Why is it that for some people, finding new business ideas is a walk in the park while for others, it seems like an insurmountable task? The truth is that the skill of developing great ideas is something you can learn. So, if you’ve ever wondered how to come up with a business idea yourself, this article will unveil the answer for you.
Let’s address some general questions before I present you with 10 ways to come up with your own successful business idea.
What Makes A Great Business Idea?
First of all, we should start by talking a moment about what “great” means. This is something you need to answer for yourself. Does a great business idea mean that you can make a living from it, equally to your day job? Or does it mean that it fulfills some greater purpose? Or that it will make you a millionaire? All these answers are viable, and it’s up to you to find out what you want to achieve with your future business. Only if you know the answer, you will be able to take the right steps.
When is an idea ready to be executed?
The next question on the list is at what point an idea is developed far enough to get started on it. There is also no simple answer here. However, my own business endeavors during the past 12 years have taught me one simple truth: Most of the time, we tend to wait too long, over-analyze and try to plan everything until it’s perfect.
The issue here is that unless you get started and make real-world experiences, you can’t know what is missing. It’s impossible to find out how to come up with a great business idea if you don’t test it. So my general recommendation would be to stop preparing and start doing.
To sum this up, you can most likely take the first steps once you have a basic working product or service. At that point, you should get some feedback from the outside, and then adjust from there.
How do I know if my business idea will work?
I’m speaking from experience when I say that (as I’ve already described above) you can’t find out by planning. The only way to know if your business idea will work in the real world is to get started and see what happens.
When I launch a new project or idea, the process is roughly the following:
- Find a new business idea (we’ll talk about that in a minute!).
- Refine it until I have something useful to offer.
- Make my first move with that offer and see what areas need improvement.
- Improve these areas.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 over and over again.
It’s much less dangerous to just start with a barely-working (but still working!) idea than you might assume. In fact, there’s a whole trend in launching a business using the “lean startup” method. You can find a lot about it all over the internet. I also recommend the book (or audiobook) Lean Startup by Eric Ries if you want to lose your fear of starting too early.
How To Come Up With Great Business Ideas – 10 Ways That Might Spark Your Imagination
The most common form – Start by identifying pain points
Every business is solving a problem or fulfilling a need or desire. If a business doesn’t do any of these things, it will not stay in business very long. Thus, the first step toward finding a successful idea is identifying pain points. All the following steps are based on this core principle, so you should really internalize it.
Once you start every brainstorming session from the perspective of finding needs, you will much more likely come up with some promising starting points. You can become more aware of these issues by asking yourself the following questions:
- Which parts of my day annoy me most?
- What do my friends/family repeatedly rant about?
- What would I like to have that is not available to me right now?
Asking these questions will lead you to some insightful answers. You might come up with very universal issues (such as the tremendous amount of traffic blocking your way to work every day). Not all of these ideas will be the ones you work on. However, don’t let yourself filter the answers during this exercise. The result you want to achieve at this point is simply directing your brain toward spotting pain points.
The next step in the process – what to do with your list of pain points?
Identifying problems is only the first step. Now we transition into the actual creation of your potential business idea. To make the connection between these two steps, ask yourself the following question:
How could I solve these problems?
It’s really as simple as that. But once you find an answer (or many answers), you can celebrate, because you’ve just identified your idea. And the best thing is that every idea coming from this process has the potential to become a successful business!
So take your time and play around a bit with your list of pain points. Find ideas to solve these pain points or simply make life easier for a certain group of people. Lastly, don’t be afraid to go wild with your ideas. Nobody is going to see your list, and nobody will think you are crazy (which in my world is rather a compliment anyway).
Developing A Great Business Idea – Specific Strategies
In the following part of this article, I will present you with additional more specific strategies to come up with great ideas. They all make use of the same thinking process, asking where there are problems and how they can be fixed. Use them to spark additional inspiration.
And in case you think that you will never find customers or clients for your business, check out this article explaining 15 ways to get your first client as a freelancer.
Find a product and design a cheaper version of it
Here is a practical example from my own life: I was once so annoyed at my printer that I almost shouted at it for not behaving the way it’s supposed to behave. I think it’s a pain in the *** that printers stop working at some point and only return strange lines of mixed colors that make it almost impossible to read what’s on the paper.
Additionally, cartridge prices are so incredibly high that I almost hesitate to print even one page of black text. This annoyance, however, sparked an idea in my head. I thought that maybe I could design printers that are more reliable and have much lower maintenance costs at the same time.
I figured that if I would want this imaginary printer, a lot of other people would want it, too. And this probably is still true, so if you want to give this idea a shot, I have just presented you with a free gift. I don’t want to follow that I idea right now because it doesn’t match my priorities. Yet, this doesn’t mean that I think this idea has no potential – because I absolutely think it has!
See if you can find products of which you might be able to create cheaper versions. Don’t worry about now knowing how to turn it into a business now. Your goal at this moment is simply to come up with various business ideas.
Brainstorm what might come next
If you are into technology and innovation, this one might be a great way for you to develop ideas. The principle behind it is simple. Find an area in which you are at least slightly involved so you understand some basic characteristics about it. It could be anything from gardening to interior design to voice-controlled office computer systems.
Then try to come up with some form of innovation yourself. Think about what could be the next step in that particular area. Imagine the future before it has been presented by anybody else.
Let’s take traffic as our topic to create an example. What will be the future here to provide humanity with better solutions? Will these solutions be geared towards efficiency, environmental health or any other pain point? Will drone taxis be the remedy for cities like Shanghai and New York? Or will electronic traffic jam detectors guide drivers in a way that traffic jams won’t even happen anymore?
Figure out what big market players are missing
What does Amazon do? Where is Apple going? What are future plans at ExxonMobil? These corporations also consist of humans coming up with ideas to grow and expand their companies. You can be sure that they are far from exploiting all opportunities that their own innovations present.
Think about a car brand like BMW for example. Have you ever noticed that there are thousands of businesses out there focussing on special supplies for these cars? I don’t mean the direct component suppliers, but businesses like custom wheel covers, special sound systems, car sticker designers, etc. I bet you’ve never thought about it that way, right?
Identify evolving needs based on innovation
This one is closely related to the previous concept as it also focusses on big trends and the opportunities they present. As technology evolves, there’s always a need to stay on top of the game, so your competitors don’t pass you by at the speed of light.
On the other hand, most companies have neither time nor (personal) resources to adapt to these innovations on their own. This is how Social Media agencies have become popular in the past few years. They have identified the increasing need and found a way to turn it into a business. By the way, I think this trend will go on for quite a while, so if you feel comfortable with Social Media and like to use it, this one might be something you want to consider.
How to come up with a business idea by saving people money?
A common approach to finding successful business ideas is to start with the goal of saving people money. The idea to create a cheaper version of an existing product is basically a form of doing this.
However, there might be many more ideas you could come up with that fall under this category. Where do people spend too much in your opinion? Or what is reserved for people with a lot of money that you could make accessible for a broader customer base? Finding something in this category could be the starting point of a million-dollar-business.
Build a business based on the idea of making people’s lives easier
This one is very similar to the previous approach, but it doesn’t focus on saving money. The thought behind this strategy is to come up with tools or gadgets or services that make people’s lives easier.
Social Media agencies would be a great example here as well since they make the lives of their customers a lot easier. This category is maybe the easiest one to generate good business ideas because you can start anywhere in the world building a business with this approach.
Janitors and cleaning workers are just basic examples that fall under this category. The ideas really are endless. Just keep the main focus in mind: How could you solve problems?
Apply Your Own Skills To A Different Field
What are you good at? Which jobs do you do at work that are easier for you than for anyone else? Are there any specific strengths you have that you could apply to a different industry?
I like this approach a lot because it will lead to unique ideas that differentiate you from others in your potential field. I actually talk about this a lot in my FROM IDEA TO INCOME blueprint, as I’m all about using your unique talents to create a unique life. You can access the blueprint for free by the way.
At first, this way of thinking might be a little hard for you – especially if you don’t think you have any strengths at all. Nonetheless, I assure you that once you start thinking that way, it will become easier very quickly, and it’s well worth the effort!
Turn your passion into a business
You can play the game in reverse as well. Start by thinking about what you would really enjoy doing. Then go ahead and develop useful services and products from there. In the end, you always want to find ideas that solve a problem or fulfill a need or desire. How you reach that outcome is up to you, and there’s nothing wrong with starting with what YOU want.
This approach might eventually lead you to the most fulfilling business endeavor because you had your own passion in mind all the time. Although you will not be able to say that it will as well be the most profitable idea, it will for sure be more fulfilling than selling reliable printers with cheap cartridges (unless that’s your passion).
How to come up with a business idea reading books?
I saved this approach until the end because, in my life, it made by far the biggest difference. I have basically learned to think in the way described above by reading books about business, startups, creativity, marketing, and related topics.
Over the years I’ve read more than 100 books in the broad field of business, not to mention the audiobooks I listened to and seminars I attended. It really can make a huge difference for you, since you find new perspectives in every book you read. These new perspectives will let you see the world through eyes more aware of certain events.
Here’s a short list of great books I would recommend to begin with. They are all about of finding and developing great business ideas and building businesses in general:
We’ve covered a lot of ground on how to come up with a business idea. After reading this text, you will have a broad set of tools so you can take your own steps and find your own successful business idea.
If you want to dive in a little deeper and learn some more in-depth tactics, you should check out my free FROM IDEA TO INCOME blueprint. This will speed you up tremendously toward creating a successful business idea that will eventually earn you real money.
Make sure to also check out this guide on how to prepare for freelancing. It will help you better understand what goes into your new business – even if it’s not directly a freelance business that you’re about to start.
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