If you really want to start a business, why haven’t you started yet?
One of the biggest reasons why most people don’t start a business is the simple lack of having an idea in the first place.
Having a business idea is one thing, but finding a profitable business idea is quite another.
The majority of us aren’t trained to think of business ideas – we’re trained to go out and find a job.
So when we’re then asked to think of a profitable business idea, our immediate response is: *look around the room and hope teacher doesn’t see me*.
Fortunately for you, this article will give you a 2-step solution to the problem (you’re welcome).
We’ll also go how to figure out if the idea will make you money, and the quickest way you can start a business today.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
The no-brainer guide to finding a profitable business idea
For example, going on Twitter and having 50,000 followers is great, but is that an actual business? No. It’s a stroke to your ego.
So when you go through this idea generating process, force yourself to choose between what feels good (Twitter) and what actually gets results (paying, happy customers).
So how exactly does one go about identifying profitable business ideas? Well, in 2 steps:
STEP 1: LISTS
Take out a piece of paper (points for using a quill pen) or open up a document and create 3 columns. In each column, write a list by answering the following questions:
List number 1: What comes naturally to you (i.e what are your strengths)?
Are you naturally good at communicating, explaining concepts to people, managing your time or are you very productive? What strengths do you bring to your job? Make this list exhaustive.
Are you a great teacher, writer, cook or designer? What do you do in your job (past or present)? Write down everything that comes to mind (or ask friends and family).
List number 3: What do you do in your spare time?
Do you keep up with the news, play sports, or socialise with friends? What books, magazines, blogs and sites do you read? Do you paint or craft? Write until you can’t think of anything else to add to the list
The next thing to do is find a crossover between the three that would also be a viable business:
This step involves taking the items on your list and merging them to create a business idea. Take one from each list and see what ideas you come up with.
For now, don’t try to be the next Apple (i.e. create something totally new that the market has never seen).
Instead, when you’re generating ideas, identify those that are already services being provided to paying customers.
Remember: if a market already exists, there’s money to be made – there’s always room for one more player.
So there you have it. A 2-step process to finding a profitable business idea.
And finally …
If you’re feeling a little lost, here’re 31 profitable business ideas to get your brain buzzing:
- Academic Writer
- Advertising Copywriter
- App Developer
- Article Writer
- Book Editor
- Business coach
- Child minder / nanny
- Computer Programmer
- Cook / personal chef
- Dog walker
- Fashion Stylist
- Game Developer
- Graphic Designer
- Interior Designer
- IT Consultant
- Marketing Consultant
- Personal Assistant
- Photo Editor
- Physical therapist / sports therapist
- Project manager
- SEO Consultant
- Video Editor
- Wardrobe organiser
- Web Designer
What idea did you choose?
The 3-step guide to choosing a business idea – when you have too many
We talked earlier in this article about feel-good business ideas (getting 50k followers on Twitter) are bad.
Don’t be fooled into thinking following your passion is the answer to starting a business.
Or that merging all your passions into one is the obvious solution.
“I want to build an app! I love dogs so want to be a dog trainer! Oh, and I totally love coffee – can’t get enough of it. I’ve got it! How about a dog-training app for coffee lovers?”
Would-be entrepreneurs do this all the time, and become completely paralysed by too many options.
Or they’ll have fears like:
- What if I plug all of my money in one of my ideas and it doesn’t take off?
- What if I launch and realise I completely wasted my time and should have chosen something else?
- What if someone makes millions with my idea whilst I … just talk about it?
Y’know the problem with all of that? There’re too many ‘what if’s’. And you don’t have the answer to any of them … right now.
The truth is, nobody can tell you which of your ideas will succeed. No matter how much research you do, how slick your marketing is, or how many people guarantee they’ll buy from you – you just don’t know until you start.
That’s the downside (or enlightenment) of entrepreneurship – learning that theory testing is part of it.
Remember that at this stage, we’re simply looking at viable business ideas – not testing the market (that’s a subject for another day. Or to be more precise – further on in this article).
At this point, you have a list of business ideas (you lucky thing) staring back at you, and you just don’t know how to decide which one is the go-er.
Here’s how you do it:
HOW CAN MONEY HELP YOU DECIDE?
Look at your list of ideas and cross off the ones that won’t actually make money. Be honest about it.
Y’know the business idea you had where people pay you to go to the movies with them? Scrap that one. It’s creepy.
When I started my copywriting business, it was firstly for the love of writing and marketing, and also because I knew that copywriters existed the world over. And many were very well paid.
When a market exists, it means there’s always room for more.
Cross off the business ideas that won’t make money.
If you can’t see yourself being immersed in the topic 24/7, cross it off the list.
So if your business idea was to tutor teenagers for their maths GCSE and you already hate your day job as a GCSE maths teacher – do yourself a favour and cross it off your list.
Because starting a business you can’t get obsessed by will be the fastest way to get bored and move on.
One way to know how obsessive you’ll get is if you’re actually good at the thing you enjoy doing.
Doing something well is rewarding. So you learn more about your craft and aim to perfect it. This is the time when any idea that doesn’t use existing skills gets taken off the list.
CONSIDER THE LONG GAME
It’s perhaps the one that feels like the most difficult. Or the biggest risk. Or just one that makes you feel uncomfortable because it could actually be a success.
Which one will you regret not exploring further?
Let’s about how to know your idea really has legs and the art of market research …
How do I know my idea will be profitable?
By now, you’ll have considered your skills and interests to identify some business ideas, and then whittled your ideas down to one that you think has the most potential.
Now it’s time to figure out if your idea really has legs – i.e will it make you money?
There are two main ways that make it blatantly obvious if your idea will be profitable. There’s also a third way – I’ll come onto that shortly.
First, is someone offering the service you’d like to offer already? Most people hate it if they’re not the first to the market with a new idea. Or worse, competition already exists, which means there’s no space for them.
Both these assumptions are wrong. The fact that other businesses offer what you want to offer is a good thing. It means people are already willing to pay, which means there’s a piece of the pie waiting for you.
The second way of knowing whether your idea is profitable is to look for demand. Are people posting ‘wanted’ ads on sites like gumtree.com for the service? Are friends on Facebook or Twitter asking their network for referrals?
These are both great indications of whether your idea will be profitable. It shows a market that’s willing to pay already exists.
But how can you know what people want without knowing who you’re serving?
This is the third, and arguably definite, route to knowing if your business will make money, or just cause frustration.
So your task for this week is to decide who your target market will be and find out if they’re willing to pay for the service you wish to offer.
Are they young professionals between 24-30? Are they single mothers living in big cities? Or are they parents with teenage children?
Your target market will depend entirely on the service you’re offering. You may need to go through a few different types before finding the right one.
And remember – the audience will need to have the ability and willingness to pay.
This detail is key
For example, if your business will offer website design services to start-up businesses in small towns, you may find that since they’re in start-up mode, they don’t have the money to pay for a designer. In this case, they don’t have the willingness to pay.
If your business idea is to tutor 14/15 year old students taking GCSE exams, then they’re unlikely to have the ability to pay (but their parents will – different target market).
Once you’ve settled on a target market, it’s time to have a conversation with them. Talk to them about your idea and find out if they’re willing to pay for the service. What are their frustrations? What are they struggling with that you’ll provide a solution to?
The answers you receive may change the direction of your business idea.
For example, if you decide to provide cooking services to busy young professionals, your idea may be that you come to their house and cook for them a few nights a week.
But when you get talking to this audience, you could find that what they’re really looking for is a food delivery service that offers organic, ready-made meals delivered to their door.
Keep your eyes open to refinements to your original idea.
The easiest way to start a business (that most people miss)
When’s a business not a business?
When it isn’t making you any money.
Then it’s just a glorified hobby faking it at business.
It has a website, business cards, is registered … but it has zero customers and zero income.
What if you could start a business without any of those things? What if you did what most people don’t and made some money before investing it back into your business to create things like a website?
There is an easy way to start a business – and it’s right under your nose.
And here it is:
Ask for the sale
If you don’t tell people what you’re offering and start talking fees, how will anyone know to pay you? Worse still, they’ll hire you for free and leave you wondering why you’re not making any money.
The first few times you ask for the sale, you may sweat bullets, stammer, or whisper it and run away – but I promise it gets easier with practice.
When I asked for my very first sale, I thought of one figure in my head, and when I finally said the figure out loud, I slashed it by 80%. Gah!
Now? I have no issue asking for the fee I charge – I have confidence in my ability to deliver, so why reduce my rates?
The key to getting confident at asking for the sale is practice. So that’s what we’ll focus on right now.
HOW TO FIND POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS TO ASK FOR THE SALE
I wrote earlier about how to research your target market to find what your potential customers are really thinking.
From your research, you will have found some people who would find your service the perfect solution for them.
Get back in touch with them and talk to them about the issues they were facing again. Ask them things like:
- The last time we talked, you mentioned [issue they were facing]. How are you getting on with that?
- Remember when you told me about [issue] – how’s that going?
When you think they’re ready (you’ll know because they’ll say things like ‘I really want to fix this’, or ‘I’m tired of feeling this way’) talk to them about your business idea again.
But this time, tell them about the specific service. And if they decide it isn’t for them, ask them if they know anyone who’d find it beneficial
Don’t see it as a task where you absolutely must sell – see it as an experiment to test your selling ability.
Charge a ridiculously low price in order to make your first few sales. Remember, the target here is to get into the practice of asking for the sale, not making thousands in the first month.
And once you’ve made your first sale? Congratulations! You now have a business.
OVER TO YOU: WHAT ONE THING WILL YOU DO TODAY TO START YOUR BUSINESS?
Tell me in the comments below. I will answer any questions you have.
Razwana Wahid is the founder of Relentless Movement. A copywriting service for coaches who want to write bold and sell big. She’s the author of the definitive game plan for coaches to brand your business, market your services, and run your coaching practice like a pro. Download your copy of the book here.