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You’re feeling the creative urge of the entrepreneur. It’s time to build something new — a business that can turn your thoughts and dreams into reality. There’s just one tiny problem. You have no idea about what type of business to start. It’s a more common problem than you think — you’ve got the commitment but not the concept; the energy without the objective.
We’re here to help. It’s all about asking yourself the right questions in an honest way. Then, by looking at the answers, you can shortlist and start to build something beautiful. So, put aside a few hours, and try some of these techniques to answer the most basic question: “How do I start a business without an idea?”
Investigate the Best Sources of Business Ideas
The first step is to brainstorm some ideas that could work for your business. Here are a few techniques.
What are your existing skills, talents, experience and interests?
The best place to start is to look at what you’re already good at. Investigate your education, hobbies, pastimes, family circumstances, reading habits and more to get an idea of your range of skills, experience and interests. Write down everything that you’re good at, no matter how important or inconsequential it might seem.
How are trends shaping what people are following in news and business?
It can be very helpful to jump on a trend if you identify it early enough. Look at areas like Google Trends or websites like Trend Hunter for how opinions and needs are shifting. Make a note of trends that you think are interesting and worth exploring further.
What types of business would make you happy?
Finding fulfillment in your work is a very important part of growing a successful business. Think about the type of work you’ve done in the past and how it made you feel — what was it that excited or inspired you? What do you dream about doing next? These can be good places to start thinking about business ideas, as you’ll have more energy to devote to concepts that you love.
Develop Your Business Ideas
Next, you’ll want to try out your ideas in a few different ways so you can establish if there’s enough there to build a business.
If you had to pick your top five ideas, what would they be?
Look at everything you’ve written down so far. If you had to create a shortlist of those ideas, what would you like to see at the top? Think about whether you could see yourself running a business around that idea and what that might feel like.
What types of products or services could you build around your business idea?
Concepts are a great starting point, but you have to turn them into products — generally, that will be goods you sell or services you provide. For each of your top ideas, think about how you would offer and sell them. Look at how businesses similar to yours might package up their products and services, then offer them to clients.
Is there a market for your products and services?
If you want to make a success of your business, there need to be enough people in your marketplace to buy your offerings. Talk to potential customers about what they might need. See if there’s a gap in the market that you can fill. Don’t just rely on the advice of friends and family — they want you to succeed, and that might mean they don’t look at your business as objectively as a customer might.
Look for Potential Problems with Your Ideas
Not every concept is perfect! Run your business ideas through the following questions to see how they fare.
Is there too much competition for your new business idea?
Competition is inevitable, and it’s healthy if there are at least some competitors in your marketplace — that shows there’s a demand for businesses similar to yours. But, too much competition can create an uphill struggle. If there are lots of well-established competitors, it might make sense to try something else, especially if there aren’t many ways you can distinguish your business.
Will you need to hire anyone to help you succeed?
Although there are plenty of solo businesses out there, you might need a little help from time to time. If you don’t have all of the skills and experience yourself, you might want to look elsewhere for expertise. Be honest about the strengths and gaps in your knowledge, and look to plug those gaps with some help. Remember that you may not need to take someone on as an employee — there are plenty of freelance marketplaces out there if you need some skills in the short term.
Do you need any special permissions, permits or licenses for your business?
Some types of business might require you to have a special permit or license — either from your local government or from official bodies and agencies in your niche. We’ve got some helpful resources for you. To start with, check out our guide to common business licenses, and once you’re done there, you can use our business license research service to find out exactly what you need.
Once you’ve been through these questions, you’re most of the way there to turning your business into reality. When you’re ready to make the jump, just follow our step-by-step guide to starting your business.
Finally, make sure to research your business name and make sure it's available in your state. Use our Business Name Search Tool for guidance:
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