20 Questions to Ask before you start an Online Business

Before you get all excited about an online business to fund your early retirement, ask yourself these questions. While the idea may be awesome for some people who still want to keep their brain busy for a couple of hours a day, for others it won't factor into the type of retirement you are wanting to achieve...

1. What 2-3 things do your family & friends always turn to you for advice around?
As humans, we rarely stop to really think about what our gifts are in this world. I mean that’s an ego thing right? But, hear me out, there will be 2-3 things that your family, friends, and colleagues always turn to you for advice around, and one of those things is really what you should be basing your business around if you want to do something that you are naturally good at and is no effort for you to shine.
Generally, this thing is something you do every day without giving it a second thought. If you are unsure, then start asking. Send an email to a group of trusted peeps and ask them what they associate you with and what they always turn to you for advice around. I promise you it will be worth the discomfort of sending the email!

2. What do you get lost in for hours when doing it?
You know that hobby or interest that finds the hours slip by on the clock without you coming up for food, drink, or to see if there is anything burning down around you? That thing is generally the thing you should be doing in this world, or at least it should be a large part of whatever business you are thinking about starting. Let me tell you why….
As someone who is wanting to set up a business to fund early retirement, you will be putting in more hours, more tears, more anxiety, more fears than you ever thought possible while “working for the man” so if you can’t do something that you easily get lost in, then perhaps the business idea may not fly.
But we hear you saying "What? Work? But I want to retire?" All passive income starts with a body of work to set it up... so if that's not in you... walk away now!

3. What is your desired feeling for early retirement?
If you have never heard of Danielle LaPorte I highly recommend her. She teaches the idea that we should be reaching for our core desired feelings, not a title or an object. If for example, your desired feeling in retirement is to be FREE, then having an online business would be perfect, although if you think working for yourself will leave you with loads of free time for the first few years, you may want to rethink that idea. It will simply give you FREEDOM geographically. Which sometimes is all people are searching for when they want to retire early. The Freedom to do the kind of work that lights you up, from any location you choose.
If, however, your core desired feeling is SECURITY, then a brick and mortar business, where you install a manager so that your presence is not required on a daily basis may be more your speed. I have found that figuring out what you want to feel can play a huge part in what you reach for as a way of funding your retirement and it can also keep you on track when things feel like they are getting on top of you. Reaching for a feeling is often more powerful than reaching for a goal.

4. What is your business idea in one sentence?
This is also known as an Elevator Pitch, as you would need to be able to explain what you do in the space of an elevator ride. If you can’t explain what your business is in one sentence, then going back to the drawing board and refining it a little is a major priority. Less is more. You will be saying this sentence a gazillion times in the coming years so make it easy on yourself.

5. What problem are you solving with this business?
In case you hadn’t considered it yet, every business solves a problem for another person. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t need you, your product, or your services. Be specific about what it solves.

6. Who are you solving this problem for?
This is even more important. The person you are solving this problem for is going to be your Ideal Client (IC), and knowing who your IC is will dictate your branding, your font, your imagery, your colors, your flourishes and swirls, the way you talk in your graphics, how long or short your articles and blog posts are and if you sign off with “Love & Hugs” or “Kind Regards” (yes there is a place for both!). Essentially, nothing should be created, no pen put to paper without first knowing who your IC is in intimate detail.

7. Why do you want to solve this problem?
Is this your problem too? Most of the time it is, which is great as you will be able to speak from experience. If it is not your problem, is it affecting somebody you love and care about, or have you just seen a gap in the market and thought “what a great idea”. Every good business though is underpinned by a “Why”... what’s yours?
You will particularly need a good "why" when it comes to having a business that funds your early retirement, otherwise, it really won't feel like retirement right?

8. Is this a business you can be passionate about for many years to come?
This is where your “why” often comes into play. If you are in this for the long haul, you need to be really sure it’s something you want to talk about, think about, dream about, and physically do for whatever span of time you are lucky enough to be retired.
Think really hard about this question now, it’s easy to be excited in the planning phase, but 3 years down the track it will be a different story if you are not absolutely committed passionately to this service or product, no matter if you are running it from a beach in Thailand or overlooking the Eiffel Tower.

9. What resources will you need to get this business off the ground?
We are talking $$$ here. Whatever your currency, dollars, pounds, francs, rupee, yen you will need some to get this business moving. There are biz names to register, domain names to be purchased, websites or membership sites to build, email list campaigns, graphic artists, bricks and mortar, staff, uniforms, the list is endless. Will these costs set back your early retirement more than you are willing?
A business plan will expect you to know exactly how much capital you will need to get started. If you don’t know… guess. Just start a list and as you add items if you are not sure of the cost then google is your best friend. Your final magic figure will dictate if you are financially able to start your business or if you need to acquire a loan, or perhaps find a partner.

10. What qualifications and insurance do you need before you start the business?
So I heard you are setting up a health coaching website because you love being healthy and somebody else said you should teach that? I heard you have an image in your heart of lazing on a beach in Costa Rica teaching all that you know from a laptop.
What happens if you give a piece of advice that seriously puts a person's health at risk? I can’t stress this enough. Cover yourself. Have the qualifications for what you are selling (particularly if it is a service) and get the insurance to back you if something goes wrong. Also, be a part of any associations that also back your qualifications as they can be a huge help when it comes to anything going wrong. I don’t like to focus on the negative, but it is a must to know you have a soft place to land if you need it.

11. How much income does this business need to earn and by when? 
If this business is on the side, as many are to start with then it may only need to support itself, meaning it only has to earn enough money to cover the costs of running a website and social media platforms.
If you want it to enable your early or part-time retirement, then let’s get sensible and figure out how much is the minimum you need to earn to do it and what the deadline is. After you have arrived at this, also add a Plan B for what you will do if you haven’t achieved this goal.

12. Is this a business that will require more than just you to run it?
Does your business idea require a factory with 50 staff and a manager or just yourself, your laptop, and the cat at your feet? Know realistically what staff cost, what are your responsibilities with paying staff including all the extras such as superannuation and holiday loading, before you decide on how big a building you lease or how big of a capital loan you will need to ask for.

13. Who will run the business if you are ill or your adventure finds you without wifi?
Ahhhhhh I am betting in the daydreaming about your wildly successful retirement funding business that lets you travel and have long lingering lunches with your amóre, you didn’t think about what happens if you are not actually able to run your business right?
If there is nobody else that could physically run your business for you, what then are the implications of you not being there? Is it the type of business that would be ok for a few weeks if you find yourself in a canoe in the Bahamas? Or would everything fall apart overnight? If it is the fall apart kind, then you will be needing a kickass Business Manual that outlines everything from the day to day running, to how to speak to your IC, and at least 3 people willing to step in if needed (oh, and they should probably know they are on standby for this job wink wink).

14. What are your business strengths and weaknesses?
Unless you have a kajillion dollars behind you when you start (and let's face it, if you are reading this you likely don't), odds are you will be everything in your business. The bookkeeper, graphic artist, marketing manager, social media manager, human resources, CEO, shipping department, kitchen hand, and janitor.
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you to decide the first of the jobs that get outsourced. If you are rubbish at social media or quite frankly you hate it, then hiring a social media manager to take care of it would be money well spent considering social media is the new Yellow Pages. Know right from the start where your strengths lie and have a game plan for the rest.

15. Who is going to be the face of this business?
Insiders Tip: People buy from People. Seriously, they don’t buy from big companies in most cases. It will be the salesperson that always remembers their name or the friendliness of being inside that building. Have you ever purchased something from a business that was more expensive than the last place but they were friendlier and took more effort with you? Have you ever gone Doctor shopping because you don’t like the bedside manner of the one you see now?
Whether it is services or products it doesn’t matter, people buy from people, so the question is: “Are you willing to be the FACE of your business in early retirement?” are you willing to be SEEN (that’s a tough one for many people) or are you wanting to hide behind the scenes? Are you willing to take time out from your early retirement to show up physically, not just on a laptop?
If you are a hider, a hermit of a loiterer, then who is going to be the reason people buy from you? And no, a pretty graphic won’t cut it...

16. Who is your competition?
Found a business that NOBODY else is running? Wow, that’s amazing… now google again, you didn’t do it right. Everything has competition.
Sometimes though we don’t go ahead with a business idea because we think we have too much competition. Another way to look at this is that if there are a lot of businesses doing it, then a lot of people are needing it, and perhaps you have a new and unique way of saying it, doing it, presenting it, and wrapping it. Every good business plan has a detailed list of its competition.

17. Where will this business be run from?
Home office? Under the stairs? A table at the local cafe? An actual office? A bench in a botanical garden on the other side of the world? A room inside somebody else’s office?
There are so many options.
I know somebody who had a bricks-and-mortar office for 30 years in the advertising industry. He realized one day, he always met his clients at cafes and the rest was phone calls and emails, so he rented out his office, set up at home, and saved himself a fortune.
Knowing what your retirement looks like is the key here to know where your business will be run from. Be creative as to where you can work from if you can. I have worked from a cafe all day at times, and they are always more than happy for me to be there buying endless food and beverages.


18. What is the first 5-year goal for this business?
Yes, I see your eyes rolling at me! I know you are deep in the honeymoon phase of just dreaming about your beautiful business that is going to solve the world's problems and allow you to bask on unexplored sandy shores!
But ask yourself what you want it to have achieved in the first 5 years. Then work backward… how do you reach that goal? How quickly do you have to reach that goal?
Being that it is to fund early retirement, does it need to be viable before you can retire or can it start low and build, if and when you feel like it?
Just because it is a business that funds an early retirement does not mean you should not consider its growth.

19. Who are your mentor’s going to be?
Did you notice in the very first question I suggested you ask your family and friends what your gifts are BUT I did not suggest you ask them what they think of your business idea? Our loved ones are great, but the word “loved” is the very reason you should not discuss your business idea with just anyone.
Our loved one’s opinions will be colored by their perceived outcome of your business and they don’t want you to be hurt in any way so telling you it’s a bad idea or it won’t work is simply their way of protecting you. And some of them may not even fathom how you could possibly run a business to fund an early retirement! So don't ask them ok?
In business we need mentors. People who have been there, who understand the language, won’t sugarcoat the possibilities and will sit with you to find solutions through the good times and bad. These can be paid business mentors or coaches, but they could also be colleagues and acquaintances that know their stuff and are willing to walk the path with you. You will need at least one to turn to, so having a list of possibilities is a great business move. Make sure they are people that have either done it themselves or who are wanting to do the same thing with the same amount of enthusiasm as yourself. 

20. Did you find this set of Questions tedious and hard and gave up halfway?
Then you probably should stick to working for somebody else until retirement, or look at ideas like working remotely or another form of income to fund your adventures!
Working for yourself requires so much tedious and mind sapping paperwork when getting started.
Some of these questions are normal to include in a Business Plan (which you should have by the way, and update every 3 months in your first year) which you need if you are looking for a capital loan from your bank to help launch your business. It never stops, even if you earn the income to employ somebody to do the paperwork, the business planning, and growing is still on you. 


So if you got to this point and have a notebook beside you with scribbles for every question, then I applaud you! Keep Going!

But if you read all of these questions and know you are going to close this window and walk away because you have more important things to do that aren’t going to be a buzzkill on your dream business that will fund your early retirement, then perhaps it’s not for you. And you know what? That’s ok too! There are soooo many other fun ways to fund an early retirement and we know you will be amazing at whatever you do and hope some of these questions helped you to discover a little bit more about yourself.


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