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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30 comments on "How to Choose Which Business Idea to Run With"

  1. Jason Hull says:

    One of the best pieces of work advice I ever heard was “Take one marble up to the top of the mountain and come back for the next rather than pushing 1,000 marbles an inch at a time.”

    1. Sean says:

      Great advice – I’ve never heard that one before.

  2. Shayna says:

    “Good Content Will Win in the End”

    This is soooooo encouraging. After 10 months of building an authority site (900+ pages of content – oy!) I am just now starting to see decent financial returns – which are very promising, mainly because my customers are telling me they’re loving their purchases, and they are buying multiple times.

    However, there were definitely long periods of time when I would hear others talking about how it’s oh-so-simple to whip up affiliate sales or get to #1 in Google with a one-page niche site and Adsense… I’d wonder, “Am I doing something wrong? Is my idea just a total fail?”

    It’s one reason I listen to Dan and Ian – they don’t sugarcoat the “1000 days process” of becoming successful at entrepreneurship.

    Also, I completely agree about focusing your energy on just one project until it stabilizes. I actually started out working on just two sites, yet I’ve still had to table the second one temporarily.

    1. Sean says:


      There are all sorts of people who will advocate shortcuts – some have even been successful with it, to be honest. But imo if you want to build a business that’s sustainable over the long term, is something you’re proud of, and provides value to your readers/customers/clients then this is the way to build your business.

      Sounds like this is exactly what you’re doing, so keep it up!

    2. Wow, that is some prolific writing Shanya! It’s taken my 3.3 years to write 600 posts, how did you write 900 in just 10 months?!

      I’d love to check out your authority site. What is it? Maybe there are some differences we can help each other out on. I’ve got about 300K pageviews a month and it’s kinda sitting there now for the past month. How about you?

      Cheers, Sam

      1. Shayna says:

        Actually, I was measuring in standard Microsoft Word “pages,” not pages on the site – sorry for the confusion! Some of your posts are bound to be more than one page (I’m looking at your Gen Y Millennials one, for example).

        If we consider that 900 pages in 10 months is about 3 Word-pages per day, it’s not so bad… plus it helps that I’m writing about a topic I know well.

        Anyway, I’ve linked my authority site in my name on this comment. I’m nowhere near your numbers – looking at 30K for October – but hopefully after another few years I’ll get there! I’d love to exchange feedback with you.

  3. Love the marble quote,

    I guess a problem many have is that they want to do a bunch of things because they don’t want to pick the wrong project to pursue, so they pursue all of them, or they end up doing nothing.

    If I take Door A, how do I know Door B won’t be what will take me to the lifestyle entrepreneur I want, or vice versa. So they do both, Then you get burned out trying to run two different things at once like Sean says.

    Great Sean

    1. Sean says:

      I think that’s part of it, but to be honest I think it’s more fear of missing out. If someone approaches you with a great idea, you don’t want to be the guy who turns down working on the next Instagram. It’s hard to say no, precisely because there are SO many good ideas out there.

      The people who can block out the noise and excess opportunity and focus on the core of what they’re good at, makes them happy, and makes them money are the ones who will see the most success.

  4. Fred says:

    Hello Sean,

    I am a great fan of Location 180, and the great advice you offer. Since you are doing an amazing job here, I would like to point out that I noted a few sp mistakes in here. I would not have commented. But Again, that would be withholding info. Please check. Otherwise, fabulous work as always!

    1. Sean says:

      If you’ve been reading for awhile, you’ll also know I’m not the best proofreader 🙂

      I’ll check it out

  5. Harrison says:

    Thanks and cheers for this write-up Sean. Always a good reminder for myself to take one small step at a time with everything I like to do. And when things get too much, it’s always great to have interns or virt assistants helping out. Building teams then becomes more important when taking on many more projects.

  6. Sarah says:

    After months of floundering in too-many-options land, I just recently came around to this same conclusion and am (ehrm… finally…) focusing on building my freelancing business first and foremost. All the other side projects go on the later list… it’s hard to build anything without a solid foundation first, right? 🙂

    1. Sean says:

      Couldnt agree more. Happy to hear about the renewed focus! 🙂

  7. Nate says:

    Loved this post Sean. I am struggling with this exact stuff right now. I’ve built up a few different online revenue streams as a freelancer +internet contractor (some blog management, some SEO, some website work) and things have been growing at a slow and steady pace over the few months. Things are relatively stable, but I often find something coming up most days that I need to scramble to get on top of/take care of. (Maybe this means that my business is NOT stable). But I still struggle with wanting to begin new projects such as niche sites because I like their potential for recurring revenue more than my current revenue streams. Its tough to find a balance between being on top of current business and wanting to take on the next project. I think I need to take a step back and like you said really get on top of my current work so that I will be able to dedicate the time/effort necessary for my next endeavor.

    Thanks as always for the post!


  8. Just started freelancing and this is a good post to read. Some reassurance about going the right way. Looks like freelance IS the best option to start online but it is tough to keep yourself from being distracted and focusing on work.

  9. Martin says:

    This is my favorite quote on the topic:

    “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” — Walt Disney

    Now I try to focus in on one key task per time period. In September my business goal was to finish my book. Now I’m waiting for my proof copy while I work on my Spanish and take on additional freelance gigs.

  10. Howdy Sean,

    I enjoyed this post. The disavow tool is pretty great for bloggers it looks like.

    It seems like EVERYTHING Google is doing is diluting the SEO industry. Would you agree? If so, why do you think people try and employ SEO tactics beyond the basics?



    1. Anybody have thoughts on the SEO industry? Sean?

    2. Sean says:

      It’s Google’s job to make it seem as though everything they’re doing is diluting the industry. Their whole goal is to make search engine results higher quality, and less likely to be gamed.

      It’s a constant back and forth. Google comes up with a big solution such as the disavow links tool, and then the SEO pros and spammers figure out a work around. It’s going to go on like that for a long time.

      That said if you’re an SEO professional it just makes you that much more valuable. Furthermore, it also makes it harder to discern who’s actually an SEO pro these days. What worked at one point, definitely isn’t working now.

      SEO tactics beyond the basics can work, it just depends on what those methods actually are.

      1. Thanks SEan for responding. But if Google is perfect, then do we really need SEO tactics and such to try and work around the system?

        Isn’t great content the key to everything then, along with basic SEO everybody can do?

        1. Sean says:

          That’s just it, Google is not perfect, in fact in my opinion the latest round of updates have taken us DRAMATICALLY backwards in terms of the quality of the search results.

          Great content should be the key to everything, and in the end that’s what will be effective and that’s what will win out – but unfortunately, we aren’t quite there yet.

          1. But until we have an exact definition of what great content is, and what Google perfection is, then isn’t SEO beyond the basics just spinning our wheels?

            We all think our content is great content.. probably better than reality don’t you think? Can you share with us how much this blog gets now and maybe do a comparison of what type of traffic you think you would have got if you did not use SEO?


  11. Andrew says:

    Hi Sean,

    This is a helpful post. I quit my job 3 months ago to become a freelance website developer for the music scene and this all rings true.

    I have a lot of different project ideas and there are only so many hours in the day. You have to be really selective in what you do or you overstretch yourself and the quality of work suffers.

    The great thing about starting out freelance is it gives you the chance to experiment with your lifestyle to make sure your projects get full focus before you go onto the next thing.

    Keep up the good work! You’re an inspiration to people like me.

  12. Maciej Rajk says:

    Hi Sean,

    Your blog is amazingly inspiring! I’ve just watched your ‘Start a blog!’ video and your speech at xTED. I honestly hope to follow your footsteps, some beautiful Monday (you can’t say that Monday doesn’t exist! ;)).

    I’m a writer, with two published novels (in Polish!) and even though I quite enjoy my consultant job, I’d absolutely love to move to a warm place where I can continue writing.

    Once again thanks for the success story and motivation! 🙂

  13. Emile says:

    Hi Sean,

    This is an excellent post. I have been guilty of making the mistake of overloading myself with trying to start too many projects at the same time and it ended in all of them suffering. I ended up wasting my time and also money.

    Now I do things differently. Like you said, you should wait 48 hours. I let any idea move around in my mind for a few days and during that time I do research on it, as much as I can. Then if it is still around and seems like it is plausible, I do some testing online, maybe using a landing page and some FB or Google ads. This testing part has weeded out soo many ideas that I thought were great ideas but really no one wanted them.

    Again thanks for the post, it’s great to know I’m not alone in handling these sorts of challenges.


  14. Chas says:

    There are some great golden nuggets of advice here, Sean. Sometimes less is more. Thank you for the link to Ed Dale’s blog in your newsletter- I followed the link he had placed to the article in Search Engine Land. I love this quote from Andre Weyher, a former Google employee~ “…what I tend to tell people is the following; if you want to please Google with your SEO, then forget about SEO.”
    I know this has become somewhat of a cliche’ on many sites, not just ‘lifestyle blogs’, but, finding something you are passionate about is key.

  15. Jonny says:


    This is a fantastic article, exactly what I have been struggling with – trying to do too many projects at the same time and not focussing on one until I get somewhere with it.

    Thank you!

  16. Great post. Who hasn’t done this haha. I know i’ve got a tonne of failed/unstarted/unfinished projects which after thinking about it just cost me a bunch of money at the time.

    Though i think i’ve done a good job at sticking to what’s important, my main business and main income. Then when realising i had the time, as you explain, was able to start working on my blog a lot more. This also goes for other projects i’m working on, each one has it’s priority level as to what it will ascertain.

    Anyway, can’t agree more. Nice one Sean!

  17. Hann says:

    Excellent advice here Sean! I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of starting multiple projects at once and not seeing them through. I really like your advice for first stabilizing a business before starting on another project.

    It’s really easy to get caught up with potential business ideas that we often forget about what really matters! Thanks for posting this.

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