How To Get Past Where Do I Start?"

It took me a little longer than I hoped to start earning a living online, but things are finally happening. If you’re stuck at the beginning and not sure how to start, this post is for you.

At some point last year after some soul-searching on our sabbatical, I decided what I really want career-wise is a lifestyle business. I don’t want employees or a permanent office. I don’t want regular meetings or investors, and I want to be able to work from anywhere.

The problem I faced is that knowing what type of business you want doesn’t make it magically appear overnight. Deciding is only a tiny first step. A very important step for sure, but really just the tip of the iceberg.

In fact, calling identifying a goal or making a decision a “step” might actually be starting out on the wrong foot, so to speak. If your goal is (like mine) to build a business that supports your lifestyle, all the goals and decisions in the world won’t cause any real progress.

What you really need is action.

It’s hard to start executing right away though. And so, most of us spend months and months reading books and advice, checking out different business models and trying to find out how others have done it.

Some level of study is important. If you just jump into building a business right away, you probably won’t get as far as you would if you had learned a little first. On the other hand, it’s easy to get stuck in the analysis phase for months or years.

Where is the balance?

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about work-life balance here. What I mean is, what is the right balance between learning and doing in entrepreneurship?

How much learning should you do before you start doing? Can you do and learn at the same time?

I’ve read a lot of great quotes recently on Twitter and on blogs about this very topic. One of my favorites was from Sonia Simone in a recent Copyblogger post:

Inspiration is great, but execution pays the bills

Another of my favorites is from Lao-tzu (c 604-c 531 bc), founder of Taoism:

The longest journey begins with a single step

How much time you need to spend purely analyzing business models and success factors depends partly on your experience. However, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking your first business needs to be perfect or that you only get one chance.

At some point, you can (and should) learn as you go along. Take that first step, and then study how you should take your next step.

Think of the balance between learning and doing like taking an extended trip. Before you embark on your trip, you will probably research the places you’re going, book your flights and probably book your accommodations. Maybe you’ll even buy tickets to some events ahead of time.

What you probably won’t do is plan every day’s events ahead of time (if you’re that type of person, you might have a hard time as an entrepreneur). For most people, it just wouldn’t make sense. You need to get to know a place before you can best plan what to do each day. If you planned everything ahead of time, either you wouldn’t have the best time on the trip, or you’d spend a lot of time re-planning.

And when your trip is over, you’ll take what you learned about traveling to that destination (and travel in general) and use the knowledge to make you next trip even better.

And so it is with starting a business.

You can’t possibly plan every aspect of the business ahead of time. At some point, you just need to get started because there are certain things you can only learn by doing. Maybe this particular business won’t succeed like you want, but what you learn from it will get you closer to your goals the next time.

The only way to completely avoid failure is never to try. Luckily, failure is often the best teacher.

Things will start to work out, if you try.

Here are two of my favorite fundamental rules of success:

1) Try. 2) Repeat #1 until you succeed.

The hard part is getting through that period where it seems like you’re not progressing at all. The bigger goals you set for yourself, the harder it will be to keep trying.

Knowing that failure is an inevitable part of success and that you have to learn certain things by doing, one smart course of action is to first start something with modest goals.

If that thing you start flourishes, congratulations. Take what you started and expand on it.

If the thing you started doesn’t succeed, don’t worry. That’s why you didn’t sink your entire life and fortune into it. Close up shop and start again. What you learned from the failure will help you next time.

That’s the philosophy behind “Affiliate Marketing for Beginners, Complete Beginners and Future Tycoons,” the product I’m putting together right now. I want to show you exactly how to make your first dollar online through affiliate marketing.

I’m not going to try to show you how to make “six figures in six months” or anything like that, because a) that isn’t what you need, b) that isn’t completely realistic in the beginning and c) I’m not the right guy to teach you that (yet).

Instead, by helping you with a modest but realistic goal of making your first dollar online, you will achieve much more. You will have taken action, started a real business, learned along the way and prepared yourself for your next bigger venture.

I’m not saying that you’ll all become big-time affiliate marketers. Although some of you might (it is a $13 billion industry). Either way, learning how a complete business works online in a relatively short period of time (about 60 days) will help you see how a much bigger business could be built too. A business that could actually support your lifestyle goals. It’s kind of a Mr. Miyagi thing, you know?

That type of small but persistent action is what has made things start to click for me. Instead of trying to create one big perfect business with a lot of pre-planning, I’ve been taking a lot of little steps and learning as I go along.

And now, 8 months after I returned from a life-changing sabbatical, things are starting to work. I’m earning money through affiliate marketing, from consulting and I’m working on a fantastic first product. I started a new business that people are excited about and that I’m really having fun with. I can see my ideal lifestyle design coming together now, if I just keep trying.

Things are happening, momentum is building and it’s all due to a lot of small actions I’ve taken over the past year. For me, the right balance involves more doing than learning, and it probably does for you.

I hope to help you get past the “where do I start” phase too.

What do you think the right balance between learning and doing is? Please share in the comments!

photo by Un ragazzo chiamato Bi

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Hi, I’m Corbett Barr. I’ve been writing here since 2009. Join my email list for new articles about supporting yourself doing something you love: