Having too many ideas and choices can actually stop us from taking action. As the American Psychological Association reports, having too many choices can lead to simple, snap judgments - or not doing anything at all.
Having too many business ideas works much in the same way - and it can cost you thousands trying to explore them all. This "analysis paralysis" ends up frustrating and confusing you on what your next steps should really be. You've probably figured out by now that this type of gridlock thinking isn't going to lead to success.
But there are some relatively simple and inexpensive ways to test drive new business ideas without wasting too much time. And unlike dabbling in anything and everything and throwing money at multiple business ideas, you can actually earn money while test driving your new ideas.
Get started by honing in on your best ideas by charting out which ones play to your strengths and have the best potential for a healthy financial return.
Here are 5 ways you can test drive new business ideas and earn at the same time.
1. Outsource Yourself
Anyone can get up and running as a solopreneur by tapping into sites like Upwork or Freelancer. You can sign up and create a detailed profile in about five minutes.
Look for high-end gigs that aren't competing against low-ball competition. That means charging a premium for your services to attract the right clientele, crafting professional bids, and going above and beyond with curated samples that fit the job you're targeting.
Getting up and running and earning money is just the first step. Once you have a few glowing reviews under your belt, you can also leverage a site like Up Work to validate your business idea.
In the early 2000s, I ended up doing consulting gigs on sites like Upwork (formerly Elance) right out of college to see if my business idea had any legs and figure out the demand. I got a handful of great clients that helped kickstart my career in online marketing.
2. Start Consulting
If you already have an existing client base or network, you can sidestep starting from scratch on freelance sites and start consulting instead.
Consulting allows you to take a sneak peak into your dream career while validating your idea. For example, if you're the aspiring startup founder of a new SaaS business, you can consult for other SaaS companies in an area that needs your expertise, like growth hacking or lead generation. You'll walk away with new insights, connections, and a realistic look at what it takes to dive in.
Consulting also doesn't have to cost a lot of money to get started. Don't let the bells and whistles of starting a business distract you. There's no need to spend thousands on your online presence right out of the gate (or ever). Instead, just focus on what you need to deliver on your services today, like a refined offering, solid connections, and a plan of attack.
3. Crowdsource It
Not every test drive requires contracting and consulting. Crowdsourcing is an effective - and potentially lucrative - way to test out your latest ideas in a relatively short period of time.
Take your prototype, design, or service idea to a platform like Kickstarter to gauge the market's reaction. If people are pledging money and pre-ordering your offering, you know you're onto something.
Yours could be one of the thousands of projects raising anywhere from $1,000 to a million dollars. And if your plan falls flat, the project doesn't get funded and everyone gets their money back. Aside from some disappointment and dusting off your ego, you're only out a little of your time - and you could have potentially just saved yourself thousands of your own investment dollars.
There's another way to use crowdsourcing that not enough people take advantage of. Use it as an investment tool to raise funds for your project through a site like LendingClub and make a return on offering small loans.
Or you can try out an industry like commercial real estate investing by joining RealtyMogul. With as little as $5,000, budding investors can crowdsource commercial deals and learn more about the industry. Even if your business idea takes a detour from commercial real estate investing, you'll leave with an additional income stream that could yield a healthy return on your investment.
4. Become a Partner
It doesn't have to take years of blood, sweat, and tears, living on ramen, to become a partner in a business. Many start-ups eagerly recruit founders by trading equity for their expertise.
Or you can offer your services as a silent partner for a retainer. I've made a stable income stream as a silent partner consulting on topics I love, like growth hacking. I get to share ideas while exploring how businesses work and come away with new insights and ideas.
If your test drive as a business partner doesn't pan out, you still walk away with some invaluable assets. You've potentially earned some money, broadened your professional network, added some impressive credentials to your resume, and have a new platform to use to pursue your business dreams.
5. Work On-Demand
A study from Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk (now UpWork) found that an estimated 53 million people make up the "1099 economy" of on-demand workers. Sites like Uber, Zirtual, and TaskRabbit offer an outlet for just about anybody to work when there's a demand. Driving people to the airport all day may not fulfill your new business ideas, but the on-demand platform can afford you freedom and another outlet to validate ideas.
Entrepreneurs trying to conduct research and test out their ideas for a small business can sign up for TaskRabbit to determine the demand. Working on-demand and having your hands directly in your dream business can also tell you how to make important adjustments for success or when to shift gears and try something new.
Meanwhile, you've just put money in your pocket and are one step closer to going from a test driver to a business owner.
What about you? How have you test driven new business ideas while earning? Let me know by leaving a comment below: