Business Opportunities

“Business opportunities are like buses. There’s always another one coming.” -Richard Branson

The outside world is an interstate of business opportunity buses passing you by, waiting to be boarded or ignored. Some buses, though, are going too fast. Those buses left the station a long time ago, and there’s no hope in trying to flag them down. Some are already as full as a West African bush taxi by the time they arrive—certainly cheap and interesting, but not usually an appealing choice of travel if you have any other options.

Once in a while, though, you’ll find the business opportunity equivalent of the Bolt Bus. This bus service started on the East Coast, and last summer it came to the Pacific Northwest for the first time, taking passengers up and down the I-5 corridor from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Fares are as little as $13. Seats are comfy. The WiFi is free! What more could you want?

The Bolt Bus is a sweet ride, cheaper than Amtrak and easier than flying for short trips. In a smart business strategy, the price goes up as more people purchase. If you wait till the last-minute to get your ticket, you can still ride but you’ll pay more.

The Bolt Bus is the kind of business opportunity bus you want to flag down.

When it comes to the interstate of opportunities, one of the greatest skills you can develop is the ability to pick out passing buses and identify the ones with potential.

Two Buses I Can See Outside My Window

This post isn’t meant to be academic. I’m going to share two specific business opportunities I’ve had in mind for a while but haven’t yet been able to execute.

Case #1: Show People How to Actually Set Up a Website

Format: a free website, supported through hosting commission and/or voluntary donation

People write me every day to ask how to set up a website. Isn’t the answer simple? Well, not really. I always send anyone who asks to, which most of my projects are built on, and if you can’t figure out the 5-step WordPress install, there is also which can host your site directly (for free, yo).

But this answer, truthful as it is, isn’t comprehensive. People still have a lot of questions, and rightly so. How do you register a domain? Which webhost should you use? How do you get it all set up? What if you need help—how do you find a designer or developer or any other smart person?

Despite the fact that there is no shortage of resources available to help people with the task of setting up a website, it seems there is room for another one that could simplify it further. My idea is to create a mini-site to help people through the process with a step-by-step guide and simple screencast video. The project could essentially fund itself through affiliate commission from a hosting company.

Note: People sometimes wonder about competition. If someone else is already pursuing the idea I have in mind, should I give up? Not necessarily. Sometimes an active marketplace is a sign of strong demand, which is good. If no one is offering anything like what you have in mind, it may mean there is no demand for it.

I think this could work well. I just don’t have time for it now, so it remains on the back burner. Business opportunities are like buses! If I don’t get to it anytime soon, another one will roll by.

Case #2: Teach People How to Earn Small Amounts of Money On Their Own Right Away

Format: Microproduct (low-priced, but with additional add-ons)

In most of my business work, I try to help readers create a real business—something they can build over time and will earn money on a long-term basis. This is especially true with The $100 Startup as well as its follow-up course, Adventure Capital, and the classic Empire Building Kit that preceded both of these.

Having said that, I think it’s also important to just get started. When you earn your first sale on your own, it can feel very empowering (see: the story of Nick and the $50 print, or my own first $1.26 from a new project many years ago).

A while back I got about halfway through creating a new mini-course that would provide dozens of ways for people to earn their first hundred dollars on their own, and very quickly. Of course, there would be a couple of twists to this idea. Among other things, the affiliate commission would be flipped on end, where the affiliates would earn the vast majority of the commission from the sale price.

As happens often, however, I then got busy with other things. I had a book manuscript to finish, a tour to plan, events that were coming up, and other commitments that led me to decide the time wasn’t right for this one.

I even have a great name for the project, which is the only thing I won’t share in this post. Otherwise, it’s up for grabs if someone beats me to it—and as mentioned, I’m not that worried if someone does. You’ll be the advance team for my seeing if it really works. 🙂

So, What’s Next?

Both of these ideas came from the application of two key skills: paying attention and being curious. I noticed that lots of people struggle with setting up a website, even though there are many resources to help with it.

I know from my own experience (as well as many other reports) that making the first amount of money, no matter how small, can be incredibly empowering. Wouldn’t it be fun to help people do that en masse?

If you don’t relate to either of these specific ideas, don’t get too distracted by them. The important principle is to pay attention to things you notice as you go about your normal life.

I challenge you to look for a business opportunity that fits the model of convergence—the overlap between what you can offer the world and what the world wants to buy.

What problem can you solve? What solution can you provide?

What bus will you flag down?

Comments here.


Image: Paul

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  • Akinsola says:

    The way you present your blog post and the way I learn my lessons from here always feel like it is new lesson each time, anyway another one this time.

    I would keep this quote
    “Business opportunities are like buses. There’s always another one coming.” -Richard Branson

  • Kristi says:

    Case #1 is exactly what I’m struggling with. I literally have no tech know how or any real interest for this matter, to build a website (I know weebie is free and easy to use but, I’m not sure if it’s for business and is too many technicalities, but I’m sure I could figure it out, it will just take too much time that I can use on other important tasks on my list). There is ton of information about this, but no biz that offers this service (for really reasonable price) for a customer, who just wants practical and easy steps to build a website. I’d love to know how to set up a website in a practical and easy way ?! Great ideas and fab tips Chris!

  • Drew Meyers says:

    The website setup scenario is one I have a bit of experience with, given I ran marketing for a web design firm for a year and have helped numerous of my friends navigate their needs. I believe the real opportunity you are seeing is a trust issue – they contact you because they trust you to provide good advice & not rip them off. As you mention, there are solutions out there that solve the core problem of getting a website setup. The hard part is a matter of navigating a particular person’s options, given their business goals and budget. The fact of the matter is finding someone good to help you is hit or miss. That said, those people are absolutely out there — but most people are not willing to pay what it costs for their help. They view websites as a place to save money by going cheap — and that bites many many people in the *ss. So they end up asking people they know for free help (I get those questions too).

  • Drew Meyers says:

    “There is ton of information about this, but no biz that offers this service (for really reasonable price) for a customer, who just wants practical and easy steps to build a website.”

    Can you define reasonable?

  • Garin Etcheberry says:

    I learned how to use WordPress through lots of trial and error to launch my own projects and now I’m extremely comfortable/competent with it. I’d love to help out with case #1. Email on the way!

  • KT says:

    Wow, super crazy to see you post a business idea I’ve been kicking around for a few months. I have a lot of experience with domain registrations, website start ups, WordPress installations/configurations, and small businesses in general. I’m what you’d call a WordPress evangelist, I’ve created my own blogs, and gotten friends and family started with sites of their own. I would LOVE to help people get their websites going, or offer technical support to those who just needed a little guidance, I just can’t decide if it’s something that I could actually turn into a living. I want to do it, but I guess I get stuck in that trap of ‘would people pay me to do something I actually WANT to do?’

    You’ve definitely given me something more to think about, as usual!

  • Sonja says:

    Pam Wilson offers Site Set Up Kit which teaches how to build a website on a WordPress platform. It’s fairly easy to follow, and starts with how to purchase a domain name, and takes you all the way to the type of fonts and colors to choose. And it’s not very expensive – about $297 – occasionally she runs a sale.

  • La-Shanna D. Henry says:

    Intuit via Google is like $4.00 monthly with really good templates. All you have to do is add your own content.

  • Kacie Jeon says:

    I asked my friend to help me install WordPress onto my domain but she was running late so I figured I could just play around with it. Turns out it only took less than five minutes to set up. I still have a lot to learn but I’m glad I just jumped and went for it.

    In July, I just asked people on tumblr if they’d be interested in a writing group just for people of color since there aren’t that many. Two months later, I have 230ish followers and 20 people participating in a writing exchange. I don’t know if I want to monetize/make a business out of this, but I do want to grow this community I built.

    I’ve been researching self-publishing and teaching myself a lot about e-book production. Maybe there might be something there?

    I really like the bus analogy though since I feel like there’s no time and I need to do everything NOW.

  • Connie Habash says:

    This brings up my current dilemma – I know that I’m “supposed” to create a “product” to offer online, but I can’t seem to get myself motivated. I’m slogging through a lot of resistance. Anyone have good tips on how to let go of the resistance?

    I have an idea I’m excited about for a teleclass in the new year, but have been dragging my heels on starting it. Maybe your post will help me get over the hump of “just do it” – at least, just start it! Thanks, Chris.

  • Autumn says:

    This is exciting! Idea #2 is something I have been thinking about for awhile… I am a single mom with 2 little kids, and we are off traveling the world on the income from my business that I launched after my divorce. Women email me all the time asking how I did it. I read a lot of books that were targeted towards men who want to escape the “rat race” and travel, but very few resources for women or single moms. With 10 million single moms in the US, I think the market is there. Now to create something that could empower them- that would be a challenge!

  • Shannon Lagasse says:

    One idea that’s been on my mind lately is creating some kind of design for women’s dress shoes so that they don’t blister your feet!

    This past week I got EIGHT new blisters from two new pairs of shoes (wedges and sandals). That’s obscene.

    Another idea I had is based off of the need of the community I live in now: a thorough site that lists all kinds of possibilities for traveling for free or on the cheap, residential places to work or volunteer, opportunities to pursue volunteer work for free, yoga ashrams, retreat centers, meditation centers, and all of these kinds of opportunities that would appeal to the spiritual vagabond.

  • Vicky says:

    Love love love the ideas. For some reason I keep thinking of the book – The Go-Giver by Bob Burg. If anyone wants to do this. Definitely do it for free and rely on affiliate commission – But remember – when you give freely, with all your heart – your deed will not go unnoticed. It’s just how it is. New doors will open. New opportunities will come up. I have personally expericed this and it’s an amazing feeling. I would love to help! I love making screencasts!

  • Martin says:

    I am currently on a whirlwind adventure travelling with family around Europe and see so many opportunities here, and that we are missing in North America… I will definitely be doing some investigating and revenue building once we slow back down! Lots of busses passing by…

  • Lyv says:

    The second idea would definitely be helpful!

  • Philip Finlay Bryan says:

    Right Chris, I have been at the forefront of “get your own domain I will hold your hand for free” business for three years. First domain in 2000) I also have my own hosting company so can host too. I use skype ( dude.starship – don’t just ask for contact details ask for web help) to provide support, all prices are at cost. Design I ask for a donation. What I have wondered for many a year is why everyone doesn’t have their own domain. It costs around $15 a year to register which I do as well. The whole set up takes 10 minutes. Its a paltry sum for your own email address AND to be able to answer when asked for personal details ” Google Me” . If you can use a word processor setting up a web site is a piece of cake. The Internet is our home – whats your address?

  • Fraser says:

    I think there will always be room for a business helping people get their presence established online and it should be a growth sector for many years to come.

    The real opportunity exists in how the service is offered and what would be included; keyword research, domain selection, configuration, design, content creation…

    Packaging the service and hitting affordable price points is the key.


  • Philip Finlay Bryan says:

    Been offering a service like you describe (#1) for six months now. I register domains and host at cost price through my own company. It takes 10 minutes to do and the fees are paltry. Many of us live on the Internet yet still don’t have an address which has struck me as odd. I offer support through Skype. I accept donations for design work. I mean if people want my contact details or want to know what I do I just say “Google me” Cannot understand why more people do not do the same. Ssshh here’s a secret : the Internet is not going away any time soon.

  • Eva says:

    I was thinking of building a website to guide people through the different steps of setting up a website, mainly to give it to potential clients to figure out whether or not they want to hire me to do all these things for them. I often encounter clients that don’t really have the budget to let a professional handle everything or don’t understand some of the technicalities involved, why they need both hosting and a url for example, so a site that explains every step in clear language would make my life easier. It’s very interesting to read that you would see this as a business opportunity.

    My initial idea was to set this up only for the Dutch speaking market as I was under the impression that there are plenty of resources in English already. Judging by your article and the comments that apparently isn’t enough?

  • Jazreen T says:

    Inspiring as always! Eager to read and participate in your Case 2 Project.

  • Donnie Law says:

    Chris I’d love to know what you’ll be up to post 193.

  • Kirsty Stuart says:

    ‘The important principle is to pay attention to things you notice as you go about your normal life.’

    Sometimes it can feel like I have too many ideas and I’m unsure how to whittle them down into viable business proposals… I suppose that comes with practice and a whole lot of trial and error.

    Thanks for a slightly different post from you this time Chris. Always mixing it up – good stuff 🙂

  • Samantha says:

    Love it. I am excited to see what business opportunity you are creating :-).

  • Jeff Goins says:

    I saw this with writing — something I’d done and helped others do (offline) for years. It was so obvious and so unoriginal that I overlooked it, even dismissed it, for a long time. When I finally started sharing what I know, I was amazed at the opportunities available. Great post, Chris. I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of helping people launch a website and what that might look like.

  • Debmalya says:

    This is really an interesting post even though you have reiterated what you have been saying over the past few years. But for me the real problem lies in my fear of going out all alone and to add to my chagrin I really don’t have the eyes to spot the “convergence”.

  • Hazel Lau says:

    I flagged down my bus last year October. Before that, my sister and I were selling book cover design gig on Fiverr. I noticed that there was a demand in Kindle book cover. I did some research and put together a simple Kindle publishing package. One of my Fiverr clients continue to order. I decided to make this a serious business and Kindle Station is born!

    Two main problems:
    – They do not know how (or spending too much time) to format a Kindle book. Either their books get rejected on Amazon or the poorly formatted books garner negative reviews.
    – They do not have big budget nor the skills to design a Kindle book cover and the ugly cover is causing them lose sales

    We transform your manuscript into ready-to-sell Kindle book and design custom book marketing tools that work.

    (Remember “give them the fish” from $100 Startup? That’s exactly what we are doing – a done-for-you Kindle publishing solution. Instead of teaching them how to do (a lot of people are doing so), we give them what they want. They send in their manuscript and see their books live on Amazon after 72 hours.

  • Hazel Lau says:

    Something to note from my previous post about my business, many of the “competitors” in our niche are teaching “how to make money through Kindle publishing”. This is a hot trend right now. But instead of following that (the gold rush), we ride on it by offering “shovels”.

    We love what we do because this business is not about money, it’s a combination of skills and passions. My sister is a graphic designer so she handles all the design works; I’ve learnt quite a bit of online marketing so I handles all the sales and marketing parts. Think this as what Chris always say, “skill transformation”.

    We are startup and we continue to hustle and learn. The truth is, you already know enough to start. Then start.

  • Justin says:

    Great post. Ties right in with the $100 startup, which you sent to me pre-launch (at no charge.. you ROCK!)

    Piggybacking on the post though… I wish there was a website out there that just talked about part time or low overhead businesses. Stuff people could start on the side. People could post ideas or even sell business plans for businesses they have started.

    Thanks for the great post. I’m working on something right up note 2’s alley and this solidified my drive to succeed.

    Thanks Chris!

  • Marie-France says:

    I figured out how to create and host a WordPress site on my own. (BigTravelNut helps women explore the world on a budget). But I could definitely use ideas to make small amounts of money quickly. 🙂 Right now my site is not monetized (it’s brand new).

    I like Hazel’s business idea above though, and may use that once I have my own e-book ready to publish!

  • Nate says:

    well said, I would agree the first $100 is the hardest and the most enjoyable to earn!

  • Kashif says:

    I have two scenarios where I would like to apply my (and others’) thoughts. I am running a job listing site, connecting employers and job seekers. Most of my users are aspiring professionals or fresh grads who are unable to find jobs or better career opportunities as they lack the required experience / skill set. I am planning to see to offer them a set of services that can enable them to create a portfolio by performing certain activities. For example, if someone is looking for a website developer job, she can take certain tests and solve problems, compile them in her profile to show to prospect employers that she has got what it takes.

  • Nasser Ugoji says:

    I think the way to help people build their websites is to hold their hand through the process. From getting the domain name to web hosting and Portal/Website template. Give them support on developing content and either doing the populating of the site yourself or getting them to pay for a web designer or graphic designer to design the graphics to their satisfaction.

    In order to develop content I normally ask them to produce a business (company) profile.

  • Marcy says:

    I’m currently working on a website project. For me the hardest part of website creation is all the little things you need to know that added together become big and much harder to figure out.

    I want to create a step-by-step process that makes you think… Volia! That was fun.. I’m proud of my site.

    Banish website shame forever.

  • Leonardo says:

    I was really struck by Richard Branson’s quote. It represents the true mindset of seeing opportunities were most people fail to see them. All of you who are interested in the topic of seeing business opportunities in everyday life, I reccommend the book “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20” by Stanford professor Tina Seelig.

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  • Miroslava Mirka says:

    The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.

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