Have you been struggling to come up with your ultimate business idea?
I've got some ideas for you today because I've struggled with this over the past several years.
I've had ideas that worked really well and I've had way more ideas that didn't work at all, and I've learned a little bit along the way, and today, I want to share with you what I have learned about how to pick ideas and how to come up with ideas that suit you.
So, the first one I want to bring out is that this is not going to be your last idea, so take some pressure off yourself. Ask anyone in business, I almost guarantee you that the business they're running with, or the idea that they're running with now, is either completely different to what they first wanted to do, or secondly, it's along the same lines, but it's markedly different to how they anticipated it would unfold over the years as they progressed through the business
So understand this is not going to be your first, this is not going to be your last idea - sorry, it could be your first idea, but it’s not going to be your last idea.
Now, second of all is to look at this as a process that's not just about who you want to serve, what you want to give to them, but also about you! Because I do hear very common advice, something along the lines of find a hungry market of people that are really keen on something, ask them what they want and then give it to them.
But when you leave yourself out of the equation of coming up with your idea, what you'll end up with is building a brand that you are not going to stick with. It's going to become a job, and you're going to be back to where you started, particularly if you were trying to build an online business to get out of employment as such.
So you want to make sure that it is about you as well.
One simple way to do this is to ask a very easy question, which is, "What have people actually been asking you for advice on?"
For example, I'll give you two ideas for me, one that worked and one that did not work for me. The idea that did not work for me was that I started doing a fatherhood blog (like every 10th father I'm sure) but you know what the problem was? Nobody was already asking me for help with fatherhood.
Okay, yeah, sure, I could have built some credibility up, et cetera, but it wasn't already there, so other than the fact that I was a dad, it was a bit hard to get a foothold, if you like, in that market, and then make it go.
Plus, it also didn't fit the last idea I'm going to share with you today, point four, but I'll get to that in a minute.
The idea that did work was the first business for me that really took off, which was preparing people for police exams. I didn't realise this at the time, but one of the reasons this worked so well is that it was an area, an idea, that people were already asking me for help with. So I didn't have to go and really do a hard sell, if you like, on what I was providing because people are already asking me for it.
So I didn't have to pretend to be anything I wasn't. I could just put my advice and all my research into a product and then give that to people. So that's point number two, what are people already asking you for?
Point number three is, is anybody else already doing this? So many times I hear people say, "Oh, I've got this great idea, but then I saw someone's doing it, "and I saw somebody else is doing it.”, "and then this person over here was doing it as well." But you know what I say? I say, "Great!" because if all these people are already having a business, that idea, then guess what? You've got a proven marketplace.
Okay, yeah, sure, you might say, "Oh, but it's a flooded marketplace." But with online business, the way that we market our products nowadays, it's really about the personal brand that's behind it.
So even if there's loads and loads of people doing this, if you can articulate yourself or you can distinguish yourself in the market just by who you are, and you are different to everybody, so I don't see why you can't, then you can jump in and you can add value to that existing market.
Because if you come up with an idea, and you're like, "Oh, this is great, nobody's doing this!" 99% of the time, I could guarantee that the reasons nobody's doing it is that someone's already tried it because there's seven billion people on the planet and you're probably not the first to come up with it.
And if you can't find the idea online, it's probably because it's already failed. So that's a bit negative, I suppose, to say, "Well, you can't come up with something original," but especially for your first online business, finding a proven market and then going down that track is going to make things a lot easier for you and it's also going to give you a lot more confidence that you're starting off on the right track as well.
So point number three, is anyone else doing it? And if they're not, be very careful of your idea. You want to do some extensive research before you jump all in on that.
And point number four, is what I alluded to before, the fatherhood blog thing, was, are you still going to want to do this in three years? And in my case with that particular business, I realised that to really do that business the way that I wanted to serve people and to provide the best value, I was going to have to share a lot of information about my family, which I didn't really want to do, and particularly, as our kids got older.
I look at people that are doing similar things and I'm not comfortable becoming that person that my whole family's on the internet, for example. Okay, I'm not saying there's something wrong with it, it's just something that I didn't want to do. So in that sense, it was a business that I could suddenly see wasn't going to last with me to at the head of that business. So that was one of the ideas that did not work. However, with something like the - go back to that first example with the police exam preparation - although I'm no longer a serving officer, it was something that I'm very passionate about helping people with because I can see the value of providing assistance to people who are the most motivated candidates, but maybe aren't so good at testing.
So that's not an exhaustive list, by any means, of things to consider when coming up with your idea, but it is four points that I think could help you, which were again to take some pressure off. It's not going to be your last idea, or certainly, it's not going to be the idea that it has to be stuck on that, it will change. Second of all, have a look at what people are already asking you for help with. And then have a look at the marketplace, is anybody already doing something, at least similar to this idea? And then lastly, have a think, is this something that you're going to want to do for at least the medium term, for a few years, and really stick with and be comfortable being in that marketplace.
So I hope that helps you and certainly, it might even help you come up with your big idea.
Matt Phillips is on a mission to help others make the same transformation he made to a life of freedom and contribution enabled through building profitable and fulfilling online businesses.