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Thinking Outside the Box When you’re in it!

In today’s economy it is becoming more important to fend for yourself, not only in your personal or family life but also in your professional life. As we know many people have lost jobs and are now looking for an alternative source of income. People are starting to set up their own businesses and are getting back to basics in their own community as well as on a bigger scale and online. This is all fine for those with entrepreneurial spirit and bucket loads of ideas. But what if you don’t know where to go with your idea or how to turn it into a business.

Often when a person thinks of an idea, they feel that it is great and that it will definitely be successful. This may sometimes lead to jumping into the deep end and drowning before even getting started!

Here are some points to note when you come up with a business idea that you would like to make a reality:

Am I copying someone else?

One of the main worries with an idea is that someone else may already have thought of it and may beat you to it.

When you have an idea, how can you tell if it’s new? You can research to a certain extent in your local area and online but you can’t be 100% positive. It probably isn’t completely new but it doesn’t necessarily have to be as long as it can stand out!

Outside what box?

How can you make your service/product stand out among existing or possible competitors? To get my point across I have to use one of my least favourite but sometimes necessary phrases: You have to think outside the box!

But how can you do this when you are firmly sealed inside the box?

You have to be forward and bold! Call up your competitors anonymously and ask for a quote or ask for further information on the services they provide. This will give you a good idea of what you’re going up against. Then you need to start thinking about how you can make your business different, in a way that will attract customers. This is one of the most difficult things to do, but no one said setting up a business was easy!

Don’t forget to make sure not to give away any ideas that you may have for your business by asking competitors if they provide the service.

Ask your friends too and any contacts you may have what they think about your idea. They will be able to look at the idea more objectively and you never know they may be able to help you.

Ask for help!

Starting out with a new business is always daunting! If you know someone who has been through this process already why not ask them for some advice. As long as you don’t ask for trade secrets people are usually willing to help.

Take a class.

If you are not sure how to go about bringing your idea to life you could attend a ‘Starting Your Own Business’ type seminar or class. There are many courses like this being held all over the country at the moment.

Don’t overwhelm yourself

Another important thing to remember is not to take too much on, on your own. Make sure that you know what resources you need before you start out, always overestimate slightly, and make sure that you are prepared.

Be prepared

Make sure that the product or service is ready before starting to advertise or sell it.  This is an important one, as you want your potential customers to see how professional you are from the beginning. That way your customers and competitors will take you seriously.

These are just some points to remember that may be helpful if you are thinking about starting a business. What other areas should we pay attention to when starting out? What advice do you have for someone starting out?

Fiona White is a freelance journalist based in Waterford, specialising in all aspects of radio production and print services. She has worked at Today FM, 98FM and writes for online and print publications and websites. Having studied Radio Production and Media Production Management at Ballyfermot College of Further Education and Print Journalism at Independent Colleges and having worked at various radio stations in Dublin, Fiona has moved to her hometown of Waterford and set up as a freelancer. For further information please email

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  • Fred

    As Seth Godin would say: “What is going to be your gift?”
    If we have a new idea, once we put it in practice, we need relevant people know about it. The idea would be to plan in advance how to share with this unique audience a piece of “my great stuff” and do this consistently. The toughest part to execute is the second one but it works!

  • Nice article Fiona and it’s probably true that there is nothing new and original under the sun. But if you have the idea for your new business, even if it’s well populated by others with the same idea, how you stand out is by being the best. The most original, the fastest, the one who delivers more than 100% and the one who makes working with them a joy.

  • Hi Fiona. A useful post for those considering going out on there own – fair play. I would add on the research side to get onto Google and look up your competition as well. There is a huge amount of information out there to help you along. As Fred points out, raising awareness of what makes you “different/better” is the most difficult aspect of any new service or product.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Fred, thanks for the comment. It’s definitely tough getting your name out there but persistence can pay off! Your message needs to let potential clients know that you are there for them. Any tips on getting your idea to the right people?

  • Thanks for the comment. I agree, it’s so important to provide the best product/service and customer service to your clients. Doing this from the beginning should help to ensure continued custom, and loads of referrals!

  • Hi Barney, thanks for the comment! Yes Google is an excellent resource, a good first port of call for any research. I agree with Fred too, it is difficult especially if people are already using a similar product/service that they have been using long term. There are not a lot of people that like change! But if you can give them a better service and a better deal, they will be willing at least to discuss it.

  • Hi Fiona.. I just want to say thank you for writing the article.. I read it a few months ago while I was contemplating starting a business and found your advice very useful, especially finding the resources and not trying to do everything yourself.
    A very worthwhile read for anyone on that fine edge of will I or won’t I. My advice is yes you should and read as many helpfull blogs (like this one) along the way for guidance and reassurance whenever you come to a standstill inside that box!!

    Thanks again..

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