Can you make money from helping people to choose?

Where are the best business ideas based on helping people to choose what to buy?

We all lead busy lives. And we are far too busy to be able to spend heaps of time on researching exactly the right item.

Think of all the times where you have been bewildered by the amount of choice out there when you want to buy even the simplest of items. Unless it’s something that you have bought before, have got a strong recommendation from a trusted friend or you’ve got a whole afternoon to research what you want to buy, you are pretty lost.

I saw a Facebook post the other day, where someone was asking for advice on buying a laptop. She didn’t understand why some cost 2k, and others £300, let alone what kind of machine she should buy. I know the feeling…and had no idea of how to advise her. In fact, the last laptop I bought was on the recommendation of a geeky friend, cost me 1k, and breaks down all the time. It’s rubbish.

Even if my Facebook friend had all afternoon to dedicate to finding the right laptop for her, she still wouldn’t have the accurate information. Reviews are flawed, new products come out all the time, and she has a bewildering array of choice. And she doesn’t have all afternoon to spend looking.

Life is complicated – how you can help

And choosing a laptop is a simple choice, in comparison to other big choices we need to make in life. What kind of business should I set up (I can help with that one, at least). Who should I marry, which house should I buy, who should I vote for?

Anyway, enough complaining about how complex and busy modern-day life is, and on to the real big question. Where are the business opportunities?

Where is the gap in the market based on helping people to choose?

How to create a new business based on helping people to choose

There are lots of opportunities here, and three main business models to choose from

Business model 1

business model

I suggest finding an area where people are going to spend a decent amount of money, but are uncertain about how to spend their money. Specialist travel, buying computer hardware for an office (i.e. spending more than 3k a year) or commissioning art are all good candidates for this.

Set up as an adviser in this field, and specialise in helping people to choose what they need without having to spend days researching it. Either charge people a fee to help them, or find a way of buying in bulk so your profit margin comes from the savings you don’t pass on to your customers. This gives you a service based business. If you pick the right area and do the right marketing, this can create a good business for you.

Traditional businesses which use this business model of helping people to choose include independent financial advice, travel consultants, artists agents, investment managers, book clubs.

If some of these are business models you haven’t come across before, that’s probably because you haven’t subscribed to my New Business Ideas Collection. Here is how that works, and how you can get your first month’s trial membership for just a fiver


Business Model 2

Maybe you don’t want a service based business – maybe you want something more scalable? Maybe you want a bigger business which isn’t limited by the number of hours of your time you can sell to customers. You want something more automated, so you can help more people and make more money.

With a little more investment, you can help people to go through all the decisions on how to spend their money and make their choices, guided by your process.

Here’s a simple example

I had to buy a new bike light the other day. I went to Amazon, and they suggested about a million different types of bike light for me. I’m a busy person, and I needed one quickly or I would be a danger on the road.

With my bike lights example, you’d set up a website where I can put in my requirements…

– what kind of light (rear light)
– how much do I want to pay (a tenner, max)
– what sort of charging/batteries do I want (micro usb charger please)

And out pops the answer, with the opportunity to buy through you.

Choose your products carefully

Don’t do this with bike lights, by the way, there really isn’t enough money in this area to make it worthwhile. You want something like choosing the right private school for your children, insurance, or high end office equipment.

You will have seen this business model with all the switching sites for utility bills, and to some extent with Which, or Consumers Report in the US, who also charge you a fee for seeing their product reviews. The Trainline also has this business model, helping you to find the best train fares for your journey.

Modern and B2B business models

New versions of this are companies selling services to businesses, such as pensions auto-enrolment or payroll. I’ve used consumer focused examples in this article, but the real opportunities for this business model are helping businesses to choose how they spend their money.

Remember that you want to pick an area with a great deal of choice, but one that also involves quite a lot of money being spent. That way, there’s room for you to make some money on the basis of your recommendations.

Is there money in review or affiliate sites nowadays?

This is the traditional way of monetising helping people to choose. You find an area you’re interested in, write a ton of blogs about it, and review products in your area. For the “best buys” you provide an affiliate link where people can buy their thing, and you get paid a tiny percentage if they buy.

I beg you to think carefully before jumping into this area. It’s not such a great business model nowadays.

It used to be that you could make good money from the affiliate business model if you can get the right area, and generate enough traffic.

But nowadays, the opportunities are very limited, because there are so many competing affiliate sites. And most of them are pretty rubbish. The reviews aren’t real, they’re churned out by reviewers who are just writing up the manufacturer’s press releases. For many items, manufacturers release new models all the time Which is why I couldn’t just order another bike light from Amazon, the same as the one I’d lost – they don’t make it any more.

Amazon’s ability to offer faster delivery,and often better prices than the competition for consumers, plus very small fees for affiliates means that the opportunities for you to make money with this model is very limited.

There are lots of other business ideas out there – just because this one used to work, doesn’t mean it will now.

Some more business ideas based on helping people to choose

I’ve put a lot more detail on the kind of online businesses which work, and the ones that don’t in the New Business Ideas Collection, which is a good place to start when you’re thinking about how to get going with an online business like this. Here’s how the New Business Ideas Collection works…

business ideas collection

Some other articles to get you thinking about your next business

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Photo credits to Graham Skuse and Martin Fiser on a Creative Commons license, plus Jeshoots and Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash

52 ways to find your gap in the market

It's not easy to find the right gap in the market for your next business. That's why I've written this free guide to how to identify a gap in the market, with lots of ideas for areas where you can build a viable business
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The Joy of Business
52 Ways to Find Your Gap in the Market
Julia Chanteray