How to Choose Which Business Idea to Run With

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 06/15/20 •  9 min read

This post was last updated June 2020

The internet is a great thing.

It’s made it possible for myself and millions of others to create businesses that can be run from pretty much anywhere.

However, that’s also part of the problem.

It’s gotten too easy.

In less than an hour you can have a new domain, WordPress installed, and be ready to rock.

Why is this a problem? Because for a business to be successful usually there needs to be a modicum of planning that goes into it.  When you can start half a dozen new businesses in a weekend, you’re simply setting yourself up for failure.

There will never be a shortage of great ideas, however we all have a shortage of time.  If you’re going to be successful working for yourself, being selective about what projects you take on and when, is going to be absolutely key.

The Biggest Road Block to Business Success

Over the last year I’ve talked to and worked with hundreds of people who are getting started with their own businesses online, and more often than not, their plan is flawed.

“I want to open an e-commerce store for designer shoes, do freelance graphic design, build people WordPress websites, and start a massively successful blog.”

I hear stuff like this all the time.

What happens when you decide to do all of those things at once?

Absolutely nothing – and therein lies the problem.

Despite all of your good intentions, you’re never able to gain enough traction on any one project to replace your income.  So you never end up leaving your job, and are even more unhappy than when you began because you feel like you’ve let yourself down.

Choose ONE Idea and Start with That

There was a time 5-10 years ago where you could start up 10, 50 or even 100 affiliate sites at once and see success.  Throw a bunch of spam links at your new domains that have nothing but spam copy, put up some adsense, and voila, instant millionaire!

These days, I can’t think of a worse idea.

SEO is getting much harder

Whereas you used to be able to link build very effectively for very cheap with spun content and link wheels, that’s becoming a less viable option. Last week SEO may have been dealt its biggest blow yet with its new “Disavow Links” tool.  For people who have been hit with a Google penalty, this could potentially be a great thing,  but for SEO professionals it means a complete re-think in your strategy.

Simply put, it’s next to impossible to do a good job with SEO on that many sites – especially if they don’t have rock solid content.

Good Content Will Win in the End

Most of the time when people start a barrage of projects all at once, one of two things happen:

Yes there have been people who have made a bunch of money with adsense sites and other low quality niche sites.  However in the end, it’s the sites that provide excellent, high quality information on the selected niche that will win.

If you’re considering starting a new project and don’t have every intention of investing the time and/or money to load it up with solid content, you might want to rethink your business strategy.

Over the coming months and years, that’s what will win.

Over a year ago I discussed the importance social influence will have on the search engine results.  This is proving more true than ever as Facebook, G+, Twitter, Klout etc. all start to have more relevance in search rankings.

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The Economics of Too Many Projects

It’s easy to get caught up in a good idea.  You buy the domain immediately, and get to work.

Wait 48 hours.

I learned about the 48 hour rule from Dan and Ian, and it’s so money.

If in 48 hours you still think you have an excellent idea, then start planning and see where it goes.

Think about it, if you’re going to create 100 niche sites that’s over $1k/annually in domain registration alone.  Not to mention creating content, hosting the sites, keeping everything up to date and fresh – that get’s really expensive, really quickly.

Especially when the majority of your sites are probably never going to be profitable.

Now imagine if you had one site that you put the same amount of time and money into.  In my experience, most people are better off creating one site than dozens.  It’s easier to provide value and in turn become profitable than it is with tons of small sites or projects that die before even getting off the ground.

So, How Do You Decide What Project to Take On?

I went off a little bit on affiliate sites, but this applies on a much more fundamental level as well.

When you’re first getting your start online, I’m a firm believer that you should pick one project or business model and ride that out until you’re absolutely confident in your ability to take on something new.

I started out building my skills and writing this blog.  It was over a year before I started my next site.  It was a great idea in theory, but it died less than a year after I started it because I never found the time to update it.

Realistically I didn’t take on a personal project that was successful until almost 18 months after beginning the first one.


Because everything I did on the first business (the blog), was laying the foundation for the next one, Overcoming the Fear of Uncertainty.

I was building skills, establishing expertise, and garnering a small following to put myself in a good spot to be successful.

Then slowly but surely, I began adding other projects to my core business.

Everyday I have a new idea for a fun project, and sometimes I’ll even buy a domain.  However, I don’t go full speed ahead until I know the following:

So, how should you go about finding new projects?  Here’s what I do:

Step #1: Assess Your Current Situation

What’s your current goal?  Do you just want a little side business built around a hobby? Do you want something that will allow you to travel the world?  Do you want to become the next millionaire entrepreneur?

Each of these goals has a different startup path.

Assess where you are, and then make sure you have the skills necessary to get started.

Step #2: Pick the ONE Project that Will Get You Closest to Your Goal Fastest

Are you trying to build a business as quickly as possible so you can quit your job and travel?  Then stop trying to create a bunch of bullshit affiliate sites and start freelancing.

Pick one specialty, become a relative expert, and then get clients.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Freelancing is the best way to build your first business online.

Step #3: Stabilize the Business

Do you know how much money you’re going to bring in every month?  Do you have clearly defined processes for managing clients and finding new ones?  Is work coming to by word of mouth? Are you beginning to become well known in your niche?

Great, keep that going.

Before taking on any new, significant projects you want to make sure you have a solid base and are able to manage your current situation.

Step #4: Reassess Your Priorities and Select the Next Project

The chances are, whatever you choose to freelance in isn’t going to be something your totally passionate about.  It’s going to be a means to being able to live out the things you are passionate about.

Once you’re freelance business is stable, then you can start thinking about other projects you want to take on that are more directly in line with what you like to do.

Two years after I began Location Rebel, we started up HDR Software.  Once that was stable, Location Rebel Academy was born.  Then it wasn’t until a year later that our next course was released.

Each of those are businesses built around fundamental interests of mine, but none of them started until the previous one was completely stable.

Step #5: Repeat

This is the thought process I go through every time I’m going to begin something that I know will be a significant investment of my time and money:

Am I saying that you should absolutely, no matter what just take on one project or business? No, I’d be a complete hypocrite if that’s what I was suggesting.  I love having multiple projects; it’s what keeps everything fresh and interesting for me.

However I am saying you should do your best not to overextend yourself.  Once you have a base, each future project gets easier and easier to take on, because of the work you’ve put in previously.

Put in the work up front to build your core, and then expand into the fun stuff down the road.

Questions about how to choose between business ideas? Share them with us in the comments!

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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