How to Find Ideas For a Part-time Business

by Kevin Mercadante

Millions of people dream about starting their own businesses. But dreaming is usually as far as it goes. Risk, fear the unknown, and fear of failure often stop them in their tracks. But there is a way to spread your entrepreneurial wings that will largely remove that uncertainty, and that’s to start a part-time business.

part-time business ideasThat will enable you to start your business while you still have a paycheck from your job. It will also give you the time that you need to test different strategies, and even to fail couple times before you get it right. And once you feel certain that your business idea is financially viable, you can take it from part-time to full-time, and quit your job only when you’re fully comfortable with the transition.

The biggest issue then is how to find ideas for a part-time business. Here are some suggestions…

Start With What You’re Already Doing

Would-be entrepreneurs often think that they have to come up with an exotic idea that no one’s ever thought of in order to build a successful business. In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. The closer your business is aligned with your existing skill sets, the greater the chance of success.

That should make finding a way to take what you’re already doing on your job, and converting it into a viable business. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to find a good business idea – just go with the skills that you already have.

There are many advantages to this approach:

  • Since you already know what you need to do, you can start doing it right away.
  • If your business is related to your current work, you’ll have a lot more confidence entering the business.
  • There will be a much shorter learning curve, since you’ll already have the skills and knowledge needed to run your business.
  • You already have a network of contacts that will make running your business easier.
  • If you have been doing your job for a while – and especially if you’re pretty good at it – you will already know how to speak the “language” of your business, which is especially important when you’re trying to market yourself.

Make a List of What You’re Good at Doing

Most of us have several things that we’re good at. Some may be related to the work that we do, while others may be in a completely different direction. But whatever it is that you are good at doing, will be easier to convert into a cash flow.

Inventory the primary skills that you use to do your current job. Also inventory skills that you have used on previous jobs, and that you’re pretty good at. And finally, consider the skills you have that have nothing to do with work. This could include the ability to speak before groups, the ability to teach, a passion for working with computers, or that you have a people personality. It may also be a skill you have gained from one of your hobbies.

While these skills – or a collection of them – may not ultimately decide what type of business you choose, they can act as validators. That is, a combination of skills might point you toward your ultimate business decision. Your skills may also support a business choice based on your current occupation.

If you are uncertain what business to choose, be sure that you make a list of your skills, as this will figure significantly in your direction.

Think About What You Like to Do

This can actually be shaky ground. While what it is you like to do can point to a business idea where you’re most likely to succeed, it can also have a completely opposite effect. The problem is that the things that we like to do can’t always be converted into an income. For example, if your favorite thing in the world is skiing, it may be very difficult to find a way to monetize that.

If your business choice is moving toward doing something that you like to do, first make sure that you carefully assess your ability to monetize the business. In addition, make sure the you have the skills that will support your entry into the business. There’s a whole lot more to running a business than just loving a product or activity. You have to be able sell it, deal with customers and vendors, and have some financial sense to make sure that you can maintain a positive cash flow.

Consider Where You Have Natural Advantages

This is something like taking an inventory of your skills, except that it usually isn’t nearly as obvious. You could include factors such as personal contacts and affiliations, hobbies, geography, and even physical abilities and attributes.

For example, it will be much easier for you to enter a business where you know people who are already in that general industry. That will make it easier for you to gain the contacts that you need, such as suppliers and vendors, and even a customer base.

If you are in excellent physical condition, or even athletic, it could open up the door to becoming a personal trainer, or even owing a gym or a sporting goods store. Having an interest in organic farming would work a lot better if you live in a rural location where there is a considerable amount farming already.

Assess your big picture situation in determining what business you might choose. It’ll be much easier to go into a business where you have built-in natural advantages, than one you will have to begin from a cold start.

Bringing It All Together

You should consider applying all of the above metrics in determining what kind of part-time business you might start. The closer a business idea is to any one of the above, and especially to a combination of several, the more likely it is that you will succeed and the easier your entry will be.

Are you struggling with coming up with a business idea?

Published or updated September 10, 2014.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kate @ Money Propeller

I really wanted to sell food. I want to start a new food cart in the mall. I have been reading about that through online, I can franchise from one food company.


2 Kevin Mercadante

Hi Kate – A good spot in the mall can put you right in the middle of the traffic flow. It also seems that novelty food items do well, even in bad times. Do you have any experience working with/selling food?


3 William L.

‘Make a list of what you’re good at’

LOL if only there were enough things to make a list.

JK 🙂

I completely agree with assessing what you’re already good at. Chances are, there’s a business to be extracted from at least one of your talents.


4 Lance

I have many ideas, but find I have to be willing to work hard to reach fulfillment of the idea. Sometimes we have great ideas but once we see the work involved we can’t handle doing more than what we already have on our plate. I love the extra money but don’t like the loss of flexibility so it’s a balance to make sure I don’t end up regretting signing up for the extra work.


5 Kevin Mercadante

Hi Lance – Unfortunately, nothing comes easily! We look at successful businesses and assume that the owner found the better way, or even got lucky. More often, it was a lot of blood, sweat and tears. You have to decide how much you want to make it happen, then weight out if you’re willing to pay that price.

For what it’s worth, I can appreciate what you’re saying. Sometimes it isn’t worth the effort. But where you are in your full-time career may determine just how far you’re willing to go to make it happen. If you’re stable and content, you may not want to make the effort. But if your situation is stressful and lacks a future, that might motivate you to pull out all the stops. It’s different for everyone.


6 Rob @ MoneyNomad

This article hits the nail on the head! Very well written. I spent many years playing around with obscure ideas that I had no interest in. Then, for a short time when I was looking for a job, I started freelance writing – and I made pretty good money for an amateur.

Most of us forget that the greatest accomplishments come from people who have committed to doing small things well. Those small things add up to big things over time.

Don’t try to solve everyone’s problems. Just try to solve one person’s problem exceptionally well!


7 Kevin Mercadante

Absolutely agree Rob, you have to look inside, determine what you’re good at, what you love, and where you can fill a need. Too often, when looking for business ideas we look for grand plans, the kind that will make us overnight success stories. Life rarely works out that way. Grand plunges often end up as grand failures. If you keep your feet on the ground, you have a much better chance of making it work.


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