You have a “rough” business idea in mind, what next?

Every Sunday morning when I'm leisurely lying on my bed, my brain comes up with 10 new fresh ideas. I don't have to think about it, it just pops in. 

"Maybe I can start a business on copywriting, or cricket, or selling an accessory, or anything else."

"How about this idea", "I think this idea this will work amazingly well!"

There are 100 types of conversations hovering inside. The brain works like a self-automated machine. 

Part of this thought process is also because we all want to escape the monotonous 9-6 job. Because we want to start something of our own. But, I digress.

Let me show you a simple litmus test today you can use when you come up with any idea to show if you can proceed with it or not. 

Look, motivation is good. Getting excited is good. We all should absolutely love our idea. But I'd rather do a little bit of research on any given idea before I start dreaming. In fact, I've developed this invisible skill of always "not-loving" my idea first. Meaning, to thoroughly dissect each part of the idea first. 

For now, let's talk about what you should do once you have a rough idea spinning in your head.

The 3 Question Greenlight Check

Here are the 3 qualifier questions to use for any idea -

1. Who is my target audience?

Bad answer: 18-35 year-old men 

Really? A 18-year old guy has virtually nothing in common with a 35-year old guy. They have different ambitions, dreams, different levels in their career, completely different mindsets. 


Good answer: 30-35 year-old men who are working professionals

Amazing answer: 27-35 year-old men who are working professionals, in the IT industry, living in Mumbai. They are either middle or senior level professionals in their career. They are mostly married. They commute either by train or a bus. They spend most of their time on social media (Facebook and LinkedIn.) Bonus: Here are the 10 pages they follow and channels they subscribe to.

You deeply want to understand

  • who your ideal customer is
  • what their day looks like
  • what do they watch
  • what are their challenges
  • what do they really want
  • where do they hangout
  • what do they talk about
  • etc.

In short, any level of granular data to grill down to.

2. Can they pay?

This one question will literally save you hours of time and effort. Say you've an amazing idea, but if your market cannot pay for your service, the game is over before it even begins. 

The last thing I want for you is to have an idea, build it, and only to realize 6 months later nobody will ever pay for it.

Ask this question -- "Who is my target audience, and are they able to pay?"

  • A college student might not be able to pay
  • A 30-year old just married guy, working at a company, who recently moved to a new city will be much much more likely to pay

See the difference?

3. How will my solution help them?

Put it another way, what problem are you solving? 

Here's simple formula you can apply: "I will help you (some service) so that you can (some benefit)"


  • I do cold-calling to help you get new client prospects so you can focus on other areas of your business
  • I will do lead-generation for you so you get consistent leads coming in the door
  • I will create amazing data-driven presentations for you so you can impress your manager/boss
  • I will write copy for you so your sales increases
  • I will be your personal assistant for your daily activities so you don't have to worry about it, and can free up more time 

Teardowns and Analysis:

Let's take some examples so you can nail this in your head -

Idea 1: Marketing for small-scale restaurants

Formula: I will help you market your restaurant locally, so you get more customers every day

Target audience: Small-sized restaurant owners (think local cafes or eateries)

Can they pay? Yes

Do they have a problem? No, they don't

This seems surprising to a lot of newbies, but restaurant owners generally care less about "marketing."

Why? They don't have time, or don't want to put in money, or much efforts on this. They're happy with where they are currently.

In fact, go out and TALK to 5 restaurant owners for 15 minutes and you'll quickly realize what the answer is. Your ideas will be super-concrete with a simple exercise of talking to 5 people in your target market.

Remember, at the end, the point is doing these simple tests in the initial stages to cheaply test your ideas and save yourself for a potential failure ahead. 

Idea 2: Copywriting for marketing agencies

Formula: I will help you write amazing content so you get more leads and keep your online presence running

Target audience: Marketing agencies (notice how we're saying agencies, and not companies.)

Can they pay? Yes

Do they have a problem? Yes, agency owners need content every day, for their clients, social media, blogs, emails, etc. 

Enter you - the smart and good-looking (I know you are) person who will be handling content generation for them. God! They're SO relieved to have met you. You're solving a problem.

Just to reconfirm this point, I worked with a marketing agency for 3-month on a freelancing project as well.

Idea 3: Social media for NGOs

Formula: I will create and handle social media for you

Target audience: NGOs

Can they pay? No. They really do not have enough funds to pay someone else outside to provide a service.

Quick observations here:

  • This isn't a super-analytical multi-variance test, these are just back-of-the-napkin simple questions to ask for any idea you generate. Half of your ideas will be washed away with this simple exercise
  • You will fall in LOVE with your ideas instantaneously (so it's extremely important to diagnose before you start dreaming about it)
  • We focus on the shiny elements (funding, number of employees, office space, etc.), "digital marketing gurus" focus on technicalities ("Do SEO", "Buy this plugin", "Purchase the cheapest web hosting"), and never on getting the foundation right -- Is the idea validated? Does my ideal customer have the ability to pay? Do I have 1-3 paying customers?, etc.)

Especially when you start out, the focus should be on getting the foundation correct, everything else can be less prioritized and put for later.

So, to end, always ask yourself these greenlight questions for any idea you come up with.

If they pass, great! You move on to the next step (I'll share next). If they don't, you either do some more research (talk to real people in your target market) or simply move on to the next potentially viable idea.

Don't have any idea how to start?

That's OK -- Start with this FREE pdf of 40+ successful side-business ideas


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