Over the next few weeks, I’ll be touring India and then traveling elsewhere in the world. While I’m away, we’ll be publishing a new series of Questions and Attempted Answers (Q&AA) from readers. I’ll share my answer, and you’re invited to share an answer of your own as well.
Today’s question comes from Jan, who writes in from Belgium.
“I understand the importance of focusing on a valuable skill, but I’m not sure that I have any such thing. There are a lot of things I like to do, but nothing I feel especially passionate about or think that I do better than anyone else. I went to university and earned a degree, but I didn’t have any business training. What do I do?”
Great question. Here’s my attempted answer →
A core principle of building a small business in the new economy is that everyone’s good at something that can be transformed into a successful project. If you’re not sure what your specific skills are, there are a couple of approaches you can take.
Approach #1: Focus on the questions that people ask you.
When a lot of people ask you the same kinds of questions, it shows that there is a demand for a topic in which you are a perceived authority. Many businesses are created by people who pay attention to what other people want to learn from them. Being a good listener is important for much of life, and it helps in business too.
Regular readers may be tired of hearing this, but I’ll hammer this point over and over since it is frequently overlooked by aspiring entrepreneurs: You simply MUST focus on the core point of how your skill or passion is useful to other people. This is the lesson of convergence that many lifestyle businesses are built upon.
Approach #2: Once you identify a broad skill, think more about the process of skill transformation.
Just as everyone’s good at something, if you’re good at one thing you’re probably good at something else—and the “something else” may be where the business model lies.
Susannah created a popular photography course that became a full-time project by helping others to explore life through art.
Chandoo (from here in India!) created a highly-profitable business helping people use spreadsheets more effectively in their work.
Mignon created a network of “Quick and Dirty Tips” to help people improve their lives through better writing and language, as well as other topics as the business grew.
Each of these people learned to package their skills in a marketable way while focusing on helping others, and each of these businesses now produces a significant income.
Your Turn: What Would You Suggest?
Feel free to share your advice or experience in the comments. I’ll be speaking at another event in Delhi today, then heading over to Agra for the last of seven cities on the #100startup tour of India.
*Tickets are now available to the AONC Holiday Party! If you’ll be in Portland on December 28, come and celebrate with a fun group of unconventional people.