Want to start a side business but don’t know where to start? Please steal one of these 10 ideas.

by Garin Etcheberry

I have a disease called HIMD: Hyperactive Idea Muscle Disorder. I can’t stop thinking of new ideas. I have too many things I’d like to accomplish but not enough time, so I have to prioritize and sometimes cool projects get thrown away or neglected.

So here is a list of 10 ideas that I may or may not get around to. If you need your first idea, please take one of these. If you make a million dollars, please buy me a really sweet motorcycle. If you’d like to collaborate on something, please contact me; I’d be more than happy to talk about bringing any of these to life. I hope you find something that piques your interest!

Here’s the list:

  1. Our system for preparing young people for the future is broken. Colleges charge kids ungodly sums of money to inadequately prepare them for jobs that no longer exist. And when unemployment rises, our solution is to provide more loans that simply perpetuate this broken system and shackle kids to more debt. I believe we need to begin offering alternatives at a younger age. Here’s one idea: call up all the most interesting businesspeople you can think of in your city. Anyone who is making a living by doing what they love or blazing their own trail. Ask them if they would be willing to meet with a group of high school students once a month, talk about their journey to success, share important life lessons, and explain the intricacies of their business. They could even do a tour of their office and show what a day in their life is like. This way young people would get a dose of inspiration and mentorship, and also get a first-hand look into a career they might be interested in pursuing after high school. You could turn this into a weekly after school program and charge parents for 6-week sessions.
  2. You could take this idea one step further and turn it into an alternative to college. Find 300 businesses in different industries in your city. Ask them if they would be willing, if you could vet hard-working and motivated young people, to accept an intern for 5 hours a week for 2 months. The person would obviously work, but the businesses would agree to teach as much as possible. Then put all of these 300 businesses in a binder. This is now your curriculum. Find 20 parents whose children don’t know if college is right for them. Convince the parents to let their kids move into a big house together. Fill it with bunk beds and turn it into a dorm. Charge the parents “tuition” and use that money to cover rent for the year. (Include food and expenses and it would still come out to be a fraction of college.) Then show the binder to the “students” and say “these are our available classes. Every person pick out 8 places where you want to work this semester. In two months you’ll pick 8 more, and 8 after that and 8 after that.” So by the end of the year each person will have worked in 48 different businesses, have a diverse array of skills, an intimate knowledge of many industries, and a concrete idea of what he/she wants to do with his future. And all of that in only 1 year. Compare that to the average college student who tries only 3 majors in 4 years. You could add other components as well: over the course of the year each student will publish an article, launch his/her own website, start an online business, give a speech in front of 100+ people, volunteer at a charity, and once a month we’ll have someone like Richard Branson or James Altucher speak to the group via Skype and project their talking head onto the wall. How amazing would your resume be at the end of the year?! I would have loved to have gone to a school like this!
  3. Podcasting is exploding right now, and with wifi soon coming to cars the industry will only keep getting bigger. It’s not hard to imagine that podcasts will soon replace terrestrial radio. So if you have a message you want to spread, if you want to establish yourself as a trusted expert in your field, or if you want a platform to reach new customers and grow your business, you’re probably already thinking about podcasting. The problem is time. For every minute of air time it can easily take 10 minutes or more of editing, production, exporting, uploading, and all of the other necessary functions. That’s where you come in. Make a list of all of the people you know that don’t have a podcast but should. These could be national authors you’ve read or even local businesspeople you know in your city. Pitch them 10 show ideas and explain that you’ll be their co-host. You’ll call them on Skype and feed them questions. For example, you can agree on show outlines ahead of time and then you walk the host through the outline on air, providing structure. Once the show is done and the host hangs up, you do absolutely everything else: edit the audio, insert music and sound effects, upload it to itunes, share on social media accounts, etc. Literally all the host has to do is talk on Skype for 30 minutes and BAM, now he/she has a podcast. You could charge a monthly subscription for this. (If you’re interested in podcasting, DO NOT start a podcast until you’ve done these 5 things.)
  4. High school lunches are ridiculous. Kids eat pizza and hamburgers every day in the cafeteria (even fast food in some schools!) and we wonder why there are so many problems with childhood obesity and behavioral issues. (I saw a report on a school that switched to all homemade lunches. Disciplinary issues plummeted, test scores skyrocketed, nearly every metric improved.) This isn’t a big secret, but most parents are simply too busy to make their kids healthy lunches. You should put flyers in your neighbors’ mailboxes or on the cork-board at your local Starbuck’s or Whole Foods advertising a weekly frozen meal delivery service. Every Sunday night you’ll deliver five healthy, frozen meals to parents that they can give to their kids to take to school. This might be too uncool for high school kids, so you could base each meal off of a famous fit person. “This is a recipe that Chris Hemsworth eats when he’s getting ready for a role. This recipe was provided by Jennifer Lawrence’s nutritionist.”
  5. I’ve written a number of guest articles on other people’s blogs. It’s a great way to get traffic and exposure, but the vast majority of people don’t take the time to find these opportunities. Here’s a way I’ve been thinking about taking advantage of that: I went to Iran a couple years ago and absolutely fell in love with it. Now that the government has been opening up, tourism has been increasing and tour companies specializing in Iran have been salivating to start bringing more tourists to this amazing country. What I’m going to do is approach travel websites and say “Here are 10 headlines for articles I could write about Iran. Would you be interested in any of these, written by one of the few Americans who has been there?” When I get ‘yeses’ I’ll then go to tour companies that go to Iran and say “I’m going to be publishing an article in XYZ travel site, will you sponsor me for $400? In my bio I’ll say I’m a writer for your company, and say that if anyone is interested in visiting Iran to contact you and I’ll include your information.” This is a great model because you get paid before you have to write anything. You could use this exact same approach in dozens of different industries. (If you’re interested in making money as a writer, check out this article 15 Kinds Of Ebooks You Can Write To Start Your Infoproduct Business.)
  6. It’s getting easier and easier for the average person to launch a YouTube channel or podcast and build an enormous following. The only problem is the gear can add up really quick: DSLR cameras, video cameras, lighting equipment, microphones, computers powerful enough for video editing, etc. I think it would be fantastic if there was a coworking space that catered to content creators. For a monthly membership fee you would have access to a facility that had soundproof rooms for podcasting, mini film studios with green screens and lighting rigs, a computer bay with powerful desktops with video editing software, and a selection of cameras and microphones and other gear that you could check out by the hour. Here’s how I would actually bring this to life: PivotDesk.com is a website where businesses that have extra office space can lease out desks to solo entrepreneurs or small teams. It’s kind of like Airbnb for the corporate world. Find a company in your city that has a large amount of space listed on PivotDesk. Tell them you want to turn their space into a coworking space for creatives. Do the math for what it would cost them to make necessary renovations and buy the relevant tech gear (they might already have this stuff), but also do the math on how many more memberships they could sell, the price per membership, and the amount of time the average member would spend in the space (I’m assuming much less than the typical desk worker). It’s very possible that you could find a large company to provide the physical space and startup costs, and you could take a minority equity stake to be the manager.
  7. This spring, dozens of restaurants in my city collaborated on a promotion where for $30 you could get a 5-course meal at any of the participating places. It was a clever way for restaurants to pool their name power and encourage people to explore places they might not know about. I started thinking “what other ways could you use this collaborative idea?” Why not bars?! My idea is to create some kind of “punch card” (probably more high tech than that, like an app) where for $25 you get one drink at 5 different bars. You could make it bars that are all within walking distance of each other, to encourage people to explore new neighborhoods they haven’t been to. I’ve started working on this in my city (it’s going to be called PintPass.co); feel free to steal the idea and bring it to your town!
  8. This is a super niche idea, but one that would be a lot of fun for an MMA fan. The UFC just announced an exclusive sponsorship deal with Reebok; by mid-2015 fighters will no longer be able to wear apparel from other sponsors at any UFC event. Fighters will undoubtedly grumble at the potential loss of revenue (at least until we know for sure how much Reebok will be paying the average athlete). Fighters are still allowed to wear whatever they want outside of the UFC though, which means opportunity for creative MMA fans. Here’s what you do: find your local UFC fighters and pitch them 10 ideas for content you could create for them. A video series about a day in the life of the fighter, daily training vlogs, exercise tips via vine, snapchats of the fighter’s secret moves, etc. By building up an online following and creating media outlets they control, the fighters who do this will be able to get better personal sponsors. You could even help find the sponsorships, and your fee could be a percentage of the sponsorship money.
  9. Noah Kagan wrote this fantastic article earlier this year. It made me think there are a million variations of this idea. Someone should start a Man Society where once a week for 2 months a group of men get together to do manly stuff: shoot guns, learn how to work on cars, learn how to fight, taste whiskey (don’t tell me I’m being stereotypical, I enjoy all of these things!). Depending on the activity, you could probably get someone to donate resources for free/cheap. For example, if you charged $20 per session and had 20 guys, that’s $400/night. If you want to a mechanic and said “if I brought in 20 dudes, would you teach us basic mechanics for an hour for $100?” I’m sure he would say yes as he’ll make money and surely leave with a couple new customers. The same could be done for many different activities. I would sign up for something like this!
  10. Most people realize that building an email list is one of the most important things you can do for an online business. Many brick-and-mortar businesses don’t collect email addresses though. A simple yet valuable service would be going into stores in your town and offering to do this for them. For example, you could go into a teriyaki place and offer to set up a jar that says “fill out a card for the chance to receive a free lunch!” Place a stack of cards next to it with fill-in-the-blanks: first name, last name, and a line that says “what email address should we contact if you win?” (Customers will be less likely to object to sharing their email this way.) Then once a week you stop by the restaurant, collect the cards, and enter the names and email addresses into the restaurant’s Mailchimp account. As part of your fee, you could also write an autoresponder series: six emails over the course of two months that lets customers get to know the restaurant, understand what sets them apart, and maybe give out discounts or incentives. You could charge businesses a monthly or quarterly subscription fee for this service. Sell the first few subscriptions relatively inexpensively and have them fill out weekly or monthly surveys about how much business is being generated via email. Now, armed with this data, you can raise your rates and go to new businesses and say “For $X I will increase your customer visits by X%.” This would work in an infinite number of industries.

I hope that this list got your gears spinning! These are obviously rough ideas though, and there are a ton of unanswered questions.

I’ve created an actual blueprint you can follow to start an online business. It’s called the 7-Day Challenge.

Every day you’ll receive a video along with a worksheet. Watch the short training, fill out the worksheet, and in just 7 days you’ll have a crystal clear road map for bringing your business to life.

You can learn more about it here. Click “Join Now” to get started.

I challenge you to build your online business!

Written by

Starting businesses to create the freedom to follow my purpose. Connecting people around the globe. Interviewing one person from every country in the world.

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