Make money: not by building an internet company, but by using the net as a tool to create value and get paid. Use the internet as a tool, not as an end. Do it when you are part of a big organization or do it as a soloist. The dramatic leverage of the net more than overcomes the downs of the current economy.
The essence is this: connect.
Connect the disconnected to each other and you create value.
- Connect advertisers to people who want to be advertised to.
- Connect job hunters with jobs.
- Connect information seekers with information.
- Connect teams to each other.
- Connect those seeking similar.
- Connect to partners and those that can leverage your work.
- Connect people who are proximate geographically.
- Connect organizations spending money with ways to save money.
- Connect like-minded people into a movement.
- Connect people buying with people who are selling.
Some examples? I think it's worth delineating these so you can see that the opportunity can be big, if that's your taste, or small if you don't want to invest heavily just yet.
Connect advertisers to people who want to be advertised to.
Dani Levy did this with Daily Candy, a company she recently sold for more than a hundred million dollars. Daily Candy uses simple email software, there's no technology tricks involved. Instead, it's a simple permission marketing business... hundreds of thousands of the right people, getting an anticipated, personal and relevant email every day. (Note! This only works if you earn true permission, not that sort of fake half and half version that's so common).
Connect job hunters with jobs.
My friend Tara has made hundreds of thousands of dollars (in good years) working as an executive recruiter. But what did she actually do all day? She stayed connected with a cadre of people. She kept track of the all stars. She connected with the right people, invested time in them that her clients never thought was worth it. So, when it was time to hire, it was easier for them to call Tara than it was for them to start from scratch. The best time to start a gig like this is right now, when no one in particular wants to connect with and help out the superstars. Later, when the economy bounces back, your position is extremely valuable. (Note! This only works if you have insane focus and the people you interact with are the true superstars, not just numbers).
Connect information seekers with information.
At a large scale, this is what Bloomberg did to make his fortune. Spending $$$ on a Bloomberg terminal guarantees a user at least a fifteen minute head start on people who don't have one. But consider how many micro markets where this connection doesn't occur. Michael Cader offers it to book publishers and does quite well. Which industry needs you to channel and collect and connect?
On a micro level, there are now people making thousands of dollars a month running their pages on Squidoo. That's almost enough to be a full time job for a curious person with the generosity to share useful information.
Connect teams to each other.
How much is on the line when a company puts ten people in three offices on a quest to launch a major new product in record time? The question, then, is why wouldn't they be willing to spend a little more to hire a team concierge? Someone to manage Basecamp and conference calls and scheduling and document source control to be sure the right people have the right information at the right time... I don't think most organizations can hire someone to do this full time, but I bet this is a great specialty for someone who is good at it.
Connect those seeking similar.
Who's running the ad hoc association of green residential architects? Or connecting the hundred CFOs at the hundred largest banks in the US? It's amazing how isolated most people are, even in a world crowded with people. I know of a guy who built an insanely profitable business around connecting C level executives at the Fortune 500. After all, there are only 500 of them. They want to know what the others are doing... (Consider this example)
Connect to partners and those that can leverage your work.
Freelances had no power because they depended on the client to hook them up with the rest of the team that could leverage their work. But what if you do that before you approach the client? What if you, the graphic designer, have a virtual partner who is an award winning copywriter and another partner who is a well-know illustrator? You could walk in the door and offer detailed PDFs or other high-impact viral electronic media in a turnkey package.
Connect people who are proximate geographically.
We all know that newspapers are tanking. Yet news, it appears, is on the rise. This paradox is an opportunity. Who is connecting the 10,000 people in your little community/suburb/town/zip code to each other? One person who spends all day at school board meetings, breaking stories about a dumping scandal, profiling a local business person or teacher? If you did that, and built an audience of thousands by RSS and email... do you think you'd have any trouble selling out the monthly cocktail party/mixer? Any trouble finding sponsors among local businesses for a media property that actually and truly reaches everyone?
Connect organizations spending money with ways to save money.
During the last recession, plenty of entrepreneurs scored by selling businesses on doing a phone bill audit. They took 30% of the first year's savings and did the work for free. Today, there are countless ways businesses can save money using technology and outsourcing, but few take full advantage. You can train them to do this and keep a share of the savings.
Connect like-minded people into a movement.
We've seen plenty of headstrong bootstrapped entrepreneurs turn a blog into the cornerstone of a multi-million dollar empire. The secret: they don't write their blog for everyone. Instead, they use the blog as the center connecting point for a niche, and then go from there. It's easy to list the tech successes, but there are literally 10,000 other niches just waiting for someone to connect them.
Connect people buying with people who are selling.
Sure, you know how to use Craigslist and eBay to buy and sell... but most people don't. How about finding people in your town with junk that needs removing, items that need selling, odd jobs that need filling... and then, for a fee, solve their problems using your laptop and these existing networks? Imagine the power, just to pick one example, of building an email alert list of 500 garage sale bargain hunters. Every time you email them, they show up. Now, you can walk into any home in any town and guarantee the biggest garage sale success they've ever seen... and you have the photos to prove it. As long as you protect the list and do for them, not to them, this asset increases in value.
The best time to do any of these projects was five years ago, so that today you'd be earning thousands of dollars a week. Too late. The second best time to start: now.