Want to start a business, but have no ideas?

By co-founder of the Rebel Business School, Alan Donegan.

Have you ever thought of starting a business to make some extra money? Building a side hustle? Becoming your own boss?  How far did the thought go?

You can imagine running your own thing, making some money, your name above the door. But then you get stuck on what business to run. What would I actually do? What can I sell or create? Then the doubt comes in and you say “but that has already been done, I couldn’t do this or that!”

At Rebel Business School, we get three broad groups of people at our events. The first has an idea that they have always wanted to do such as “I have always wanted to open a business!”. The second group are the creatives and they have so many ideas they are paralysed; they have 57 ideas before breakfast each day. The third group are the people that have always wanted to do it but just don’t know what to do!

This article will help all three groups but I am really writing it to help you come up with new business ideas. How do you start a business with no ideas? How do you get going?

Want to start a business, but have no ideas?

Then let’s going. I am going to give you 9 methods and ideas to help you get going. 

The quickest way to come up with a good business idea is to come up with lots of ideas.

There are two phases of creativity.  Divergent thinking which is coming up with the ideas and then convergent thinking, which is where you converge on the idea you are first going to test; aka choosing.  Most people who get stuck with creativity try to do both these phases at the same time. 

They come up with an idea and then they judge that idea right there and then and throw it away as it isn’t good enough.  They come up with another idea and then think through why that won’t work and after a few minutes they start to think they will NEVER come up with anything useful. 

We need to separate the idea generation and judgement phases out.  You need to come up with LOTS of ideas first and then when you have got 50 ideas you can start to judge them and work out which one you want to try.  The quickest way to come up with a good idea is to come up with LOTS of ideas.

I will let you into a secret, Rebel Business School wasn’t my first idea!  I didn’t just come up with that idea straight way.  I came up with lots of ideas and tested them on the journey.  You aren’t going to come up with the game changing idea right off the bat, you need to come up with lots of ideas first!  Which brings me onto:

Your first business idea won’t be the best ever!

How many business do you think Simon tried to start before he and I created Rebel Business School?  How many times do you think I failed before I got to something that worked?

How many ideas do you think I had that ended up in the reject pile before this one took off?  You aren’t going to land on the BEST idea straight away and even if you do there is no guarantee it will work when you take it out to market and try and get customers!  Why am I telling you this?  To relieve some of the pressure of getting it right.

Some of your ideas will be bad ideas and that is ok.  Some of your ideas will be average and that is ok.  Some of your ideas will sound great in your head and then when you pitch them to someone you will realise it is not the best ideas; and that is ok!

Come up with LOTS of ideas and test them out on people and if they don’t work then move on quickly to find something else.  You actually have to go through a bunch of bad ideas to get to the one that will work for you.  SO get the bad ideas out quickly, don’t dwell on them, write them down and keep generating new ideas!

USPs and the myth of uniqueness.

One of the first things traditional business coaches ask you is “What is your unique selling point (USP)?”. This tends to stop people in their tracks and paralyse them. They react by thinking “well I am not sure it is unique?”

I want to slap down this question right now and tell you that you don’t have to be unique. I remember in the early days of Rebel Business School one of the participants wanted to create a cleaning business but she was having doubt as it wasn’t “unique”! What was her USP?

A cleaning business is not unique. It has been around a LONG LONG LONG time but that doesn’t mean you can’t make money out of it and have fun doing it. You can put your own slant on it, you can find your own energy, do it in your own way but don’t right off starting a cleaning business because it isn’t unique. 

People want and need that service and you could do really well in it. Don’t judge your ideas as you create them.  Right them ALL down and then let’s decide which one to go with at the end of the process!

It doesn't even have to be your product!

Some of the most creative business I have found don’t even create their own products.  You don’t need to!  You could sell someone else’s product, you could become an affiliate a reseller or a partner with someone else. You don’t have to do it all yourself!

One of the participants from our Rebel Business School event in Glasgow created a blog reviewing mattresses and pillows.  He didn’t have his own product he build a website reviewing other people’s products and recommending them.  It was an incredibly successful business and he never sold one of his own products.

Free yourself from what a business should be and start to just write down ideas of things you could do.  It is when you are free of the constraints of what a business should and shouldn’t be that you will finally come up with some more innovative ideas. 

The way to wealth - solving problems!


You can have anything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want. That is the key to business. Find out what problems other people have, notice what causes you pain and discomfort and then create something that solves that problem.

The bigger and more painful the problem the more money you can make solving it. Find problems and tackle those suckers. 

Your piece of home work from this section is to notice over the next 10 days what annoys, frustrates or causes you difficulty.  rite those things down because if you are having those problems I can guarantee other people are too and if you can solve them then you have a business.

The key to getting wealthy is finding problems and then creating solutions.

 What causes you pain and discomfort each day?

Another way to generate business ideas is asking others what their problems are.

Go to the people you know and ask them what frustrates them, what annoys them, what are their biggest problems. Get curious about the problems other people face and how you might be able to solve them. 

Ask your friends in your industry, in your town, in the clubs you go to what annoys them and make notes. Write it all down. This kind of research will spark all sorts of ideas. Get these people to rant about what is wrong in their world and then start to wonder how you might be able to solve that problem for them!

There is a huge wealth to be created in solving other people’s problems.

Who do you want to work with?

Most people start with the what rather than the who and the who can help you determine and refine the what afterwards.

You can literally work with anyone so why not make a list of who you would most like to work with!  Are their brands you would love to work with?  Are their groups of people you would love to work with?  Are there people that inspire you that you would love to work with?

If you start with the who then you can work out what problems these people face and how you are going to help them afterwards.  Your homework for this section is to generate a list of dream clients and people.  Who do you want to spend your time working with?  Who do you want to be around?

Generate a list that inspires you and then start to wonder how you might be able to help these people!

What excites you?

You can start a business doing anything so it always amazes me when people pick something they don’t like! This seems CRAZY to me. There has never been a better time in history to make money doing something you actually love doing. 

What do you love doing?  What did you enjoy doing as a kid? What brings you joy? Why not start a business around those subjects.

Don’t censor yourself; write a huge list of everything that excites you. Movies, books, cars, food, I don’t care what it is, write it down!

I put a post out on Facebook saying “there has never been a better time in history to make money doing what you love!”  You can guarantee on Facebook it is going to get trolled and one of the replies I got back was “well I love sleeping, how do you make money doing that!”

I didn’t have an answer till I met the guy from above that wrote the article reviewing mattresses! 

You can start a business doing anything so why not to pick something you love? Write a huge list of what excites you!

So what you can do to find that business idea?

The ten day challenge!

We have covered a lot in this article, so let’s break it down into clear action to help you make progress.

This is your ten day challenge.  For the next 10 days (at least) I want you to become an idea generating machine.  EVERY SINGLE DAY I want you to write down 10 business ideas. 

Here are some prompts to help you get going:

    1. What problems could I solve?

    2. Form the list of people I would LOVE to work with how could I serve them?

    3. From the list of what excites me, what type of business could I do in this area?

    4. Answer the question “how might I make money doing something I love?” and write down the answers

    5. Who else have I seem making money that inspires me?

    6. From the list of problems you have found, start to ask what business could I start to solve this problem?

No judgement. Doesn’t matter if it is a HORRIBLE business idea, get used to writing it down. Collect at least 10 business ideas a day and at the end of the challenge you will have 100 to choose from!

Become a collector of ideas and then you can go on to phase two which is all about choosing which Idea to test out. 

To get more about Ideas and Creativity listen to this podcast episode with Alan Donegan and Simon Paine!

Alan Donegan

Alan is co-founder of the award-winning Rebel Business School, Rebel Finance School and the Rebel Entrepreneur podcast. He became financial independent at 40 years old and now uses his time to help people from all walks of life to start their own businesses, take control of their finances and avoid debt.
Find out more about Alan on his website.