Starting Something New

Published on March 22, 2022

Most people have an idea of a project or business they want to create but a lot of times never actually start. When starting something new, understand that your idea isn't that special. I'm not even sure an individual can claim ownership of an original idea. Think about it for a little, where do ideas come from? It's hard to say, they are out there waiting for a mind to snatch them up. Commonly, many people can have the same "original" idea, neither copied it, yet both have it. The point is that your idea isn't special. What is special is how you execute your idea. Most of my business ideas are for websites or mobile apps, this is the area I create in. But, the following concepts apply to any creative work.

How to get started

Assuming you have an idea for something you'd like to build the next thing you should do is some research. This is essential because as stated above you might not have an original idea. Many times I have thought of an app idea that I believed would be useful, only to find it already existed. Sometimes the app was far better than my initial idea and other times not. If you find out that your idea already exists it doesn't mean you should give up. Often it can be beneficial to find what exists close to your idea. With an app, for example, you can see what negative comments users post. Then build a better version that addresses those pain points. 

Realizing your idea already exists is a crucial first step to starting something new. No matter what you build you'll have competition, and identifying the competition early will make things easier. Additionally, it will help you determine what sets you apart from your competition. One common excuse I hear from people trying to start something new is they won't be able to compete with what's already out there. This can be true if you plan to build the same thing. But if you build something better, even if only 5% better then you still have an opportunity to succeed.

After having your idea and doing your research the next thing you need to do is start. Plenty of times this is the spot where people give up. When starting something new it's mandatory to begin, which means you can't make excuses. If you've done your research and still believe your idea is valid then make a plan and begin. This is also the point where a lot of people start making excuses. For example, someone who wants to start a YouTube channel might say "I want to start but first I need to buy the best equipment". This is the wrong way to think about it. If you want to start a YouTube channel and have a smartphone, that's all you need. At this point, you have started but now you need to develop a plan.

Steps to plan a project

First, get organized. When starting something new your idea is fragile and not completely formed. One way to further develop your idea is by writing about it. With a combination of words and images, you think through your project and map out what it should become. Below is an example of an initial outline for a mobile app, some of the features made it to the final app, while others got replaced. The truth is you do not have a fully formed idea because a business or project is always evolving. Especially in the beginning, it's useful to write down your thoughts. These initial thoughts can lead to new ideas or help enhance the original one.

Example of a mobile app outline
Once your idea is more developed it's best to create some goals. The way I set project goals is by creating one large long-term goal such as "Launching the app". Then with the main goal in mind, you can work backward to create smaller goals, such as "design a logo" and "setup the database". At this point, it's a good idea to store all your goals somewhere so you can track their progress. There are several free apps that you can use, my favorite is ClickUp, but in the past, I've used Trello and others. At the beginning of starting something new, it can be overwhelming. Writing down all the tasks that need to be completed can help you focus on what needs to get done. 

Now that you have your goal set and a list of initial tasks you're ready to start building. At this point, you know what you need to do, or at least you know some of the tasks you need to do. If you're developing an app one of your first tasks will be to set up your development environment. Be aware of new ideas that come up while working through your list and add them as new tasks. One thing I find that kills productivity is jumping to a new task without completing the first one. For example, while setting up your development environment you might realize you need to register the domain name. Don't go and register it in the middle of setting up the development environment. Instead, create a task for later, then finish setting up your development environment. 

Focus and time are your most valuable resources when starting something new. You must stay focused on the task you are working on until it's complete. If you are waiting for something to load it's best to wait instead of trying to multitask and complete something else. Most times multitasking hurts you and can lead to never finishing any of your tasks. You will have limited time especially if you're working on your project in your spare time, which most times is the case. Protect your time and use it wisely. 

Initial Investment 

Never invest anything except time and focus at the very beginning of starting something new. In the example of developing a mobile app, you may think you need to go buy the newest and best computer. While having a new computer can help with development it's not a necessary first step. If you have never programmed before, start by learning some simple programming online. You can do this on any computer with access to the internet. If you don't own a computer, in most places you can go to a library or an internet cafe to access the internet and get started.

You might learn after minimal attempts that what you thought you wanted to do is not actually what you want to do. This is a valuable thing to learn early on and if you can learn this without spending any money it's even better. Not everyone will enjoy programming just like not everyone will enjoy designing user interfaces. Figuring out what you do and don't like to build is part of the process.

Once you decide you definitely want to pursue your project then it's a good time to upgrade your equipment. When I started my YouTube channel I didn't have a good microphone but I did have a laptop capable of recording audio. The audio wasn't the best but it got the job done. I set a goal for myself that if I uploaded 10 videos and still wanted to continue making more, I would buy a new microphone. This is exactly what I did, my 12th video is the first where I have decent audio. The first 11 use the audio from my computer microphone. Another example where I didn't buy anything was when I attempted to learn to play the piano. I already had access to a keyboard but it was a very basic one that didn't include all the octaves. I set a goal that if I practiced 5 days a week for a month then I would buy a better keyboard. It turned out that I didn't practice enough and still have not purchased the new keyboard. Someday I may reach that goal and then upgrade my keyboard.

When starting something new it's very enticing to go out and buy the best new stuff. I recommend starting with what you have and seeing if you really want to continue before buying anything new. With any type of creative work, your initial output isn't going to be your best. You need to practice, fail and learn. If you want to be the best at something you will first need to be bad at it. So don't worry about starting with basic tools just start, learn, iterate, and then upgrade as you go.


Dave Faliskie

I'm a software developer interested in building world changing applications. My goal is to document and share all the knowledge I learn so others can quickly start building something awesome.