The business ideas you don’t want to do

In my New Business Ideas Collection , I give you business ideas which all my years of experience in business tell me have a good chance of working.

This article is completely different.

Today I want to tell you about the business ideas you don’t want to do.

The business ideas everyone else is doing

You want to avoid the business ideas that are commonplace. I’m sure you know this already, in fact you might have already tried some of these ideas.

But if there are a million people doing wedding planning, prescription medicine delivery, or commercial cleaning in your area, these are ones to steer clear of.

And don’t get me started on the really commonplace ones, such as wedding photographer, dog walker or massage therapists. I can guarantee you that there’s either very limited demand in your area for these ones or that people have very limited budgets to pay for them.

Even for the ideas in my New Business Ideas Collection that I think are unique, my first advice when thinking about setting up a new business, is to research what the competition might be like near you.

The business ideas where there’s no money

You’re in business to make money, right? If you don’t make money from the business, then it’s a hobby. It might be a really rewarding hobby where you get to help people, or do interesting work, but I’m afraid that in my opinion, it’s not a business unless you’re making money from it.

So you need to make sure that there’s money to be made in the business idea that you choose. You’re going to be spending the next year, three years, 10 years of your life on this business and putting everything that you’ve got into it, so it’s essential that the company you set up can reward you financially.

You know that the commonplace business ideas I’ve been talking about are less likely to make you money, because this competition or because people won’t pay what you need them to pay. But even with something that appears to be completely new, with no competition in your area, you need to do some research to see if it will make money for you.

And remember that the amount of money that you want to make now might be different to the amount of money that you want to make in five years time, so your new business has to be able to grow financially over time.

Here are some of the business ideas I think you should avoid because is very little money in them:

  • Cleaning company. Even if you think there aren’t cleaning companies near you, individuals and businesses will always be a bit mean when it comes down to cleaning. They just won’t want to pay much for your services
  • Cake making. This one is probably ruled out because of the competition, everyone else is doing it to. But I would rule out cake making because it’s a labour-intensive, and because the ingredients are more expensive than you might think, so your gross profit ends up being pretty low
  • Anything advertised as “home-based”. This one sounds great doesn’t it? I can work from home, I can work while I’m looking after the kids, all I need is a computer and an Internet connection. There are hundreds of people out there offering you help to set up a “home-based” business. Don’t fall for it.

You might well start your business working from home. I did. I work with businesses which are turning over hundreds of thousands of pounds, and the business owner happens to work from home. But that’s for the convenience, flexibility or for personal reasons.

Anything that starts with the idea that it’s a home-based business idea, in my experience, is an itsy-bitsy tiny little business which isn’t going to make the money that you need to live on.  It’s the idea that’s important, not the fact that you can run it from home.

Following your passion

There’s nothing wrong with setting up a business because you’re passionate about it.  I’m passionate about business advice, and helping people to make more money and have more fun in their work. But I’m also passionate about my allotment, reading books, walking in the countryside, and I get very excited when I see a heron spearing fish in a stream. There’s no way I’m going to make money out of my allotment or that heron I saw.

business ideas

Don’t be misled by the advice to follow your passion, unless your passion reveals a really good business for you. In particular, avoid these kinds of businesses:

  • Making crafts. The craft market is flooded, particularly at the lower end. Just take a look at Etsy to see how many people are selling things they’ve made. Some of the Etsy sellers are making good money it’s true, but those will be the people who are either getting other people to make the items for them, or they are very highly skilled and have developed a unique product that people will pay high rates for, such as expert leatherwork.

Unless you are a true expert, with 10 years plus experience, or you’ve developed a product which is definitely unique and will sell the high prices, I’d avoid the craft side of the business, no matter how passionate you are about it.

Follow one of the other ideas in the New Business Ideas Collection, one which will support you financially and give you enough spare time to do your crafts as a hobby. Of course if you want this hobby to pay for itself, you can always make it into a sideline business, but don’t rely on it to pay your mortgage.

  • Writing. This is a funny one, because you’ll see that I’ve identified writing (especially copywriting) as a key skill in many of the business ideas.

If you can write compelling copy on your website, or on your product packaging, like Innocent drinks have done, that’s a definite bonus.

But it’s very difficult to make your living from writing, despite the claims of the independent publishing industry, or the people who tell you that you can make 10k a month from blog writing. Some people are talented, and lucky because their books take off and they can support themselves with the income, but even those people would still be better off financially running a proper business.

And the blog writing business idea is definitely a myth, the days of affiliate sales and making money out of e-books are long gone, if they ever even existed. There is demand for good copywriters, especially people who can write search engine optimised copy, or people who can write in a very niche area such as medicine or technical research.

You can therefore make a living from your writing this way, but you’ll never get rich being a copywriter. The very best copywriters I know struggle to make more than 50 K a year, and most copywriters are earning a lot less than this. Think twice before adopting this as your new business idea.

  • Food-based businesses. I get people coming to me all the time, because they want to open a cafe, sell canapes, run a deli, set up a restaurant. I spend a lot of time politely, but firmly, telling them not to do it. Inside, I’m screaming “no please don’t do it”.

Lots of people, including me, love food, love cooking food, love sharing food with other people. It would be great to have a life preparing food and having people love what we’ve created, wouldn’t it? Except it doesn’t work out like that.

Running a food-based business is high-risk, extremely hard work both mentally and physically, and, although some restaurants are successful and make oodles of money for their owners, this is actually rare. It’s usually the landlord or the investor who makes that restaurant into a successful chain because of their business skills who ends up with the oodles of money, not the person doing the cooking.

Unless you have a lot of experience working in a commercial food environment, and substantial investment which you can afford to lose, plus a truly unique idea, please don’t even think about a food-based business, even if this is your passion.

Here’s a great blog about why following your passion is crappy advice. These guys put it much better than I would.

Businesses that don’t scale

For some people it’s not a problem if the business doesn’t scale.

If you’re looking for something which will support you and your family with a reasonable income and you’re happy for it to be you working in the business and you don’t want to expand it, that’s great. Just be aware that this will limit what you can earn.

So I have included businesses in the New Business Ideas Collection where it would be difficult to scale up and create a bigger business.

But mostly, I’ve tried to give two versions, with version one based on one or two people running the business. Version two is based on creating a bigger business, probably involving other people, either right from the beginning, or later on once you got the business up and running.

My advice here, is to look to the future.

As much as you can, get your crystal ball out and try and think forward 10 years. If you can create a business which suits you right now as a one-person business, but has the capacity, if you want to, to bring in other people or expand over time, that gives you more options.

You might not want it right now, but try not to get backed into a corner and set up a business which is impossible to scale.

I hope this has put you off!

If this has put you off diving into a business idea which won’t make you money, and won’t make you happy, that’s great news for me. I’ve saved you from wasting years of your life running a mediocre, boring business.

And if it’s left you thinking “But where do I find all of those great ideas that will make me money and will make me happy?” then have a look at my New Business Ideas Collection, and try a trial membership for just a fiver. There are tons of great ideas, and none of them are even a tiny bit mediocre or boring.

Some more business tips

Why you can’t plan to pivot

New Business Ideas – ones that work


Photo credit – No matter how cute these dogs are, don’t set up a dog walking business, by Alan Alter

Photo credit – a beautiful heron by Heather Smithers

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