So you want to start something you love that will make you some real money – but what if you don’t have a business idea yet?
No problem! First of all, know that you’re not alone. The majority of people are in exactly this situation when first starting to think about how to escape the 9 to 5. So to help you, here are 3 simple ways to not just come up with one idea but a whole bunch of them.
The surprising truth is that you’ll find it’s easier to come up with lots of ideas than to try to find one right idea.
1. The braindump
This is the simplest of the bunch. Your task here is to grab a piece of paper or a blank file and list all those projects you’ve wanted to do for a while – creative projects you’ve thought of doing but haven’t got round to, the book you haven’t had time to write, the business idea you couldn’t see how to start, the social movement you’ve always want to launch. Write them all down.
Don’t worry right now about whether they are practical or possible or how they can make money. You can work those things out later once you have a list of ideas to choose from. And if an idea seems too huge to take on, put that concern aside too. (I’ll solve that little problem in another blog post.)
2. Use what you’ve got
Start where you are. Think of the skills, talents, knowledge and networks you already have from your career history to date and write down any and all ideas for how you could use them. That could include freelancing, consulting, charging by the hour for your advice over Skype or in person, offering your services online, or consulting to companies. You could also package what you know into a course or book or one day training or workshop. Or you could set up a live event, a business network, or some kind of membership programme where people pay a monthly fee to be a member.
Aside from your work experience you might include things you’ve built a great deal of expertise in in your personal life.
If there’s something you’re good at or knowledgeable about it will usually have some value to people somewhere. And if it has value you can make money out of it.
One of the simplest things to do is to sell your expertise by the hour or day as a freelancer or consultant. There is now a myriad of marketplace websites for selling your skills to others. A fun and easy way to try it out for the first time is fiverr.com. One of the biggest freelance marketplaces is PeoplePerHour.
3. What’s bugging you?
Is there something in your life or in your work that really bugs you? Have you ever thought “There has to be a better way than this!”? Then maybe you could be the person that creates the solution.
If you’re annoyed at how unfriendly a certain kind of app is, disappointed by bad customer service, or wish a support group existed for your particular issue, could you create it? If it’s a problem in an area you have some experience or expertise in (as in #2 above) that’s all the better.
Some of the best businesses have been built to solve a problem that was irritating the founder. Music sharing site Soundcloud was built by two Swedish musicians who were frustrated at the difficulties of sharing their music with each other. Self-made billionaire entrepreneur Sara Blakely is the inventor of the innovative body-shaping pantyhose Spanx. She came up with the idea one night when she couldn’t find the right hosiery to wear under white trousers so she decided to invent her own.
So back to you: write down everything you can think of that makes you exclaim, ‘Why doesn’t this exist?’ or ‘This shouldn’t be this way’.
As Pulitzer prize winning novelist Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
If you’ve managed to switch off your internal filter for a few minutes you should now have quite a few ideas to consider. That’s better than having none, right?
Put your list aside for a while or, even better, carry it around with you for the next couple of days and add to it whenever you think of something else. We’ll look at how to choose between your ideas in another blog post.
My new book Screw Work Break Free contains a complete ‘Killer Idea Crash Course’ which walks you through a 3 step process to find a money-making idea you love that can you can get started on right away in your spare time. Download a free chapter here.