Totally unrelated to the topic of the post: I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing. I sat down next to the only available outlet, about three feet away from a middle-aged guy who’s on a Skype video chat. I’ve never rushed faster to boot up my computer and throw my headphones on. He’s all geared up in his headset, just chatting away like the person on the other line is sitting on the other side of the coffee shop. Everyone can hear his conversation. He’s talking to someone about how to install a router. I shouldn’t know that. No one should know that. Coffee shops that provide free wi-fi are not your personal VOIP telephone booth. Please, please don’t ever be this guy.
To me, there’s one sure fire way to GUARANTEE that you have a good experience with a business: solve a problem that you have. Create a solution that you will use in your life. Create a solution because you’ve looked at what’s available and you’re shocked that there’s nothing better out there. The bigger the problem, the better.
Why? For starters, it’s almost guaranteed to be something you’ll be passionate about. And if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll likely be happier than if you’re just trying to quit your 9-5 or become rich. You’ll also be more likely to learn new skills that will directly help with solving the problem.
But the most important thing is that you will be your own target market. Think for a second about what this means.
For the most part:
- You don’t need to determine if there is a market. If you have the problem, it’s almost guaranteed that there’s a niche of similar people that have the exact same problem.
- You can develop as a BETA tester. Everything you build should be built with the customer in mind. That’s a whole lot easier when you are the customer.
- Marketing is (a little) easier. Just ask yourself – where do I go online? How do I find out about cool new things? From friends via Twitter, Facebook, Email? Or by reading blogs? Or watching YouTube videos? Or on forums? Or the banners on the Yahoo! homepage? However you’re influenced – start your marketing there.
- You’ll be better at customer service. You’ll be able to relate to the needs of your customers because you’re just like them. If you respond accordingly (i.e. “I can completely relate to your issue..”), this will very much “humanize” a web experience that is usually faceless. This matters to customers.
- You’ll know how to grow. Again, because you’re just like your customers you’ll know what new features/services are most important.
I think a lot of great businesses are built like this without realizing it.
Now, I didn’t say that this will guarantee your financial success or viability. If you don’t have a good revenue model, if you aren’t profitable, if you don’t have good operational processes in place, the business will likely cease to exist. BUT in that scenario you will have made your life a bit easier (and likely some other people’s), and learned some valuable business lessons. That’s a good experience in my book.
And if you succeed, you’ll know that you are creating something of value. You’ll be immersed in a business that actually matters.
I’m currently working on what I think is a really really cool new web app. In the mold of Music-Alerts and Z.ips.ME, it solves one of my problems. One of those “I-can’t-believe-there’s-nothing-out-there-that-does-that” sites. However, the difference is that in this case I think there’s a legit revenue model behind it. But that doesn’t guarantee that it’ll make any money. If it doesn’t, I’ll be disappointed, but will still have created a solution that didn’t previously exist. A solution that I’ll use…even if no one else does. Even that “worst case scenario” is a surprisingly satisfying thought to me.