The Simple 4-Step Method to Find Your Profitable Business Idea

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Editor’s note: this article is excerpted from Daniel DiPiazza’s recently released book Rich20Something: Ditch Your Average Job, Start An Epic Business, Score The Life You Want.

If you’re reading this right now, there’s a good chance you want to start a business. Or you already have. And if so, you’re probably doing some agonizing about your business idea.

No, I’m not a psychic, but I have spent an incredible amount of time during the past five years planning, strategizing, and growing my own company Rich20Something. So I know a thing or two about what it’s like to be in your shoes.

Coming up with and testing a great business idea is one of the most challenging parts of entrepreneurship. And you can’t get around it — it all starts with an idea.

While I was working on my new book (plug!), I developed a simple four-step solution to determine whether you’re headed for a business breakthrough—or simply a breakdown. Here’s how it works.

How to Find Your Profitable Idea

Before we go any further, I have one favor to ask of you: Don’t start freaking out, OK?Most people get really weird or anxious when it’s time to start developing ideas for their business. Lots of people love the idea of brainstorming ideas, but can never actually find an idea that they like enough to execute. Or often, they don’t think it’s “good enough” to execute. I’m not sure why or how, but as soon as we think of a potential business idea, most of us seem to get this bug that makes us believe whatever we think of isn’t “good enough.”

Potential or aspiring entrepreneurs seem to face two huge problems when it comes to developing an idea:

1) We don’t think we have any good ideas, so there’s nothing we can possibly see succeeding. This is the guy who’s always telling you about a new project he wants to start, and then you find out two weeks later he’s already completely abandoned it.

2) We think we have too many good ideas, and we are completely confused as to which one we should run with long-term. This is the guy who always has twelve projects brewing at the same time, all in various stages of progress, none really doing well.

While these seem to be opposing concepts, they often ensnare us in the same dilemma: half-starting and eventually quitting.

So where SHOULD you be focusing your time and energy? How do you know if your idea is good enough to “make it”?

First, remember two things:

1) As I said before, you don’t need a million-dollar idea. This is VERY important to keep in mind, as it’s very easy to feel like we need to be thinking BIGGER in the beginning. What I’m telling you to do is to think a bit smaller — at least at first. Case in point: If you look at high-level competitive martial artists, you’ll see that even the most spectacular wins are usually the result of world-class fundamentals. Even against elite competition, doing the basics uncommonly well is usually more than enough to come out on top.

If you can master doing simple things really well right now, you’ll still make a ton of money AND prepare yourself for more advanced things later.

2) All businesses — services and products, online or offline — are a direct response to a problem. The purpose of a business — the only reason it exists, in fact — is to solve a problem.

You should be actively thinking of how you can solve other people’s problems. On a day-to-day basis, you should be thinking about things you and others around you struggle with, then finding ways to solve those headaches through an idea, device, service, or piece of software. Better yet, start pretending you’re Olivia Pope and become relentless in your approach to problem-solving and “fixing” things.

Coming up with fresh business ideas shouldn’t be something that you just do once a year when you need some money. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you must fundamentally change the way you look at the world, always seeking out opportunities to serve other people and get paid in return. With this in mind, your well of creative inspiration will never run dry.

Here are four places I look first when I want to come up with a new business idea quickly:

1) Things you’re already good at (hobbies/skills). Everybody has SOMETHING that they’re good at. The problem is, most of us take our skills for granted. We don’t appreciate the fact that the knowledge and abilities we have at our disposal could be very valuable to someone else:

•  Maybe you’re bilingual or you can play an instrument.

•  Perhaps you know how to organize the HELL out of a closet.

•  Maybe you’re really good at cooking, or building websites.

•  You might have even successfully completed a few triathlons.

All of these are things that other people would like to be able to do for themselves on a regular basis but in many cases can’t.

Understand this: TIME is the only real commodity we have. We make money so that we can pay other people to do things for us in order to gain more time. It all comes back to time.

If you’ve spent considerable time learning to do something — either in school, as an apprentice, or even as a hobby or recreational activity — that time has immense value. Rather than learning to do what you’ve done or putting in months (or years) of work grinding away, many people will be more than happy to pay you in order to get what they want much more quickly. You can teach someone else how to do something. Or if you don’t want to teach it, you can simply use that skill to provide a service and do the work for them.

2) Things you’ve done for work. SPOILER ALERT: “Learned at work” skills are a great place to look when fishing for your first profitable business idea. If you’ve ever held a job, that’s proof you have at least one skill or idea that somebody is willing to pay money for!

Like most people, you may be under the assumption that your hourly wage or salary reflects the actual value of your skills, but here’s the thing: There is no “actual” or innate value of a skill, service, or idea:

  • Washing dishes could be a seven-dollar-an-hour skill or a fifteen-dollar-an-hour skill, depending on whose plates you’re cleaning.
  • Building a mobile app for your employer could be one of the hundreds of other things you do every year as part of your sixty-thousand-dollar salary.
  • Or the same mobile app could be a twenty-thousand-dollar side project that you work on in your free time, while still making sixty thousand at work.

Your salary doesn’t reflect true value; it just reflects your employer’s estimation of how much they can afford to pay you after they’ve accounted for all their expenses and made a healthy profit. If you have a boss, you’re not making as much money as you could be for your time. Period.

Here’s a partial list of all the things taking money out of your paycheck before you even see it:

  • Recruiting costs.
  • Training.Health insurance
  • Financial programs.
  • Overhead.
  • Management and executive salaries.

The list goes on and on! By the time your salary is up for discussion, it’s less about what you’re worth and more what they can afford. In some cases, a job that deserves one hundred thousand dollars is getting fifty thousand or less!

Can you negotiate your salary? Absolutely. But even at the highest level of negotiation, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to make as much money within a company as you’ll make taking that exact same expertise and applying it outside of the company for your own gain. The skills you acquire along your journey are yours to use as you wish, at a price that you command. Now you just need to identify which of your on-the-job skills is ripe for the picking, start developing your idea, and then find your customers. (Don’t worry, I’ll fill in the how-tos as we continue.)

3) Things people ask you for. Besides the seemingly interminable amount of time spent in school, I think one of the biggest turnoffs for me about a career in medicine would be the relentless questions from well-intentioned civilians looking to “pick my brain” off the clock about a medical problem they are having, rather than setting up an appointment to have it properly examined by a physician with expertise in that area.

“Do you have a quick second? I wanted to get your opinion on this lump in my neck.”

“I’ve been having this weird pain in my chest. It’s a bit like indigestion, but it’s a little bit sharper. I always get it after I eat spicy foods. Any idea what that could be?”

On and on these questions would go. But that’s how it goes with many professions. For example, if you have a friend who is an attorney, you might find yourself shooting him a text that says something like, “Can you go to jail for unpaid parking tickets . . . hypothetically?”

We do the same thing when it comes to personal matters too. If you have a friend who’s always getting dumped and you just broke up with your boyfriend of five years over some steamy texts between him and that bimbo at work who you knew he had a crush on, you’d know exactly which friend to call and vent to about that douche bag, wouldn’t you?

The point here is that whether you realize it or not, we lean on experts to help us figure things out — and if people keep asking you for help, advice, or insight in a particular area, there’s a good chance that others look at you as the expert or “go-to” in their circle of influence.

You have to start paying more attention to things that people ask you for. If someone asks you to help them with something, your mind should immediately begin assessing whether this is something that could become profitable.

Let that subliminal capitalistic brain fire up! Do you have friends who are always asking you for diet advice? What about people who are constantly asking for your insights into their relationships? Do friends and family call you to watch their dogs when they go out of town? Start paying attention to the things that people require of you; then eventually, you’ll get paid to do things that you used to do for free.

My girlfriend’s brother, Caleb, started a moving company because he was tired of people asking him to move their junk for free. He bought one of those Ford F-350s, and people started coming out of the woodwork: “Can you help me move my ten-thousand-volume book collection?” “I’m moving on Sunday. Think I could ‘borrow’ your truck?”

Caleb is a nice guy, so typically he said yes. They were his friends, after all. Until one day, he had an idea . . .

Friend: “Caleb, I need someone to help me move this three-thousand-pound sectional couch. Can you come over with your truck and help this weekend?”

Caleb: “Sure, my rate is sixty dollars an hour.”

Friend: “OK . . . great! See you then!”

And just like that, a business was born. He paid attention to what the market was already asking him for and just gave the people what they wanted. He started getting more and more business, then used some of that money to buy another truck and begin expanding.

If people ask you for something, it could be worth charging for!

4) Things you want to learn

After teaching college test prep for a while, my second successful freelance business—which I also quickly scaled to over a hundred thousand dollars—was a web design company called Primal Digital. And guess what? I barely knew anything about web design in the beginning!

The idea started on a whim. I’d already had a bit of success with my first business as an SAT tutor, and I was looking for something that I could do from my house. I was not an expert by any means. I knew just enough to get a basic, one-page site up on WordPress, and that was about it. It’s almost embarrassing to think about as I type it now. I set up my web design company’s one-page website with a very fancy theme, to give the appearance that I was much more established than I actually was, and proceeded to start posting on popular freelance job boards like Upwork (Elance/oDesk at the time) and a few others. Within a few hours, I started getting bites for $1,000, $2,000, and even $5,000 jobs! WTF?!

What I want you to focus on right now is my relative lack of knowledge about the subject area. How was I able to get away with this?

My first few clients were happy to pay me because even though I wasn’t a world-class expert, I still knew more than they did about building a website. Remember, for someone who doesn’t use computers much outside of Google and Facebook, even setting up a basic WordPress blog is a damn near mystical process.

I worked my way up doing simple work, and as my skill set improved, I was able to charge more and more for my services. I essentially paid myself to learn how to build websites.

You could do the same thing easily. Find a skill or idea that you’re a beginner in but that you want to become really good at. Then gradually improve that skill set and find customers who are willing to pay you as you learn. It’s like paying yourself to go to school for something that you actually care about. You don’t have to start as an expert. It’s OK if you haven’t done this before. You’ll get better with time—and you can get paid in the process.

*******

Starting a business is one of the hardest things you can do—and as some of these examples should demonstrate, the answers can often be quite counterintuitive. But you don’t have to do this alone.

If you thought the strategies I shared for validating your ideas and standing out were helpful, you’re going to love my new book Rich20Something: Ditch Your Average Job, Start An Epic Business, Score The Life You Want.

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Maschine 2.6.5 makes it easier to manage ideas, routings

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Ableton has accustomed a lot of us to the idea of having a grid of bits of ideas we can trigger and layer (among other similar metaphors in drum machines and the like). So of course that same functionality would make sense elsewhere.

Maschine Jam took Native Instruments’ groove workstation into a different direction by focusing on how you generate, transform, and arrange ideas. Now that focus on workflow is finding its way into the whole Maschine family, both in the form of refinements to Jam and new functionalities elsewhere.

So, as NI quietly rolls out Maschine 2.6.5, all Maschine users get a new feature called “Ideas View.”

This isn’t an Ableton clone – it’s still very much in the Maschine paradigm, with scenes and patterns presented in an overview. The important thing is, like Ableton’s Session View, those bits can be triggered outside of the timeline. And if you’ve found that timeline a bit too rigid, that may come as a welcome option. (Plus, if you do use Ableton, you can now fluidly trigger bits and bobs in Maschine whilst doing the same thing in Ableton – dragging and dropping between the two, if you choose, or even using Jam’s clever template to control both in parallel.)

Here’s how it works, as explained by the release notes:

ni_maschine_2-6-5_sw_update_screenshot

Scenes and Patterns can be created and combined in this view without affecting the current arrangement. Select the Scene to edit by clicking a Scene button at the top of the grid, then click Patterns in the grid to assign them to the Scene (assigned Patterns are brightly lit). To un-assign an assigned Pattern, simply click on it. To create new Patterns in this view, double-click in an empty grid cell.

That’s really nice in live jam / live performance situations, or if you’re in the studio brainstorming different ideas. And that says a lot about the digital workflow, versus the “record it now for all time” vintage analog approach. (As a composer in some other life, this reminds me more of what you’d do with a paper and pencil.)

You can swap between Ideas and Arranger Views using shortcuts, too (CMD+1 / CMD+2).

On the Jam controller, you’ll see the Ideas and Arrangers views on the whole 8×8 grid, building on how Jam already worked. On the other (4×4) controllers, you can use the Navigate screen or toggle via SHIFT+SCENE.

Also new in this release, it’s easier to manage routings.

The “+Routing” button that now lives in the Group Browser loads any audio and MIDI routings together with the group. Or you can disable that, and user and audio routings you’ve set always stay the same. The upshot of this is, you can now make Maschine more useful for work with hardware, whether it’s more convenient to choose one set of routings and keep them, or toggle between different routings using groups for managing more complex scenarios / performances.

There are loads of details to how the Ideas view works, plus tons of fixes and tweaks packed into this release.

Official update status – Maschine – Upcoming 2.6.5

Maschine remains insanely deep – sometimes so deep you may actually want something simpler, but certainly never lacking in power. Check out how it evolved in its last release in regard to integrating with hardware:

Maschine now makes it easy to work with external gear, spice up patterns

This video show you how Maschine maps to external MIDI gear

Plus don’t forget software:

Maschine adds Ableton Link, for jams with DJ, production software

And a bit on how Jam took Maschine to some new places in terms of integrating workflow:

Ableton or FL Studio or Bitwig, Maschine Jam integrates with everything

The post Maschine 2.6.5 makes it easier to manage ideas, routings appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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Linkin Park’s Secret Performance In The NYC Subway Will Give You Chills

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Besides the pizza and 4AM closing time, moments like this are what make New York City the best damn city in the whole world. The platforms and tunnels of the New York City subway are home to some of the best free live music in the world. And if you hit it right, like at Grand Central Terminal earlier this week, you can catch an extra special moment like this impromptu performance from the band Linkin Park.

If you’re an aging millennial like myself, the group sing-a-long to “In The End” will fill you with all sorts of early-Aughts chills.

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You’ll soon be able to have YouTube viewing parties in VR

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You’ll soon be able to have YouTube viewing parties in VR

Image: raymond wong/mashable

VR is often slammed for being an isolating experience, but companies like Facebook and Google are making strides to make it more social.

At Google I/O, Google previewed an upcoming YouTube VR feature for Daydream 2.0 (also called Euphrates) that’ll let you and your friends watch YouTube videos in VR and then have discussions about them.

The feature, which YouTube’s Erin Teague calls a “co-watching experience,” will let users essentially have conversations via what appears to be digital avatars that float on a dock in the middle of the screen.

Instead of typing in comments (something that’s not possible in VR), you and a couple of friends can dive into an actual discussion and chat about a video like IRL.

I could see this being really fun for watching new movie trailers, like a new Star Wars drop.

The feature looks like it’s Google’s own mini version of Oculus Rooms, which also lets multiple users get together to have viewing parties. And while not as full-featured as Facebook Spaces, YouTube VR’s co-watching experience is the first step to making its Daydream VR platform more social.

Teague didn’t mention when the co-watching feature would roll out.

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The FCC chairman thinks it’s still 1996

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FCC chairman Ajit Pai sounds like a broken record.

"Light-touch framework."

"Light-touch approach."

"Light-touch regulation."

As an ideological concept, it seems reasonable. Especially to a conservative such as Pai, who believes that the government shouldn’t "pick winners and losers," to use a favorite phrase of Republicans. Except, when you actually look closely at the chairman’s argument about how to regulate internet service providers, it collapses under its own misguided logic.

Perhaps Pai’s favorite touchstone when arguing in favor of returning ISPs to being classified as a Title I information service (instead of a Title II common carrier) is the Clinton administration. In April, he asked this misleading set of questions:

Do we want the government to control the Internet? Or do we want to embrace the light-touch approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress in 1996 and repeatedly reaffirmed by Democratic and Republican FCCs alike?

Let’s ignore the bit about the government controlling the internet, which is not what net neutrality is or what the rules under Title II will allow. Instead, let’s focus on the last bit about the "light touch" used by President Clinton. The TL;DR version of Pai’s argument is that Title II as established under the 1934 Communications Act is outdated and is not equipped to effectively regulate the internet. Instead, we should return to rules established in 1996.

The problem is, when it comes to the internet, 1996 might as well be 1934. In 1996, there was no Google, Facebook or Netflix. Broadband penetration in the US sat at around 0 percent. The internet was a new industry that was still finding its way. The internet thrived under this light-touch approach because it was in an experimental phase. Only 16 percent of Americans had access to the internet in 1996, and those who did relied on dial-up.

The other flaw in this argument is that the changes made to the law by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 have made the internet more vulnerable to the very abuses Title II seeks to prevent.

Pai has said that "we decided to abandon successful policies solely because of hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom." Except, they aren’t hypothetical. Thanks to the Telecommunications Act’s Title III, which allows for media cross-ownership, we have immense consolidation in the US of service providers, studios and news outlets.

Comcast is the largest internet provider in the country. It’s also the largest broadcaster and cable TV provider in the nation. And now it’s dipping its toe into mobile. But Comcast also owns NBCUniversal, NBC, Telemundo, Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks, USA, Bravo, SyFy, E!, a bunch of regional sports stations and more.

And Comcast has already been caught, repeatedly, violating the spirit of net neutrality, if not the letter of the law. In both 2012 and 2015 the company came under fire for excluding its own streaming services from data caps while counting Netflix and Hulu, putting them at a distinct disadvantage. This even led to an investigation by the Department of Justice in 2012.

Then, in 2014, Netflix started noticing a steep decline in speeds on Comcast networks. While there’s no evidence the company artificially throttled speeds, there is evidence the ISP let aging equipment at key points languish, degrading the quality. Ultimately, Netflix was forced to cut out its own ISP and pay Comcast to ensure its videos streamed at an acceptable rate.

And Engadget’s parent company, Verizon, is hardly innocent, either. This, of course, drew the attention of the FCC, and is part of what led the agency to reconsider its approach to net neutrality.

Ultimately, moving broadband back to being a Title I service will let the ISPs choose the winners or losers, not the public. And the government will be powerless to stop them.

The truth is the wolves are at the door of net neutrality, and Ajit Pai is (wittingly or not) laying out a welcome mat.

Title II of the Telecommunications act is not perfect, but it was designed in part to keep monopolies in check. And the media conglomerates of today’s internet are emergent monopolies — not scrappy dot-com startups looking to make a name for themselves on this newfangled World Wide Web.

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Alarming photos of the uninhabited island that’s home to 37 million pieces of trash

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Jennifer Lavers Henderson Island East Beach

A small island smack in the middle of the South Pacific has never been inhabited by people — and yet, its white sand beaches are home to more than 37 million pieces of junk.

Every day on Henderson Island — one of the most remote places on Earth — trash from every continent except Antarctica washes up its shores. Fishing nets and floats, water bottles, and plastics break into small particles against the rocks and sand.

In 2015, Jennifer Lavers, a researcher at the University of Tasmania, traveled to Henderson in an effort to document the extent of plastics pollution. Her research paper has since gone viral.

Lavers shared images from her trip with us. 

SEE ALSO: See how Treece, Kansas, went from mining boom town to toxic wasteland in 96 years

Jennifer Lavers first saw Henderson Island in Google Street View. She’s been documenting islands-turned-junkyards for years. Henderson was the epitome of the phenomenon.

Few humans have set foot on the island, which lies halfway between New Zealand and South America, 71 miles away from the nearest settlement. To get there, Lavers joined a freight ship traveling from New Zealand and asked it to change course for Henderson.

When she arrived, it felt "a bit like being the first to land on the moon," Lavers told Business Insider. It became immediately clear that something on Henderson was awry.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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