After a couple of minutes, two people out of my friend list reacted and I reached out to them in a private message.
Me: “Hey, started a new project. As you’re also playing, you should sign up”
Tarek: “Oh, awesome! Are you doing it alone?”
Hello, first subscriber! (Thanks, Tarek!)
In total, I was able to get 2 people to sign up for my newsletter by posting this one post on my personal Facebook page.
Business Promotion #2: Facebook Groups
Facebook groups are great but also dangerous. Before promoting anything, I highly recommend asking the admin for permission. That’s what I did.
I reached out to the admin of a medium size counterstrike Facebook group (59k members) and told him my idea. After some back and forth he agreed and I was allowed to promote my idea.
“I have a small newsletter for passionate cs:go players which sends out an email 1x per week. Content is short tactic advice from pro gamers. Actually, just 1 question and 1 answer per week. How pros would react/behave in certain situations. No spam, 100% free.
If you like the idea, you can sign up here:
If you enter your email there you won’t be automatically opt-in into the newsletter. In the first email, you’ll be asked again if you’d like to keep getting these emails. If you think this whole idea is bullshit and don’t like the content you don’t have to do anything at all. You’ll never receive an email from me again.”
Within the first 10 minutes, I got 2 more signups for my newsletter. 6 left until I reached my validation goal of 10.
So far, so good.
Business Promotion #3: Instagram Direct Messages
I’m a big fan of Instagram direct messages. In other business posts, I made a ton of money by just sending direct messages.
This time, I didn’t want to sell anything. My plan was to find potentially interested people and tell them about my idea.
I choose to follow some well-known pro gamers, check their latest images and reach out to the people who left a comment.
I did this over and over again. Some people really liked the idea and others said it’s shit. Anyway, within 1 hour I reached my validation goal!
My idea was validated and I could move on!
Next step, reaching out to professional gamers!
Get in Touch With Professional Counterstrike Players
This was the tricky part. Professional gamers are not just 13-year old kids randomly playing counterstrike. They do this for a living and have a very tough schedule. Training, tournaments, traveling and somehow keeping up with their social life is hard. They live the life of a professional athlete. Getting in touch with them is equally hard. Anyway, giving up was not an option – I want to deliver what I promised!
Just like the pros, I also have a tough schedule. I hired a freelancer from freelancer.com for $50 and asked him to create a Google spreadsheet filled with the top 100 counterstrike players and their business emails.
I also asked him to send 100 cold outreach emails to them.
I created a new email account for him, gave him access and also wrote a template he could copy/paste in the emails.
Once he finished his work he let me know and I waited for the responses.
Within a couple of hours, three pros actually replied. Here’s one conversation:
This one answer was the birth of my newsletter business!
Let’s do a short recap!
Conclusion: Simplicity is Key
You see, the whole process was so damn simple but very effective! I built something from nothing and you can do it, too!
From finding a simple idea to validating it, building a small audience and getting in touch with professional gamer only took me 1 day and I only spent $50 for a freelancer. Not bad at all. But the best: I have fun building this business!
Now, go out and play… ehm, build your business!
I will keep this business and grow it. I’m gonna share all my efforts and results (incl. All mistakes) in my business newsletter. Sign up below!