"I have an idea."
My wife is sick of hearing that one. Not because my ideas aren’t entertaining (they are), or because they don’t solve real problems (they do), but because she knows I’ll likely spend the next several days, weeks, or months talking about this.
Ideas are fun. And most entrepreneurs, like me, waste countless hours pursuing ideas before they ever make a single dollar.
In the early days of Groupon, I spent 4 months dividing up hypothetical equity in a spin off idea that was sure to make me a gazillionaire.
Another time, I dedicated 200 unpaid hours to documenting procedures for a franchise you’ll never hear of.
I’ve flown across the country for speculative meetings, paid designers and developers money I’ll never get back, and made gorgeous business plans that live in a dark corner of my office.
At least I’ve failed enough for one great thing to happen: I’m now very efficient at failing.
So, before you waste years of your life, here’s how to do as little work as possible to get your idea up and running.
Build a Basic Brand
A well-executed brand can cost thousands of dollars and take years to fully develop. But, you can at least look legitimate with 5 minutes and $49 on Tailor. Their website wizard “thinks like a graphic designer” to help create an instant logo, business card, letterhead, and even social media profile designs.
You can always hire a fancy agency once the dollars start rolling in.
Create a Website
I once spent $18,000 and 3 months on a website design that never launched. Now, I use Strikingly. Their simple templates are customizable enough to look unique, and easy enough to produce in 30 minutes.
Strikingly comes preloaded with the ability to create image galleries, contact forms, blogs, social media streams… anything you’d need to communicate your concept. And, all sites are perfectly mobile-friendly.
There is no better way for people to show interest in your project than to take out their credit cards. Last fall, my brother and I decided to import organic coffee from Honduras. It was a crazy idea, but before we even sent an email to the coffee plantation, we started taking pre-orders with Celery.
Celery is a simple way to build an order form and collect pre-sales. Customers enter their payment information to show their commitment, and you charge the orders once the product has shipped. In just a couple of days, we took enough pre-orders to fund our entire first batch of coffee. No time wasted there.
Once your site is live and you’re ready to take orders, it’s time to get the word out. One of my favorite new tools is BuzzSumo. With a quick search of any topic, you can instantly see where the most popular content is being shared on the web, and who the most influential people are on social media for that topic.
Anytime I launch a new idea, I do a little homework and try to connect with someone that can help me get the word out. Why limit your exposure to just the people you already know?
Make a Press Kit
Start by creating a simple document with your company name, contact information, logo, tagline, key features, and a few sentences about you and the business. If you have photos or head shots, include those too. Then, copy the public link and share it with the world. Here’s a great example.
Watch Your Numbers
When business is taking off, the last thing you want to be bothered with is bookkeeping. Bench helps reconcile my monthly statements, categorize transactions, and keep me informed about the financial health of my business. One less thing to worry about.
So, tens of thousands of dollars and dozens of failed ideas later, I think I’ve figured it out. Don’t stop chasing those exciting side projects. But, get them up and running as fast as you can and waste as little time as possible.
How long did it take you to earn your first dollar?
Chris Ronzio helps entrepreneurs organize chaos and get things done. Download a free copy of his latest ebook, 100 Productivity Hacks to Improve Your Business, here.