Start With A Customer, But Reuse Your Work

by Matthew on August 4, 2011

The last few weeks I’ve been going over various models promulgated by “experts” for starting and monetizing an “Internet business.” Given my personality, it’s not surprising that I instantly skip over or discard more than half of the advice. Success can be the worst teacher, so I have been trying to keep that in mind as I struggle not to just instantly toss piece after piece of online advice into the proverbial garbage. Just because my instant impressions have been right about the last 100 ideas thrown my way doesn’t mean my instant impressions are always correct.

On one side are the folks who are trying to build a blog along with a digital product they can sell. That’s mostly a numbers game and marketing exercise. New advice abounds, always challenging the old advice from a week ago. Since challenging common advice is itself a traffic attraction strategy, it’s an absolute zoo out there with people seemingly trying to one-up each other. I have no interest in this kind of business. This blog is not my business; it’s a way to share with you and help you escape the rat race as well. This blog’s main purpose isn’t to sell stuff.

On the other side are people who actually know genuine business and often have some brick-and-mortar experience. Advice from these people rings much more true, because they aren’t just trying to write persuasive copy. These are people to learn from. I’m always on the lookout for advice and the opportunity to connect with these folks.

To build a real business, you need at least one customer and a product that customer wants/needs. In my case, I want products that do not require me to be in a particular geographic location at all times.

Finding things people want is easy, so I have chosen my first “customer.” It’s actually my wife’s online business which is growing and needs some special technical efforts. I’m working on developing a product for her which will become my own significant product to launch. In this way, it’s almost like helping to build two businesses at once without getting pulled in different directions. My choice to focus in this way came partly from the advice to sell your by-products by 37signals.

If you’re developing something for one customer, keep in mind the opportunity to capture that effort and turn that work into a product with broad appeal that you could build a business around. Some other examples of this are building premium WordPress themes; build once, sell many times. That sure beats custom web design work for one customer at a time.

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