How to Find Profitable Online Business Ideas
Do you want to start a business but stuck on finding an idea first? The curiosity never ends -- "How and where to find online business ideas in India?"
But, I know, it can be truculent to be on the "how do I find an idea?" phase forever.
Today, we'll discover some of the tested techniques used by thousands of people to generate ideas and start a profitable business that brings in a consistent stream of revenue.
Let me ask you, and please be honest -- Aren't you bored reading the same type of articles again and again and again? You know what type I'm talking about -
- "How to start a blog using the best email provider"
- "Top 3 ways to do affiliate marketing"
- "Buy this hosting at 50% off and use it to boost your rankings"
I don't know about you, but even if once I come across something which lectures me on keyword research or SEO or paid advertising, I take help of this small icon on my browser (X) and close it down.
All articles you'll come across on "business ideas in India" will talk about the same old "top 10 ways", "the best ideas with low investment", "business ideas of the future", etc.
Why aren't we shown the strategies, mistakes to avoid, mindsets, and ways to identify what we're naturally good at?
My goal with PAW is not to throw a bunch of random tactics at you, but to actually show you systems, step-by-step methods and mindsets to start an online business -- even if you're working at a day job now.
So, let's make two promises -
Promise 1: I'll show you 4 proven techniques and strategies below (no more "nice to read" posts). I promise there won't be any sugar coating, no B.S, just the stuff you'll want to implement today itself!
Promise 2: Once you go through this exercise, you commit to taking action. (It's one thing to simply consume information after information, get entertained, feel good, and then shut down your laptop, go to bed, sleep and forget about it the next day. But when you take even little action, small baby steps -- it changes the game completely.)
In fact, Top Performers like one of my readers don't wait, they see something valuable and apply it immediately. Have a look -
So, after going through these 4 techniques, can you send me a snapshot of your work on firstname.lastname@example.org? Can you promise me that? I see you nodding. Great.
The 'Secret' Behind Finding an Idea
I failed at 3 businesses. You know why? Because they weren't good ideas. I put all my time on the fancy stuff -- design, logo, etc. only to realize later the idea will NEVER make any money. I spent 18+ months of research trying out different businesses, models, studying others and finally found success with 2 types of businesses :-
- Selling a product: An online course (with Industrial Inside)
- Selling a service: Doing freelancing (helping clients 1-1 with online marketing)
All while working at my day job -- this is key. The last thing you want is quitting your job, spend 12 months on a futile idea only to discover that it will NEVER pay. Starting something on the side means:
- You don't need a multi million dollar idea or build the next Google
- You don't have to hire 20 employees or rent out an office space on your first day or even after 6 months
- You don't need to spend countless hours on registering a new company, or setting up a facebook page, or any other useless activities
Look, I get it. With everyday news of startups, VCs, funding across all channels, it starts to get overwhelming and you just don't know where to start.
However, focusing on the first few KEY activities like -- find an idea, validate it, get your first customers gives you a good roadmap and a start. Once you get a sufficient hold -- you're making some money and have some customers under your belt, you now know how to scale and also earn the confidence to quit your job.
With Industrial Inside, I've the foundation and systems in place, which lets me earn revenue, customers and sales -- all consistent and automatic.
Now you can start any of those 2 businesses above, but it all starts with finding an idea. The truth is -- we all are good at something which people would be willing to pay for.
So today, I'll be showing you how to come up with business ideas. (We'll also cover how to validate an idea so you virtually guarantee it will pay in a future post.)
And it's funny because when I say this, a lot of you imagine having the perfect tools and software, a fancy design of a website (honestly, you don't even need a website in the early stages), sitting in front of a computer analyzing graphs and numbers!
To your surprise, it's not.
What You Don't Need to Get Started
Liberate yourself by knowing these things you DON'T need to get started -
- No Website: Is it surprising? Yes, it is. You do not need to worry about the website or technology part first. You can come up with ideas right from sitting in front of your computer using some of the techniques I'm about to show you below
- No coding/technology/SEO knowledge: I wasted roughly 6 months learning SEO, only to discover it isn't effective especially at the early stages
- No knowledge on marketing or monetization: That comes later
- No idea: We'll cover that below
- and many others
Think about all the advice people like to throw saying "you need this", "you need that". This results in frazzled mess ("I just don't know what to do"), then frustration, and then the worse -- Nothing. No action. You don't do anything.
The point here is to be systematic, and taking it ONE at a time. The first step is coming up with business ideas and following a systematic process to eventually build a business around it.
Also, 2 important things to remember before you begin this exercise.
1. Silencing Your Inner Critic
As you begin this process, you're going to start hearing inner voices saying things like -
- "What if I'm not an expert at this?"
- "What if I don't have enough time. I'm already busy with so many other activities"
- "What if there is a ton of competition already."
I call these What-if scripts. Whenever we decide to start something new or for the first time, the immediate screams dominate our minds.
I'll cover ALL of these and how to overcome them in great detail but for the purpose of this post, just keep these What-if scripts aside and hang in with me, okay?
Remember, we're at the brainstorming stage. No idea is a bad idea now. Keep the momentum going and simply write whatever comes to your mind. We'll cover how to eliminate and distinguish good ideas v/s bad ideas but for now, simply get ALL of them down.
2. Our Best Tool: A Pen and a Paper
Let's keep it really simple. Grab a pen and a paper (and some coffee or tea if you'd like.)
The 4 Techniques to Find Business Ideas
So, here's what we're going to do. There are 4 techniques you'll see below to generate business ideas.
- The YUS Technique
- The 3 Detective Questions Technique
- The Flight Technique
- The Book Shelf Technique
I recommend going through each to maximize your chances. Don't be super tactical, because a lot of it is just about enjoying the process.
The YUS Technique
Let's start with our first technique. I learnt this while taking New York Times best selling author Ramit Sethi's ZTL course where he shows us a concept called Idea Mapping, and helps us dig out our expertise (below.)
I call them Your Unbeatable Superpowers (YUS.)
So, how do you know what these unique talents are? You answer few KEY elements:
1. Experiences you've gained (like learning algebra or economics, finance or consulting, traveling by spending less)
2. Skills you've developed (like playing a guitar, working on excel, taking better photos, coding in java)
3. Challenges you've faced and overcome (like foot pain, getting the perfect muscular body, writing better)
4. Achievements you've been awarded for (maybe you got a promotion, or a high MBA score, or bought a car from your own pocket)
Sound weird looking at the examples? Don't be, because ALL of those examples are successful businesses. Here I'll show you some -
- Personal finance: jagoinvestor.com (Revenue through ebook, consulting and coaching)
- Performance and Strategy: mahendradevlekar.com (Revenue through courses, workshops and coaching)
- Excel: chandoo.org (Revenue through online courses, ebooks)
- Voice Bazaar: voicebazaar.com (Revenue through workshops and coaching)
- Coding in Java: howtoprogramwithjava.com (Revenue through online courses and ebooks)
- When I did consulting for a horticulture company, I once hired an Autocad specialist who'd work for us part time, on weekends or every so often. Not bad for an extra side income
People are making a living out of them, and it all started with them naturally good at something, sharing it with the world and then turning it into a real business.
Still not convinced? Here, look at this business on dog training. Alistair Fernandes is one of the top dog trainers in India, and he himself runs this business -- named The DogFather Training Services.
So keep those things in mind and jot down EVERYTHING which comes to your mind. Remember, we're just pondering. We'll eliminate a lot of these ideas, but that is later. For now, just flesh out your brain and dump it all onto the paper.
Again, the 3 key elements are: knowledge, skills, and challenges.
Let's move on to our next technique.
The 3 Detective Questions Technique
Put your detective hat on, and answer these 3 golden questions to come up with a ton of ideas. You ready?
1) What do your friends and family ALWAYS compliment you on?
This is a great way to find out what you constantly hear from people all the time. For eg:-
- Your friend tells you "I really can't believe how you finish your work so fast and systematic"
- Your aunt tells you "You just make any new dish super delicious to eat"
- Your school friend says "You've always been great in karate and martial arts"
- Your office colleague compliments "Man! You do the best data analysis and make visually appealing presentations!"
I was recently out with some friends, and one of them told me -- "You have an incredible patience level!"
And a week later, I met another friend of mine who was running late. When she finally met me, she goes "Can't believe how are you so patient in this noisy world!"
Now you see some common patterns emerge, start listening and learn about yourself. Ramit Sethi calls this the Seagull Theory, where if you constantly keep hearing something, you start paying attention.
In fact, one effective way is to see how you're introduced to people. A school friend of mine always introduces me - "Meet Zubin, he was a star student at maths in our school. Always fast with numbers."
Another friend of mine scored amongst the top 20 in our state for the entrance CET exams 10 years ago. His score: 198 on 200 -- remarkable. Even today he is introduced to anyone "He was the guy who scored 198 in CET!"
By the way, I can see you complaining "But Zubin, my friends tell me I'm supportive and caring. But how do I turn that into a business?"
We will cover all of that. For now, we don't want to think 6 months ahead. Let's trust the process and take it one step at a time. The only focus should be getting our creative juices flowing and collecting it all together.
So, file all those things away which you can think of on your paper.
2. What do your friends struggle with, that you find VERY easy to do
Ask yourself, what are some things that people around me struggle with often? Or what are some things I'm ALWAYS asked to help with?
Could be -
- Planning a trip and creating an itinerary
- Doing graphic designing
- Arranging a get together party
- Ironing your clothes
- Filing for their income taxes or audit
- Asking for advice on how to buy a new car
Put it all down.
3. What would you do if you had three extra hours everyday
Yes, what would you do if you didn't have 24, but say 27 hours a day? How will you spend those extra three hours? Put it another way, what would you do on a Sunday morning if you were completely free from your otherwise normal routine tasks?
Will you -
- Read blogs or newspapers? Which ones?
- Check some online certification courses on Big Data, Hadoop, etc.?
- Do a relaxed yoga session?
- Meet your close friends and discuss some new ideas?
- Search online for any camera equipments or go out to take some photos?
- Go to a networking event or a workshop?
Pen down all of those ideas.
The Flight Technique
Pat Flynn talks about what he calls Airport Test in his book, which inspired me to come up with something similar, but different.
I call it the Flight technique.
Let's say you book an international flight, from India to Dubai. Total duration -- 3 hours, 30 minutes. On the day of departure, you arrive at the airport with your wife or friends or anyone you are with.
You are at the check in desk. You do check in for your luggage. As you're getting ready for your tickets, the flight assistant disappoints you by saying -- "I'm sorry sir, your seats are not together" Bummer!
You sit in your flight and see a stranger next to you. The aircraft departs. And you don't have internet to browse. Now here's where it starts to get interesting.
You initiate some conversation with Mr. Stranger. What is the ONE topic or discussion you can keep talking with this stranger for 3 hours?
- Maybe something you're deeply passionate about, like cricket or dancing
- Something you really want to pursue, like travelling to different places, or getting a promotion
- Discuss relationships, or spending money consciously, or getting a promotion
- Talk about the job market, company culture, salary negotiation, etc.
By the way, I've used this technique several times in real life. With Uber drivers, close friends, small business owners, etc.
It's a good test to see which are the topics you can keep talking for hours and hours. The idea is to ask yourself -- "What is that ONE thing I can talk about ALL day to anyone?", and those are the ideas you want to note it down.
The Book Shelf Technique
Back in USA, I used to love going to libraries in my free time. What's interesting is whenever I enter the library, I only go to that particular book section I'm interested to learn more.
In fact, I don't even have to do anything. All I do is step my foot inside the library and then I'm pulled by a force automatically. It's like a magnet pulling me towards the only section I'm attracted to.
Has it ever happened to you? Pretend you go to a library, or walk in someone's house which has several book shelves. Which category type of books will you prefer to pick FIRST?
- Business & Marketing?
- Pottery & Handicraft making?
- Website design, or App development?
- Dating or Relationships?
- Finance, Stocks and Investing?
In fact, you can go one step further and be really specific. So for me, if I say business and marketing (which is a little broad), I'd niche it down and select behavioral change and consumer psychology based marketing since I love studying human behaviour.
Selecting this allows you to identify where your interest areas lie, what you enjoy doing, and finally test to see if you can build a business out of it.
What I Want You to Do Today
After going through the above techniques, you'd have some ideas noted on your paper. I'd recommend coming up with atleast 15-20 ideas. Just flesh out everything you can think of. In fact, I did this exercise myself, here are some ideas from my own life -
Your turn now. Write it down, and then send me your work on email@example.com and I'll show you what to do next.In my future post, we'll cover the next steps -
- Identify which of those ideas are good and bad (let's eliminate the bad ones)
- Test and Validate your idea quickly so you virtually guarantee it will PAY (before you spend a ton of time and money on it)
- How to get your first paying customers
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