As we wrote the other day, we often really struggle to come up with ideas for blog posts and newsletters. Less of a problem is coming up with wacky, slightly strange (but we think totally awesome and hugely profitable) ideas for businesses.
We have ideas all the time. We pause movies and break off conversations to jot things down before we forget them. We wake each other up to share our new idea (actually, that’s just Mish waking me up, and I don’t encourage this behaviour).
The hard part is ignoring the vast majority of them and staying focused on the many things we’re already doing. The other hard part is knowing which of them are terrible, and which might actually work.
So, here’s the solution: every so often we’ll give away a bunch of ideas, with the very worst (“Zipcar for dogs! I’d totally use that!”) already filtered out.
You can tell us in the comments which are good and which are terrible, and you get to steal the best ones so they happen despite our lack of time.
Sound good? Let’s go.
Airbnb for venues
Take the model of Airbnb, and apply it to booking venues – for seminars, parties, etc. – rather than apartments.
Booking an event space is a pain. First you’ve got to generate a list of possibilities off the top of your head somehow, then approach each one asking a set of questions (What’s your capacity? Do you have a PA? Can I bring in outside food?). And even then, you miss the tiny tucked-away bar with an awesome back room where they’d happily let you use it for free.
1. Don’t build anything. Put a set of slides together that sells the idea to venues. Get them designed professionally.
2. Go and see venue owners in your city. Use your slides to pitch them on the idea, and sign them up. Give them a list of questions to answer (hire price, capacity, etc.).
3. Put up a simple landing page for anyone who’s searching for an events space in your city. Email the link and a short explanation to HR departments and organisers of events on Meetup.com.
4. When someone makes an enquiry, just filter your spreadsheet and manually send them a list of venues that match.
5. If there’s enough interest from venue owners and venue seekers, build out the full site. Take a commission on each booking.
A site where anyone can put a design on a t-shirt and send a link to their friends and followers so they can buy one. The shirts get printed one-by-one as they’re ordered, and the designer gets paid a commission.
Sites like Cafe Press and Zazzle are broken. The process is laborious, the shops look awful, and there’s nothing social about the process. This site will be like Cafe Press meets Gumroad – design in a few clicks, share instantly everywhere, and buy with ease.
1. I was going to do this at one point, so I’ve specced out everything you need to build the site. Email us if you want to see it.
2. Find t-shirt fulfilment partners in the US and Europe. I’ve done that for you too.
3. Draw up a list of 100 online influencers with big, engaged fanbases – bloggers, YouTube celebrities, Twitter power users, etc.
4. Approach them with your offer: “Spend 1 minute putting your logo/design on a t-shirt, send the link out, and make $5 for every sale.” Where possible, actually design the shirt for them so all they have to do is send out the link.
5. Make sure every buyer gets encouraged to design their own t-shirt for their friends. They’ll probably do so, because they’ve just seen someone they admire doing it.
Hotel money saver
A service that uses Priceline.com to save users up to 60% on their hotel bookings, in exchange for a flat fee.
Priceline is an incredible way to save a lot of money on hotels, but it takes a lot of time to understand how it works and go through the whole process. Someone could easily save $1,000 on a family vacation, so they’d happily pay $100 to have someone do it for them.
1. Figure out Priceline – the secret is their “name your own price” service, where you can choose hotels with a certain star rating in a certain area and see who’s willing to go lowest to get the booking. Mish knows Priceline inside-out (we used it for our honeymoon hotels), so email us if you want some advice on how to use it.
2. Put up a landing page summarising the offer. Charge a flat $100, include a “Buy now” button, and offer a full money-back guarantee if you can’t save them three times more than they paid.
3. Promote your service by answering questions on travel forums, and by writing blog posts.
4. Provide the service. I’m admittedly a bit hazy on how you book on behalf of someone else. Maybe they’d put money in escrow?
5. Train a virtual assistant to perform the service so all you have to do is forum marketing.
The lean whatever
A series of books applying the principles of The Lean Startup to different industries.
The Lean Startup methodology has moved from Silicon Valley into the mainstream, and there are already blog posts applying the principles to different industries. The core idea – “here’s how to stop wasting time building stuff no one wants” – will be attractive to anyone, techie or not.
1. Pick an industry you know.
2. Write a guest post about how that industry can “go lean” for a well-known blog that gets lots of comments and interaction (here’s an article I wrote about “The Lean Musician” when I was thinking about writing a book on it).
3. Use the comments to find out what objections you need to address, and what aspects people particularly like about your idea. Follow up with the commenters to get more insight.
4. Write the book, and use that same blog (plus others) to promote it.
5. Repeat for other sectors – joint venturing with experts in each industry – until you’ve got a series.
TL;DR: A book of short stories about Reddit
A book of interviews with Reddit users who’ve had bizarre/funny/life-changing things happen to them as a result of using the site.
Reddit is the internet in microcosm. There’s some shady stuff on there, but there have also been Reddit weddings, random acts of pizza, and hundreds of gifts sent to a terminally ill man. There are loads of great stories to be told, and there’s a target market of millions of Reddit users.
1. Spend a lot of time browsing Reddit to uncover stories, or posts that hint at great stories.
2. Message the people involved to find out more, and ask if they’d mind talking to you.
3. Interview them, and write up the book. (Admittedly this is a heck of a lot of work, but we’d love to read it, so could someone take it on please?)
A step-by-step guide to publishing a book on CreateSpace
A book that helps authors and writers publish and sell their own printed and Kindle books on Amazon, using CreateSpace.
CreateSpace is a website that’s democratised book publishing: anyone can use this print-on-demand service to get their book on sale at Amazon. A book is only printed and distributed by CreateSpace when someone orders it, which means there are no upfront payments for you.
The only problem is the CreateSpace site itself: it could be mistaken for a parody of how the most user-unfriendly site in the world would look. Which means that lots of people are giving up because they just can’t figure out how to use it or what to do. Also, the customer service people on CreateSpace are no help whatsoever.
So there needs to be a simple, easy-to-follow book to help.
1. Learn how to use CreateSpace by publishing your own book on it (even if it’s a “fake” book). Use the CreateSpace forum to discover what most people’s pain-points and problems are (it’ll be a long list). Email us and ask Mish for advice – she’s published many of our books on it.
2. Write your book and publish it using CreateSpace.
3. Make sure the keywords and tags applied to the book match what people are looking for.
4. Comment on self-publishing messageboards and forums, to get the word out there about your book.
127 productivity hacks
A short book with one page each on a large number of productivity tips and tricks (127 sounds like a good number).
Everyone wants to be more productive, and the internet is awash with different tips and ideas. Most people can’t be bothered to trawl through a load of different productivity blogs, so there’d be a lot of value into collating them all into one book.
1. Add as many productivity blogs as you can to Google Reader.
2. Every time you find a good tip, clip it to Evernote.
3. Sort all your Evernotes into different categories (software, family, routines, hacks).
4. Write one page summarising each technique, crediting the original source.
5. You’ve got a ready-made list of bloggers to promote your book, who’ll feel flattered that their idea made it in!
A day in the life
Every episode interviews a different high-achiever about their daily routine. What time do they get up? Which hours do they work? What tools do they use? What are their tips for doing your best work? It could feature authors, sportspeople, CEOs, celebrities, and regular people who’ve done amazing things.
Interview podcasts are ten a penny – we must’ve heard Seth Godin interviewed at least 10 times for his new book. But what time does he get up? How does he organise the folders on his computer? How many times a day does he check his email? We’d love to know, and it’d be fascinating to see whether any patterns emerge across different people and sectors.
1. Draw up a list of questions.
2. Practise with a couple of friends to find a format that works – maybe having a set list of questions, but being flexible enough to follow interesting threads.
3. Start small by approaching minor internet celebrities, and dropping the name of each person to get credibility with someone a tiny bit higher up the ladder.
4. Record 10 episodes before the first one goes live.
5. Get each interviewee to promote their episode to their audience.
Cold brew cafe
A cafe that only serves cold brewed coffee.
Cold brew is the best type of coffee known to man. It’s big in NYC, but seemingly unknown in many other cities – including London. It’s also perfect for cafes, because it can be made in advance, keeps for days, and doesn’t need any expensive equipment to make.
1. Work out how to make cold brewed coffee. The equipment should cost about $30. If you want to know exactly what recipe and beans you should use, email us.
2. Find an empty shop in a good location. Offer to take it for a month or two, rent free, in exchange for paying rates and taxes.
3. Get everything set up as cheaply as possible. There’s no food preparation, you can make everything in advance and you don’t need any equipment other than a freezer and an urn, so it should be cheap and have minimal legislation.
4. Find a local company or hobbyist to provide cakes and pastries to sell at a good mark-up.
5. On opening day, pay enough people on Craigslist to hang out at your shop to make sure it’s rammed all day. When people see a brand new shop with a queue down the street, they’ll come back the next day to find out what all the buzz is about.
Ping Pong Kitty
Do you have any ideas that you want someone to run with? Are you tempted to steal any of ours? Let us know in the comments!
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