5 frameworks to find your next product idea
Discover simple product ideas you can launch in a month as a solopreneur
Today, I’d like to share 5 frameworks to help you find ideas for products you can launch quickly, without a large team or tons of money.
Building a product as a solopreneur is hard. You see startups with big money, PR, and teams launching beautiful products and thinking to yourself: "How could I ever do this as one person?"
Here's the thing: you don't need all that to kick off a killer project. You need to find a unique insight and build a simple product that alleviates pain for a small group of people. That does not require a large team or a huge PR budget.
Anyone can find good product ideas with the right ideation frameworks. Here are 5 of my favorite ones:
Framework 1: observe your life
In your day-to-day, many small but significant problems go unnoticed. By proactively looking for these pain points in your daily life, you can reveal many potential product ideas. This requires attention to detail and a willingness to look at mundane daily activities through a curious lens. The best product ideas often come from solving the most common frustrations. Here are a few steps you can take to uncover ideas:
Make a habit of noting down daily annoyances, no matter how trivial they seem. Look for things that are painful, irritating, cluttered, stressful, and complicated. Over time, this list can reveal patterns and opportunities for resolving these pains.
Analyze your typical day at work: What do you spend a lot of time and effort on? What feels inefficient? What is frustrating? What do you complain about?
Observe the products and services you use the most in your work and life. What don’t you like about them? How could they be improved?
Notice where you’ve come up with shortcuts, hacks, and workarounds in your life and work - many times, you can productize these.
Figure out what could be automated or productized in your daily life, calendar, task list, or project list.
I discovered the idea for Competely through this framework. I noticed I spend a lot of time doing competitive analysis for new products, and I figured I could build something to automate some of this tedious and painful process.
Framework 2: find untapped demand
Another way to find product ideas is to look for implicit or explicit demand: people suffering from a specific pain, trying to solve a specific problem, or just looking for alternatives to existing products. Two of my favorite ways to find demand are:
Analyze trends on platforms like Google Trends, Twitter, and YouTube to identify what captures people’s attention and what people rant about. These trends can reveal consumer interests that you could tap into.
Conduct keyword research using tools like Google Keyword Planner or Ahrefs to discover what people search for on Google. It could be a problem they are trying to solve, a product they are looking to replace, or anything really. You want to be looking for keywords with sufficient searches (thousands per month) but a low amount of competition.
Framework 3: follow the money
You can find good market opportunities by seeing what products people already pay for:
List all the online products that you, your family, and your friends already pay for. Which ones were built by one person or a small team? Can you pull off something better or different?
Browse through listings on BoringCashCow to find businesses that are profitable yet unexciting to the majority of entrepreneurs. This provides insight into business ideas that are often overlooked but have a proven track record.
Search Twitter to see which products built by other solopreneurs make money, as many are building in public. Search Indie Hackers for products that generate $1,000/mo, you can even filter by category or business model.
Here’s the important part: don’t just create a copycat or replica of other people’s products! It’s not just unethical, it’s also not a smart business move. You’ll always be a few steps behind if you’re building a copycat. Instead, focus on the underlying problem they are trying to solve and innovate a different or better way to solve that problem. There are many ways to solve any given problem.
Framework 4: leverage new enablers
Technology is advancing at a thrilling pace. New AI models, APIs, open-source libraries, and no-code tools can help you build a product that was hard or impossible to build before. Here are a few ways you can leverage what's new to create what's next:
Immerse your life in new technologies you’re passionate about. Become an early adopter of these technologies. Try to “live in the future” and adopt these technologies before most people have the chance to.
If you’re passionate about AI, stay on top of the latest developments with newsletters like Ben’s Bites. Between language models, video generation, and machine vision, AI technologies are improving monthly and shifting how software is built. AI drives massive changes in existing product categories and enables the creation of new products that were not possible before.
Look for new, promising platforms to build on top of. If the platform grows to millions of users, you can often grow with it - just look at the number of small businesses built on top of the Notion ecosystem. In recent months, we’ve seen new platforms like the OpenAI GPT Store and Apple’s visionOS. However, with the good comes the bad: it’s risky to have your entire product depend on one platform, and it could even kill your product.
Look for new open-source projects gaining traction, as they often utilize emerging technologies, and can be used to easily build products that were previously difficult to build.
Think what is possible today that wasn't possible a year ago:
What are some new capabilities in AI, server, and client technologies? What new data has become available? What has become cheaper, more scalable, and more performant to enable new products?
This is how I came up with the idea for Flawless. Last year, OpenAI introduced a machine vision model (GPT 4-Vision), which made it possible for AI to visually analyze your landing page, do a UX audit, and suggest improvements to your page. This wasn’t possible a few months before.
The risk with this framework is finding ideas that are “a solution looking for a problem” - cool products that no one actually needs. Particularly with this framework, it’s important to validate that your product idea is something people want.
Framework 5: think from first principles
With this framework, you take a known problem with existing products, and focus your efforts on finding a radically better or different way of solving that problem.
To innovate a product that’s ten times better, you’d need to challenge the status quo of how existing products solve a problem. By thinking from first principles, you strip away existing complexities and get down to the fundamental truths of a problem. This is challenging, but if done right, it can lead to the creation of a product that is an order of magnitude better. Here are a few steps you can take:
Analyze existing products you know and use. What problem are they trying to solve? Is there a completely different way to solve that same problem?
Try to reframe and redefine the problem in a different way. You can utilize the Five Whys technique to help distill the root problem that a product is trying to solve.
Instead of imitating existing products in a market, question everything from first principles: the platform, the user experience, the necessary feature set, the business model, the go-to-market strategy.
Brainstorm how to create a product experience that is 10x better than what's available now. This could mean a 10x faster, easier, cheaper, more efficient, or more enjoyable product that exceeds customers’ expectations.
Bonus: ideation frameworks that aren’t suitable for solopreneurs
Some frameworks are great if you want to build a large venture-backed startup, but are counterproductive for solopreneurs building a lifestyle business. Here are a few:
Identifying industries ripe for disruption - disrupting any industry takes significant money, time, and effort, and is therefore unsuitable for solopreneurs.
Anticipating and betting on future trends - while large startups can afford to play long games and bet on macro trends for the next 3-5 years, as a solopreneur, you’ll run out of money by then.
Looking at which ideas get PR or funding - if you’re looking for ideas by browsing Crunchbase or The Verge for what’s hot, you’re getting yourself into markets where you’ll be met with plenty of well-funded competition.
Interviewing enterprise customers - building products for large enterprise companies will force you to deal with things like compliance, security, integrations, and data governance that you’re not equipped to handle as a solopreneur.
Choosing the right idea
By using the 5 frameworks above, you’re likely to find many interesting product ideas within a matter of days.
However, not every good idea is worth pursuing. It’s important that you filter ideas based on criteria that fit your needs:
Is it feasible? Am I capable of building and launching an MVP for this product in a short amount of time, with code or no-code tools?
Does it fit my business objectives? e.g. if the product is successful, can it generate $1,000/mo? How confident am I in this idea? Does it fit my risk profile?
Does it fit my lifestyle objectives? What kind of work does it involve to build and grow this (e.g. sales calls, email support, operations)? Am I passionate about this? Can I dedicate enough time to build and grow this product?
Even once an idea passes your criteria, you’ll want to validate it before going all in.
I hope you will utilize these 5 frameworks wisely and find your next idea in no time!
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