I want to start a business but have no ideas! Ugh, I feel you!
I knew long before I started my journey to self-improvement that I was not meant to be an employee. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I went from a clueless hippy who spent a decade exploring my interests to an HVAC technician with an engineering degree. Eventually, I helped my significant other start a photography business. That taught me everything it could about starting a successful business venture.
It meant researching good business ideas, learning marketing strategies, finding clients, negotiating contracts, and more. All those skills eventually led to me becoming a small business consultant, and then I took a writing gig with UpFlip.
Nearly three years later, I use the same skills I used in the consulting business to help over a million UpFlippers find good business ideas, start their own businesses, and improve those businesses. It’s highly rewarding, but it was a long and tedious journey with a ton of failures along the way.
Keep reading to learn what I do when I know I want to start a business but have no ideas.
Step 1. Know Thyself
The first thing you must do before thinking about what business to start is get to know yourself. This sounds so obvious, but how many of us take the time to analyze who we are and what’s important to us?
If you’re looking for the professions that make the most money, you don’t have to look far. Just get into the medical field or become a pilot. If you’re like me, that sounds like a daunting task, though.
It’s probably better to ask yourself questions like:
- What is important to me?
- What kind of schedule do I want?
- What activities do I find life-sucking, mind-numbing wastes of time?
- What am I good at?
- What am I bad at?
- Do I have a desire to learn?
- What are my financial restrictions?
- Do I have time constrictions that will impact what new business idea I can pursue?
Maybe even take an aptitude and interest test.
Aptitude and Interest Tests
Aptitude and interest tests are used by schools, the military, and career counselors to help you figure out what business to get into. They can determine how apt you are for certain careers based on skills and interests. Some of the most well-known aptitude and interest tests are:
- Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB): This was created by the Department of Defense to help establish who they want to pursue to join the military and where to place them. For some people, the ASVAB might point you in the right direction, but it was useless for me because I scored 99% on everything—and my authority-bucking personality doesn’t align with the military.
- CareerOneStop: I found the tests at CareerOneStop more beneficial. Granted, I was much older (and knew more about what I like and don’t like) when I took them, but it limited it from being good at everything to “Here are the careers you might be interested in pursuing.” Only a few careers overlapped between their interest, aptitude, and work values test, which helped me narrow it down.
That was one of the steps that got me where I am today. I would have never considered HVAC before I took the test while in Wyoming, but it gave me an idea of the best businesses to start, given my personality.
I enrolled in some classes to pursue learning more about the field and found it to be extremely rewarding. Some injuries and other occurrences early in my HVAC career taught me that I’m too clumsy to work around mechanical equipment consistently.
Why am I sharing that? Because learning what you aren’t good at is as important to becoming a business owner as what you are good at. It tells you what to pay someone else to do when you start a business. Once you’ve learned about yourself, it’s time to brainstorm small business ideas.
Step 2. Brainstorm Business Ideas
Next, you’ll want to look for something people need or want. There are a few ways to find businesses that will help people. You might want to:
- Solve a problem with your business idea.
- Fill a gap in the market.
- Apply a business model to a different industry.
- Target a niche market.
- Provide the materials for an emerging trend.
- Work within your network.
- Play the middleman or marketer.
- Read blogs about small business ideas.
Solve a Problem
Every day, people have problems, and the most successful new business ideas solve them. The most common problems you can solve for paying customers are:
- They don’t have the time to perform the task.
- They don’t know how to do the task.
- They don’t have the energy to do the task.
- Their health is preventing them from accomplishing something.
Notice these point to major areas of business: the service industry, education, and health.
Where to Find Business Ideas
Start by checking out our blog on the most profitable business ideas. We go through and revise the blog periodically because the economic landscape changes frequently.
For instance, the food industry has been seeing increased profit and rising costs, while women are spending less on the beauty industry because there are more work-from-home jobs now.
Fill a Gap in a Market
Sometimes existing businesses fail to meet customers’ needs. An entrepreneur can capitalize on this and find small business ideas that will help fill the gap in the market.
This strategy can help you gain both consumer and business market share because larger businesses often buy out small business ideas that help satisfy their client base well.
What are some market gaps you see?
Apply a Business Model to a Different Industry
Borrowing strategies from one industry and applying them to another is sometimes called the “rip, pivot, and jam” method. You’re simply adopting business ideas from one industry and creating a business venture in another.
One of the major sectors I think could use this strategy is service-based businesses. Customers would never be suffering through a cold or hot night if an independent company became the Doordash of HVAC.
Imagine if your HVAC technician could order an air conditioner on an app similar to Doordash. After establishing a replacement unit is needed, he could order a new one and have the old one removed by the time the new unit (and the additional teammates needed to install it) arrives.
Here’s more about rip, pivot, and jam.
Target a Niche Market
Ever noticed that new business ideas either apply to a broad range of people or a tiny niche?
In the business world, you might have a good business idea that falls into both categories, but it’s easier to compete in a niche market (i.e., the rifle approach).
It’s easier to start a sneaker reseller than it is to start a convenience store.
Provide Inputs to Emerging Trends
New business ideas rock the world all the time. When a shift occurs, there are two ways to capitalize on it:
- Get actively involved. Crypto is a great example of an emerging trend. If you’re a developer, you might find creating your own cryptocurrency to be a great business idea.
- Provide materials. Small businesses that are more risk-averse might instead sell all the parts for mining bitcoin, like NVIDIA processors.
This technique is sometimes called the “shovels in the gold rush” method. Let others do the heavy lifting while you start a business that helps them accomplish their goals.
Work Within Your Network
Successful new business ideas normally start at the intersection of your strengths. Look for where your skillset, personal network, and interests intersect.
The intersection method helps people develop business ideas that will hopefully get support from their friends and family as potential customers. Unfortunately, a business plan based on getting friends and family to support a business owner doesn’t always work because they often expect discounts.
Play Middleman or Marketer
Some of the best businesses to start focus on the marketing while someone else handles product fulfillment.
For example, you can sell private label products (where a third party manufactures a product exclusively for your brand) or white label products (where you can brand a generic product) and use the dropshipping fulfillment method. This strategy often reduces start-up costs.
Read Blogs About Small Business Ideas
We’ve written numerous blogs for people who want to start a business but don’t know what they want to do. Start with:
- How to Start a Business: The Ultimate Guide: You should start with the basics. How do you start a business?
- 321 Best Small Business Ideas: Browse through our list of 321 best business ideas to find business ideas you might like.
- The 43 Most Profitable Businesses to Start: Start with the most profitable businesses to learn which small businesses generate income.
- 29 Best Online Business Ideas: Learn about 29 potential online businesses.
- 27 Best Home Business Ideas: Find the cheapest business to start from home.
- The 27 Best Low-Cost Business Ideas: These low-cost business ideas with high profits might be right up your alley if you don’t have much money.
We also have blogs about self-employment ideas, side hustles, and more. Check out our full list of business idea blogs that will help you determine the business you’ll start.
Step 3. Choose a Business Idea
By now, you should have some business start-up ideas to help you start a new business. Your entrepreneurial journey will require learning and overcoming self-doubt, so it’s better to narrow it down to one small business idea. Some of the ways you might want to narrow down to a single business idea is to choose the one:
- You have the most experience with
- With the lowest start-up costs
- That incorporates your current skills
There is no perfect business idea, but you might as well choose the one that will make starting a business easier.
Step 4. Validate the Idea
The next step of your entrepreneurial journey is the daunting task of verifying that it is a great business idea. To validate your business ideas, you should:
- Perform market research
- Establish that the problem needs to be solved
- Validate that your solutions will solve the problem
- Read some books
- Talk to other people
Perform Market Research
Establish whether there is a demand for the new ideas before you get too far. There are many ways to establish if different business ideas could work. Check the following resources to see if the new ideas have a target market that justifies the cost.
Industries That Are Hiring
Check the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment projections by industry page to find industries with expected employment growth. When employment growth is positive, starting a business might be a good idea.
Industries With High Revenue Growth
IBISWorld, an industry research firm, projects the fastest growing industries by revenue from 2024 to 2025 to be:
|2024-2025 Revenue Growth
|Travel Agency Services
|Hotels & Resorts
|Casinos & Online Gambling
|Marine & Container Terminal Operation
|Military Aircraft & Aerospace Manufacturing
|Household Cooking & Appliance Manufacturing
|Semiconductor & Electronic Parts Manufacturing
If you want to start your own business, think about starting a business in hospitality and travel. Many of these industries have low-cost franchises that many entrepreneurs use to start a business quickly.
Establish That the Problem Needs to Be Solved
Part of your further research will be establishing that the problem you’ve identified needs to be solved.
If others don’t feel like there’s a problem, you might want to pivot, but sometimes an idea sounds crazy but is actually life-changing. For instance, can you believe that people thought the internet was a fad?
You can establish whether people like the idea by using surveys, focus groups, and other traditional market research strategies.
Validate That Your Solutions Will Solve the Problem
Even if people agree there is a problem, that doesn’t mean you know all the details. New businesses can save money by verifying that their solutions actually solve their target market’s problem.
There are plenty of good ideas that aren’t making money today. Some of the things you should validate while finding out if the solution works include:
- Will people use it?
- How much would they pay for it?
- What other ways might they solve the problem?
- What does the target market like and dislike about the product or service?
These questions will help you determine whether you should continue or put it in the idea bank and look for other profitable business ideas.
Read Some Books
Several multi-millionaires, such as Warren Buffet, Charlie Munger, and Bill Gates, report voracious reading habits.
Start reading more if you haven’t developed this habit. Check out our list of the best business books to find great business ideas.
For those who feel like their life is already too hectic, try listening to audiobooks on Audible.
Talk to Other People
Networking is a huge part of starting a business from nothing. Talking to more people helps you find better solutions. No matter how good of a researcher you are, there’s always the chance you missed something.
You might think you’ve concocted the easiest business to start, then talk to someone whose competitive analysis found that people don’t like your solution because it’s too difficult to understand. That might be a deal breaker, or you might choose to simplify the product.
Step 5. Create the Solution
A successful entrepreneur puts a lot of work in before they start taking customers. Before you spend a lot of time and money just to discover your idea isn’t viable, create a minimum viable product, or MVP.
An MVP can be as simple as a T-shirt, might cost $1,000 for a software prototype, or it could be expensive as a multi-million dollar concept car. What’s enough money will depend on the industry, but here are a few examples of how to create the solution without huge start-up costs.
Think you have a great idea for a food business? You don’t have to have enough money to start a restaurant. You can start by selling the food from your home or offering delivery until you generate money to become a food truck owner. Many businesses start this way to reduce the start-up costs.
You don’t have to build working software for each of your new business ideas. You can just do a little graphic design to show the concept, get financing, then make it work. That’s what I’m doing with ideas for some games I’m working on. Here’s a little teaser of the card deck to get people’s input.
Step 6. Start Your Own Business
After you’ve chosen the one business idea, you’ll need to start your first business. This will require a multitude of tasks. Some are small, while some are much larger.
We have a business hub to help familiarize you with starting a small business. You’ll need to review:
We help you write a business plan, choose your business structure, form your business, and more.
Step 7. Build a Successful Business
There is so much more to being your own boss than just starting the business. Other entrepreneurs have found success by following the steps below:
- Identify your mission.
- Create goals.
- Build a strong team.
- Ensure customer satisfaction.
- Implement marketing strategies.
- Adapt to change.
- Stay organized.
- Practice self-care.
- Participate in the community.
Identify Your Mission
Potential customers don’t care about how easy your business was to start. They care about how interacting with your small business will improve their lives or those around them.
So take some time to ask yourself: How does my business idea relate to people’s lives, and how can I inspire people with my idea?
It might be as simple as providing better service, focusing on sustainability, or contributing 10% of profit to a charity that people care about.
Once you’ve identified your mission, create measurable goals that will help you achieve your mission. Some tips to help define goals include:
- Set goals for short-term and long-term success.
- Ensure that each goal supports your mission.
- Make sure they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely).
- Write a plan for how to reach each goal.
By setting these measurable goals, you can easily track progress and hold yourself accountable as you work toward achieving them. Additionally, focusing on specific objectives can help ensure that all of your business investments align with your small business’s larger mission.
Build a Strong Team
Just because it’s an easy business to start doesn’t mean you can run a successful company by yourself. You’ll need a great team. You’ll probably want a mentor, a financial consultant, an accountant, an HR professional, and a lawyer to advise you in your decisions.
If you don’t have a lot of free time, you might also want a freelance writer to write a blog post each week and a social media specialist to manage your social media accounts. Plus, you’ll need to hire employees when you have enough business to justify it.
Ensure Customer Satisfaction
Just because I have a business idea doesn’t mean I can successfully do it in a way that satisfies customers. Think about what is important to customers as you run the business. Customers want:
- A quality product
- Good value compared to other offerings
- Good customer service
- Easy shopping experience
- Good selection
- Good pricing
Implement Marketing Strategies
Besides your business name, website, and social media accounts, you’ll want to implement a variety of marketing strategies.
Make sure to have email marketing, social media marketing, and SEO as part of your marketing strategy. All of these provide ongoing returns despite the costs. Focusing just on word of mouth and paid ads can be a difficult battle because word of mouth starts slow and paid ads are costly.
Adapt to Change
H.G. Wells said it best:
The best businesses to start today are not exempt from this. Those who adapt can change with the times, and those who don’t die.
Think about the companies you used to love that are no longer around. Why are they gone?
You’ll have a lot to do. Make sure to stay organized. You’ll need a good customer relationship management system to manage customers, projects, and tasks. In fact, you’ll probably want to automate as much as possible so you can reduce the number of tasks you have to manage.
This isn’t really a work task, but small profitable business ideas fail all the time just because a person is burned out. Take time to sleep, eat, and spend time with your family. If you find yourself not doing these things, it might be time to hire some people. While hiring might be scary, it will benefit you in the long run.
Participate in the Community
Going to local meetups, networking events, and fairs related to your business is a great way to get to know people—and potentially bring in business.
Portland Gear is probably the best example of how much community involvement matters. The owner built a million-million-dollar brand from his community engagement. Find out how below:
Do you know what you want to do now?
We’ve provided a ton of ways to start a business when your idea well is dry. Now it’s up to you. While we’d love to be able to tell you the exact business to start, it’s really a matter of which business makes the most sense for you.
Did we help you find a business idea? Let us know in the comments.