How to Come Up With a Good Business Idea

How to come up with a business idea? It’s an area that many of us have thought about but have you really considered it seriously?

Have you ever sat there and wondered what it would be like to be one of the millionaires or billionaires that you see on TV? The money and power, the opportunity to make a difference and give back, the ability to say, “Ciao” and jet off somewhere sunny to drink mojitos by the pool. Everybody wants something slightly different but we all need the financial freedom to have that kind of flexibility.

So, how would it be possible to earn enough money, and free up valuable time, to do the things that you want so bad? You can buy a lottery ticket, for sure you’d be rich if you won but I wouldn’t put all your eggs in one very very unlikely basket. 

Starting a business is a great way to set yourself apart from the crowd and the modern day “rat race”. But,

Where would you begin when it comes to starting a business? 

What would you think about doing? 

Hasn’t everything already been done? 

This is what we hear from a lot of people who want to set themselves free from the standard 9 – 5 life. Indeed it might seem difficult at first but the 200K+ small businesses that started in the UK in 2019 managed to overcome these questions, and that’s just in the UK. 

How are all the new businesses looking at these questions? We’d recommend looking at them in four different ways:

  • Think – how can i improve on already existing products / services
  • Believe – there’s always room for more innovation or slightly adapted ideas
  • Understand – technology is always evolving and this provides new opportunities 
  • Understand – trends come and go and you can use these to your advantage  

For those of us who are starting from scratch, where do you go from here? What on earth could you do?

Without even realising it, there are lots of tools and techniques that you’ve probably used before that are great ways of coming up with business ideas. What we need to do is firmly put our entrepreneur hats on and buckle up for some new ways of searching. Now your new, and rather stylish, entrepreneur hat is on, you’re going to need to prepare for the floodgates to open. 

Let’s consider some simple methods to come up with viable business ideas that will separate you from the crowd: 

  • Identify and solve problems
  • Make people’s lives easier and add value
  • Think of how to save people money
  • Be innovative and adapt to evolving needs
  • Turn a hobby into a business
  • Consider providing a product or service
  • Find out what other companies are doing
  • Look in different locations for inspiration
  • Have multiple ideas

Let’s start from the top.

Identify and solve problems

This is perhaps the secret sauce in the recipe for a successful business idea. People are realising that time is one of their most valuable commodities, therefore, solving problems that give people more time is a great place to start when coming up with a business idea. 

One of the biggest benefits here is that you already have a lot of practice at this, how many times have you turned to a friend and said “I wish there was a solution for….” (e.g. not spilling coffee on my work outfit, having to charge my phone everyday, being stuck in traffic, etc.). 

Time to turn some of this reading into action – get your pen and paper ready and follow the below actions points:

Write down as many of your everyday problems that you can think of, no matter how big / small / silly / outrageous. Keep hold of this list and keep adding to it everyday for a couple of weeks, you will be surprised about how many problems you will encounter at home, on your way to work, or in your leisure time.

Ask your friends / family / co-workers, what problems they face everyday, and make sure you add these to your list.

Once you’ve put a list together, start to organise them into industry categories, for example, IT, Technology, Food, Advertising, etc. It’s also worth trying to score each problem with a best guess at how difficult it might be to solve the problem, based on your knowledge and skills. E.g. 1 is easy and 5 is rocket science (unless you're a rocket scientist...)

Using the list you’ve created, pick a range of problems, especially if they’re interesting for you, and make a top 10. It’s time to get creative - come up with three solutions for each of your problems, no matter how whacky or crazy they might sound. What you should now have is 30 solutions or 30 potential business ideas, this is easy right?

Action #1

Write down as many of your everyday problems that you can think of, no matter how big / small / silly / outrageous. Keep hold of this list and keep adding to it everyday for a couple of weeks, you will be surprised about how many problems you will encounter at home, on your way to work, or in your leisure time.

Action #2

Ask your friends / family / co-workers, what problems they face everyday, and make sure you add these to your list.

Action #3

Once you’ve put a list together, start to organise them into industry categories, for example, IT, Technology, Food, Advertising, etc. It’s also worth trying to score each problem with a best guess at how difficult it might be to solve the problem, based on your knowledge and skills. E.g. 1 is easy and 5 is rocket science (unless you're a rocket scientist...)

Action #4

Using the list you’ve created, pick a range of problems, especially if they’re interesting for you, and make a top 10. It’s time to get creative - come up with three solutions for each of your problems, no matter how whacky or crazy they might sound. What you should now have is 30 solutions or 30 potential business ideas, this is easy right?

You might be thinking, “I don’t actually know how to do some of these solutions?”. 

The benefit of the modern world is that there is an expert for almost everything out there, so if you can’t do it you’ll probably be able to find somebody who can for a price. 

Here’s a head start, use websites like Fiverr, Upwork, Simply Hired to find freelance professionals who will work on all manner of projects for you. 

With all this in mind, how does this work in the real world?

An interesting illustration of a modern business solving problems is Duolingo, an app that makes it possible for people to learn different languages on their devices. Take a three problems they have managed to solve with their business:

How to come up with a business idea infographic about problems and solutions

Today, the Duolingo app has over three hundred million users, offers over 95 different language courses in about 38 languages and is now valued at $1.5 billion. This is all because two people (Luis von Ahn and co-founder Severin Hacker) identified and solved problems.

Make people's lives easier and adding value

With your problem solving skills and ideas in mind, a good perspective to look at generating potential business ideas is by looking to improve people’s lives and making them easier. There are lots of great examples of businesses that do this, such as the companies Deliveroo or Uber eats, who will bring restaurant quality food to your door. You don’t have to worry about having the time to cook or having your partner shouting at you for burning the garlic bread once again… 

We’ve all heard the phrase “Time is money”, and can imagine a kingpin with a cigar in hand dishing out orders to his henchmen, usually yelling at them to do things more efficiently. For a long time we’ve known the value of time but increasingly so in our modern fast paced economy. 

Each and everyone of us, whether we like it or not, has a value per hour. Therefore, if you can find a business idea that will save people time and it’s great value for the customer then you’re on to something worthwhile. If you can go to work and earn £1000 then it’s probably not worth your while staying at home and trying to fix something that you can have sorted professionally for a few hundred instead. 

Just like Deliveroo and Uber eats, you can provide a service that generally looks after the activities that people just don’t want to do. Have you ever tried unblocking a toilet or spent all day ripping up the weeds in the garden? People will pay good money for the service of getting this time back in their day. There’s a long list of services that people will pay good money for and these can be very lucrative if done correctly. 

There are also countless products that do the same thing and the thought of living life without them seems almost bizarre, imagine life without: vacuum cleaners, cars, computers, apps, alarm clocks, etc again the list goes on. All of these inventions help people to save time and do a better job than what we had before. 

People want comfort and ease and will pay good money for it. So, how will your business make people’s lives easier?

Think of how to save people money

Another nifty way of coming up with a business idea is to explore something that pleases everybody, saving money. There are a couple of ways in which you can do this, either invent a new way of doing something or provide something for a cheaper price. 

Invent a new way

Successful businesses have been built around the idea of saving people money and there are some great examples of this: 

Compare the market – An online business best known for offering comparison services for prices on car and home insurance products, plus a lot more. One of the ways this business makes money is from fees paid to Compare the Market every time a customer buys an insurance product through the website.

Another inventive idea was Lookaftermybills.com, a business featured on Dragons Den, which automatically swaps energy providers with an aim of getting you the best deals but without having to do anything except sign up. 

Make things cheaper

It’s easy to make products cheaper by reducing the quality or the quantity provided, however, the money will really start to roll in when you’re able to lower the price and not have to compromise on either. 

A great example of this is across the grocery market. 

There are alot of supermarkets out there and each and every one of them is known for something slightly different, but ultimately they are all providing us with everyday groceries that we need to survive.  

There is some interesting research done by Which? on the cheapest supermarkets, looking at and comparing the prices for more than 100 own-brand products across eight well known businesses. Unsurprisingly Aldi & Lidl were the cheapest with Waitrose being the most expensive by a long shot (£64 more expensive than Aldi for the same 100 items). 

A 2019 article from The Guardian discusses how the “big four” are losing market share to the discount retailers Aldi and Lidl and this goes to show that the approach of making products cheaper is one that is being adopted today and is successful if done correctly. 

Write down 5 products that you use everyday that you wish were cheaper. Come up with 3 ways to reduce the price for each one.  

Let’s face it, nobody wants to spend a lot of money on a product when they can have an alternative that is cheaper and more or less the same quality. 

Whether you are pursuing an entirely new idea or if you’re bringing in innovation to an already existing idea, this is a great method to consider when looking for your next viable business idea. 

Action #5

Write down 5 products that you use everyday that you wish were cheaper. Come up with 3 ways to reduce the price for each one.   Let’s face it, nobody wants to spend a lot of money on a product when they can have an alternative that is cheaper and more or less the same quality.  Whether you are pursuing an entirely new idea or if you’re bringing in innovation to an already existing idea, this is a great method to consider when looking for your next viable business idea. 

Be innovative and adapt to evolving needs

How to come up with a business idea image with a starwars star-trooper looking at a lightbulb

“Nothing in life is guaranteed but death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

Our good old friend Benjamin Franklin isn’t wrong but looking at the last 100 years we can also assume that innovation is also inevitable for the foreseeable future and as a result of this there will be emerging opportunities that come along with it. 

These opportunities will present emerging needs and requirements that the savvy entrepreneur could exploit through business, but you need to make sure that you’re always on the lookout otherwise, by the time your mate, Frank, has told you down the pub you’ll probably be too late or last to the party. 

A great example of this is something that most of us use on a daily basis, contactless payments. Contactless payments have been around since the 1990s with only a handful of merchants and retailers using the technology but it wasn’t widely used in the UK until Barclays pioneered it in 2007. What if you had spotted the technology before and created a business around it first? 

As modern society is getting faster and faster so are our needs to “tap and go” when it comes to grabbing our morning latte, and applying this modern technology has helped us adapt to this emerging need. 

Look online or in some recent publications for some emerging technologies, write 5 of these down and come up with 3 ways to use each of these in a business context.

The downside to emerging technologies is the risk that they might not take off or might take a while to be accepted, such as bitcoin.

There are some markets that are very consistent when it comes to demand, such as housing, food, water, transportation, and clothing etc, as we are always going to need them. Can we exploit any of these as a business opportunity?

Worried about demand? Perhaps consider some of the markets that are consistently required by people.

Write down 5 things that you can’t live without, then come up with 3 business ideas that can help to fulfil these needs.

Action #6

Look online or in some recent publications for some emerging technologies, write 5 of these down and come up with 3 ways to use each of these in a business context. The downside to emerging technologies is the risk that they might not take off or might take a while to be accepted, such as bitcoin. There are some markets that are very consistent when it comes to demand, such as housing, food, water, transportation, and clothing etc, as we are always going to need them. Can we exploit any of these as a business opportunity? Worried about demand? Perhaps consider some of the markets that are consistently required by people.

Action #7

Write down 5 things that you can’t live without, then come up with 3 business ideas that can help to fulfil these needs.

Turn a hobby into a business

How to come up with a business idea - Hobby into a business (gaming image)

Imagine you’re in a utopia world, where the dishes are always clean, the kids go to bed early, and you don’t have to worry about taking your bosses’ work home with you… sounds amazing right? I bet you’d probably do more of what you love, your hobbies and leisure activities. 

Without even realising it there are alot of skills that you’ve probably picked up that are very marketable and could be turned into income generating activities. Whether you’re a super seamstress, love reading and talking about books, or opt to be locked in a dimly lit room playing video games (you know who you are). There are lots of ways that you can turn these hobbies into profitable businesses, you just need to put your entrepreneurial hat back on. 

Doing something that you love and making money, sounds amazing right? Entrepreneur.com have some great examples of people doing this, here’s 10 to get your creative juices flowing.

Action point: Write down 3 things down that you love doing and create something in each of these areas for your passions:

My favorite football team is Arsenal FC, I’d write a blog about each match and share my thoughts online

I’d create a website that gives Arsenal Fans a place to network and read my blogs

My e-book would be about the top 10 Arsenal football players and why - and who the future talents could be

My course would be about how to take the perfect freekick by looking at current and past professionals technique

I could take a coaching qualification and set up my own training academy part time in my local area

I could organise local Arsenal FC meetups in my local area and co-ordinate group trips to matches.

I could sell my own sports kit brand, using my blog or coaching as a way of building my own brand

I would make my own informal / as funny as possible commentary of each arsenal game and highlights.

I would reach out to local football teams and interview the players and managers to build interest around local and community football. 

P.S - You can make money doing all of these things!

My favorite football team is Arsenal FC, I’d write a blog about each match and share my thoughts online

I’d create a website that gives Arsenal Fans a place to network and read my blogs

My e-book would be about the top 10 Arsenal football players and why - and who the future talents could be

My course would be about how to take the perfect freekick by looking at current and past professionals technique

I could take a coaching qualification and set up my own training academy part time in my local area

I could organise local Arsenal FC meetups in my local area and co-ordinate group trips to matches.

I could sell my own sports kit brand, using my blog or coaching as a way of building my own brand

I would make my own informal / as funny as possible commentary of each arsenal game and highlights.

I would reach out to local football teams and interview the players and managers to build interest around local and community football. 

P.S - You can make money doing all of these things!

After you’re done you’ll have lots of super ways to make money from your hobbies.

There are a lot of online tools that can help facilitate any of the above, here’s a list below:

  • Etsy – Great for selling handmade items. Is there anything that you could create and sell from your hobbies?
  • Fiverr & Upwork – Freelancing websites where you can offer your services / skills for cash. What services could you offer? 
  • Ebay – Worldwide marketplace where you can sell virtually anything. What could you sell on here? 
  • MyTutor – a website offering tutoring for almost everything. You could sign up as a tutor for one of your skills.

Nobody said that starting a business has to be boring, I couldn’t think of anything worse than having to work a job that I don’t enjoy for the rest of my life. So stop and take a minute to ask yourself, “could I make money from something I love doing?”. 

The chances are the answer is yes

Consider providing a product or service

How to come up with a business idea - product or service infographic

This probably isn’t your first thought when trying to come up with business ideas, however, it’s a great thing to consider as it will ultimately help to determine what your end goal will look like. 

So, what do we mean by a product or service?

Product

“Something that is made to be sold, usually something that is produced by an industrial process or, less commonly, something that is grown or obtained through farming:” – Dictionary.Cambridge

When it comes to business ideas here we are referring to a physical item that you can sell in exchange for cash, such as an item of clothing, jewelry, or food etc.  

Service

“A government system or private organization that is responsible for a particular type of activity, or for providing a particular thing that people need:” – Dictionary.Cambridge

In this case we are referring to creating a business around something that isn’t a physical object but rather an activity that will benefit the customer, such as consultancy, accountancy, or health care etc. 

You can build your business around each of these concepts. In some cases, businesses have mixed models where they might offer products or services , such as a shop that sells mobile phones but also sells warranties and has the repair services available. 

Action point: Write down 5 products you buy regularly and 5 services you use regularly and highlight two that you could consider as a business idea.  

Both of these models have their pros and cons which will help to inform your choice.

Write down 5 products you buy regularly and 5 services you use regularly and highlight two that you could consider as a business idea.  

Both of these models have their pros and cons which will help to inform your choice.

Action #9

Write down 5 products you buy regularly and 5 services you use regularly and highlight two that you could consider as a business idea.   Both of these models have their pros and cons which will help to inform your choice.

Find out what other companies are doing

This is one of the easiest of the suggestions. All you need to do is walk down your local highstreet or scan online marketplaces to see what’s already on offer. 

Like we said earlier, all you need to be able to do is provide the same product or service and improve on it’s quality or price. A great place to find areas for improvements is in the customer reviews or in review blogs. Ask the question, what are the most common things that people are asking for? Is it better customer service, bigger variety, or a better quality product or experience in general?

Action point: Write down 3 products or services that you’re interested in. Now look up the big players in the market and look at their reviews and identify any common themes that you could capitalise on. 

You’ll be surprised at the amount of flaws in some of the best and well known products, but people buy them anyway! If you can improve even on one aspect then you will probably be able to slice yourself some of the market. 

Write down 3 products or services that you’re interested in. Now look up the big players in the market and look at their reviews and identify any common themes that you could capitalise on. 

You’ll be surprised at the amount of flaws in some of the best and well known products, but people buy them anyway! If you can improve even on one aspect then you will probably be able to slice yourself some of the market.

Action #10

Write down 3 products or services that you’re interested in. Now look up the big players in the market and look at their reviews and identify any common themes that you could capitalise on.  You’ll be surprised at the amount of flaws in some of the best and well known products, but people buy them anyway! If you can improve even on one aspect then you will probably be able to slice yourself some of the market.

Look in different locations for inspiration

Looking through a geographical lens, there are two important questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is that product or service readily available in my area?
  2. Are there any products or services that I have in my area that others would pay for elsewhere?
  • Does your next door neighbor always complain that the window cleaner no longer comes down your road?
  • Perhaps you have to travel 20 minutes to get to the closest chip shop? 
  • Know a friend that doesn’t have a local corner shop in their area?
  • Has a cool desert franchise has opened up in the next city that everybody is raving about, maybe one in your area might be a big hit too?

Just like our solving a problem section, there are a variety of ways to find these ideas:

  • Keep track of every time you have an answer to question 1 or 2
  • Ask friends and family what they think
  • Tap into any local community groups, e.g. at your local community centre
  • Use online communities, such as facebook groups or community forums

Using the bullet points above, write a list of 5 things that people want in your area. Following this, do some research into these 5 ideas and see if there is a market need.

Think of 5 products or services that you use locally, and see if they are available in other communities or surrounding areas.    

By looking at what is or isn’t being done in your area you might discover an untapped market which means that you might enjoy some quick wins.

As with all business ideas you must ensure that you have conducted good market research and to find out the viability of the business you are trying to replicate in your area or elsewhere. 

Action #11

Using the bullet points above, write a list of 5 things that people want in your area. Following this, do some research into these 5 ideas and see if there is a market need.

Action #12

Think of 5 products or services that you use locally, and see if they are available in other communities or surrounding areas.     By looking at what is or isn’t being done in your area you might discover an untapped market which means that you might enjoy some quick wins. As with all business ideas you must ensure that you have conducted good market research and to find out the viability of the business you are trying to replicate in your area or elsewhere. 

Have multiple ideas

Don’t be limited to one single idea. The world is a vast and wonderful place that is constantly changing, therefore, you will need a variety of ideas ready and developed in order to respond accordingly. 

The honest truth is that more than 90% of startups fail, so you need to have a plan B, C, D, E, F all the way to Z if you want to be successful. However, “You only need to be right once.” – Mark Cuban. It’s actually the norm to fail and the exception to be successful, therefore, you need to be able to produce the next idea in a flash. 

The beauty of entrepreneurship is that you get to try and test a variety of different ideas and learn a bunch along the way. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it, right? 

Take a deep breath, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” – John Heywood

Benjamin Angus
Benjamin Angus
Hi! I'm co-founder of gotiggo.com. I used to work in a job that I liked, but still looked forward to 'clocking out' every day. When it dawned upon me that that wasn't how I wanted to spend most of my life, me and a friend started this website to help out everyone else in the same boat.

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