The stories of successful startups often make people want to quit their day job and become an entrepreneur. The only problem is coming up with an idea that will sell. Or is it? The truth is it’s not coming up with the idea that’s the problem, it’s finding the time to sharpen your skills, research and build resilience. Any idea can become a successful business if you start small, think creatively and get the right feedback from your target audience. So, are you ready to find out how you can have a happy hustle too?
In this summary readers will discover:
- Why problems are inspiring
- Know your target audience
- Find your solution and get out there
- What you need to succeed
Key lesson one: Why problems are inspiring
Most startups provide solutions to a problem. So if you want to come up with ideas for your business, you have to become a problem seeker. You have to be able to see the problems which you and other people experience every day. Take for example the British businesswoman who became frustrated after she ripped her favourite pair of jeans. Buying another pair of jeans would take hours of combing through stores trying to find the right pair and online shopping will not guarantee the right fit. Her frustration was one that is shared by millions of women worldwide and she ended up starting a website that helps women find clothes that fit them.
Even looking at problems from your past can have a benefit to people now. Anurag Acharya created Google Scholar after he remembered how hard it was to get academic articles when he was a student. Thanks to him, scholars all around the world can easily access the article they need with a simple search.
So, once you start finding problems, how do you know which problems should have your attention? It’s part intuition and part logic. Going through your list of problems your intuition will guide you at first. You will know what ideas get you the most excited and eager to start. However, you can also assess your current skill set and what would be most suited to your current expertise. When you choose your problem, it is recommended that you write a problem statement. A problem statement is basically a detailed document which sums up the problem and who it affects. The more specific you are in this statement, the more ideas you will gain about how to solve it.
Key lesson two: Know your target audience
As part of your problem statement, you have already identified who is affected by the problem you wish to solve. This can be further refined to a persona. A persona is basically an imaginary target user. For example, software coders who were in the process of developing a game for middle-aged women with children named their persona Barbara. By doing this, they kept Barbara in the front of their minds as they developed the game. How she would react to the different features, what she would prefer. This was extremely beneficial, especially to the male coders who had to change the way they would approach game development.
Once you have your persona though, you have to do your research to see if your assumptions are correct. Since you are the one who has completed the problem statement, the persona you have developed may be based purely on your assumptions. Research will give you definitive answers and is a tactic which most successful companies use. Even Amazon encourages its employees to speak to people they meet who use their platforms in order to stay connected to what users experience.
If interviewing people is not exactly your strong-point, open-ended questions are your best ally. They allow people to speak freely about what matters to them with little input from you. The only thing you have to be wary of is what people say they do and what they actually do can differ drastically. They are not intentionally lying to you, it’s more a matter of their actual behaviour being unnoticed. It seems crazy but it has been proven multiple times. If you ask someone about their spending habits, they will most likely give you a very responsible, mature answer. But, ask those same people to keep track of their daily expenses and a different story will be revealed. It’s a simple matter of them not knowing that their actual behaviour is different to the behaviour they aspire to.
Keeping this in mind, in addition to interviewing people who match your persona, you should also observe people in the real world. You can even ask people who match your person if you could observe them going about their day so that you can get a clearer idea of what they do and what problems they face. Taking notes whilst doing these observations is extremely important. This type of research will help you to get to know your target audience and what product you can develop for them that meets their needs.
Key lesson three: Find your solution and get out there
When it comes to finding a solution to the problem you have identified, do not, for one second, believe that there is a single perfect solution awaiting you. In actual fact, there are multiple solutions to every problem. You have to be creative and find as many as you can possibly think of before comparing them. By working in this manner, we develop our divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is something we can practice and develop by brainstorming both alone and in groups. Group settings are often best as they are more supportive of creative thinking and leave less room for self-criticism of your ideas.
The best way to encourage divergent thinking is to work with diverse teams. Diversity leads to the generation of unique solutions and debate amongst different team members with differing points of view. This method will help you see things differently and enable you to choose a solution which will help many different people within your target audience.
Choosing a solution though from the ideas you have generated can take time. You have to change tact and stop thinking creatively and rather analyze them critically. In order to facilitate this, you can first list the criteria that you want to use to evaluate your solutions. Try not to be subjective when developing your criteria as well, as this will skew your decision process. Once you have this list, go through your solutions critically and eliminate them until you find one that is feasible for your business.
You have now got your solution but the work has not ended. You need to develop it. Don’t leave it hanging, just start. Begin with naming it. Find something catchy that resonates with you. It will make it more real to you and get you going. Then write a concept statement. It will be an expansion of your problem statement. It should include the name of your product, the problem it is related to, the solution it provides and how it will benefit its users. Once you have this concept statement try streamlining it until it is the length of a tweet. This gives your ‘elevator pitch’ of your product and will help you describe it to others. Your next step is to create a prototype. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just something to bring your concept to life. Others will be able to see what you wish to achieve and you will begin to see it materialize.
Now that you have it all set out, it’s time to test your product. Your prototype is not a working form of your product, so your need to create a minimum viable product or MVP which will be. An MVP should not take too long to make, it just needs to be a working version of your product which can be tested. Depending on your product, you can test your product in a number of ways. For example, you could use professional user testing which requires you to hire a researcher or you could have a market stall or you could release a version of your product online to gauge user responses. The reason you test your MVP is to see how your target audience responds to your product and to identify any problems which need to be addressed. Try not to be discouraged if your MVP has any issues, it is bound to happen. It will just enable you to refine your product.
Key lesson four: What you need to succeed
When you take the leap to start a business, other than your idea, there are some characteristics which you need to develop if you want to be successful.
The first of these is communication. When you start a business you need to be able to communicate your ideas with others. This will not only allow you to gain valuable feedback but you will also be able to perfect your pitch. The more you practice your pitch, the more you will be able to gauge people’s reactions to it and make changes if need be. Also, remember what you say is also influenced by how you say it. If you get tired of saying your pitch and just ramble it off with a bored tone and slumped shoulders, that is exactly how others will perceive it! Stand tall, be confident and get others just as excited about your product that you are.
Secondly, you need to have a growth mindset. In order to succeed, business owners need to accept failure. It is an opportunity to learn and it should not be feared. Bouncing back from failure is an important skill to have. It allows you to take risks, make mistakes and not be negatively affected by them. Your failures as an entrepreneur will give you valuable information. Even if your product initially fails, you can gather data and use it to tweak your design or come up with a new one. All business owners fail at some point, it’s how they bounce back that makes them successful.
Thirdly, you need to understand your product, target users and how they behave if you want to grow your business. You have to understand that people may like your idea, but how many of them do you need to make your business profitable. The initial stages of your business may go well but that does not mean that you should sit back and leave it alone. You have to understand your community, you have to ensure that your marketing strategies motivate them to buy your product.
Lastly, you need to have a runway. This refers to the time, finance and moral support which is needed for your product to take off. Whether you choose to do it as a side hustle or devote all your time to it, you need this support in order to make your business successful. Financial investment can come in the form or venture capitalists, family and friends or even sites like Kickstarter and Gofundme. But having money isn’t everything, you should also have a close network of people around you who you can turn to. You are starting a business because you want a different life but that doesn’t mean that it cannot be enjoyable. Appreciate your journey but don’t leave your family, friends and mentors behind. They will be your biggest cheerleaders!
The key takeaway from How to Have a Happy Hustle is:
Anyone can be an entrepreneur if they are willing to put in the work needed. Your best ideas will come from solving the problems that many people face. It’s just a matter of developing a solution, testing it out and ensuring that you know how to market it to your target audience.
How can I implement the lessons learned in How to have a Happy Hustle:
Be observant and open minded. Observe the problems which you encounter in your day to day life. Do your research and receive feedback with an open mind. Develop your communication skills, mindfulness and a growth mindset in order to have a happy hustle.