So you want to start your own online business, one that is meaningful and makes an impact.
But you struggle to come up with a profitable business idea?
Or maybe you have an idea or even a few, but you’re unsure if they will make you money and so you keep searching for THE perfect business idea?
Here is the problem that so many aspiring entrepreneurs face:
In today’s world – with so much of everything out there – how can you still find a meaningful business idea that has the potential to be profitable and successful?
How can you create an epic business that truly matters, makes a valuable difference in the world AND one that enables you to make a good living?
Because let’s be honest – the statistics don’t lie:
Most businesses fail.
90% of online startups don’t make it (source).
The goal of this blogpost is to help you decrease the risk of starting something that nobody wants.
I want to help you start a meaningful business that will bring you success in all departments:
Finances, joy, fulfillment and freedom.
I personally don’t think anyone’s new business needs to fail – not when you live in the 21st century with all the important resources at the touch of a mouse click (or swipe).
I don’t believe in FAILURE. I only believe in experiments, feedback and results.
Every business we start is an experiment. And whatever happens on the way is a result.
There is no such thing as failure. It’s an artificial human concept that isn’t really real.
Ok, let’s move on.
“Need a business idea? The best way to find one is to stop looking” – Gary Vee
Finding Profitable Business Ideas: My Journey
I remember when I first had the inspiration to start an online business.
But I had no idea what to make money with. I read the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris but I just couldn’t come up with anything smart.
Also: This was the first time I had ever toyed with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur and thus, my business brain was non-existent.
I was driven by wanting to be free, travel the world, become a digital nomad and make passive income – AND only then by passion.
Which I realised years later is not the right order when you want to start a business.
At least not one I would recommend today.
Money and freedom are still important to me today. For sure. No doubt there.
BUT endless money and freedom are useless when you don’t feel fulfilled in the long term.
Here is the thing:
In the beginning, with every business that I started, I never knew where it would take me – I had ideas but I stayed open to the path, which usually led me in very different directions. Directions I couldn’t even have fathomed when I first acted on the idea.
A business idea is only the raw shell. Once you start taking action, magic happens and ideas change and go crazy and boom! – you’re in a place you never even imagined.
One reason for this to happen is this:
You are not in your target group’s heads.
More important than your own idea is giving people what they want.
And the more you connect to them and understand them (and to yourself on this path), you figure out what works – and what doesn’t.
Here is a good video explaining this further:
Profitable Businesses I Started
Here is an (almost) comprehensive list of businesses and projects I have started since 2011:
A Life of Blue (2011)
A blog about lifestyle design, minimalism and my journey to become a digital nomad.
I started it after digging into this resource, realising I was a multi-potentialise and combining several of my passions.
The blog was growing fast and I was just about to monetise it, when the next idea came along that took all of my attention quickly.
Planet Backpack (2012)
I had been traveling for many years and then became a digital nomad. A friend of mine, who was an expert in SEO and online marketing, suggested I start a travel blog. He knew about the lack of valuable travel information online in Germany and saw a huge opportunity for me, especially considering the massive travel experience I had.
I started it and I quickly created Germany’s most popular travel blog for world travellers and digital nomads. I made most of my income through affiliate sales (eg. Amazon and a travel credit card), sponsored posts and collaborations with brands.
In 2014, I created and launched an epic e-book course teaching people how to go from 9-5 to being a digital nomad. It was my first digital product launch and I made 35.000 Euro in the first week. It is still selling well to this day. If you are interested and speak German, you can get it here.
I slowly transitioned away from being a travel blogger in 2016 when I realized that I had outgrown this calling. The website is still online and still generates me a monthly income.
Blog Camp (2013)
A fellow travel blogger and I both realized at one point that we were making a lot of money with our travel blogs, but not many other bloggers seemed to know much about marketing and how to monetize their content.
So we started giving workshops – for free at first and then paid all over Germany. We also ran a blogger retreat in Bali.
Eventually, we turned all the content into an online course that sold extremely well for several years.
We shut it down in 2017, when we ended our business partnership.
Live Your Heart Out (March 2017)
After I lost passion for my travel and digital nomad blog business, I ventured into personal development and finding your calling.
This move was prompted by my own journey of healing, personal growth, figuring out what my higher purpose in life was and finding meaning with my work.
I tried out so many things for so many years, I realized that I had a lot to share and teach.
During this process, I saw how many of my followers were struggling to figure out what to do with their lives. So I launched the Find Your Magic program in early 2018. I had an awesome five-figure launch for the first run and then relaunched a few months later.
I also created a course called The Art of Vulnerability (first an online workshop) and then the workshop The Soulful Art of Personal Branding and Growing Your Tribe.
In February of 2018, I released my first gender-neutral t-shirt collection.
I also ran a retreat for location-independent soulpreneurs in Sri Lanka in November of 2017.
conni.me and CO.CREATE (2018)
After more than 1.5 years of helping people deal with their shadows and finding their purpose in life, I realized that it was time to step up again and follow the next calling:
I now help conscious creators and entrepreneurs build a meaningful life and business that bring them joy, fulfillment and freedom.
In November 2018, I launched my first paid community.
One of my biggest learnings:
Only create products and offerings that I know my audience wants.
A few days ago, I found this tweet on Twitter by a guy who has created more than 50 businesses since 2003. He made a GoogleDoc spreadsheet listing all of them, including what happened to them. I thought it’s worth sharing:
What Is a Profitable and Perfect Business Idea?
And does it exist?
I say yes, it exists. Perfect doesn’t have to mean complex and impossible.
The perfect business idea is one that…
- solves a problem that people want to pay money for.
- is based on your higher purpose.
- fits your lifestyle and your needs.
- financially supports your great work in a way that feels great.
- makes a meaningful and lasting impact in the world.
Whats a bad business idea?
In a nutshell:
One that doesn’t make money, one that people don’t want and one that has no impact.
A business that doesn’t make money and one that people don’t want is a hobby.
That’s not what I’m aiming for.
Now, if perfect equals successful…
What does successful really mean?
The extent of success is directly related to the extent of positive meaningful impact a business has on the world and other people’s lives.
Yes, the perfect business idea will bring in an abundance of money.
But it will also make a real difference and leave you fulfilled, knowing that you are creating true meaning.
So today I am all about:
- First: Figuring out what sets your soul on fire
- Second: Coming up with ideas on how to turn your calling into a business
The Perfect Business Idea: The Most Important Questions
No one will hand you a profitable business idea. You won’t find it through Google.
You have to go within first.
So pull out a notepad and start writing a long list.
Here are some questions to get you started:
- What drives you?
- What excites you?
- How can you serve best?
- What are you curious and/or passionate about?
- What wants to come through you?
- What’s your message?
- What world do you want to live in?
- What challenges have you overcome that others struggle with?
- When was the last time you forgot about time?
- What can you give?
- What topic do you know a lot about that most people don’t understand?
- What’s something you’re already good at?
- What did you enjoy doing as a child?
- What’s the number one habit that people need to implement to have a better life?
- Do you have “interesting” hobbies? (eg. collecting atlases, gay cinema…) – also, check out this list of hobbies on Wikipedia.
What’s your IKIGAI?
Success is about waaaaaay more than just money.
Your perfect and profitable business idea (your calling) lies at the intersection of what:
- You are good at
- You’re passionate about
- You can get paid for
- The world needs
It is called your Ikigai – your entrepreneurial reason for being:
If you struggle to find any answers so far, I invite you to check out Find Your Magic.
Because here is your problem:
If you don’t know what excites you and what your calling in life is, it means that you are not connected to yourself and your purpose.
If all you are doing is just looking for a business idea, then:
- You are in scarcity mode and you just want to make money (which is fine, but not sustainable)
- Your idea and creativity muscle is really rusty and dormant (I have business ideas all day long and I am nothing special)
- You are disconnected from yourself (totally fixable!)
Here is my recommendation for you:
Get to know yourself – figure out what excites you like crazy:
- Do Yoga.
- Go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat.
- Do plant medicine (eg. San Pedro or Ayahuasca)
Do whatever it takes to connect to yourself. The business idea will come to you sooner than you know it!
Business and Lifestyle:
It is also important to reflect on the kind of business you want to start and what sort of lifestyle you want to live:
- What does your perfect day look like and what part does your business and work play in it?
- Do you want to travel the world as a digital nomad like me or do you like having an office?
- How much do you want to work every day?
The more clarity you have around what you want and need, the easier it will be to manifest.
The Second Most Important Question to Find the Perfect Business Idea
How can I make a living with my purpose, my passion, my calling?
How can I turn what excites me into something that people want and are willing to pay money for?
This is what most people get stuck on.
You are excited about writing, but you have no idea how to make a living doing that.
You are excited about hiking, but how could you ever turn that into a business?
So here is the second most important step for you:
Exercise your idea and creativity muscle.
Hence: Write down 10 ideas every day.
Yes, every single day.
This habit works wonders and will turn you into an idea machine in no time.
A Blog is Not a Business
Now let’s make something real clear:
Just starting a blog or a YouTube channel or a Podcast is not a business.
Having a big Instagram account with 100k followers in itself is not a business.
There are endless broke social media “influencers” out there.
It becomes a business once you approach it as business.
It becomes a real business with the potential to make you a real living when you answer this question:
“What problem am I solving?”
Take this question, write it down and pin it somewhere, where you can see it every day.
Don’t Start a Business – Start a Movement
I want you to think big. Bigger than the conventional aspiring entrepreneur out there.
If you really want your business idea to be successful, you have got to start a movement.
Something that is bigger than yourself. Something that people can’t help but support and share.
- I started the movement of digital nomads in Germany through my travel blog Planet Backpack.
- Currently, I am creating a movement around #createeverydamnday and #createmorethanyouconsume to get people to create more.
- I am also spreading the word around minimalist in all areas of life, but also especially when it comes to business and productivity.
“How can I make money?” is the wrong question to ask.
Here is the right question to ask if you truly want to find a profitable business idea and create a business that matters:
“How can I create a movement?”
The Different Types of Online Businesses
Let’s look at the different ways to make an income by creating a movement through sharing a message on a blog or YouTube channel:
- Products: Software, tools, e-commerce, physical products, digital products (online courses, e-books..)
- Blog / YouTube Business: Affiliate marketing, sponsorships, membership programs, Patreon and products
- Services/Freelance: Anything from life coaching and virtual assistance to web design and SEO consultant
A startup is a business with a concrete idea for something new.
And then there is the rest of us who make stuff, write things, offer services.
Here are 10 business ideas I literally just came up with:
- A blog business on plant-based milks (eg. monetize with affiliate marketing, recipe books, live workshops, merchandise..)
- Videography and photography services for life and wellness coaches
- Gender-neutral cosmetics, toiletries and hair products
- Organic home brewing beer
- Healthy vegan eating on a budget
- Minimalist interior design consulting
- Meditation for entrepreneurs
- Electric skateboarding for women
- Drone flying
- Holotropic Breathwork
Idea versus Execution
Any idea is only as good as its execution.
By this, I mean:
Just because you have a great business idea doesn’t mean that the business itself will be successful.
An idea in and of itself is worth nothing.
You have to execute properly in a way that sets the idea up for success.
The 5 Steps to Find a Profitable and Meaningful Business Idea
Let’s get into the core of this article.
Here is the process to arrive at your perfect business idea:
1. Inspiration Phase
Before you do anything:
Find out how other people came up with their business ideas and then got started.
Before I even took the first step back in 2011, when first had the idea to start my own online business, I researched a lot.
- I listened to podcasts and stories of how people started their business.
- I read books and blogs on entrepreneurship.
And I did this for about one to two months. I soaked everything in and let it all do its thing in my head.
It didn’t take very long for my own idea brain to turn on.
Examples of great podcast shows:
- Smart Passive Income
- Entrepreneur on Fire
- How I Built This
- Starting From Nothing – The Foundation
- Goal Digger with Jenna Kutcher
- The Femtrepreneur Show
- Women in Tech Podcast
- Creative Biz Rebellion
And my own podcast of course: The Conni Biesalski Podcast
Read a few books to get your brain going:
- “The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future” by Chris Guillebeau
US Amazon / German Amazon
- “Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money” by Pat Flynn
US Amazon / German Amazon
- “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek
US Amazon / German Amazon
- “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable” by Seth Godin
US Amazon / German Amazon
- “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield
US Amazon / German Amazon
- “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World” by Gary Vaynerchuck
US Amazon / German Amazon
The danger is to get all sucked into consuming content, but not actually getting into the next phase or taking any action.
Be aware and intentional about consuming content.
My motto is always:
Create more than you consume.
2. Brainstorm Phase
Here is what you do in this second phase:
You literally get it all out. All the ideas and thoughts.
The number one rule for this phase:
Don’t let the “I don’t know how” or “this is unrealistic” or “this is too complex” hold you back.
Often times, an idea is not as complex and unrealistic as you might think (sometimes it is more than you think though).
For example, I used to think it’s difficult to set up a website, create an online course or sell merchandise.
But, as it turned out, it’s not rocket science at all.
Many people get stuck on not knowing HOW to do something or they think they don’t have the necessary skills.
The good news here is:
You can learn most skills these days through YouTube, Google and online courses.
I taught myself almost everything I do today.
From building websites to making videos to running a podcast to marketing strategies and coaching people.
Still today, I am always learning new stuff. Literally, every day.
The 2 different types of business ideas:
- you share your experience/skills to help others
- you scratch your own itch: look at your own day to day struggles and create a solution for them. Many amazing business ideas are right in front of your face.
The Braindump: An Effective Brainstorming Exercise
There are many ways to go about finding good business ideas.
Here is one that I did back when I first started out in 2011.
It goes like this:
- Get an excel spreadsheet (or draw columns on a blank sheet of paper)
- Make columns for each: ideas, your level of passion for the idea, your skill level for the idea, potential profitability and total
- Plug in your ideas (Take all ideas you got from tuning into your own Ikigai)
- You then go through and score each idea from 1-10
- You sum up the scores in the total column
- Choose the top 3 ideas to use during the research phase
Still need some inspiration?
- Check out this list of businesses that were started and launched within 30 days in October this year: “Just f*ing ship it in 30 days”.
- This is a list of 81 topic ideas for starting a blog.
Find people first or business idea first?
If you know me, you also know that I am a huge fan of Seth Godin.
If you have never heard of him – go read his blog, books and listen to his podcast.
His approach to finding the perfect business idea is to start with the people in mind first:
- Who do you want to help?
- And then ask yourself:
- What problems do they have?
- How do those problems affect their lives?
- What result do they want?
Based on those answers, you go out and solve their problems.
Because, remember – you don’t have a business idea until it solves a problem for people.
Let’s say you want to help life coaches.
What problems do they have? (it helps to actually talk to them)
Here are some possible answers:
- no tech skills to build a website (—> website design for life coaches)
- no marketing knowledge (—> blog and workshops on marketing for life coaches)
- struggling with time management (—> YouTube channel and e-books on productivity for life coaches)
The true magic is definitely in the niches. And the sub-niches.
You literally can’t be everything for anyone.
Everything from marketing and branding will be so much easier if you niche down.
I will create an extra resource about choosing the right niche soon.
For now, dig into this awesome resource.
3. Research Phase
In this phase, you will study the three ideas you chose in the brainstorm phase and find out which one is worth pursuing.
One important point:
If you have found your calling, that’s all you want to do and you fully believe in it – go for it.
However, it is still a good idea to research it and see what works and what doesn’t.
We too often get lost in our own passions and don’t actually think about the people we want to serve.
Too often, people fall in love with their own business ideas without actually researching and validating whether the idea will truly make them a living.
The purpose of the research phase is to find out how much demand exists for your ideas, how to monetize your idea and who else is already pursuing your idea (community, competitor and product research).
If you think that competition is a bad idea, then think again.
It is actually a very good sign when you see other people doing something similar to what you want to start – and are making money with it! It will be much easier to get your offering in front of an audience and potential customers.
If your idea is so novel and unique that it doesn’t exist yet, you might have to prepare for an uphill battle and harder to get momentum going.
“But what if so many people are already doing what I want to do?”
Yup, I get this questions all the time.
Here is my response:
- There is always space for awesomeness.
- Your story and your take on something will be very different because you are unique as a human being.
- If it is not just an idea, but your calling, then it’s actually your duty is to pursue it.
So how do you go about researching?
Create another Excel spreadsheet and collect all the important information you find in it.
Make a list of terms and phrases that people would look for when it comes to your idea.
- Research on Google and YouTube – any websites or bloggers that stand out? What other content do they have on their platforms? How are they monetizing the idea?
- Use a keyword research tool like Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest (free) or KWFinder (paid – highly recommended) – you can find out how many people search for certain terms on Google every month. This is important to know, because it is a good idea to create blog or video content that people are actually searching for to get traffic to your website and ultimately to your paid offering. If you have no idea what keyword research is and how it works, go here.
- Are there any active niche forums?
- Can you find an active subreddit on Reddit? (use Redditlist and List of Subreddits)
- Are there lots of active topics on Quora?
- Search for Facebook groups – are there groups with 10+ posts a day?
- Tools like Buzzsumo
- Check for paid ads on Google search and Facebook
- Can you find affiliate programs? (eg. through a google search or on Clickbank)
Get rid of ideas for which you don’t find enough activity and results.
As you are doing this research, start making a list for possible topics to create content around. Content creation and marketing is the foundation of any online business. So switch on your content idea brain as you do your research.
Write down good headlines and ad copy you find.
4. Validation Phase
Validation is simply finding out if your audience wants and will pay for your offering.
It comes in two parts:
- Validating that your topic is an actual need/ problem (and not one you think people have).
- Validating that your audience will pay for an offering on your topic.
This is where the rubber meets the road.
Most people skip this phase, because:
- they are too in love with their idea
- they’re afraid to actually learn the truth about their business idea
- they aren’t sure or aware of why they should do it
- they don’t know how do validate their business idea
Most startups fail because they create something that not enough people want and they didn’t figure that out before they pumped a lot of money into their startup idea. I learned this from working in a startup PR agency back in 2011 for eight months.
Of course, even if you validate your business idea and all signs say GO – there is still a chance it might not work out. Because, as I said in the beginning: Execution the key. And consistency is as well.
Don’t romanticize your seemingly perfect business idea.
Never put all your time and money and energy into something that you are passionate about, but people don’t want.
Validation helps you avoid that. And it helps you reduce the risk.
I always research validate every product idea I have and never just build a course or an offering because I think it “might” work.
You have already done a lot of pre-work in the research phase.
But I invite you to go one step further.
So how do you validate your business idea?
1. The light version:
Talk to people about it and get lots of feedback.
The important thing is to talk to people who are in your potential target group, otherwise it doesn’t make sense.
Don’t just ask any friend. Be wise about who you talk to.
Ask people you know on Facebook or even post in Facebook groups.
A really good idea is to start a blog (you should do that anyway) or start a YouTube channel.
Creating content around your idea will get you clarity and also build a following of people who you can survey and get feedback from.
2. The pro version:
Get people to pay for it – because actions speak way louder than words!
The real truth is:
Getting people’s opinions, or email subscribers and social media followers – they don’t mean a thing if they don’t actually want to pay for what you have to offer.
People telling you that your idea is great and is good for your ego, but in the end, it doesn’t mean a thing and won’t help you pay your bills.
It really only matters if people pay for your idea (not if you or others think it’s good enough).
You might ask now: “But how can I get people to pay for it if it doesn’t exist yet?”
You pre-sell your offer.
Here is a great article that goes deeper into validating your business idea.
If you already have an audience, send them to the pre-sell page.
If you don’t, you might want to consider spending a few dollars on Facebook, Instagram or Google Ads.
5. Experiment Phase
Basically, everything is an experiment in life and business.
There is no guarantee for anything.
Your perfect business idea might indeed turn out to be perfect, change the world and bring in a lot of money for you.
Or it might not.
You will only find out how to make this thing called “business” work if you experiment a lot.
I do it all the time.
That’s why I love blogging, creating content and having an audience – you have a way to get feedback on your ideas at your fingertips.
I am constantly in a feedback loop with my audience and followers to figure out what content and offerings would help them solve their problems best. Then I go out, create it for them and give it to them.
I try things out all the time and never fall in love with an idea too much before I haven’t validated it.
Also, you will NEVER figure it all out in your head. Taking action and experimenting is the way to find answers.
You won’t know what works and what you enjoy if you stay in your head. But you will find out if you try stuff out.
Whatever profitable business idea you end up pursuing – make sure your WHY is big enough.
Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint.
You will go through ups and downs. We all do.
Having a big WHY will help you through the downs and always guide you towards fulfillment and meaning in your work and life.
And this is it! Almost 4.500 words on how to find a profitable and perfect business idea.
There is so much more I could say on this topic, and I will do so in future posts and videos!
Let me know in the comments what business ideas are on your mind or any questions you might have! I will try my best to hop in and get you answers!
Share this post if you found it helpful!
Thanks for your time,
PS: Come and check out our amazing learning space and community CO.CREATE. You will receive support and feedback on all things business ideas and taking steps to actually realizing them.