Having a solid, growth-oriented foundation for business or entrepreneurship is great – but now what? You probably need a work desk, an internet package, some apps, and, of course, a business idea to get off the ground.
The problem? Good business ideas are hard to come by.
How hard? Nine out of ten startups fail.
And while there’s a lot of talk about how the people executing make or break a business, your idea is important. Even with the right mix of entrepreneurial skills, you’re unlikely to be successful without a good idea.
Ideas are where it all begins, and in order to become an entrepreneur you need to find a promising business opportunity, and then know whether you’ll be able to permanently escape from the 9-to-5 grind.
If you’re aware of the challenges and you’re still dead-set on practicing entrepreneurship, use the tips and strategies in this chapter as a jump-off point to spark your own business ideas.
In this chapter, we’ll talk about:
- Imagining your ideal work day
- Finding a problem to solve
- How to choose between a product-based and service-based business
- Choosing your profitable business idea
Let’s jump in.
1. Imagine your ideal work day
The first step is to sit down and imagine your ideal work day five years from now. How is this helpful? Well, you’d be amazed by the number of people who aren’t passionate about their work or the number of people who’ve shared their aspirations for living a location-independent lifestyle but don’t actually want to spend time away from their families. You certainly don’t want to end up in the same boat.
The aim of this exercise is for you to drop any ideas you might already be attached to and ask yourself – what do I really want out of entrepreneurship? This will help you figure out the best business to start in order to feel fulfilled.
Do you want to finish the day’s work before noon? Where do you see yourself living? Essentially, you are creating a roadmap in terms of what your professional life will be like.
Because we want this to be inspirational to you, we listed all the possible questions you could ask yourself at this stage in an Excel worksheet.
[highlight]You can access and fill it in here, along with the other templates and worksheets from this ebook.[/highlight]
Answer all the questions you find relevant. By doing so, you should be able to better imagine your ideal work day and see whether any business ideas you’ve thought of align with what you want your professional life to be like. Scrap the ones that don’t line up because they aren’t going to make you any happier.
For example, if you can’t live away from home, the idea of becoming a travel consultant wouldn’t be viable. That’s because travel consultants are known for their authentic, real-world knowledge of different destinations, and that comes with going to those places.
2. Find a problem to solve
Now that you have a rough idea of your ideal working day (and a few business ideas), it’s time to discover a problem to solve.
No matter your skills, product genius, or sales and marketing chops, at the end of the day, your success as an entrepreneur hinges on your ability to solve problems.
Not just any problem, but a recurring one. Something that your target audience has to deal with all the time, and makes them wish that there was something available to make their lives just a tad bit easier.
Random question: Have you ever spent too much time searching and trying invalid, expired, or fake coupon codes while you’re shopping online?
The founders of the LA-based browser extension startup Honey had the same problem, and they came up with a solution that made it easy for shoppers to find eligible coupon codes before checkout. To date, Honey has raised $40.8 million in funding, and the browser extension has been downloaded over 5 million times on FireFox, Safari, and Chrome.
Hence, a great way to expand your list of business ideas is to find problems that need solutions. Below we share a couple of tactics that actually yield solid results.
Quora is a hugely popular Q&A site that lists questions from various categories, making it easy to spot patterns.
Within Quora, you can subscribe to different categories or follow Spaces (communities and collections set up around shared tastes and interests) to find dozens of questions related to your niche. It’s almost as if your target audiences’ problems are served to you on a silver platter, waiting to be addressed.
To get started on Quora, enter a keyword related to your interest/passion in the search bar at the top. In the example below, we searched ‘water sports.’
Quora will then present you with a list of topics around that niche. Your next step is to find patterns within your results, and then brainstorm solutions.
In the above example, we happened to identify a pattern that gave us a business idea. One of the individuals is asking if there’s any non-water exercise that could help a person replicate the advantages of surfing.
While there are lots of such exercises, an entrepreneur could easily market suspension training bands to this demographic. They could ask a supplier in China to make these bands or use a dropshipping supplier for the purpose.
Another interesting aspect of Quora is its ‘related questions’ feature. Whenever you click on a question, Quora will take you to a separate page that lists related questions in the sidebar.
You can browse through these questions to identify additional trends, thereby eliminating some research work.
Once you have spotted a few worthwhile patterns within each category, start thinking about the potential solutions. Repeat this process until you have 20 or more business ideas from Quora.
Note: Jot down every idea you extract from Quora in a journal. Do the same for the ideas you had left after imagining your ideal work day. This will make it easier for you to remember them, as well as ensure you have a list ready for validation.
Browse through the comments section of popular websites
On popular websites, the comments area is usually full of questions from people who regularly visit those sites. Sometimes, these individuals want to know more about the subject of an article, and sometimes they have interesting questions for the website owner.
With that said, here’s some advice so you don’t waste hours scouring the websites, checking every article, and finding that many of them didn’t get comments:
Use BuzzSumo or another similar content analyzer to find the most popular posts on a website.
The results presented by these tools are a list of most popular posts on a website based on social media engagement. If the post has many shares, it will usually have a red-hot comments section as well.
In our example, we searched for popular posts on Social Media Examiner, one of the world’s most popular online social media magazines.
BuzzSumo returned a list containing Social Media Examiner’s most popular blog posts. As we had anticipated, they have loads of comments.
You can replicate this strategy by searching for a popular website in your niche and going through the comments section of its most shared blog posts.
Though you may not be able to generate as many good business ideas as you can with Quora, you might be able to find a gem or two to add to your journal.
3. Choose between products and services
You’ve got some ideas about your own personal desires and some problems that need fixing.
Now we’ll narrow the playing field a bit more: choosing whether to start a product-based venture or sell business services.
The main difference between the two is that the product-based venture involves selling a physical item, while business services are intangible. Both types can be very profitable, and there are loads of successful entrepreneurs who’ve managed to become millionaires with both product-based and service-based companies.
But as with anything, there are pros and cons to consider before getting started.
Launching a product business
Starting your entrepreneurial journey with a product business can require more time. Whether you choose to keep your own inventory or take the dropshipping route, you are ultimately responsible for your products’ quality, as well as figuring out what to do with returns.
Also, the R&D costs of building a product from scratch can be quite high (prototypes for innovative business ideas can cost upwards of $100,000!).
But it’s not all bad with product businesses.
When you launch a product, you just have to build or source it once, and then if successful, you can make money selling the same product as many times as consumers want it and keep searching for it.
Also, it’s usually easier to convey the benefits of a product and the influence it can have in a short span of time. If you have a bad posture and buy a posture corrector, for instance, you will know if the product works for you within 15 minutes.
There are several successful entrepreneurs who’ve made a solid living selling products. However, you have to be wary of the logistics involved, and be ready to jump through a few hoops.
Launching a service business
Starting a service business can be easier in some ways. For one thing, you won’t have to invest as much money upfront than with a product business. Online services, like freelance writing and graphic design, require just a computer, an internet connection, and skill.
Simply put, you can take your capital and put it into marketing rather than into stock, getting the word out and bringing money in.
However, you can find it difficult to explain your service to potential customers. In fact, the audience you pitch to may not be able to visualize what you do. You can counter this somewhat by highlighting how your service could save them time and money, but even then you may have to frequently rearticulate its value.
Also, much of your success will be up to you, so it’s you who’s going to go the extra mile to increase the sales of your business, not anyone (or anything) else.
Depending on where you choose to offer a service, you might need an office and a small team to make it happen. Launching and working out of your home usually means lower overhead and growing with a team of freelancers, if you can swing it.
Business ideas for ecommerce entrepreneurs
Now that you’re aware of the differences between product-based and service-based businesses, how about working out your idea muscle?
While you probably already have some really good business ideas in your journal to work on, you might have missed out on certain business opportunities that are in demand, easy to start, and can be fruitful.
To ensure you don’t miss out on any viable ventures, we’ve created a huge list of 50 online and in-person businesses that you could start as an entrepreneur.
We’ve also categorized each idea for business type (whether it involves selling a product or service). As you review, keep in mind that some of these ideas can be done online from the comfort of your bed, while others will require setting up a physical store or presence to interact in-person with customers.
Tour guide company
Social media manager
Mobile app development
Professional drone flyer
Digital ad campaign manager
Career counselor business
Lead generation expert
Website flipping professional
Outsourcing service provider
Musical instrument shop
Gifts box shop
IT equipment wholesale
Handmade crafts company
Laptop parts retailing
Second-hand car retailing
Video game shop
3D printing manufacturing
Picture frame maker
Plush toy retailing
Ice cream shop
Bike rentals company
Wedding dress shop
4. Pick your most promising business idea
The last step is integral to the entire four-step approach, as this is where you identify the best business to start. The ideal business will be the one that meets the following criteria:
Profitability: Can give a good return on your investment
You want to pick an idea that has the biggest odds of becoming a cash cow for you. We did a lot of exercises on trying to find an idea that meshes well with your interests and passions, but of course, you’ll need to balance that outlook with viability.
Possibility: Is easy for you to execute
This is crucial if you’re planning to bootstrap or create a side hustle, or if you don’t want to invest in resources for the time being. If that’s you, choosing something that’ll require a ton of capital right off the bat is setting yourself up for disaster. If you’re looking into tutoring, for instance, you could start an online business where you deliver lectures over Skype. It’d require less capital than if you were to start with an offline academy.
Interest: Aligns with what you enjoy
Preferably, it should be something you see yourself working on for the next few years at least, so your idea has to be something that’s not only going to bring in money but something you’ll enjoy doing as well.
Take the top 10 ideas you generated throughout this chapter, and organize them into three lists:
- Most to least profitable ideas
- Most to least possible ideas
- Most to least interesting ideas
Then cross-examine these ordered lists to see which ideas rank high for all three categories.
At the end of this process, you should have at least a couple of business ideas that you can really start working on tomorrow, if you wanted to.
The next chapter is all about validating your business ideas, so you don’t waste your money and time launching something that nobody wants.