Thoughts on startup marketing, software, and technology

The Art of the Side Hustle: Find a Problem

Published March 29, 2017 - 0 Comments

You have decided to start a side hustle. The first step is finding a problem to solve…and one that people are willing to pay money for.

This problem does not need to be world changing. You do not need to cure cancer.

So what is bugging you or people you know?

  • What tasks do you do manually all the time?
  • What takes up valuable time from other more important matters?
  • Is there some new problem created by a new technology or situation in the world?

The Intersection of Success

A great intersection is where your talents and interests meet. Let me give you some examples.

Some of my own past businesses were:

  • Creating apps for the Apple App Store = intersection of my abilities to code along with my interest to learn the Apple eco system and engage in a new, exciting, and growing market.
  • Pinball decals business = intersection of my creative skills with Photoshop and my interest in the pinball machine hobby.
  • TribeBoost = intersection of my marketing and technology knowhow along with an interest in connecting with interesting people on social media.

Are you getting any ideas here? I bet you can come up with a few.

The reason why this model works is that your talent will help you do great work while your interest keeps you working. A potent pairing for sure.

This is a bit different from the old message of “follow your dreams.” Sure follow your dreams and passions, but you also need to attack them in ways where your talent can be put into gear.

You may want to be an opera star, but your voice sounds like an alley cat. Success is unlikely no matter your ambition.

The Riches are in the Niches

Start small and target to a very unique niche. This way you can find an area with limited competition — or at least where you can outperform existing players.

In all of these examples above, I had little competition at first. This allowed me to immediately get sales. Within days…not weeks or months.

Getting sales right away gives a boost:

Never underestimate the power of that first “wow people are willing to send me money for this” moment. This is exciting and fuels you to keep moving forward and improving your product. People that do not get this often just give up.

Data and Market Knowledge

With real paying customers you can learn what people truly want and need. Not just what you think they do. These are often very different things.

If something could use improvement, believe me…you will find out once you have paying clients.


Scratch Your Own Itch

I like the idea of scratching my own itch — or building things that solve your own issues. This means building costs are immediately reaping benefits.

I did this with ThoughtFlame. It was so effective for my own Twitter accounts that I already have made my investment back in saved time. I don’t need to sell hundreds of licenses to make it feel worthwhile.

When you are scratching your own itch, you also have the ability to think like a customer. What a great edge to have! Many businesses struggle with this and never get it.

Just make sure that you are not scratching an itch that only you have. Your market does not need to be huge, but should be big enough to generate an acceptable revenue stream.

B2B > B2C

It can be sexy to go with a business-to-consumer business, as these get a lot of press and attention by everyone. We all know about the B2C companies and talk about them every day.

After doing both I have learned to focus on business-to-business projects going forward. At least for me they have been easier to succeed with.

Businesses are better than consumers for a variety of reasons:

  • Businesses have money to spend
  • Price is not a prime motivator for most businesses, they want quality and good customer service
  • Businesses have outlined goals and plans, so they know what they need
  • Consumers are consistently changing their phase of life, goals and interests. Thus you are always looking for new people to sell to. Businesses are not changing coarse that often. I have business clients that have been paying clients for several years.

There are few things more heartbreaking than reading a bad review for an app that you spent months building because you dared to charge $2.99 instead of giving it away. These situations mostly occur with the consumer market.

Validate Before Build

Validate that your solution is something people are willing and comfortable hiring you to help with. Just because you think it is cool does not mean there are enough people that relate to your problem.

Locate your target audience on Twitter. And converse with them. Tell them your idea for a solution and if this is a pain point you will find out.

You should also be able to find your first beta clients easily on Twitter. Offer to do the work for free. It will pay off as you learn how to attack the problem and what people need.

Do the work by hand and hustle at first before you hire developers. Or at least have a very bare bones solution. Don’t build out the final product without having real client experiences.

Don’t Be Intimidated, You Can Do It!

If you are like me, your ultimate goal is to replace your job.

  • To be your own boss.
  • Move to your own beat.
  • Work on what you want to.
  • With whom you enjoy working.
  • And even more importantly, when you want to work!

Being a parent and not having control of your time is pretty distressing. Kids get sick unexpectedly. They need you to be with them. The dance recitals and ball games. They are priceless. Otherwise you miss special events in life that never come back.

The intellectual freedom is pretty amazing as well. How frustrating to have a great idea on the job only be shut down due to office politics or corporate fear.

I would argue that anyone with a job is not truly free. You are not in control of your time. You are not in control on what you work on. You are not free in any sense of the word.

Try telling your boss you are not coming in this week just because you don’t feel like it.

Tell me how that goes over…

Show me the money

Show Me the Money

Many assume it is a Herculean task to fully replace a salary with their own business income.

All you need is 100 customers.

Does that seem like a big number? Of course not.

100 clients paying you $100 a month is an annual income of $120,000. Assume $40,000 per year for random expenses and you have $80,000 in profit. That is more than 80% of the working people bring home in the United States.

And all the while calling your own shots. You can even call your boss nasty names every morning (just look in the mirror).

So now that you have found a good problem to fix, it is time to get building. That means finding time to carve out time for action. That is what we will discuss next time.


* Here are the other articles in this series — The Art of the Side Hustle