Step 5: Coming up with a business idea

Coming up with an idea for a business is really, really tough isn’t it? Nearly everything you look at has been done before. Or it looks too hard to set up. Or it’s too costly (why are franchises so expensive?!). Hopefully this page will help kickstart your thinking. And on that topic…

Think, think, think

When trying to come up with business ideas, it might be a good idea to start with looking at something that you’ll enjoy (I know this sounds really obvious, but isn’t job satisfaction one of the reasons you’re looking at this blog in the first place?).

Try to figure out what you enjoy. What interests you? what really makes you tick?

Love food? Love a specific food item (jams, smoothies, snacks) or food in general (want to run your own restaurant, cafe or foodie tuk tuk!).

Do you love watching films? Can you provide a unique spin on film reviews? Perhaps you love the nostalgia part of cinema – so how about something to do with posters, t-shirts or movie props? Love just one film and can’t find anything decent fanboy websites about it – why not look at how you’d make money from setting one up? How long would that take and how would you make money from it?

Are you creative? Like making things? Could you sell fabrics, art, pottery – or how about setting up something which helps people realise their own dreams of making art? Is there money in that?

Love reading? Try something related to books – perhaps selling them (be aware there’s lots of competition) or something on how to write them (not so competitive but that’s because it’s hard to do!).

Love people in general? Love chewing the fat? Love helping people face to face because you love the immediate hit of satisfaction and happiness that you get? It might sound daft, but why not think about services which involve talking to people while helping them out. Mobile barber service, where local people book appointments online? Are you an expert in a topic? Are you sporty? If so, could you set up an exercise club and help people get fit? How would you charge for that? How would you make money?

When the going gets tough – the tough go shopping

Not sure what you’re good at? Why not make notes the next time you go shopping? It sounds daft, but why not get really picky and think about what could be done better when you see a shop, go in, look at products, pick them up, try them out or on, how you buy it, what the customer service is like. Notice anything during that process that could be done better?

For example, I’m a busy parent and my kids are invited to birthday parties pretty much every weekend. Life is manic at the weekened and I don’t always have time to buy a birthday card, go to a different shop to buy a birthday present and then go home to wrap it. Why doesn’t my local newsagent sell ‘pre-gifted’ birthday cards ie a card with a gift already inside? Imagine buying a card that has a certificate or token of some sort already in the card and ready to go? Okay it’s the kind of lazy present only a dad would buy but hey – everyone loves a gift token right?

Pin the tail on the donkey

Well not quite, but if you’re really stuck for inspiration, why not open up a dictionary at a random page and see what word comes up? Can you somehow turn that into business? How about doing that with a history book? There are a million books on how to set up a business, but why not focus on autobiographies of successful entrepreneurs? You may not invent a cutting edge piece of kit in a Californian garage, but why not look at how key players stumbled into their field of work?

Still stuck for ideas? There are loads of out there like this ‘Business Idea Generator’ quiz.

If you want to find out more about setting up a blog, improving your social media campaigns or how to drive more sales online, get in touch.


Step 1: First things first – should I set up an online business?

So you want to set-up an online business. Well done you! But wait. Why? What gives?

People think about setting up a new online business as a means to change their life. A big change. A new start. Sticking up two fingers to the man. Independence. Work from home. But setting up and running a successful business can be hard. HARD. Really, really hard. Why so? It takes time. A whole lot of patience and time. To do it, to do it, to do it right (so said George Harrison). (According to Shopify, you can actually create your online store in just 60 seconds but I haven’t timed it!)

So bearing this in mind, it might be an idea to have a think about what you want to get out of establishing a business. Is it for the lolz? The bragging rights? Big cigars? Flash cars? Or is it something more profound or long term? Is this your ticket to life long independence? Being your own boss? Exploring work from home ideas might just give you what you need.

Have you got what it takes to run a business?

It’s often said that entrepreneurs are born, not made. Not so. But you do need to be 100% honest with yourself when looking at what’s needed to follow through with the everyday tasks and challenges of running a business.

For example, do you procrastinate when faced with a tricky task? Do you waver when faced with a tough problem – and put off making a decision? We all do from time to time, but when it comes to working with suppliers, customers, or – gulp – the tax man (absolutely not recommended), you’d be wise to ditch that delay.

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Timing is everything

Everyone dreams of quitting their day job to set up their own business. But unless you’ve got a big wad of cash to lean on, that’s unlikely to happen. The reality is that most folk start with small business ideas – usually working from home at night while holding down a day job – and then they build it up from there.

You’ll also need to have a think about how much you’ll need to earn before giving up the day job (that steady, regularly paying, reliable day job). But how much is ‘enough’? Will your idea to sell specialist fat-free snacks to health conscious console gamers (nice idea eh?) really make enough during the first few months so that you can give up that dull (but salaried) 9 to 5 day job? What’s enough for you to feel comfortable that you can survive and pay rent or the mortgage – and then eventually grow the business into something more substantial?

With all this in mind, you’ve got to be thinking about every possible angle – your personality, your personal life, your bank balance and attitude to money, your determination to set up the business (and push on through to actually launching it) and then grow it into something worthwhile, your ability to cope with competition…the list goes on.

There’s lots to think about. But if that doesn’t put you off, read about the common barriers to starting an online business.