A lot of people, once they decide to become online entrepreneurs, already have an idea of what they might like to do.
However, for some, that is not the case.
What do you do when you know you want to start an online business, but you have absolutely no idea what to do or where to begin even trying to find an idea?
The good news for anyone starting out is that finding the right idea doesn’t happen by magic.
If you’re not lucky enough to already know what you want to do or how you want to provide value online, there is a process that can help you figure all this out in no time.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the patterns – a sort of shared DNA that is common to most business ideas so you can learn what those patterns are and recognize the business ideas that have always been lurking right under your nose in your own life.
My hope is that by the time you’re done reading this post, you will have generated at least 10 possible, profitable business ideas that you can choose from – and all of them will be drawn from your very own life.
But first, let’s look at the big obstacle standing in your way:
Why is it so hard for you to recognize the business ideas that are right under your nose?
This is the big question, isn’t it?
How is it that you know you want to start an online business, but you are having such a hard time figuring out exactly what the business should be?
There are two main reasons for this:
Your own abilities are invisible to you. This goes for everybody. We have a hard time recognizing our own abilities and we’re often the last to recognize what it is that we’re good at.
It’s one of life’s great paradoxes.
People often assume that the things that come easy to them come easy to everyone, and that’s why they discount the actual value of their expertise.
We are conditioned to believe that great ideas just ‘happen’. That sudden Eureka in the shower, the apple falling from the tree, the bolt of lightning, and so on.
Also, we are inundated by language that unconsciously conditions us to think that ideas are supposed to magically come to us and that our job involves sitting back and waiting.
But the truth is, there aren’t any magical idea Smurfs somewhere doling out great ideas to the worthy. If you want a great business idea, you are going to have to go out there and find it!
The good news is, you don’t actually have to go far.
In fact, you can get started right now with the five ways listed below that will help you recognize the seed of a potential business idea that may already be planted in your life:
- There is a specific topic that people usually ask for your help in.
- Some people have said that you should actually blog or coach about it.
- You have watched someone close to you struggling with it.
- You’ve had to figure out how to achieve it yourself (or maybe you’re still figuring it out).
- That is how you would love to spend your time, anyway.
Now let’s take a closer look at each of these.
1. There is a specific topic that people usually ask for your help in
Someone ever said this to you?
- I love those curtains you made.
- Wow! Did you fix the roof all by yourself?
- Your apartment always looks so great. How do you do it?
- You’re so organized. How do you manage to do all that in a single day?
- You always give the best relationship advice.
- You certainly know your way around the computer!
These are just examples of the types of things you may have heard someone say to you.
But because of the ‘expertise blindness’ that I mentioned above, we don’t always realize how good we are, even though other people do.
But now that you’re on the lookout for a great business idea, it’s time to start paying attention to what the people around you are saying.
There are a lot of extremely successful online entrepreneurs whose businesses are built on skills that other people recognized in them before they could see it themselves.
Simply paying attention to what others say to you will help you come up with amazing ideas for online businesses that you could start right now.
Write down at least five things that other people have asked you for help with.
It doesn’t matter how big or how small it is, just write it down.
Listed below are a few examples to give you inspiration and help you get started:
- Dealing with stage fright
- Getting a particularly stubborn puppy to behave
- Consistently shopping for great deals at the supermarket
2. Some people have said that you should actually blog or coach about it
Oftentimes, some people go beyond simply asking for help and they tell you that you really should be sharing your skill with others.
For instance, there is an example of a teacher who became a successful marketer and built a massive business launching online courses thanks to a student who suggested he put his lessons on YouTube.
Today he has a growing list of subscribers that he sells his courses to.
Take time to think back on all the skills or talents you’ve been told you should teach to other people.
This could be anything from:
- An astounding system for learning industry terms
- Amazing makeup tips that most people don’t know about
- Genius spreadsheet hacks that help you analyze information faster
- … and so on (you get the idea)
3. You have watched someone close to you struggling with it
You don’t only have to draw inspiration from other people telling you that you’re good at something.
Sometimes it flows in a direction that’s opposite to that. Being able to see someone struggling with something, knowing that you can help, is a great way of helping you find an idea for your online business.
For instance, someone who’s watched a friend or family member struggle with finances might be able to come up with a solution that would help not only that person but thousands of other people as well.
Because they have seen the effects of that situation and experienced it firsthand, they’re in a better position to advise others and provide the solutions they need.
Think of at least five challenges that you’ve helped friends and loved ones overcome in the past.
Write these down on your list.
Some examples are:
- Managing stress and anxiety in social situations
- Dealing with dietary restrictions due to a health change
- Job hunting after being laid off
4. You’ve had to figure out how to achieve it yourself (or maybe you’re still figuring it out)
A great misconception most people have when it comes to business is that you have to be naturally good at it. This is just not true.
In fact, they are times when the opposite is true and you may find that the people who had to learn to be good at something often become better at teaching it to those who were naturally good at it (since they have actually gone through the process of figuring it all out).
For example, there are some online entrepreneurs who are successful now but they started out trying to get help on the subject.
Some started groups, others started websites or forums in order to find out as much as they could about a specific topic – and they ended up becoming authorities on the subject.
Make a list of at least five things in your life that you have had to work hard to get good at.
These can even be things that you are still in the process of figuring out, but you haven’t found any resources that you like.
For instance, it could be:
- How to eat healthy on a budget
- Growing an audience for a jewelry store
- How to get a stubborn two-year-old to eat her broccoli…
- And so on
5. That is how you would love to spend your time, anyway
When someone is struggling to come up with an idea for a business, a very simple (yet extremely effective) way of helping them is by asking:
‘What do you like doing on a Saturday?’
Right now, think about what your idea of a Saturday well spent is. This will tell you lots about what you might want to spend your time doing all the other days of the week.
Those things that you can talk about for hours on end – they are the things that you have accumulated enough knowledge or curiosity about to be able to sustain your online business venture for decades to come.
There are a lot of people online who started off doing something that they absolutely hated and then did a complete about-turn when they realized that there was something else they’d rather be doing.
If there’s something you love doing, you could consider creating a business around that. These days, it has become easier than ever before to monetize things that you’re passionate about.
You not only have to consider the things that you’re good at when going into business but now you can actually think about what you love doing and use that as a way to make a living.
Write down at least five things that you like doing on the weekend.
Some examples could include:
- Playing board games or computer games with friends
- Exploring your city and tracking down amazing food trucks
- Mastering a particular musical instrument
Those are the five steps to help you generate an awesome business idea from the ones that are right in front of you. Now take a look at your list. It has a lot of potential ideas and, of course, all you need is just one.
But it shouldn’t just be an idea it should be THE idea.
Now that you got the first step down and you’ve generated a nice big list of potential ideas, let’s start to narrow it down to just one idea that people are actually going to pay for.
In the same way that there are frameworks and patterns to help you recognize all the different possible business ideas around you, there’s also a framework to help you figure out how likely the idea is to be profitable.
Idea Mapping Checklist
In this section, we’re going to take a look at some of the things you have to do to identify the best one among the many ideas that you’ve come up with.
You’ve already documented everything from skills, knowledge, and challenges that you have overcome.
You have everything that you’re good at already listed on your paper and now it’s time to determine if your ideas have actual value out there.
That is, are you going to be able to make money with it?
You may be good at skipping rope or weaving baskets underwater, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to make money from it.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t either, because I seem to remember someone once made a fortune selling pet rocks, so you never know…
But, we want to make this as easy for you as possible and set you up for success without having to jump through massive hoops, And so, the next step is to find out if there is a market for your idea.
Your idea will likely fall into one of the following four categories:
- High End
High price, with a few customers. For example, improving customer retention.
- Golden Goose
High price, with many customers. For instance, social skills.
- Labor of Love
Low price, with few customers.
- Mass Market
Low price with many customers. For instance, travel hacking.
Your next step is to do a bit of market research to find out where each of your ideas falls.
I’ve written a post on my blog about how to do Market Research properly and after you’ve determined where to place each of your ideas, you can then choose one field that you’re going to explore.
It’s okay even if the field has multiple ideas, and that’s often a good thing when starting out because it gives you more options for products and content in the future.
Now that you have your idea, it’s time to get started building your online business!
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Updated: Originally published May 13th 2019