Yesterday, I provided a basic premise for testing your intended home-business as a trial run for the real thing. Today, I’ll outline the framework I use to help folks plan and run their own Nest Test.
In software testing, a test framework is used to help simplify testing. I’m going to use the same idea for giving you some guidelines when planning your test.
The Set Up
It should go without saying that you need to have a pretty clear idea of what your home business is going to be before you can run an accurate test. Though the test can help clarify some of the fuzzier areas of your plan, you should have most of your plan well fleshed out. Start with the basic formula I talked about yesterday (value you provide + something you love + your unique gifts) then use tools like a one page business plan to help solidify your ideas.
The Basic Ingredients
There’s a fine line between investing too much for a test and looking like you’re a dabbler. I always recommend you at least have a dedicated email address, phone number (a cell phone or Skype number works fine), a simple but professional looking Web page, and professional looking business cards. The Web page can be basic, but please have someone who knows what they’re doing design it. It can be a student or a friend, but if it looks like a “pictures of my cats” Website, you will give the wrong impression about your professionalism.
For business cards, don’t get the cheap black, red, or blue raised ink on thin card stock. Your cards can say a lot about your business, so go with nicer ones from the beginning. I do all my printing with PrintingForLess.com. They are relatively inexpensive, especially for the level of quality you get. Their products come out awesome, and their service is great.
This may sound like a big investment for a test, but remember, your plan is for this to be a dry run for the real thing. Even if your plan requires some tweaking based on the results of your test, chances are the changes won’t affect things so much that your cards and site become irrelevant. If so, the site copy is easy to change, and the cards are fairly inexpensive.
There are probably a few more things you’ll need – a place to work and a computer for example (though it doesn’t even have to be yours). There will also be things you’ll need specific to your type of business. Just use your best judgment on how much you need to get started.
Run the Test
Now, here comes the fun part. There’s something liberating about thinking of getting started as “just a test.” The mind is a wonderful tool, but can also sometimes be a difficult partner. Little tricks to get the mind to accept change works wonders. By taking the approach of a trial run, some of the stress and fear associated with launching a new venture is removed. Of course, you know it’s for real. But this approach gives you “permission” to have little setbacks and to make mistakes (what the mind thinks of as failures), without the mind games that can be associated with it.
There are two ways I usually recommend running the test – in a full 30 day run or in 2 two-week runs. The choice really should be based on your preferences and the type of work you are doing.
Either way the goal is the same – to execute your plan and get the business going. If you are doing it part time, evenings (and weekends if you choose) are dedicated to the operations of your new business. This will mainly consist of marketing and getting new customers, creating (if you are writing, designing, or making products for instance), networking, etc. The key is though you are in testing mode, you MUST run it as if it were your sole source of income. In order to get good results, the actions you take need to be “full on.” Making a half-baked attempt will give you half-baked results. Remember, this is your dream, and it deserves your full effort.
Over the course of the test, be sure to take notes of things that come up. As I mentioned yesterday, the point of the test is to determine:
- What works and what doesn’t.
- What you like and what you don’t.
- How things affect the rest of your household
- Can you maintain your intended plans and goals?
- What areas seem to be the most marketable?
- And the biggie – Is working from home for you?
Feedback, Analysis, and Adjust
During the course of your test run, you’ll begin to see areas for improvement. In the 30 day approach, you execute your plans as you outlined them, making notes of those areas. Small improvements can be made incrementally during the 30 days. Any big changes should wait until after your test run. They may either work themselves out, or you may find other big areas for change, and it’s usually better to package all your changes into your live launch.
In the 2 week approach, you do the same thing, but after the first 2 weeks, you implement any changes you see necessary for the second 2 weeks. This approach is almost like a 2 part beta test in software development. The first gets some initial feedback and catches and big “bugs.” The second is more to refine your plans and activities into a polished operation.
After your Nest Test, you begin to see some things very clearly. You’ll find how much work your business is going to be, where and how you’ll find customers, better ways to organize and improve productivity, and how exhausting but exhilarating running your own business can be.
Unfortunately you may also find that it’s just not for you. Maybe you thought one business was perfect, but have found that it’s not really something you want to do full time. You may not have the drive and enthusiasm you initially had, and the whole thing may just peter out. If this happens you can either try something different, or go back and do some serious soul searching. Working from home isn’t for everyone, and only you can make the decision of what you want your work-life to be.
The benefit of a test run is to see how things will go in a real world situation. All the planning, strategizing, daydreaming, and discussing won’t show you how things will go in the day-to-day operation of a home business. Running a live test gives you real results, helping you to make well-informed decisions regarding your future plans.
Scale Up to the Real Thing
Once you have a clear idea of what it will take to run your business, you’re ready to scale it up to the real thing. For most, this is nothing more than saying, “test over.” For others, you may decide to spend more time on certain things, or increase your marketing efforts. Still others may march in to their cube farm as give their notice (I’ve seen this happen on a number of occasions). Just make sure you have enough saved or coming in to buy food. Your family will still need to eat.
Whatever the outcome, the trial run of a Nest Test will have give you the confidence to carry out your dreams of a home business, and give you a solid foundation on which to build your new venture.