The beginner’s guide to beginning by a beginner

The beginner’s guide to beginning by a beginner by Danielle Geva

If you’re thinking of launching a new project, here’s how I got started with Mypodnotes.

 

The Idea

A few months ago a friend suggested I write summaries for podcasts. The idea sounded interesting since podcasting is on the rise, and there’s no way anyone could keep up with the constant stream of new episodes. The best part was that I could test the idea without dropping anything. I started Myponotes as a side project, but after deciding to think like an entrepreneur I realized that it had the potential to become a business.

How to find ideas

Side projects, businesses, and high growth startups all start with an idea and don’t go far without commitment to pursue them. Even though you need both to succeed, it doesn’t seem to matter which comes first. The idea for Mypodnotes found me, but if you’re itching to build something of your own stop thinking up solutions to problems that don’t exist, and answer the following questions:

  1. What’s a problem that many people have?
  2. What’s the solution?
  3. How can I help these people solve their problem?

Think of as many problems as you can from your own life, and then ask your friends about anything that bothers them or wait for them to complain about it on Twitter. In the beginning it might be difficult to come up with ideas, but after you train your mind to think in this framework you’ll spot new opportunities everywhere.

When to commit

The bar for side projects is much lower, since resources can be restricted and failure doesn’t dramatically impact your life. So if you find an idea that intrigues you, go for it. This is an opportunity to get those creative juices flowing and learn some new skills.

Starting with a side project is also a good way to validate an idea if you have grander plans. If you’re unhappy at your full-time job, you don’t have to quit to find out if you’d be happier having your customers be your boss. I’m not a lawyer, but you should probably check your contract first to make sure there’s no conflicts so that you’ll have full ownership if you decide to leave.

After chatting about Mypodnotes with friends to gauge demand and the work involved, I found many people who were interested in Cliff’s Notes for podcasts. There just isn’t enough time to listen to every single episode, and no one likes to miss out. I also relate to people who remember key insights better by reading text over listening to audio. This was enough to take the side project seriously, but I only decided to fully commit to Mypodnotes once I saw actual traction on the blog.

It will take much longer for me to figure out a business model that works, but I’m in it for the long haul. All you need for building a company is time and determination, because you only fail when you give up on your idea.

How to name your business

The name Mypodnotes came to me randomly, and is pretty straightforward because that’s what appeals to me. Ignore the pressure to spend time searching for the perfect name, because you can always change it later on. Finding a name that’s unique and playful isn’t as crucial as making sure people can pronounce properly so that it catches on. Once you come up with a name, don’t get too attached to the spelling before you secure a domain and a Twitter handle. Try adding words like “The” and “App”, switching up vowels, or experimenting with new top level domains.

The Website

If you’ve ever heard of Lean Startup Machine workshops, then you know a business can start with a single piece of paper. Remember that when it’s time to create a website for your new idea. Instead of spending the next few months learning how to code, or figuring out WordPress.org again, I decided to go with Tumblr so I could focus on growing an audience for Mypodnotes. Your site is just a means to end, and the functionality you need to test an idea is usually offered by a third party platform. You can always build a custom site later on, when it’s time to scale. As you probably figured out, this section isn’t about how to magically create something out of thin air or how to hire a web developer. I’m a bootstrapped non-technical founder, so it’s all about distribution.

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Where Good Ideas Come From: Insights by Steven Johnson

Ideas Take Time

An overnight success often takes years, and a Eureka moment is the result of lots work. In today’s society we expect things done yesterday, but you cannot force this kind of progress. Be patient and be willing to explore new avenues.

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8 Secrets of Success: Insights by Richard St. John (Part 2)

Push

Don’t spend time with people who don’t believe in you, instead look for positive feedback and support.

The best way to expand your boundaries is by consciously stepping outside of your comfort zone. When working out, you can only build muscle if you force yourself to keep going past the pain. However, personal trainers often provide you with the proper motivation needed to reach your fitness goals. Similarly, seeking out mentors and guidance will increase the likelihood of achieving success.

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8 Secrets of Success: Insights by Richard St. John (Part 1)

Richard St. John’s video shares 8 secrets of success in under 5 minutes, and I thought it might be helpful to expand on the secrets as well as highlight the mistakes associate with each one.

Passion

Don’t chase after the money, instead do what you love and the money will follow.

Successful people are passionate about their work, and would continue even if they were not paid a dime. In fact, many of them don’t even consider it work. People who are in for the money tend to give up as soon as they encounter hardship, and who can blame them? Passion can’t be faked. Luck or hard work may lead to a great opportunity, but it is not worth pursuing if your heart is not in it. When you do what you love you are bound to be successful, and even if you don’t earn millions – who cares? You are doing what you love!

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How I Failed Before I Even Started

This week’s post is a little personal, but it’s always best to learn from the mistakes of others.

In one of my first entrepreneurship courses, we were instructed to come up with unique business ideas, which were then harshly evaluated by our Teaching Assistant.

I had a couple hits and a couple of misses, but it didn’t really matter since I wasn’t invested in those ideas, I was saving the best for last. The specifics of my vision don’t matter, and since I didn’t pay much attention to grades, the F didn’t hurt. The thing that did bother me was the comment claiming my idea was ‘impossible to execute’. Continue reading