In 2 easy steps, make lists and identify your passion for business!

I won’t try to hide it: I love making lists. I find that getting out a sheet of paper and actually writing things down is a great way to think through business issues I’m stuck with or to generate ideas when sitting in front of a computer isn’t doing it for me.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing entrepreneurs get their start and launching their own businesses, but it’s important that they start with the right ideas and that their passions line up with their business so they can be successful even when the money isn’t flowing in.

Today I’m going to teach you two awesome ways to use lists to help you kick off your business plans and get to work starting your own company!

1. Which interests are good business?

Okay, go grab a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil. It’s important this activity be more than just something you read and think about! I’ll wait while you go and grab your supplies.

Still with me? Great! Here’s what I want you to do. Down one column on the left hand side of your sheet list out all of your different passions. These can be everything you’re interested in, and they don’t all have to necessarily be ideas you can turn into a business! Here’s some of mine to get you started and see what this should look like:

– Media personality
– DJing
– Sneakers
– Vegan baking
– Star Wars
– Sushi
– Web video
– Dogs
– Entrepreneurship
– Education
– Travel
– Apps

Now once you’ve done that, in the column to the right start writing down all the different ways you can make money from those passions. For me, I could become a reseller of Star Wars memorabilia, or I could learn to become an expert dog trainer, or I could even write a travel column for a magazine. Keep going until you’ve identified at least one way (but hopefully more than that!) for each passion you listed.

Now, here’s the hard part. Take a deep look at this list and circle the top two of your passions that have the most money making potential. Take an honest assessment of how much time each week you can realistically dedicate to your passion. Based off of those answers you need to identify which passion has the most potential to generate short term funds with a long-term promise. You’re going to have to really evaluate how crowded these different spaces are, how viable your business options are, and how well you think you could execute on them.

2. A skills-based approach

While passion is a great way to figure out what type of business you’d love to do, another process is to look at all of the skills you’ve identified over time.

Maybe these are skills you learned in school, skills you’ve worked on in your free time, or skills you’ve honed in the workplace over the years. Really try and paint as broad a picture as you can, don’t just focus on the things everyone else says you’re good at but all the things you know how to do. Maybe you’re a computer programmer by day but a handy do-it-yourselfer at night. Or you’re in event planning but love to bake on the nights and weekend. Even if your skills seem silly, list them all out.

Once you’ve done that, we’re going to use a similar two column approach like we did in the first example. Now, next to each skill, write down any passions, interests or hobbies that come to mind. These can be related or not, just try and let your mind wander and make connections you don’t usually make.

In the examples I gave above, maybe the computer programmer can make an app that makes it easier for people to gain the knowledge they need to do work on their own homes. Or the event planner can put together a baking competition to raise their baking visibility in their hometown. There’s so many different ways that diverse skills and interests can collide and turn into great business ideas and opportunities. Ideas that sound weird on paper might just be niches waiting for someone with your skillset to exploit and turn into a killer business idea!

I hoped this helped. It’s hard to even get the motivation to strike out on your own as an entrepreneur, and even harder to actually figure out exactly how to apply your interests and skills in a unique way to solve other people’s problems—and make some money while doing it! But if you take my advice, the worst case scenario is that you’ll generate tons of interesting business ideas. Keep your lists with you and keep thinking about them and eventually you’ll figure out exactly how to launch the business of your dreams!

Featured image based on a photo by waferboard (via Flickr).