Turning complexity into clarity.

Everyone has strengths, skills and aptitudes. Add in hobbies and interests. Maybe you've never looked at a ledger, but your mind is tuned to following columns and rows and transferring figures accurately, so you would make a good accountant. Maybe you spent a decade selling shoes so you know patent leather from plastic at a glance. By the time you reach adulthood, you will have at least one skill under your belt that you can practice with confidence. Are You Experienced?In the quest to get that first $10,000 out of an online venture, you should go with what you know.
Take myself. I have amassed a number of skills in my day. But what I may focus on is the intersection of five skills.
  • I am a programmer
  • I am a writer
  • I am a sculptor
  • I am a photographer
  • I am a jackass (to thine own self be true)
As a programmer, I can come up with nifty scripts and applications. I can put them onto web server or deliver them client-side
As a writer, I scrawl on about topics that interest me.
As a sculptor, I like to make shapes in 3D-- items with depth and texture.
As a photographer, I capture places, people and things. How I compose the shot-- the light, the content-- colors what the photo is about.
As a jackass, I make wise-ass comments and do stupid things. Sometimes, those stupid things are entertaining to others.
These five skills sets have some crude intersections with each other-- writing + jackass; writing + photography; sculpting + photography; programming + photography; et cetera. But what if you were to draw a Venn diagram of those skills and what they could combine to create?
In Internet terms, the hispter version of the Venn Diagram is the mashup: Google maps + garage sales = Garage Sailor, a site that puts garage sales on a Google map for your easy use.
Make a mashup of your skills and interests to see what you could do and do well. This is more than just a matter of building on your skills. Your combination of strengths is almost unique to you. Like my friend, I like Star Wars. My friend who is a designer is not a programmer and vice-versa. I could come up with the Star Wars search engine; while he could come up Star Wars mugs and t-shirts. When you add in enough features it makes a key specific to you. If no one else has that combination of skills, you have a prospect that is unlikely to be copied by another entrepreneur.
Back to my five skills: I can write something creative (so can many people). I can create specific sculptures and then photograph those to some end. ugly and xray 2 If I wanted, I could make a JQuery driven presentation engine to show off these photos in series using my programming skills. As a jackass, I would be well equipped to pose the characters in ways that made them look sarcastic or ironic-- or produce images that held multiple meanings.
Taking my skills and cooking them into a mashup, I end up with an online story told with sculpted characters as opposed to drawn illustrations. As a kid, I loved Rankin & Bass, so the territory is enjoyable.
Could the tale of X-Ray Boy & Bag-on-Head Lad be marketable? Maybe it could be. Look at online comics like HomeStarRunner, The Oatmeal, XKCD or even Web Design Depot. Comic strips have been popular for more than 100 years. I would argue they will be popular for a hundred more. No one says, "Geez, I want some content, right now." but people love content-- it's why they visit celebrity sites and look at their friends links via Facebook. People come online to consume new stuff-- something digestible like an online story could sell. If you create content, you can couple it with advertising and affiliate products (details to come in an upcoming post).
Your homework: look at your skills. If you don't think you have any skills, then look at your list of jobs. Look at what you last did that was fun or interesting. Look at what people compliment you on. Take those qualities and stitch together a list of your skills, then try to combine pairs of skills. After that, see if any of the combos can dance with other combos: cook + writer and jogging + dieting = a healthy tour of restaurants in your area in blog form.
In my examples, I have a concept that I can execute online as content. Perhaps your idea ties in with products you can sell because you can suss out winning products vs. duds. Take this exercise of your own skill mashup to narrow what your winning business idea is to be.
Some winning tips for getting your feet wet: Click here