So you want to start an online business, but you are struggling to find an idea?
Today, I’m going to help you figure that out.
Hi, my name is Jim Hart. I am a YouTuber, lawyer, entrepreneur, and the founder of the OB Foundation’s membership community, where we help people to start, build, grow, and legally protect their online business, so that you can live a truly extraordinary life.
Have you ever struggled with trying to figure out what type of business to start?
You know you want to start an online business, but you’re just not sure what business that’s going to be. Maybe you have so many thoughts and ideas running through your head that you start one thing. Then that goes well for a couple months. And then you’re like, “Wait a minute, shiny object, I see something over here.”
That goes well for a few months. And then you see something else, and that goes well for a few months. All the while you really haven’t started or created anything because you keep stopping before you get through the point where you’re finally reaching some true success. Does that resonate?
Or maybe, and tell me if this sounds right, you’ve got this great idea of something you want to do, but you’re not starting because you’re worried, who’s going to buy that from you anyway?
Well, let me tell you, I’ve been there. I have struggled for years trying to come up with the perfect business idea. I have started and failed at more business ideas in the last 14 years, since I first got started in the online business space than you can possibly imagine.
First, I started a podcast and a website that was aimed towards helping other lawyers like me, start and grow their own law practice. That didn’t work so well.
Then I started an e-commerce business that was going to sell running apparel on Amazon. Yeah, that didn’t go so well either. I sold some pretty cool looking water bottle belt thingies. I don’t know if I have any of those anymore.
There was actually a point in time where I had taken so many courses. I had been to so many seminars on starting and building an online business, and digital marketing. I actually came over with the idea that I’m going to build a business that reviews all of those courses, and seminars, and things that I’ve been to, and I’m glad I didn’t do that. I never did that. That one didn’t have wings.
So, needless to say, I failed, and I have failed a lot. And sometimes that’s hard to say, but it’s the truth.
So, I understand what it’s like, and I understand what you’re thinking out there. And I understand that there’s a lot at stake when you’re thinking about dipping your toes into the online business world.
If you’re like me, you’re doing this because you want freedom, you want a better life, you want to be your own boss, you want to be able to travel, and take time off on your own or with your family, you want to be able to give your kids opportunities that you never had when you were a child.
If you fail, if you pick the wrong idea, then you’re worried that all these things that you want are never going to happen.
So, what’s the answer? Well, I want to share that with you here today. But the first thing I want you to know is, in all my years, in 14 years of doing online business, the one thing I’ve never done is, I’ve never given up.
And that’s the first lesson that I really want to impart on you here today. No matter what type of business, or what service, or product you want to create and sell, no matter what it is, there’s a pretty good chance that the first time out of the gate, you’re going to fail.
If you do fail, or when you fail, I want you to understand that that is okay. And I’m giving you permission right now to go ahead and fail. Because without that permission, you might never get started at all.
But here’s what you need to understand, when you fail, or if you fail, I want you to understand that you can’t let that get you down. You have to pick yourself back up and you’ve got to try again.
Because you’re never going to reach success, you’re never going to obtain all those dreams I just talked about, if you don’t keep trying. But I’ve got some good news for you, I don’t mean to be a downer.
Things today are a whole lot easier than they were when I got started. I mean, we didn’t have these super fast brand new MacBook Pros that we’ve got today. We didn’t have Google fiber that uploads videos in like a second, we didn’t have any of that.
I remember when I was creating podcast episodes for my legal marketing podcast, after I was finished editing the podcast, you have to export it as an MP3 file. The export process could take an hour or two. And then after you’re done exporting it, you’d have to upload it, and that’s if you didn’t make any mistakes.
Sometimes you listen to the MP3 after you edited it, and you’re like, “Ugh, I made a mistake. I got to go fix it. Got to re-export it.” And that’s another two hours wasted. But then you’ve got to upload it to the podcast host, and that also would take a long time.
If you were doing YouTube videos, oh my Lord, it took forever to get videos uploaded. Now, between exporting and uploading it to the podcast host, the whole process takes literally a couple minutes, maybe. Maybe a couple minutes, maybe seconds, it’s super fast.
Websites, oh my Lord. Websites were so much harder back then to build. If you’re going to build them, you probably were going to do it in WordPress. You probably needed a lot of plugins. You probably needed to incorporate some sort of shopping cart into your website. There were security issues. It was hard, you had to know coding, you probably had to hire somebody to do it for you. If you wanted to have a membership in your website, you had to install a special plugin for that. And that was hard to figure out. I mean, it was a lot harder back then than it is today.
One last example I’ll tell you is, I remember when I first wanted to take payments online for my legal marketing program. I set that up as an initial course, I had to sign up with a payment processor, which was expensive. So, I think what I ended up doing actually is, I just took a PayPal button and put it on my website so people could pay me that way. I don’t really remember, I’m not quite sure.
All I know is, it was clumsy and it was hard. I’m not sure it probably worked exactly the way I wanted to, but it was what it was. And that was pretty much a nightmare.
Now, it is easier than ever. As long as you have a phone and maybe a laptop computer, you can get started. I mean, it’s dead simple. Back then it was a nightmare, and now dead simple.
All you need to do though, is to pick the idea.
So, today, I want to walk you through step by step, the process that I’ve developed to evaluate and pick profitable business ideas.
I have come up with a five-step process that I use, and I like to call it, the passion sandwich. And so, what I want to do is, I want to walk you through that here right now.
Step one is, I want you to brainstorm a lot of ideas. And these are things that, you guessed it, you have to have a passion for.
If you write something down, you’re like, “Eh, I could give it or take it or leave it.” No, that doesn’t count on your list. I want you to write things that you are passionate about, things that you love and enjoy doing.
That’s going to go on your list. And that’s going to be step one, is you’re going to write down as many things as you can. Take a couple minutes, figure out how to do that, write those things down. And then you move on to step number two.
Evaluate Your List
Step number two, you’re going to start to evaluate each and every idea on your list. And you’re going to start with the first thing, and you’re going to ask yourself, who is the customer? And for this particular niche that I want to get into, who is my customer going to be?
If you can’t come up with a customer, then chances are, it’s not a very good idea. You need to be able to come up with a customer that you’re going to be able to sell a product to. So, that’s the second step.
You go through each item on your list, and you’re going to determine whether or not there is a customer for that item.
Find Pain Points
You can take steps two, three, and four, and you can do it for each item on the list, and then we’ll get to step five. But so for step three is, you’re going to ask yourself, “Well, what is that customer’s pain point? What is it that they’re struggling with? What is it that they’re having a hard time with?”
If you can’t find any pain points, then you might want to cross that niche off your list, because it’s not going to be a very good market to get into.
Find a Solution
Step four is, you’re going to ask yourself, “Can I offer a product or a service that is going to solve the problem that that customer has?”
And again, if you can’t come up with a solution to the problem, then you probably don’t have a very good market that you want to get in.
So let’s take an example that I heard somebody talking about on a podcast a while back. And so, here was the example, this person, this individual person was passionate, passionate about packing her car.
So, if you know what I’m talking about. If you go on a road trip, usually when you’ve got a family, you’ve got one spouse who is really good at packing, and one spouse that’s really good at packing the car. Especially if you’ve got kids like I do.
So, in our family, my wife is the one that does all the packing, and then she leaves the suitcases for me. And then I play Tetris with the car to figure out how all those suitcases are going to fit into the car. And that’s my super power. That’s the thing that I really enjoy doing.
And I fit them all in there, it’s fun. I enjoy doing that. Would I say I’m passionate about it? No, probably not. So, it wouldn’t have met my first criteria. But I know I listened to podcasts where somebody else was talking about this. This was something they were passionate about. They love packing the car, they love talking about it, they love figuring out the right types of suitcases to purchase that would fit just perfectly in the car. All those type of things.
So, let’s take that example. There’s a problem, people need to know how to pack their car. You might even be able to come up with a course that teaches people how to pack their car the right way. If you go to the second step, which is who is your customer, you’ve got to ask yourself and be real here, who is going to pay for that course. There’s probably not many people that are going to pay for that course, if anybody is going to pay for that course.
It might be a good subject for a YouTube video. But chances are, nobody is going to pay for that course. So that’s a good example of one that’s not going to work. Once you’ve gone through this analysis, do you have a customer? Do they have a problem? Do you have a solution? For each of the items that you are passionate about on your list. Then you get to step five.
And step five is where the passion sandwich comes into play, because now, I want you to ask yourself.
By now, you probably got it narrowed down to two or three things or markets that you could be selling in. With step number five, do you still have passion for that market? Could you see yourself developing content around that niche for the next two to three years? One way just to ask yourself, am I going to get bored with this topic in a month or two?
Because if you are going to get bored with this topic in a month or two, then chances are, it’s not going to be a very good topic.
Another way to look at this, is to start writing out all the different types of content that you could create around this topic. And if you come up with like, 50, 60, 100 ideas for different types of content that you could create around this niche, that’s going to be better than if you sit down and you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got like five ideas of things of videos I could make.” That’s probably not very good.
So, you need to make sure there’s enough meat on the bones of, so to speak, for this topic that you want to be talking about. And if so, then you’ve got the beginnings of a business idea, and from there, you just have to start.
And a lot of people have probably made their way through this list rather unknowingly. I know for me, I did. When I was first starting in business, I was evaluating different business ideas. I hadn’t developed this passion sandwich, if you will, yet. But I kind of evaluated the ideas on my own, but I always was missing something. And so, I think this is where a lot of people make mistake, is they’re missing something.
Either they identify a potential customer and potentially some pain points that they can solve for that customer, but they can’t come up with a product or a solution that they can sell them. Or maybe they come up with some pain points and a solution, but there’s no customer, like the packing example I used before. Or maybe they have a customer and they’ve got something they want to sell them, but the customer just don’t have any pain, there’s no issues there, there’s nothing the customer wants to buy.
So, another good way to look at this is, ask yourself, are you going to be selling aspirin? Are you selling vitamins? And so, this is something I heard from Shane Sams at the Flip Your Life Podcast. And he talks about it this way, if you have a headache and a really bad headache at that, and I’ve got kids, so I get some really bad headache,
I’m going to run to the bathroom and I’m going to be looking for some aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, whatever. If my headache is bad enough, either I’m going to the store, the drug store that night, or I’m sending my wife for me to pick up some aspirin for me to help calm my headache.
Let’s look at it the reverse. Let’s say you go in the morning, and so I normally take my vitamins in the morning and I’m out of my multivitamin. Am I going to be running out to the store right then to do it? No, I’m going to be running over to the grocery list that we keep on the counter, and I’m going to write down multivitamins on the grocery list. Then next time my wife or I goes to the store, we’re going to pick up the multivitamins. But it’s not something we’re going to run out to get right away. That’s the difference.
Are you selling aspirin that solves an acute pain that your customer has, that they need? Or are you selling vitamins that solves maybe a problem, but it’s not something that’s really urgent in the mind of your customer?
You want to be selling aspirin. You’re going to have a much more successful business if you’re selling aspirin, and you are passionate about that aspirin. And if you don’t, and if you don’t have that passion, I guess is what I should say, you might have the best business idea in the world, but without that passion for that business idea, you are going to fail. I can promise you that.
And I know that because in the legal marketing example that I gave you before, I did not have enough. There’s a lot of people out there that do really well, teaching lawyers how to start and grow law practices, and they’re very successful. They make a lot of money, because lawyers have a lot of money to spend, but I didn’t have the passion to be doing that.
And there are companies like Nike who sell a lot of things when it comes to running apparel. And so, if I had a lot of passion for selling these, I could have been very successful in that business. But I didn’t have the passion for selling calf sleeves, and so I wasn’t successful in that business.
Hopefully some of this is resonating with you. If it is, make sure you check out this video right here. This is another video I did that talks more about how to start an online business.