Original question from Quora:

Why do some Quorans recommend starting a business so much as if it’s nothing?

Sometimes I see successful people on Quora say “just start a business” as if it is as easy as putting your clothes on and a toddler can do it. I see this a lot as “life advice”, and it’s often proposed in a ridiculously casual way.

But to be successful at this you would require a certain set of skills, a vision, and a certain mentality, whereas they claim you need no education and just the desire to do it (your drive alone can make you successful).

At the very least I would say you need an idea, but even this is not often mentioned. Just start a business!

They also say that failure is not so bad because they have failed multiple times. How is it that you can fail multiple times at starting a business and not be broke and still have the chance to try again? I thought that even one failure could put you in debt for the rest of your life.

My Answer:

There are a lot of assumptions that you make about starting a business that frankly are not true. Here is the true story of one business I started…

Once upon a time, in the year 2006, I used to read the Shoemoney blog and listen to Webmaster Radio a lot. It was a weird time and I was learning a lot about affiliate marketing, where you make a commission for selling other people’s products.

At the time Jeremy Shoemaker was making a lot of money doing pay per click advertising to affiliate marketing offers and talked publicly about it. I dug around for more information.

After a few months, I tried my own hand on it and spent $100 that I had left on my credit card to run my first ads on Google. The $100 turned into $500 in ringtone affiliate sales. Once I got paid, I took the $500 and turned it into $1,000, then $2,000, then $5,000.

At the peak I was making over $1,000 a day, but that didn’t last long. After a year, the ringtone business dried up and the funds ran out.

Along the way I learned a lot, made some good money, paid off debt, paid a lot in taxes, and started a now defunct LLC.

To begin with I didn’t have a company name, a product, or even my own idea. I just sold something that was already selling well in an effective way. For a while I was making more selling ringtones than I was at my day job.

It was fun trying things and learning along the way.

If I had setup a corporation, wrote a business plan, and done all the stuff you read about in books or in entrepreneurship courses, that business wouldn’t have existed.

Instead, I took a small gamble of $100 to test an idea. It worked and I piled on to that idea until I couldn’t make any more money from it. That business was profitable almost right away and always was able to turn over money as long as there was demand.

Not all businesses are that way, but the most successful businesses I’ve been a part of all seem to follow that pattern.

It’s not a well planned thing.

It’s more of finding an interesting thing to sell that people want to buy and seeing if that works or not. If it works, double down on what is working.

The only thing you really need to have a working business is sales. If you have sales, everything else is pretty easy to figure out.

On the flip side, if you don’t have sales, you don’t have a business.

So if you want to start a business, figure out just one thing…

Find something people want to buy and figure out how to sell it.

Now the only question is what are people buying that you can sell?

-Brian

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