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?