by Adriana Popovici for Shoals Daily

Four Steps to Starting Your Own BusinessWe are living times of great and profound changes that reflect in the state of the economy. Nowadays, many people around the world are learning the hard way that they need to take responsibly for their own lives and well-being, not depend on random job openings, and choose to fulfill their potential by taking advantage of the opportunities to start their own business.

If you’re considering this alternative, here are five steps to have in mind at the beginning.

1. Decide What You Are Going to Offer

In terms of form, you can provide services, products, or both. However, you need to start with the essence of your offer.

What can you do really well? Can you make or do anything in particular that is usually praised by others? What activities do you enjoy? What are your hobbies? Is there anything you’ve learned at a former job that you can shift into a business of your own?

These questions can help you brainstorm a list of ideas for your future business. No single question will give you the best answer by itself. But, put together what you enjoy doing, what you’re good at, and what you have experience at, and you’re pointed in the right direction. A fulfilling business is one for which you have enough passion to get you through the stress of potential setbacks, and also one that you’re appreciated for.

If you feel discouraged by your lack of formal education in a field you’re interested in, remember there are lots of businesses you can start without a degree. Only the willingness to learn all the time is essential.

2. Identify Your Potential Customers

This seems premature, yet it is a very important initial step towards defining your business. In time, this portrait will likely change and become more realistic.

Who do you want to serve? Different categories of customers have different needs. There are also products and services that can be used by multiple groups of customers, but they need to be presented and marketed in ways that vary from one type of customer to another.

Are your ideal customers young or old? Male or female? What do they do? Where do they go? How much do they earn? What do they buy? How much do they spend? What websites do they visit? What kind of comments do they post online? And so on.

This way you can decide which criteria are relevant when targeting your particular public, and adapt your offer to their needs and expectations.

3. Choose a Business Model

Each business comes with its rules, blueprints and models. Study other businesses similar to what you intend to start, and compare them. What do they have in common? How are they different? Is there any way you can make correlations between their business practices and the results they’re getting? Learn from others. Moreover, try using their services or products, and observe them from the customer’s point of view.

Also, decide on the legal form of your business. Will you work as a freelancer or a company?

Do some research. Whatever business you want to start, it’s already been done before, and there are certainly stories of both success and failure you can learn from, and examples you can emulate.

4. Make a plan

You know what you have to offer, the customers you want to reach, and the appropriate model for your future business. Now, you put all this information together and create a clear, organized, fluent plan. Think carefully about important details such as your funding – are you going to invest your own savings in your new venture, or are you going to ask for a loan? Add a long-term goal, an immediate one, and a few in-betweens, and now you have a trajectory for your business.

Fact is, your plan will change and hopefully improve. It’s an essential quality of good planning – you have to be willing to adapt your strategy to real life. Nonetheless, your mere dreams will become a step-by-step process with purpose, utility and demand that you can translate into profit.

The road to reliable progress is paved with calculated risks. Not everyone is fit for business, but most people can learn and become entrepreneurs. So, if you’re genuinely interested in learning and improving, both professionally and personally, running your own business might be the perfect occupation for you.

Adriana Popovici is an aspiring polymath. Visit her site and find out if she can be helpful to you or your business. You can also find her at Google +.