“I Want to Start a Business But Have No Ideas” – The Digital Nomad’s Guide to Getting Started

Ever found yourself staring into space and thinking, “I want to start a business but have no ideas?” Trust me, you’re not alone. 

You’ve got the drive, the ambition, and the laptop. You’re even sipping on that artisan coffee ready to conquer the world, but when it comes to the actual idea… crickets.

Here’s the good news. Standing at this crossroads isn’t a dead end. It’s actually a fantastic starting point. Because, believe it or not, not knowing where to start means you have the entire map to explore.

And that, my adventurous friend, is where the real fun begins.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat here, journaling my thoughts, doom scrolling through the internet, trying to workout what the best business idea could be for me.

Filled with so many thoughts, but also, nothing tangible enough to get started, I’ve had my fair share of meltdowns to know that this is actually a really great place to be.

So together, in this guide, we’re going to turn that overwhelming feeling of “I have no ideas” into a mountain of inspiration.

Whether you’re aiming to become a digital nomad, dreaming of daily work from an exotic location, or simply looking for a passion-fueled side gig…this article is your first step towards something great.

We’ll explore various avenues to spark those elusive ideas, answer some burning questions you might have, and even throw in a hefty list of online business ideas to get the gears turning.

Discover Your Path

Remember that feeling of being a kid in a candy store?

That’s kind of like how it feels when you start to uncover all the potential business ideas out there. But instead of reaching for the first candy bar you see, it’s all about finding the sweetest idea.

Are you going to lean on your passions and skills, or will you ride the wave of what’s trending? 

Here’s three ways to uncover your next business idea!

1. Introspection and Self-Questioning

This is my personal favorite.

Dig deep into what’s already going on in your mind. This one is all about asking yourself the right questions.

The benefits?

You end up discovering ideas that resonate with you on a personal level, potentially leading to a business that doesn’t just exist for profit but also fulfills a deeper purpose.

The downside is that our bias and personal experiences means we’re sometimes too close to see the realities of market demand and whether it has a practical application.

To start, dedicate some quiet time for reflection.

Think about the moments you’ve felt most alive, the problems you’ve enjoyed solving, and the topics that ignite your passion.

We’ve got some questions listed later on to help you get started. 

2. Pick From a List of Ideas

Sometimes, we’re too close to our own story to see the plot. This is where a good, old-fashioned list comes in handy.

Picture a bunch of online business ideas laid out before you – from freelance writing and graphic design to starting your own YouTube channel or eCommerce store.

The trick lies in not just pick what you think you should be doing or what seems lucrative.

This is about matching what you genuinely enjoy with what you’re either already skilled at or are willing to learn. Rate each idea based on your interest level and your current (or potential) skill level. 

Again, we’re here to help you get the ball rolling so we’ve put together a list of our top online business ideas below to help you get started. 

3. Leverage Tools to Discover Trends

This method involves utilizing digital resources to identify what’s currently in demand. The advantage here is clear: You’re tapping into existing markets with proven interest.

The challenge? These fields can be competitive, and it might take some extra creativity to stand out.

Start with tools like Google Trends to understand search behavior, or social media platforms to catch emerging trends. By understanding what’s hot right now (and likely expected to grow), you can find a niche that not only interests you but has a ready customer demographic waiting for someone exactly like you to come along. 

Jump to a Method

I Want to Start a Business But Have No Ideas - Computer Research

Image credit: Unsplash

The Art of Self-Questioning

Ever had that moment where someone asks you something that stops you in your tracks and makes you think, “Wow, I never thought of it that way?”

That’s the power of the right question.

It can open doors you didn’t even know were there. For those of you thinking, “I want to start a business but have no ideas,” it’s time to turn the spotlight inward. 

Here are some pivotal questions to ask yourself to get you one step closer to uncovering your ideal online business.

Jump to a Question

1. What am I passionate about?

This is where it all starts.

What gets you out of bed in the morning, eager to dive into the day? It could be anything from a love for travel, a fascination with technology, or a desire to help others achieve their goals. Your passion is the fuel for your business idea, and it’s what keeps you motivated when the going gets tough.

2. What is my why?

Take “what am I passionate about?” and go one step further to understand why you care about something, and unlock your true motivation.

Why do I care about this, and why do I show up in the way that I do? What feeling am I yearning to achieve? What message do I want to deliver? Maybe you would consider starting a sports class for kids and the reason is because you want children to have a safe place to hang out.

Your why is so much stronger than the actual idea!

3. What kind of work do I find fulfilling, even when it gets tough?

This question is inspired by Mark Manson’s concept of the “favorite shit sandwich”.

Every job, no matter how passionate you are about it, will have its tough moments. What are the challenges you’re willing to face because the work is meaningful to you?

Which shit sandwich are you going to choose? It may as well be one in an industry you’re passionate about.

4. What gets me excited about the day?

Think about what activities or tasks make you look forward to starting your day.

Identify these to help you pinpoint areas of genuine interest that could translate into a business idea. Even if that idea is meeting up with a certain friend, enjoying a specific meal, or having some alone time, each of these moments shine a light on what’s important to you

5. What's an easy 'yes' for me?

Consider the types of projects, activities, or tasks that you never hesitate to take on because they resonate deeply with your interests or skills.

This can reveal a lot about your potential business direction.

Try to go beyond the obvious here. Are you happy to organize group events? Do you love tracking costs, but hate calling vendors? Are you comfortable with numbers and can track expenses with ease? Do you prefer to forego planning, but rather focus on the vibe? Are you the hype girl/guy? The social media guru? The wallflower with a great book suggestion?

What is your easy ‘yes’?

6. Which types of people do I enjoy working with?

Your preference in collaborators or clients can significantly influence the type of business you should consider.

Do you thrive in creative communities, tech-savvy groups, or amongst health and wellness enthusiasts? Which type of people do you want to surround yourself with? Who do you want to serve?

7. What can I talk about for hours on end?

Is there a subject or activity that you’re so passionate about that you could discuss it endlessly without losing interest?

This passion could be the foundation of your business, whether it’s through teaching, creating content, or offering a service.

8. What do friends and family constantly ask me for help with?

The requests you frequently receive can highlight a skill or knowledge area that others value highly.

This could be anything from tech support to fashion advice, and it might just be your business niche waiting to be explored.

9. How do I prefer to spend my free time?

Your leisure activities can offer insights into potential business ideas that align with your passions. Whether it’s outdoor adventures, crafting, or coding, there’s likely a way to monetize what you love doing in your free time.

10. What am I willing to do for free?

The things you’re willing to do without the motivation of money, are usually the things you’re most passionate about.

Reflecting on these can guide you to a business idea that doesn’t feel like work.

For example, I’d gladly plan a friend’s trip or set up a monthly budget for them. These tasks are easy and enjoyable for me, whereas for others, I would most likely hire someone else to do them (this is where you come in).

11. What makes me forget to eat and sleep?

Okay, don’t take this one at face value – it’s a joke… I love food too much to forget to eat!

What I really mean is…what captures your attention so fully that you lose track of time? Activities that engross you to this extent are likely aligned with your core passions and interests. 

12. What issues or causes am I passionate about?

If there’s a cause you’re deeply invested in, consider how you might build a business that supports or addresses this issue. Social entrepreneurship can be both fulfilling and profitable.

13. What skills do I have or am I willing to learn?

We all have a unique set of skills, but when you’re thinking of starting an online business, it’s crucial to align those skills with what the market needs.

Perhaps you’re great at graphic design, coding, or writing captivating content. Or maybe you’re still at the starting line, ready to learn something new.

Either way, knowing your skillset (and your willingness to expand it) is key to identifying a business idea that’s both viable and enjoyable.

14. What problems do I enjoy solving?

Every successful business solves a problem. So, ask yourself, what problems do you enjoy tackling?

Do you love creating systems that organize chaos, or find joy in making complex subjects easy to understand. Your problem-solving skills can lead to innovative business ideas that offer real value to your customers.

15. Who is my ideal customer?

Visualize the person you want to serve. Then work out their specific needs, pain points, and how you can make their life better.

Understanding your ideal customer, shapes everything from your business idea to your marketing strategy. It’s not just about who you want to help, but understanding why they’re out there looking for a solution you can provide.

16. What can I offer that is not already out there?

In a world that feels saturated with businesses and startups, finding your unique angle is essential.

What can you offer that’s different from products and services that are already available? This could be a unique approach to an existing service, a new product that addresses an overlooked need, or simply doing something better than it’s been done before.

Think about the gaps in the market and how your skills, passions, and the problems you enjoy solving can fill them.

17. How do I know if people will pay for it?

This question is all about validation.

You’ve identified what you love, what you’re good at, and what you can offer that’s unique, but will people pay for it?

Start by doing some informal market research. Talk to potential customers, ask for feedback on your idea, and look for evidence that there’s a demand for what you’re proposing. This could be through surveys, social media engagement, or even a small beta test of your product or service.

18. Can this idea support my digital nomad lifestyle?

For those dreaming of a business that perfectly complements the digital nomad lifestyle, consider the location-independence of your idea.

Can it be managed from anywhere in the world? Does it require you to be in a specific place at a specific time?

Ideally, your business should fit into your desired lifestyle, not dictate it.

Look for ideas that allow for flexible schedules and are not overly reliant on physical inventory or face-to-face interactions.

19. What are the first steps to make this idea a reality?

Now that you’ve honed in on a potential business idea, what are the immediate steps to bring it to life?

This could involve more detailed market research, creating a business plan, setting up a website, or developing a prototype.

Break down the process into manageable steps and start tackling them one by one

I Want to Start a Business But Have No Ideas - Journaling

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Spark Creativity with a List of Online Business Ideas

Sometimes we’re so entangled in our own thoughts that we accidentally overlook the goldmine of ideas within us. This is where a well-curated list of online business ideas comes in handy.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Glancing through the list below might just spark your creativity and curiosity, giving ideas you never considered viable or interesting before.

Consider this list a starting point for your creativity, not the boundary of what’s possible.

And if you’re looking to go a bit further, check out even more info about the top digital nomad jobs for beginners.

Brace yourself, this list is long and almost guaranteed to generate at least a few ideas…

Discover a Job Industry

Creative Writing Services

> Copywriting: Crafting persuasive content for advertising or marketing.

> Content Writing: Producing engaging blog posts, articles, or web content.

> Ghostwriting: Writing content on behalf of clients, maintaining their voice.

> Technical Writing: Creating manuals, FAQs, and documentation for products and services.

> Scriptwriting: Writing scripts for videos, podcasts, or advertisements.

Editing, Proofreading, Translation, and Transcription

> Editing Services: Refining and polishing written content.

> Proofreading: Checking and correcting errors in text.

> Translation Services: Translating content into different languages.

> Transcription Services: Transcribing audio or video content into written form.

Graphic Design and Web Development

> Graphic Design Services: Offering logo, branding, or social media design.

> Web Development: Building and maintaining websites for clients.

> Logo Design: Creating unique logos for brands and businesses.

> Branding Services: Developing a brand identity for companies.

Photography and Video

> Photography: Selling stock photos or offering photography services online.

> Video Production: Creating and editing videos for online content.

> Video Editing: Providing editing services for client-produced video content.

> Drone Photography/Videography: Offering aerial photography and videography services.

Virtual Assistance and Administrative Services

> Virtual Assistance: Providing remote administrative support to businesses.

> Customer Service: Offering remote customer support services.

> Data Entry: Performing data entry tasks for businesses and organizations.

> Bookkeeping: Managing financial records and transactions for clients remotely.

Online Teaching and Coaching

> Online Tutoring: Teaching subjects you’re knowledgeable in via video calls.

> Language Teaching: Offering language lessons to non-native speakers.

> Course Creation: Developing and selling courses on platforms like Udemy or Teachable.

> E-book Writing and Publishing: Sharing your expertise in a downloadable format.

> Educational Webinars/Workshops: Hosting live sessions on specialized topics.

Digital Marketing

> Social Media Management: Managing social media accounts for businesses.

> SEO Consulting: Helping websites improve their search engine ranking.

> Content Marketing: Developing a content strategy for brands to engage their audience.

> Email Marketing: Running email campaigns for customer retention and sales.

> Affiliate Marketing: Earning commissions by promoting other companies’ products.

Ecommerce & Product Sales

> Dropshipping: Selling products online without holding inventory. 

> Print-on-Demand Services: Offering customized products without upfront inventory.

> Digital Products: Selling software, templates, or digital art.

> Subscription Services: Providing access to digital content or services on a subscription basis.

Tech Solutions

> App Development: Creating mobile or web apps to solve common problems.

> Tech Support Services: Offering remote tech support for software or hardware issues.

> Cybersecurity Consulting: Helping businesses protect their digital assets.

> Cloud Computing Services: Providing cloud storage and services to businesses.

> Software as a Service (SaaS): Developing and selling subscription-based software.

Side Gigs

> Online Surveys: Participating in online surveys for market research.

> Product Testing: Testing products and providing feedback.

> Freelance Market Research: Conducting research for companies and providing insights.

> Virtual Event Planning: Organizing and coordinating online events.

> Social Media Influencing: Building a following and partnering with brands for promotions.

I Want to Start a Business But Have No Ideas - Graphic Designer

Image credit: Unsplash

Use Tools to Spot What's Trending

Sometimes, you just want to get ahead of the game.

Jumping on the right bandwagon at the right time, can payoff in exponential amounts later on.

Does anyone remember when Bitcoin was $700 per coin? I do. It was late 2016 and I still kick myself for not purchasing it then. 

So how do you know what’s trending or which bandwagon to jump on? Tools and data!

Below are a few of our favorite trend-tracking tools.

Google Trends

Google Trends is like having a crystal ball for the internet.

It allows you to see what people are searching for across the globe, track interest in topics over time, and even compare the popularity of different search terms. This tool can be invaluable to identify emerging trends or to gauge interest in potential business ideas.

Whether you’re considering starting a blog, launching a product, or creating content, Google Trends can help validate your idea by showing you real-time and historical data on what’s capturing the world’s attention.

Social Media Insights

Social media platforms are not just for sharing memes and vacation pics (right?!), they’re also goldmines for market insight.

Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn offer analytics and insights that reveal which content resonates with different audiences. By monitoring hashtags, trending topics, and influencer content, you can uncover what’s current, what’s fading, and what’s next on the horizon.

This real-time feedback loop can help adjust your business strategy to align with what your target audience is actually interested in.

Online Marketplaces Insights

Platforms like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay have tons of data on consumer preferences and buying behavior.

By analyzing best-selling products, customer reviews, and category trends, you can identify gaps in the market that your business could fill. These platforms often provide tools and reports for sellers that can shed light on what’s in demand, seasonal trends, and even geographic preferences, making them invaluable for ecommerce entrepreneurs.

Industry Reports and News Sites

Staying in the loop about your industry is essential, and there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned research.

Websites like TechCrunch, Mashable, and Forbes, along with industry-specific reports, offer deeper insight into market trends, startup news, and technological advancements.

While these sources might require more time to sift through, they can provide a comprehensive look into the broader market context, helping you position your business idea for long-term success.

Keyword Research Tools

Keyword research tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz offer a window into what your potential customers are searching for online.

These tools can help you understand search volume, competition levels, and even the profitability of specific keywords. By identifying high-demand, low-competition keywords related to your business idea, you can tap into niches that offer both visibility and viability.

I Want to Start a Business But Have No Ideas - Trends

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Important FAQs

Here’s some of the most frequently asked questions that entrepreneurs and digital nomads might have on their minds.

Before putting your hand in your pocket, consider validating your business idea with minimal financial risk.

Create a landing page for your product or service to gauge interest and collect email addresses to make a cost-effective start. Utilizing platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo for crowdfunding not only tests the demand but can also provide initial capital.

Additionally, consider offering a beta version of your service or a prototype product to a select group in exchange for feedback to gain valuable insights.

While uniqueness can be a significant advantage, the execution of the idea often holds more weight than the idea itself.

Many successful businesses weren’t built on entirely new concepts but on improving existing products or services, solving problems more effectively, or serving an underserved market.

Focus on delivering exceptional value, identifying a clear target market, and executing your business plan effectively.

Starting a business in a trending field can be a smart move, even if you’re not currently an expert, as long as you’re willing to learn quickly and deeply immerse yourself in the topic.

Many successful entrepreneurs dive into new industries by identifying opportunities and dedicating themselves to understanding the market. Leverage online courses, mentors, and industry groups to accelerate your learning curve.

The key is genuine interest and commitment to becoming knowledgeable in the area.

Validation is all about ensuring there’s a market for your product or service before you dive in.

Start by sharing your idea with friends, family, and potential customers. Get feedback, listen to their concerns, and note their suggestions.

Next, consider creating a minimum viable product (MVP) or a service prototype to test the water. Use social media, online forums, or crowdfunding platforms to gauge interest and collect pre-orders.

Remember, real validation comes from customers willing to pay for your offering, not just compliments.

Utilize your existing network – social media, professional connections, and even friends and family can be great starting points.

Participate in online communities related to your niche and offer genuine value before promoting your business.

Consider leveraging SEO and content marketing to attract organic traffic to your website or use targeted ads on social media to reach potential customers. Word-of-mouth is powerful, so ensure your early customers have an excellent experience they can’t help but share.

Starting an online business requires navigating a maze of legal considerations to ensure you’re fully compliant. This includes choosing the right business structure (sole proprietorship, LLC, etc.), registering your business, understanding and adhering to online business laws (like privacy policies and e-commerce regulations), and dealing with taxes.

It’s crucial to research the specific requirements in your country or state. Consulting with a legal professional can provide tailored advice and help you avoid pitfalls.

Managing finances and navigating taxes can be complex for digital nomads, given the varied income streams and potential international regulations.

First, get a good grasp of your home country’s tax requirements for overseas income. Consider using a financial management app to track expenses and income. Opening a bank account that favors international transactions and offers currency flexibility can also be beneficial.

Since tax laws can be intricate and vary greatly, consulting with a tax professional experienced in digital nomad taxation is wise. They can provide advice on deductions, tax treaties, and more to ensure you’re compliant and optimized for tax purposes.

Do You Have an Idea?

We finally reached the light at the end of the very long “I want to start a business but have no ideas” tunnel.

How are you feeling? Please tell me you’ve got at least a few ideas scribbled on your notepad (or typed up, because, you know, it’s the digital age).

The next step is most powerful… take action! 

Instead of closing that notebook and filing those ideas away, what will you do to get this idea off the ground?

If you haven’t already, I’d schedule in 60 minutes over the next day or two to map out what the next steps would look like. Is it asking a question on social media to gauge interest or buying a domain name? Take the time to map this out and take the first step. I promise you, it’ll be worth it. 

If you’re ready to get started, we’ve pulled together a list of all our favorite business tools to help you get started too! It’s a massive list and we didn’t leave any stone unturned. And if you think we did, please comment below and we’d be happy to find an answer for you. 

And when you’re ready, please share you new business idea in the comments below so we can like, follow, and share our support!

Max quit her corporate job in 2013 to take a chance building businesses online while traveling the world. Armed with an adventurous spirit and a can-do attitude, Max has traveled to more than 50 countries, embracing slow travel as a digital nomad and long-term living in places such as Thailand, India, Nepal, and Indonesia. Max currently resides in Bali where she oversees content creation for DNG as our resident travel aficionado.
Picture of Max Pankow
Max Pankow
Max quit her corporate job in 2013 to take a chance building businesses online while traveling the world. Armed with an adventurous spirit and a can-do attitude, Max has traveled to more than 50 countries, embracing slow travel as a digital nomad and long-term living in places such as Thailand, India, Nepal, and Indonesia. Max currently resides in Bali where she oversees content creation for DNG as our resident travel aficionado.

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