In All Matters, You Have to Start Somewhere - picture of people cleaning a house

In All Matters, You Have to Start Somewhere

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A few weeks ago, my daughter and a friend were in the midst of a play date when I struck up a stimulating conversation with her friend’s mom.

“You have your own business,” she noted.  “How did you start it?”

I had to really think about that one.  To be honest, I am not 100% sure how I started, just that I did.

“I don’t really know,” I told her.  “We just decided to start a website and did.  Then we started offering services and promoting them.  Then I started writing for a living and focusing on that.”

It all sounded really stupid and contrived, and I knew it.  She nodded as if she understood, but I could tell that she was skeptical.  But then she launched into another series of questions that made it easier for me to explain what I meant in a way she could understand.

“I really want to start my own cleaning business,” she said.  “My daughter is in school all day long and I would love to clean a house or two and be home when she gets off the bus.”

That I understood.  In fact, my own cleaning lady does the exact same thing.  So I told her exactly what I would tell anyone who wants to start something- anything- but isn’t sure what they should do first.

“You have to start somewhere,” I said.  “So do it.”

How I Would Start a Cleaning Business

I actually cleaned houses for a living when I was a student in my early 20s.  It was incredibly convenient, and I often made upwards of $25 per hour or more since I was my own boss.  That may not seem like a lot of money now, but it was a ton of money when I was broke and living with my parents.  I mostly got cleaning jobs through referrals from people I was cleaning for, but you have to  start somewhere, right?  Here’s what I told her I would do if I were her:

  • Step 1: Create a flyer listing the cleaning services I was offering and my hourly rate
  • Step 2: List some references on my flyer that could vouch for my experience and/or honesty in all matters
  • Step 3: Take that flyer door-to-door in any (and every) neighborhood I could expect to get some business from
  • Step 4: Ask family members and friends if they knew of anyone who needed their home or office cleaned regularly
  • Step 5: Post on social media in order to find leads (One of my friends does this for her cleaning business and appears to have success with it)
  • Step 6: Post on neighborhood social media sites in order to spread the word about your new business
  • Step 7: Get some clients.  Ask them to share your information with anyone they know who might be interested in your service.
  • Step 8: Rinse and repeat all of that, as needed.
  • Step 9: Start a legitimate business with a TAX ID number and make sure your business is properly insured.

None of those steps are rocket science, but I’m sure they feel completely overwhelming to anyone who has never started anything before.  But the same thing is true when it comes to how we started our online businesses.

Before we could earn any money through affiliate links or Google AdSense, we had to build this site from scratch.  But before we could build it, we had to visualize it.  Once we built it, we had to write all of the content.  Then we had to write every day of our lives for what seems like forever.  And in the meantime, we began networking and finding clients and dreaming up other ways to make money online.

You Have to Start Somewhere

Whew…… That all sounds crazy, but it’s exactly how this all happened.  And really, it’s also how anything happens in the business world.  Before an idea becomes real, someone has to come up with the idea in the first place.  Someone has to visualize it and map out a plan to make it happen before a single dollar is earned.  And a plan isn’t enough- you have to actually take those steps.  If you don’t, you might as well resign yourself to dreaming for the rest of your life.  Because, like anything else, no one is going to do it for you.

No matter what you’re doing, you have to start somewhere.  You have to take that first step- the one that snowballs into a million other things that can help your new hobby or business get off the ground.  But the key is forcing yourself to take that first step.  Because without it, your idea is destined to remain just that- an idea.

Do you agree with the idea that “you have to start somewhere?”  What steps do you think one should take when starting a business or formulating a business plan?

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48 Comments

  1. This is a great point! For me, the hardest part of getting started is overcoming uncertainty. You don’t know how it is going to turn out and what all of the answers are, so you need to just take one step forward at a time. Hopefully this year we will turn “getting started” into something more!

    1. Yep! It is hard to start when you don’t know exactly where you’ll end up.

    2. 3 months ago, just for fun, I started my own blog. I knew NOTHING about blogging and was known as a bit of a tech-phobe. But I just went for it, figured things out as I needed, and have learnt so much! I can’t believe how much progress I’ve made in my spare time by just “starting somewhere” – Because that is exactly how I approached it. I have a career I love by day, and a wonderful family that keeps me busy, so I’ve had to work and earn that progress. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I definitely agree that you have to start somewhere, though I can definitely see it being daunting for people to start businesses both in terms of risk and opportunity cost. Even for a one-woman cleaning team. I know in my own city, there are lots of (selectively applied) rules and regulations that make running low-investment businesses a nightmare with restrictive regulation and permits out the wazoo. Researching what permits/rules to follow, which you should probably do for most business ideas, can itself be a very overwhelming process.

    1. Right, but if you just focus on all of the rules, you will never start anything. Personally, I hate rules. I would rather start something and play by the rules later.

  3. I agree that you have to start somewhere, but in some cases–usually for completely new adventures–that’s the scariest step for me. You can have all the steps laid out and decided upon but you don’t really have to do them until the first step has been put into action. Backing out is waaaay harder than never starting.

    1. Very true. Once you start something, it can take on a life of its own!

  4. Great post!! I think it can be scary to put yourself out there, but if you really want to get somewhere you have to just go for it. Starting slow is fine too, just start!! I know for me I started off writing like 2 articles a month and at the time that seemed like a lot!! I never expected I’d be writing every day and helping contribute to our family.

    1. Sweet! That’s awesome. It gets easier! Soon you might be writing 10,000 words per week like me!

  5. Great point Holly. Sometime you just need to take a chance and see how it goes. You may not succeed right away, but I’m sure you’ll learn a lot.

  6. Taking the plunge to start a new venture can be scary and overwhelming but making a plan and going for it is definitely the place to start. Same goes for paying off debt, getting on a budget, starting a diet/exercise plan, or anything else.

  7. It only takes one client to get started, so I think that was great advice. If no one knows you are for hire, you can’t get hired. It’s scary to start something on your own, but I think there are so many opportunities. If you want it, it’s there.

  8. Hi Holly! This post hits a chord with me. I’ve been trying to get my business idea started for several years now and I have all these plans laid out but couldn’t muster up the nerves to take action. I was chatting with J. Money and he told me to stop making it “a thing” and just do it. It was such simple advice but was a huge turning point for me. You just need to feel the fear and do it anyway 🙂

  9. Yes I think inertia is the key to keeping things rolling, but to do that you just have to start moving. Even if that means cleaning your own house systematically to see how you would do it in someone’s else’s house. Just move. Or like Nike says… 🙂

  10. So truem and once youre deep into it it’s hard to remember the exact steps that got you there. I’d remember to add not to get discouraged, every buisness takes TIME and i think it’s in this time too many people throw.in the towel.

  11. “None of those steps are rocket science, but I’m sure they feel completely overwhelming to anyone who has never started anything before.” I could not agree more Holly. I look back at how we started our business and it’s not rocket science at all…they’re relatively simple steps to take but they can be so overwhelming when you’re just starting out. I know for us we knew we wanted to start our business for several years but didn’t due to fear. The other thing I’d say is the importance of realizing things take time, but once things start rolling that time can be well worth it.

  12. I agree you have to just start, even if it’s only a baby step. Sometimes the first step is the most difficult. I’m glad she had you to talk with about her idea! You’re a great resource!

  13. Yes you have to start somewhere. A family member of mine recently asked if I’d help her start a blog. Come to find out she had just talked to another family member who has a stepson who is making a ton of money with a PF blog. (He’s in our niche and I immediately knew who she was talking about. It is such a small world!!!)

    She made a comment about how easy it would be to make money off a website. And although I agreed to help her she is totally not getting how HARD it is. But I’m going to help her get started. Because even if it is hard you have to start somewhere!

  14. Getting over the hump to actually take action is none of the hardest parts of any new venture. A good plan helps to give you the confidence that you’re moving in the right direction. Don’t underestimate the power of a good plan. But don’t get lost in the planning either. If you wait until everything is perfect to start, you’ll never actually start. So as you say, just start!

  15. I do agree with the, “you have to start somewhere.” I would also add, don’t let people dissuade you either. When we started my wife’s business, many people already established were very upset at those of us just “starting up” and would say things such as, “you’re not running legally,” “you’re giving it away.” etc. All may be true, but as long as you are getting up to speed and getting your ducks in a row, I wouldn’t let their comments get to you.

  16. I think you gave good advice to your friend, put yourself out there and just do it! When I set up my pre-mom business, there was quite a bit of reading for regulations etc., but then once I decided I wanted it, I quit, then put myself out there. You can’t get anywhere if you don’t try.

  17. You have to definitely commit to starting the race when you start your business and it helps to start when you have other work going on. For me, I spent time trying to build my new business while I was employed in my other job that way when I left, it wasn’t as though I left without any safety net whatsoever.

  18. The hardest part for me was just starting and not talking down to myself about all the ways I would fail 🙂 Now I could care less about failing. If something isn’t working, I just reassess and keep moving forward.

  19. I definitely agree with you, and it’s incredible what momentum you can get once you start. It’s a balancing act because you can start slow or fast, as well as have slow or busy months once you are off the ground. So I think the best thing to do is to constantly be doing SOMETHING that will get you closer to your goal, and adjusting to the demand you have. If you have downtime where business is slow make sure you have some tasks that can keep you busy while making your business more valuable (i.e. paperwork or organizing information better). But yes, you have to start somewhere.

  20. I’m with Nike on this one, Just Do It. You will not have the perfect plan, but you will learn many things just by starting, agreed.

  21. Great tips, Holly. You absolutely have to start and that is where most people fall down. They think they need to be #1 before they even begin. You just have to start. I also think it’s key when you’re in the planning stage to make sure whatever your product/service may be is to make sure that there is demand for it and to see what your competitors do right and wrong. You may be able to feel a gap that they are missing.

  22. Sometimes I get stuck starting a project because I can’t quite visualize it. For me anyway, it’s okay to get started and then mold it along the way. If I try to define things too precisely before starting, I’ll never start!

  23. Totally agree that you have to start somewhere and take baby steps. If you never take any steps you will not get anywhere.

  24. Very true, though it’s often the hardest part. When I switched to self-employment, I got stuck in the “research everything” phase, when simply taking action would have been much more helpful! I always tell people to focus on getting started instead of worrying over the little details.

  25. Ben Luthi says:

    Emphasis on “start!” I feel like my freelancing business has been a whirlwind over the last year, and I don’t think any of us build our businesses the same way. But I’d be nowhere if I didn’t take that first step with my blog back in 2013.

  26. You guys rock Holly! I am totally going to teach my son how to start his own business when he is like 4 years old. You absolutely right that you have to start somewhere. I think it is even better if you start developing entrepreneurial habits early in life.

  27. From my own experience, I tend to get bogged down with trying to make the perfect plan and visualize every detail, which leads to analysis paralysis. You are so right that just starting is the most important part! After you take that first step, you can take another step, and another until you find yourself where you want to be. Of course taking that first step is the hardest part, at least for me.

  28. I’m asked also how I started and I said I just did then the rest I figured out along the way. That’s the key right? Just start.

    1. Oh yes, I remember our first template! Awful! Looked like my daughter made it =)

  29. I am really good at “getting started” but that’s only because I’ve trained myself to do so! A good book on this point is called the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He talks about being a professional at life, which means always starting right away.

  30. Great advice! I love watching Shark Tank and the ones who bust their butts are the ones that usually get the deal, even if their idea isn’t that strong. If you want something, you have to just go out and start doing it. You will make mistakes along the way, but we all do. You just have to learn from those mistakes and push forward.

    I remember when I started blogging I was thrilled when a random person would tell me how great my site was and they offered to write for me. I didn’t know about sponsored posts or that other bloggers were charging these people for this. While I don’t do this any longer, I missed out on some extra income. It didn’t stop me though, it just made me do more research into all of the ways to make money online.

  31. I enjoyed this post as it was a fun and easy read. Too much emphasis is placed on big picture things, when all you do is take one step at a time, and if you persist while taking smarter steps you can have a business as well. Starting somewhere is a good phrase to tell someone, something they already know, but for whatever reason they don’t begin.

  32. I’m just getting started with the blogging/freelance writing stuff, and I’m loving it! That said, I was very nervous to give this a go, but I’m so happy I did. I think those initial steps are the most difficult but those give the momentum and courage to keep moving forward. Thanks for the reminder!

  33. Even if I don’t have as many tax clients as I want this year, the important thing is that I’m starting, and it can only get better from here.

  34. I agree that everyone has a starting point and most times it isn’t always easy but the key is to just start. Sometimes when you’re just starting out on a project or a business plan and you look at other experts and successful people in your industry it can be intimidating but the key is to remember that everyone had to start somewhere. When starting a business plan I think it’s important to prepare like crazy and really meditate on your idea. Determine it’s strong points, it’s weaknesses and your goals in the long run. Instead of thinking of it as a dream think of it as your tangible future. Educate yourself all you can and get helpful advice/tips from a coach or expert. Then take the leap and start!

  35. Action beats inaction, and sometimes it really is best to just get started. Now, I do think some basic planning is important of course, but I totally agree that in many situations we just have to start somewhere – so why not now? After all, life is short and time is precious, so instead of analysis paralysis or procrastination, just start! This can apply to many aspects of life beyond starting a business (health, relationships, debt, etc.).

  36. Just do it. Just start! Great advice! Starting with one client is great advice for the cleaning business. I can see how word of mouth could take you far. In the online world, I’m taking it one step at a time and hoping to get ‘there’, wherever ‘there’ is;0)

  37. Totally agree! And just starting is always the hardest part.. but all it really takes to reach success is one baby step in the right direction. I think the other key is to KEEP GOING. Don’t immediately stop when you don’t immediately see things taking off. It takes time, patience, and persistence!

  38. My friend and I always talk about starting a business but we’re all talk and very little action. You’re right you got to start somewhere. The first step is the hardest, but the most important one.

  39. The best thing to do is to keep going, keep doing, and realize that it could take a few years before things take off. The first year it might seem hard but like everyone else says, just keep going and just keep doing!

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