Self Employed

Searching for business ideas? Here's some practical advice

MileIQ Team

Owning a business is a rewarding experience. There are many advantages to being in charge of your destiny, including setting your hours and making your own decisions. Even setting aside the financial rewards—which can be significant if you are successful—owning a business is an attractive dream.

But how do you start? Thinking of a concept is the first step, and many people never get beyond this hurdle. The advice below may help you settle on the perfect idea to pursue business ownership.  

Generating business ideas

It’s unlikely that the first business idea you produce will be a winner. Many business owners can tell you about the different plans they considered before settling on the one they decided to pursue.  

With that in mind, try making a list of thoughts to start this process. They don’t all have to be great ideas. They don’t even need to be good. Just start with a broad list of possible options and dive into the details later.  

As you work on your list, keep these tips in mind:

  • Play to your strengths. Don’t have to be an expert in the field you decide to enter, but you should possess basic knowledge and experience.  
  • Passion can help. Not all business owners have a strong passion for the market they serve, but many do.  
  • You don’t have to be the first. Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of ruling out business ideas when they see another business already serving that market. Remember, you don’t have to be the first business in a given market, as long as you are the best.  

It may take some time to get the ball rolling, but your list should soon grow. When you are satisfied with the notions you have generated, move on to the next step.  

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Screening your ideas

Now that you have created a long list of business ideas, it’s time to eliminate all but one. That might sound negative, but it’s an exciting opportunity. You are getting close to starting your own business!

To screen your ideas, create a scoring system that will allow you to attach a value to each one. For instance, you could evaluate each of the ideas on five criteria:

  • Potential. Does this idea have the potential to grow, or is it limited in scope and scale?
  • Passion. Do you love this idea, or would it be about nothing more than financial gain?
  • Competition. How many other businesses are already serving this market segment?
  • Investment. How much will it cost to start this kind of business? Will you need investors? More on this in the next section.  
  • Timeline. Can you start this business quickly, or will you need to do significant groundwork first?

Using a scale from one to five, rate each of the business ideas on your list. Give each thought a score for each of the five criteria, for a total of 25 possible points. Once you add up the scores, you will have a ranking that can help point you toward the best ideas. You can customize this system as necessary to suit your needs.

Estimating the financial investment

Anticipating the financial investment required to start a new business is crucial. Underestimating the startup costs of a new venture is a common mistake. The United States Small Business Administration offers some helpful advice on how to calculate startup costs.  

If you are hoping to start a business on a shoestring budget, operating only in the digital realm will keep costs down. Doing business in the ‘real world’ is inherently more expensive than working online. You’ll need to pay for physical space and other expenses like inventory, employees and more.  

Taking the next steps

With any luck, you’ll soon settle on one business idea which stands out above the rest. Congratulations!

Now, the hard part begins—bringing your business to life. The steps required to start a business will vary. For most ideas, the list below will be a good starting point:  

  • Register a domain name
  • Apply for a business license
  • Open a bank account in the name of the business
  • Choose a business structure, such as a sole proprietorship or LLC
  • Establish an accounting system

It’s exciting to see your business spring to life. Going from a list of ideas to a functioning, thriving business will take tons of hard work and dedication, but the rewards are many. Get started today!  

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