I used to struggle coming up with ideas. It was so difficult and painful.
I kinda copied the idea for the business I’m working on now. It brought in $1,000 in profit the first month it was started and now brings in at least 3 times that every month. It’s immensely satisfying to start a business that generates daily recurring income:
The guy I copied it from decided to make me CEO of his business. It’s funny how the world works sometimes. But that’s besides the point.
Copying an existing business is just one way to come up with an idea for your business.
If you’re looking for a way to systematically come up with business ideas without having to purchase a dreamcatcher, what I’ve written below will help.
It’s designed to be the most exhaustive resource on the web for people wanting to come up with business ideas.
I update it periodically as new resources come available.
If you want a headstart:
Otherwise, follow the list below in sequence and take notes, you can expect to have 30+ new business ideas by the time you finish reading.
#1 Review Kickstarter to see which ideas are most heavily funded.
Check out the top funded Kickstarter projects.
Which projects are getting the most crowd funding? What types of concepts / industries are most popular?
This gives you a good idea of where consumer demand is beginning to well up.
You can filter by category and by region to dial down into specifics.
Example idea: It’s clear from the Kickstarter technology category that 3-D printers are going to be the next big thing, so if you can think of a product, service, or app that fits with that emerging technology, you might have a first mover advantage.
#2 Review Reddit forums where people post about things they want to buy.
Reddit is a treasure trove for idea hunters. There are subforums on Reddit dedicated exclusively to people who are asking for new businesses to get started so they can pay money immediately.
Here are some of my favorite places to go looking for ideas:
/r/SomebodyMakeThis – Cool business ideas shared by Redditors who don’t have the time or skills necessary to pursue the ideas themselves.
/r/ShutUpAndBuildThis – Redditors clamor for cool products that they want built today. Top ideas currently include: glow-in-the-dark USB ports, cameras that you can throw, and Plinko-style Piggy banks.
/r/AskReddit/what_is_the_worst_product – A summary of terrible products that are super popular. Invent something better.
/r/DoesAnybodyElse – Redditors empthasize over common, but non-obvious annoyances, frustrations, and private quirks. Make things to solve their problems.
/r/Austin – Review the subreddit of your local city and see what common questions & complaints arise. Replace “Austin” with the name of your hometown.
In Austin, for example, one of the biggest problems is cedar fever allergy attacks so I had the idea to create a Cedar Fever Care Package that would combine all the known relief aids and remedies in one basket and be delivered to the person who is ill.
I could also build a app that sends text message alerts when Cedar Fever and other pollen counts are high in the area based on zipcode.
#3 Do a Twitter search for the phrase: “does anyone know how to”
I think this phrase is tweeted a million times a day. It’s basically people asking for a ready-made solution to a probelm. Read through a bunch of tweets and you’ll start seeing some key themes surface — you’ll also get a few good laughs.
Here are some ideas I came up with based on my review of this Twitter search for “does anyone know how to”:
– iPhone tips & tricks Youtube channel, blog, or info product.
– An app that helps you remove stains from anything.
- Input A = What type of material is stained? (polyester curtains, linen bed sheets, cotton t-shirt, etc)
- Input B = What substance caused the stain? (oil, grease, fake tanning spray, Coca-Cola, wine, etc).
- Output = Specific stain removal instructions.
– A product that helps you get glitter off your body.
#4 “Steal” ideas from visionaries
Hey, I actually did this! There are some links below, but your best bet is to research these people and read everything they write.
- Ideas from Paul Graham – Founder of Y Combinator and this
- Ideas from James Altucher – Successful Entrepreneur and Bestselling Author
- Ideation Methodology from Noah Kagan at AppSumo
This is how I came up with the idea for my 1st successfully validated business.
Noah Kagan had started a beef jerky of the month club called Sumo Jerky (disclaimer: I’m now the CEO).
His business sounded fun and it was profitable within 24 hours so I copied it and niched it down to a jerky of the month club for people on the ketogenic diet.
3 weeks later I contacted Noah and expressed interest in becoming CEO of Sumo Jerky. The rest is history.
#5 Look within your own life for problems to solve.
What problems or annoyances do you experience every day? Do you think anyone else has a similar problem? How could you solve the problem?
Problem #1 – Sometimes I run out of things to talk about during long car rides. Is there an app that I can build that can help fill the silence? Maybe a combo of trivia + interview style questions (favorite movies, craziest party stories, favorite travel places etc).
Problem #2 – Often I want to search for something simultaneously in my iPhone texts and GroupMe texts. Can I build an app that lets me search these apps at the same time?
Problem #3 – My bedroom windows are a non-standard size and let in way too much light when I’m trying to sleep.
It’s impossible to find blackout curtains on Amazon that fit my windows.
Could I come up with some sort of adjustable curtain with leaded backing or some sort of removable / adhesive tint system that blocks out the light?
Problem #3- My shower lacks water pressure due to some silly filter / restrictor plate the apartment installs in the shower head to save on their water bill.
I figured out how to poke a few extra holes in the filter to get MUCH better water pressure (Please don’t kill me environmentalists — I take much quicker showers now to compensate).
Could I offer this as a service to others?
Even better, could I write an ebook on how to fix the problem and sell it for $20?
I could also sell a replacement filter that already has holes that deliver the perfect amount of water pressure.
#6 Solve problems that your friends and family are having.
Pay attention during conversations with friends and be observant. What complaints come up repeatedly?
What struggles are they having in their social life, their family life, and their work life?
What do they want to learn or wish they knew how to do?
– My dad needed a special, small sized iron skillet to make a breakfast sandwich that he loves, so I’m in the process of trying to find it on Alibaba or trying to find someone on Etsy who can produce it. Chances are, if my dad wants one, so do other people.
– Many of my friends want new jobs and need assistance on their resumes. Can I write a book or a blog on how to get a dream job? Is there an app I can create that can make finding a job a simple, step-wise process?
#7 Ask your friends and family what business idea they think you should pursue.
Maybe your friends notice something that you missed about yourself. Maybe they have a great idea but don’t have the time or know-how to pursue it.
Here’s the exact email I sent to my friends.
WARNING: Most of your friends & family member’s ideas will be terrible, but they’ll probably say something that resonates with you and sparks a really good idea.
#8 What 2-3 skills are you great at already that you can teach to others?
You might already have a skill that people are dying to pay for. Don’t overlook this. Things that come easy to you might be super difficult for other people.
- Email marketing
- Online dating
- Paleo / healthy cooking
- Negotiating online purchases
#9 Customize a popular item like iPhone, Kindle, Toms shoes, etc
Millions of people, for example, have covered, stickered, painted and even bedazzled their iPhones. People love to personalize and protect their possessions. Use that to your advantage and create a business.
- iPhone case that prevents overheating during hot Texas summers
- YETI Cooler stickers, YETI cooler pull cart
#10 Search the Craigslist gigs section and find people who want to spend money to solve a problem.
Look for recurring requests. Example search: Austin Craigslist – Gigs for Pay
– Model verification service.
1- Set up a service where you photograph (candid photos, no filter, no airbrush, no Photoshop) and measure local models and keep an up-to-date database of their skills and experience.
2- Sell subscription access to it and share the $ with the models.
3- People who hire models will pay you because you save them time and frustration in the vetting process.
– Write an eBook on How to Find & Hire the Hottest Models Using Craigslist
#11 Review your friends’ Facebook & Twitter feeds to to find common complaints.
Seth Godin wrote a blog post about how great ideas are everywhere and easier than ever to find now on social media. You just need to see the “idea on a string” and execute. I agree.
Take a look at your Facebook and Twitter feeds and make note of what your friends are complaining about. There’s likely a great business idea in there.
– Facebook spoiler app. I saw people complaining on Facebook about Breaking Bad spoilers being posted, so I thought of the idea for a Facebook spoiler app that blocks all posts on my news feed and timeline that have the words “Breaking Bad” in it.
– Doggie barf bag. A friend was complaining about her dog getting sick and throwing up on her couch repeatedly so I thought of an idea for a doggie helmet that extends from a neck harness and has a barf bag like thing at the bottom.
Sort of like an Elizabethan collar, but the bottom would slide into a little retaining pool. Poor pooch :(.
#12 Copy ideas that are already validated
There is no need to guess on business ideas when there are proven winners already out there. Use these resources to help find existing products that have been validated by strong sales:
Get inspiration from Udemy courses that sell well.
Make a product for which people are willing to pre-pay at Things I Want Made.
Search through the top selling information products on Clickbank.
These are not small ideas. The top products on Clickbank, for example, make more than $1,000,000 a year.
#13 Read 2-Star & 3-Star Reviews on Amazon
If you’re thinking about writing a book or creating / reselling a physical product, do some research on Amazon.
Find the category that’s closest to what you’re doing, then find the most popular products in the category and read their 2-star and 3-star reviews.
- What features are most commonly missing from the most popular products?
- What topics did their favorite book not cover in detail?
- What pain points / fears / obstacles were not addressed?
- Can you create something that solves a problem or fills an unmet need?
This type of info can all be found in those critical 2-star & 3 -star reviews.
[Author’s Note: Rumor has it 50 Shades of Grey was an adult spin-off based largely on reader comments related to what they liked & didn’t like about Twilight.]
Why 2-star and 3-star reviews?
Because that’s typically where people put the most helpful and constructive criticisms. 4 & 5 star reviews are usually just glowing with praise. 1 star reviews are usually just brief slams of the product.
Source: TIM FERRISS
#14 Repackage a popular “how to” blog post as a service
I’ve written a post about how to make your first $1,000 on Reddit Ads.
Bryan Harris has detailed how to get your first 100 email subscribers.
Noah Kagan has explained how to profitably advertise on Facebook.
The WarriorForum has a post that spells out exactly how to write sales copy that converts.
Jakub Linowski has written a great article about how to design websites that convert.
These are all step-by-step articles on how to do things that businesses are willing to pay for. Bookmark articles like these, master the material, and then offer it as a service to any business.
Most businesses don’t want to hire a full time employee to do this at a cost of $5,000+/month and most of their existing employees will be too busy, too stubborn, or too lazy to try a new marketing technique.
Source: BRYAN HARRIS (VIDEOFRUIT) – Definitely worth a visit as Bryan already has a premade list of 50+ amazing “how to” posts you can use to start your business.
#15 Remove a step from an existing process
Take any process in your day-to-day work or personal life . List out every single step. Figure out a way to remove a step in the process. That’s a business.
- Email removed the steps of putting a letter in an envelope, adding a stamp, and putting it in the mail — to say nothing of the reduced delivery time.
- With Uber you don’t need to reach into your wallet after a cab ride.
- Mott’s has made it possible to eat applesauce without fetching a spoon.
What can you do? Here are some examples:
- Create a shower sensor that tells you exactly when your water is the perfect temperature so you don’t have to keep sticking your hand in there to test it.
- Sell a pre-made cauliflower pizza crust to people on the Paleo diet. They’ll crown you a saint.
- Start a job posting service that posts to every major job posting website at the same time. That way I don’t have to create a separate post to Craigslist, LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, 99Designs, Elance, etc.
- Create a food delivery service that only lets you order from a list of the 10 most popular entree items in my area. Eliminates the steps of having to pick a restaurant, scour the menu, deliberate about what I want, customize the item, etc.
Source: NATE KONTNY
#16 Solve the world’s biggest problems
Saved the best for last. Not interested in bedazzling iPhones? Aim bigger.
Use CDC data, for example, to identify the most prevalent diseases & ailments in the US.
Are there natural treatment options available that are effective, yet considered non-traditional or poorly marketed? The ketogenic diet, for example, has proven effective at curing some forms of cancer, yet chemotherapy is a far more popular & expensive treatment choice and statistically less effective.
Review the most common social, political, economic, and environmental issues in the world.
Can you create a product or service that helps to address one issue? If a problem seems too massive to solve, focus your efforts locally instead of globally.
If creating a product is too complicated, can you repurpose something that already exists?
Soylent, for example, is a meal replacement beverage in the US. It could potentially be repurposed to help fight hunger during natural disasters or other emergencies.
As you come up with ideas, be sure to jot them down in one place. I recommend a handwritten notebook or Google Docs spreadsheet.
Don’t worry about thinking through all of your ideas immediately, just jot them down. Later you can review your notes and see if anything merits your time.
The great ideas have a way of pulling you in and forcing you to work on them.
Here’s to big ideas.
P. S. Don’t have 30 ideas yet? Here’s even more resources for coming up with ideas:
- Noah Kagan and his AppSumo Earn1K course (I’ve taken this course and it’s phenomenal)
- Paul Graham’s fantastic blog post on startup ideas.
- James Altucher’s book: Choose Yourself
P.S.S. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to download my free list of 50 ideas for profitable businesses.