On Picking a Business: It’s Hard


By Carlos Portocarrero

This post is about the Earn1k course that I enrolled into last year. Many of you have written me to tell me you want to hear more about the course and my progress in it, so here you go.

I’m kind of stuck.

The course has a bunch of really detailed, specific steps that you’re supposed to follow, but I can’t get past one of the biggies: picking your side business. Ramit is really clear on what I should do: create a prioritized list of the ideas and test them very quickly to see which ones will work and which ones are a waste of time.

In other words, fail fast.

But I’ve started to think about this in more general terms. Instead of thinking of which idea I’d like to use as a freelance business, I’m thinking bigger picture: what would I like to do for a living if I could pick anything?

This question is pretty easy to answer: a professional baseball player. But the real question is this: if I won $300,000 tomorrow to start my own business, what would the business be?

Here’s a couple reasons why I like this experiment but what also makes it pretty tough:

  • $300,000 is a significant amount of money: it opens the doors to pretty much any kind of business I want.
  • It’s NOT $20 million, which means it will run out and I have to start something that will produce an income at some point. I can’t just say I’ll chase my dream of being a ballplayer with the money and not have to worry about what happens afterwards.

Is it just me, or is this really a tough question to answer?

What I do Know

Here are the qualities of the business I know it needs to have for me to follow through with it:

  • I have to be passionate about it: if it’s going to be my own thing, then I have to be willing to eat, breathe, and sleep this. I’m talking about staying up until 2am working on something and being excited about it. The last time this happened I think I was hacking into my phone or something…I can’t remember.
  • It has to be able to support my family in a comfortable way: If I’m going to go out on a limb and do things for myself, then I expect there to be an upside to all the hard work, the pressure, the risk, etc. If I’m going to pretty much make what I make at a job where I work for someone, then I’ll pass. The upside of “not having a boss” that so many people go on and on about isn’t really enough for me. I don’t mind having a [good] boss. So if I’m taking this step, I expect to make more and be comfortable.
  • It has to be remote: This is probably the biggest upside that I’m looking forward to in terms of having my own business. The previous bullet would definitely matter less if I can work from anywhere. This way I can travel anywhere I want and still be able to work. Granted, the thought of going to scuba dive in Australia while having to work sounds terrible, it’s still better than NOT being in Australia at all. M and my family live outside Chicago so we could visit them more often without worrying about vacation days running out. That means everyone could see A more often, which is huge.

I’ve given this a lot of thought, but I’m still stuck as to what business I’d like to start. And every time this has happened during the Earn1k course, I ask myself, “WWRD?*”

And the answer is likely something like this:

Stop whining and stop spending time writing blog posts about your whining: it’s not going to get you anywhere. Instead, get your head out of your a** and pick 5 ideas and apply the steps in the program to test them out. In three months you won’t have to bitch and moan about not knowing which one to pick because the testing will have told you which one is the one that works. Now get to work!

And that’s why Ramit rocks.

*What would Ramit do?


3 Responses to “On Picking a Business: It’s Hard”

  • Mike Holman Says:

    You are really over-thinking this process. Forget about the $300,000. Why are you introducing that variable when the money doesn’t exist?

    Also – the term “passionate” is just a marketing term used by uber-marketers like Ramit to sell more units.

    Sure, it’s a nice idea to run a business based on a passion, but it’s not realistic. Even if it did happen – most tasks involved with running a business wouldn’t involve the “passion” anyway.

    I would focus on things you “like to do” or “don’t mind doing” or worst case scenario “things you don’t hate”. :)

    Make your list, prioritize it – come up with a business model for each one and then get started. If you can find a business that makes a decent return for your time – your passion for it will grow.

    • Carlos Says:

      You’re dead on Mike…dead on. It’s one of the things I have to work on if I really want to start my own thing: doing things and springing into action vs. sitting around and thinking about it. That’s the bad thing about having a blog: you always think you have fodder for a post instead of putting it aside and getting things done.

      You and Ramit would get along great…

  • CreditDonkey Says:

    It’s true. Passion is THE key. Persistence can only get you to push and start but passion will keep you going even through tough times. That is why incoming college seniors should be given freewill to choose their major because otherwise, they will be failing… not fast. But a slow and painful failure. Why? Because when you start something, most people intend to finish it. Just like in business. That’s not always the smartest thing to do.

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