Every great product starts with a great idea. And every great idea starts with a tiny spark. When you’re looking to make money as a geek, the first step is to get those sparks flying. Here are 30 sources of inspiration that can help your idea catch fire.
You could just toss your thoughts into the search engine but that might be pretty frustrating. A better place to look for inspiration on Google is Google Labs. This is where the company tries out its own ideas, most of which never get big. Some of those ideas are bit odd but a few just need a push in the right direction. Maybe you could pick one up and supply a shove.
2. My Programs
One thing you’ll notice on Google is that many of the tools you use on your computer are migrating to the Web. So take a look through your program list and see what other pieces of software could be offered online.
3. Internet Forums
Internet forums are often filled with people asking for help to solve their problems. Whether that’s advice on unblocking a sink or a how-to for unlocking an iPhone, it’s always possible to make money by offering solutions.
4. Airport Lounge
Forums are where people hope to find solutions; airport lounges are where they find problems. They’re places where people are looking for ways to fill empty hours so next time you’re waiting for a flight, fill yours by watching how they do it… then try to think of ways to help them do it better.
5. Blog Comments
Solving problems is one way to come up with business ideas. Another is just to give the public what it wants. Whenever a piece of technology gets discussed in a blog, people often respond by writing what they wish the gadget did. Read the comments… and get to work.
Sometimes it’s not the people that provide inspiration but the place. A library can be a good spot to clear out the distractions and let the ideas pour out. Unless you’re one of those types who prefers a bit of noise…
The alternative to calm and quiet is often Starbucks. If you’re the sort of person who tends to daydream when there are no distractions then try working somewhere that forces you to focus… like a lively café with plenty of new nomadics.
8. Hiking Trails
Or you can be a nomad yourself and hit the trails. Even if the birds and bees don’t inspire you, the fact that once you’ve started walking there’s no going back until you’ve reached the end means that you’ll have no choice but to think about ways to make your business big.
9. Press Releases
They’re rarely riveting reading, but press releases announce the arrival of new ideas into the marketplace. They can also give you new plans for ways to build on those ideas.
Children can make a game out of an old shoe and a piece of string. They think out of the box naturally because no one’s told them yet what the box looks like. Spend time with a bunch of kids, watch how they squeeze new uses out of old items and think about the different ways that you can make the familiar new.
Coming up with the product idea is only the beginning; you also have to market it. One of the best places to find ways of making your item stand out is to browse the supermarket shelves. As you’re filling your cart, look at the strategies that different companies use to attract shoppers’ attention.
12. Cereal Packets
And when you get home, stare at your cereal packet. You’d be hard pressed to find a better example of careful design, created specifically to appeal to a particular group of buyers. Note too, how companies like Kelloggs form joint ventures with other companies, like Disney, that appeal to the same market.
You might think that a cinema is the last place to go when you’re looking for inspiration for a money-making geek idea, but actually movie theaters have a lesson for anyone interested in earning extra income. They might market themselves as places to see films but almost half their profits come from the giant mark-ups they add to the popcorn and the soda. Sometimes, the most valuable idea isn’t the product but what you offer when people come to get it.
14. A Notebook
Yes, it’s old fashioned but it can still work. Grab a pencil and a blank page and start sketching what you’d like your business or product to look like. You might just be surprised at how much you already know.
15. Design Stores
A design store is obviously a good place to look for inspiration if you’re wondering how to plan a room or thinking about how a product should look. But even just paying attention to the way designers have thought about the way an item should be used might tell you something about what people want to do… and can’t do yet.
Not everything that starts in Japan makes it around the world. (There’s still something very Japanese about Hello Kitty.) But when it comes to comics, mobile phones, capsule hotels and a whole bunch of other strange things, Japan is way ahead of the pack. It’s one direction to look when you want to catch a wave.
17. Wall Street
This might not be the best time to be dabbling in finance, but Wall Street isn’t going anywhere and if you can meet a need here, you can do anything anywhere. Just ask Michael Bloomberg who made his billions not by trading, but by creating the financial software that let other people trade.
We don’t literally mean that you should pack a hat and exile yourself to the icy wastes. But sometimes, a restriction can be the grandparent of invention. It was the desire to access email without using a computer, after all, that led to the Blackberry…
19. A Stopwatch
One restriction that’s easy to apply is to take away time. Tell yourself that you have two minutes to write down all the business ideas you can think of, then admire all the things that have been on your mind.
20. The Bathroom
Why the bathroom happens to be the world’s most successful source of ideas is anyone’s guess. But it certainly seems to work, and not just for Archimedes. Keep a pencil handy and you might even try mounting a whiteboard on the shower wall.
21. Second Life
One of the biggest challenges of coming up with new ideas is that so many have already been thought of that it’s tough to be a pioneer. So try heading to a new world — a place where there’s still plenty to be discovered and fortunes to be made: online.
22. Your Car
We’ve already seen how airport lounges can be good places to create products that fill empty time. But you don’t have to go that far. The morning commute leaves many people stuck with nothing to do but stare at rear fenders. What can you create to make the time pass faster?
23. Support Groups
Attend a book club, a group for hopeful screenwriters or even an organization for people who love growing orchids and you should spot a ton of opportunities to supply products that help people reach their goals. You’ll be selling to a very targeted market — but that just means there will be little competition.
24. Further Education Colleges
And the same is true of the sort of night and weekend classes that older folk use to pick up fun new skills. Sign up, look for ways to help students get more out of their studies… then market it nationwide.
Obvious really, isn’t it? Business conferences are filled with people selling ideas — and sharing them too. They might be pricey but if you bring your own thoughts, you could find yourself creating a very inspiring partnership.
26. Art Galleries
Just as design centers can tell you something about function, so art can talk to you about form. Look at all the pretty shapes and colors in your local art gallery and you might find that you’re thinking about uses too.
27. Science Fiction
Was the clam-like design of the Flipper mobile phone really inspired by Star Trek? Probably. What other ideas can you steal by watching old sci-fi reruns?
Bookstores contain shelves packed with volumes that are themselves packed with neat ideas. There’s no bigger bookstore than Amazon, so browse the books and read the reviews. At the very least, you might be inspired to write your own.
Well, we had to say that, didn’t we? This blog aims to get your creative juices flowing — and there are a number of others doing similar things.
30. Your Life
The best ideas are usually the ones that come the easiest. What would make your life better? If you can’t find it, then build it… then share it.
[tags] geek money ideas [/tags]