Start A Project, Not A Business

One of the main struggles I see with my clients and the other wanna-be entrepreneurs I’m connected to, is that they come at their new business with this all-or-nothing mentality. They think they have to have it ALL figured out before they start, or else they can’t start.

This happens especially when people are trying to figure out what services to offer, and how to package their products. And most people go about it all backwards (myself included – I totally did this!).

You think about what you might want to offer, then you spend tons of time thinking about how to package it, writing website copy for a sales page, deciding on pricing, and getting the nuts and blots figured out… but you do all this BEFORE you have even tested out your service!

Enter income projects. I first learned about this term from my colleague Alex Baisley, and everything clicked.


What if instead of starting a business, you just started a small project to see how it feels to actually be doing what you think you want to be doing. Like, in real life. With real people. On a really small, no-pressure scale.


So instead of having to make the logo, and come up with the business name, and create the website, and write a sales page, and start a Facebook group and all the other stuff most people think are the first steps – what if you just started actually doing your work with people? And you get to make a little money on the side by charging a nominal fee while you test out all your different ideas (hence why it’s called an income project).



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Income projects are great because they take all the pressure off, and they don’t feel as heavy as “starting a business”. And they can usually be done in a matter of a week, so it’s not like you need endless time to plan it.

Here’s a real life example of how an income project might work: Dale has a cooking business where she caters events and bakes super unique cakes for special occasions. She wants to start building her business more online, and wants to start offering online cooking classes, but she’s trying to figure out if this is a good idea or not. So take the mystery out of it and test it out! What Dale could do would be to grab a friend or a current client and say “Hey, I’m thinking of doing cooking classes online. Will you be my guinea pig?”. Then she can figure out a rough idea of how she might like to structure it, and test it out with her friend/client for free or for a low cost.

Another example: Lindsay can’t decide if she wants to start a business based around graphic design, or copywriting, or baking, or fashion coaching. So she might start 4 different income projects to test out these different ways of working with people and see what she enjoys. “Hey, friend, I think I want to start a fashion coaching business. I know you suck at dressing yourself and that you have that big interview coming up. Can I work with you to help you choose the perfect outfit, and see how it goes?” Easy Peasey. She might also connect with someone from the new Uncaged Lifers Facebook group and say “Hey – I’ve always been a writer and I think I want to try my hand at copywriting. Can I help you craft the perfect tagline? I’ll only charge ya $25 as long as you write me a sweet testimonial (if you love what I create for you)” Bam – another income project! Lindsay gets to help someone and test her ideas, and her friend gets some free help and can offer great feedback about how it went on her end, as the client.

Starting a project will help you will learn a TON about how you want to work with people, what works and what doesn’t, but  you’ll get great feedback (and maybe even your first testimonial!). And then you can tweak and change and try it again and your services will just start to fall into place.


Instead of sitting  there and trying to hammer things out through thinking, you get to let them evolve organically by doing.


Then when you know what you LOVE doing, when you know what you’re GOOD at what you’re doing (based on the feedback you get), and you start to get the feeling that you might want to expand on what you have already tried, then you can start to think about how these projects might take shape as actual business offerings.

Doesn’t that feel so much better than trying to figure it all out ahead of time? NO ONE* (*actual statistic) got it right on the first try. All the people you see killing it online are killing it because they worked their way up through trial and error to eventually find their perfect sweet spot.

Start a project, not a business. It’s WAY easier and will actually get you there faster, because it will take the pressure off AND it will let you finally get started doing something. Sounds way better than being stuck in “I have to get it right!” mode and thus doing nothing, right?

I’d love to hear from you! Are you having trouble figuring out what to offer? What is an income project that you could test out this week that would help you get started? Post your income project idea below and maybe someone in the comments will be willing to be your first test client!

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  1. Gennyb74 on June 25, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I love this! This is awesome advice and feels super inspiring! Thank you 🙂

  2. DemetriaTweetz on June 25, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    This is totally me!
    I started my coaching business this year and now that I’m actually coaching some clients, I’ve figured out that I want to package my services in a completely different way. I followed a generic one-size-fits-all approach but I’ve quickly realized that it’s not allowing me to coach the way I want to and it’s not perfectly fitting the needs of my ideal client.

    • Rebecca Tracey on June 25, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      DemetriaTweetz Love this, and i SO know how it goes with coaching! You have to learn early on to do it your way, and that might mean stepping slightly outside of what you learned in coaching school 🙂 Have you seen the Coaching Business Jumpstart Program that I run with Ellen? if not, check it out! Live version coming again sometime this fall!

  3. SarahNissen on June 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I love this!  This post is perfect timing for me.  I’m thinking to myself “I don’t have a lot of time – how can I start an entire business while I’m selling my other one, blah blah blah.”  Okay, I like traveling, eating good food, suggesting ideas to fix people’s problems once they’ve started something, researching, etc.  I’ll post on the facebook page to see what people think would be a good offering.

    • Rebecca Tracey on June 25, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      SarahNissen you should totally try a few things out 🙂 See what resonates!

  4. DiyDavis on June 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    WOW. This is SO great! Thanks.

  5. KarenTaggart on June 25, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Once again I feel like you’ve crawled inside of my head (scary place) and are talking directly to me! I am THE MASTER at planning, learning, analyzing, and planning some more.  But actually starting?  Not so much.  I actually enjoy planning a business, marketing, etc and built my photo biz the past few years then realized…huh…my heart isn’t really in it.  I set it up the way all the pros say I’m supposed to, but it isn’t right for me.
    So now I have a new idea I’m very excited about and (thanks to Marie Forleo) I have made steps toward doing it, but once again I’m stuck in the planning and not the doing. And now another idea I may be interested in has creeped into my brain as well.  Too much thinking!  Not enough doing!  Aaaaargh!!!
    I can’t seem to get out of my own way.  I KNOW I will be successful and that I have what it takes, but I blame it on having a 2 year old, I have no time, I have to help my hubby with his business first, the house is a pigsty, etc etc.  (As an example of my perfectionism I had to look up how to spell “pigsty”…who knew it was one word?!) 
    I just found your blog recently and am loving it!  I am absolutely going to DO a couple income projects and hit the pause button on building the business structure since I know I’m good at that part.  Plus, I need some freakin’ moolah! 🙂

    • DiyDavis on June 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      KarenTaggart You are not alone! I feel like you just wrote my story/struggles/strengths/successful anticipation… Just exchange your photography for my Real Estate and add a 4 year old (on top of the 2 yr old) to the mix. I even have the hubby who needs help with his biz! I started an Etsy shop selling art and tables as my first Income Project but ready to start a few more to find out what I really like! 🙂

      • Rebecca Tracey on June 25, 2013 at 6:20 pm

        DiyDavis KarenTaggart ohhh i love when people have the same story – makes you feel not so alone in it! ANd I;m curious what’s with all the putting the husbands first? I get the support, but sacrificing your own dreams for it? Hrmmmm what’s really up with that ladies? Fill me in!

        • DiyDavis on June 25, 2013 at 7:42 pm

          Rebecca Tracey DiyDavis KarenTaggart His biz pays the bills for the time being and he has no idea how to do marketing/graphic design/social media so I feel obligated to help out. When I replace that income he would gladly join some of my projects that we are both interested in.
          I get bored easily and not sure I would like any of my projects in a full time situation (rehabbing properties, real estate agent, designing/building tables and art, inspiring homeowners/buyers/sellers to try DIY home projects, inspiring happiness and healthy lifestyles…). I love it all in small doses but feel overwhelmed and never really gaining success in any area. I’m trying to focus on writing content for my DIY house blog  (house updating tips for buyers/sellers/homeowners) but not really sure if I see the full potential of what I’ll do with it which makes it hard for me to take time to do more of it. 
          So, that’s what’s happening here 🙂 Oh, and I’m kinda busy hitting the beach daily this summer! 🙂

        • KarenTaggart on July 1, 2013 at 11:56 pm

          Rebecca Tracey DiyDavis Well…some of it is an excuse to “hide” and not go for it.  His business has the potential to make a ton of money and pretty quickly.  I know I have the same potential, but I lack confidence I suppose in some ways. I must be comfortable in my current state or I would change it right? Kind of like someone with a bad habit. We get comfortable with the familiar.  I feel like things are really coming together now and I am absolutely ready! 🙂

      • KarenTaggart on July 1, 2013 at 11:52 pm

        DiyDavis My hubby’s business is real estate, so we have even more in common! 🙂

    • Rebecca Tracey on June 25, 2013 at 6:18 pm

      KarenTaggart Ack Karen, you have just described the EXACT situation I see people in all the time. They plan and prepare but they’re building the WRONG business for them! Wheras if they has really taken the slow routes, tested their ideas, and progressed naturally, they’d have learned early on that it wasn’t the right thing.

      Stop thinking girl!! start doing!! What do you think is holding you back (other than all the reasons you gave – which are likely just procrastination tactics). What do you believe about what it will mean when you really go for it with your business?

      • KarenTaggart on July 2, 2013 at 12:01 am

        Rebecca Tracey Oh that is the question, isn’t it?!  What is holding me back?  ME!!!  (she says while kicking herself in the pants)  Your suggestion to do income projects is sooo helpful!  I’m going to force myself to “work backwards” in a way an stop planning, planning, planning.  
        As for your second question?  I have no idea.  I don’t feel like I’m afraid of success.  I am definitely afraid of failure, but mostly of the “oh my god, I just spent years of my life and a bunch of money on this and it obviously was the wrong decision” variety.  But, that’s exactly what I just went through and you know what?  The sky didn’t fall!  And I learned a ton and don’t even regret it.  🙂

  6. Umgawa on June 25, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Here’s my three project areas:  1. I published my memoir a few months ago and sold 50 copies. Have a blog and Facebook page. Ready for the next level with this. Perhaps I will write about it here. 2. I teach sacred geometry and am preparing a website/book with hands-on instructions. 3. This one would be an easy cash-cow–selling some kind of digital info product that someone else produced. I favor the last as coming first. Any ideas or comments, please?

    • Rebecca Tracey on June 25, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      Umgawa Great, I love that you posted there here! my initial thought is that they all sound like BUSINESS stuff. Creating a digital product takes a TON of time and research to make sure that what you’re creating is valuable to your people. DItto with #2 – website/book.

      It sounds like you actually have your business going already, so what’s the nest big thing you want to create? and then how can you scale that down to a super mini level to get started? It might be that you start a facebook group simply for the purpose of teaching sacred geometry, and play around in the group with different ways of going things. An income project should be something that you can start and finish in a week, so keep that in mind!

  7. CanyonTrailz on June 25, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    This is fabulous – I love the idea of an Income Project rather than jumping into the big, scary & overwhelming waters of a business right off. I’m going to give this a go with my graphic designing.

    • Rebecca Tracey on June 25, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      CanyonTrailz YES! Feel free to look for your first clients in the Uncaged Lifers FB group (just search for it, and you can post your service in the HELP OFFERED file!)

    • LilaSimmons on June 27, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      CanyonTrailz I have some graphics you can design if you’re up for it, Honey Bug. 😉

      • CanyonTrailz on June 28, 2013 at 6:40 pm

        LilaSimmons CanyonTrailz Hey Lila – I’d be more than happy to give it a go 🙂 If you’d like – go ahead and email me your info at [email protected]. I look forward to talking to you 🙂

  8. LilaSimmons on June 27, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    OMG! I love this post. I feel like you’re readnig my mind. *reads comments below* OK, I love your audience too. 
    Anywho, my income project is Coffee-Break Energy Work. Hit reply below to find out more or find me in the Uncaged Lifers FB Group OR find me at

    • Rebecca Tracey on July 5, 2013 at 10:38 am

      LilaSimmons Awesome, thanks for sharing Lila!

  9. CherylAnnShipman on July 1, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Seems like the struggle I have and every entrepreneur has is the “I have a really unique idea” and “I need to stay mainstream cause I need the money” dilemma and this solves that problem completely! Do the mainstream, make the money. But throw those unique ideas out there and test them out in the waters of reality with individual “projects” (and just having a name for them makes them seem real and bona fide, right?) It’s giving yourself the permission that’s key! Great article that is much needed and I will share it.

    • Rebecca Tracey on July 5, 2013 at 10:38 am

      CherylAnnShipman Yes!! Totally! It’s especially great for those with a full time gig who want to test the waters first before making any big bold decisions.

  10. FIgure It Out Friday: I’m Starting From Scratch In My Business. How Long Will It Take To Make Money? | The Uncaged Life on July 5, 2013 at 10:08 am

    […] Start A Project, Not A Business […]

  11. marindajvr on January 4, 2014 at 9:37 am

    This would have saved me so much time+drama over a year ago! Love income projects!

  12. CatRuddell on January 4, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Becca knows that this IS my story – false start on a business that was not a right fit, so I returned to a job I love, where I make a decent living, and get to work on my income projects – one of which is starting next week, and is so related to discovering what areas of focus your projects could take. Feel free to ask me about it in the facebook group, or check it out here – so glad for this post becca, this concept saved me from so much stress :o)

  13. JenMcCaldon on March 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Hi Becca nice to meet you where have you been?? 
    Love your idea of income project but i found that offering helping out my friends for free or for little it seams to not have value and so they don’t take me serious on the offer… and what if my project is an event that will need the website, page logo and blah blah blah? will love to here your feedback although this could do a with a “message therapy” that look forward to afford 🙂

  14. Rebecca Tracey on March 18, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    JenMcCaldon  Thanks for the comment! I’d recommend finding people who ar actually a fit for what you are offering. You don’t need a whole site to get started – ask around for referrals, post in groups you’re a part of, and reach out within your circles to find people!

  15. riktakhatun on April 17, 2014 at 6:15 am

    Thanks for awesome post about starting a project!  we have also some project and there always applied pure Sacred Geometry with amazing Art!
    <a href=””>Sacred Geometry</a>

  16. […] Start a Project, Not a Business via Uncaged Life […]

  17. lakay on September 28, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    I am considering creating a community of creatives that I can connect clients to. Because of the things I’m involved in, people come to me asking me to do copy writing for them, manage their social media or teach them how, beef up their LinkedIn Profile, or help them do branding. They don’t realize that I have all of this because I’ve met the best in the business across the country – and I end up just referring them to the person I think best fits them. So I’m thinking I could start doing that for a fee – I’m really good at connecting people and getting to know people and understanding their needs and style in a fairly quick amount of time. And if I can connect them to the correct creative – that’s worth something to both parties I think!

  18. Tim on June 5, 2016 at 10:44 am

    God, what are you doing here? You’re so sane. How did they let you out?

    I’ve read a couple of your posts, and everything I’ve seen so far seems honest and sensible. How did it get past the “how to turn readers into clients” censors?

  19. ming alexander on June 25, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    K, I’ve been binge-reading “how to get your coaching-shit together” articles all morning and I had to share this like 3x before I even got to the end. You are literally like one step ahead of my thought process. Like. I just created the Beta Feedback form yesterday, and THANK YOU for saying it’s ok to offer a FREE BETA version. My coach and everyone else is all about “Raise your prices and value yourself more,” but I’m telling you, I don’t want to fake anything, because this *Project* I’m channeling is the real deal. Life changing, earth shaping, epic shit, so I don’t need to fake it. I want to have genuine confidence in my program; how fuvking reasonable to acknowledge that this happens AFTER you see the program work. Thanks xo Ming