Bootstrapping Case Study: Screencasting on the Cheap

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 8:00pm by Site Administrator

Screencasting is building into a hot niche, and tutorial videos have a great deal of potential for generating revenue. You could build a business around it. There are millions of people searching every day for information on “how to” do something, possibly on a topic you can “teach” through a video screencast. I previous wrote about bootstrapping an online information business. This post is supplementary to that one, and there is a bit of overlap here.

To clarify, screencasts are videos where you’ve “captured” your activity while running a piece of software. Camstudio is a free piece of software that lets you do that, but it has a limited feature set, if you want professional quality production, callouts, swipes, narration, etc. For that, you need something like TechSmith‘s Camtasia Studio, which runs about US$300.

I splurged earlier this year and bought a copy, and it’s worth every cent because it paid for itself in video tutorials I produced for other websites. But you don’t actually have to pay for it up front. If you follow my instructions, you can bootstrap your way. All it requires is a bit of planning, and you could generate enough income to pay for a copy.

Here’s one way that you can spend nothing upfront on Camtasia Studio and get the benefits of the full version.

  1. Brainstorm a plan for video screencasts that you can sell online, along with how you’ll promote.
  2. Set up a Paypal account.
  3. Set up the infrastructure for a website where you’ll sell your videos.
  4. Integrate the PayPal purchase button.
  5. Download the 21-day free trial.
  6. Produce a round of videos and post them on your site for sale.
  7. Promote your videos by releasing teasers on YouTube and other sharing sites, and SplashCast. Blog about your videos, too, to drum up interest.
  8. Sell either downloadable copies of your videos or a flat or monthly membership access.
  9. Pay for a full copy of Camtasia Studio.

There are at least three variations to the process above:

  1. Start with the free Camstudio for prelimary work.
  2. Promote your for-sale screencasts by offering an excerpted tutorial to some select blogs, in return for a promotional link.
  3. Instead of selling screencasts yourself, sell them to blog owners, along with a tutorial article. If you’re using either the free Camstudio or the free trial of Camtasia Studio, you can start selling articles with videos right away. No setup, no PayPal integration.

    You could sell such blog articles for between $50-$200 each, depending on how much work they are. My own tutorials over at Tubetorial, SearchEngineJournal and Performancing took between 4-6 hours of total work each, including scripting, screencasting, production, video upload to SplashCast, article writing, editing.

    While this freelancing, which is not entrepreneuring, it could turn into a startup business.

Ideally, you will want to have some “presence” online, maybe with a blog, before you try to sell a brand new video series. Or a very powerful copywritten sales page. This gives you a better chance of converting viewers of your teaser videos into buyers.

If you’re covering a hot topic and have screencasts that really teach something useful (such as how to use such and such software or web application) and are targeted to the right people, then there’s a good chance you could sell your series. Or you could get a promise from various bloggers that you’ll write an article and have a screencast video with it. With a bit of savvy and willingness to do the necessary work, you could turn screencasting into a business.

Obviously, you are ultimately paying for the Camtasia Studio software. However, you’ve made it work for you, without an initial cash outlay. That’s bootstrapping in action.

Working Green: 50 Tips To Reduce Your Office’s Waste

Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 2:07pm by Site Administrator

From daily smog to the rising threat of global warming, it’s pretty obvious that we all need to clean up our act a little. Much has been said about how to go about doing this at home, but what about in the workplace? Copiers, computers, even old floppy disks, can make a huge impact on the environment. Here’s are a few ways to reduce your office’s effect. Paper and printing products

Nearly every office, large or small, relies on large quantities of paper. Check out these tips to help reduce the amount of paper and printing products that are used at your workplace.

  1. Use both sides of paper: When making copies, set your machine to use both sides of paper and cut your consumption in half.
  2. Shred and reuse unwanted paper: Instead of throwing away old documents, shred them and reuse them as packing material in shipments.
  3. Reuse boxes: When you get shipments in, save your boxes so that you can use them again for shipments out.
  4. Offer paper recycling: Put a paper recycling receptacle next to every printer, copier and fax machine so that employees can deposit unwanted paper in them. Discuss recycling with your cleaning crew or appoint a person to bring your paper to a recycling center each week.
  5. Avoid color printing: Color printing generally uses more ink, so print in black and white when you can.
  6. Print in draft mode: To conserve even more ink, print in draft mode. It will generally lighten the shade, but you’ll still be able to read your copy clearly.
  7. Buy paper wisely: Create a policy to buy only chlorine-free paper with a high percentage of recycled content.
  8. Consider alternative paper: Think about buying paper made from hemp, bamboo or organic cotton.
  9. Buy recycled toner and ink: Cartridges contribute metal and plastic to landfills, but buying toner and ink that’s refilled can help alleviate this environmental burden.
  10. Distribute memos via email: Instead of printing out memos for distribution, email them and let employees decide whether or not they wish to print them.
  11. Store manuals, policies and other documents online: Don’t print out huge employee handbooks. Allow employees to access PDF copies at their leisure.
  12. Provide air dryers in the bathroom and common areas: Reduce paper towel waste by providing air dryers as an alternative. Take it a step further and provide reusable towels.
  13. Reduce margins: Reduce your margin settings so that your printer uses less paper.


You may not consider commuting to be a part of your office’s environmental impact, but your transportation policies can make a large difference. Encourage telecommuting, biking, and other green transportation options by taking these steps.

  1. Encourage employees to walk or bike to work: Make walking or biking an easier option by offering showers and private changing areas at your office.
  2. Offer a bonus for green commuters: If employees agree to walk, bike, or take public transportation to work, offer them a small bonus for encouragement.
  3. Support alternative schedules: Allow employees to work longer hours, but fewer days, in order to let them stay at home once a week or more.
  4. Create a carpool program: Many of your employees may want to carpool, but don’t know where coworkers live or simply don’t have the courage to ask around. You can help by administering a program to get them connected.
  5. Offer telecommuting: If some or all of your employees’ work can be done at home, give them the option to telecommute.
  6. Encourage efficient vehicles: If you provide company cars to employees, consider purchasing hybrids. Additionally, encourage employees to rent hybrids or other high-efficiency cars when they take business trips.
  7. Videoconference: Whenever possible, try to videoconference instead of traveling to meetings.
  8. Offer bike parking: Provide employees with a secure space to park their bikes in order to encourage this mode of transportation.


Manufacturing office equipment contributes greatly to reducing air quality and landfill waste. Consider these tips when you’re purchasing equipment for your business.

  1. Buy used furniture: When appointing your office, check out sites like Craigslist or FreeCycle for cheap or free used furniture. You can also check out remanufactured cubicles for both cost and environmental savings.
  2. Recycle floppy disks: Turn your old floppy disks into a pen cup or other useful storage unit.
  3. Buy used copiers and faxes: Manufacturing equipment like copiers and faxes creates lots of waste. Buy used equipment to eliminate waste, but make sure that they are still efficient.
  4. Unplug equipment when not in use: Encourage employees to shut down and unplug copiers, printers and other equipment when they leave the office every evening.
  5. Recycle your e-waste.: Cell phones, computers, printers and other equipment can often be recycled. Look for recycling programs in your area that accept these kinds of materials.
  6. Buy high-quality equipment: When buying equipment, be sure to purchase something that will last and not become obsolete quickly. That way, you’ll avoid having to buy new equipment and contributing to manufacturing waste.


Small changes in air conditioning, lighting, and fixtures can make a huge difference in your energy consumption. Follow these guidelines to save the environment and save on your electricity bill.

  1. Change your thermostat: Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer. Encourage employees to bring personal fans and sweaters to ensure that they stay comfortable.
  2. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs: As your current light bulbs burn out, replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs. They are more efficient and last much longer than traditional bulbs.
  3. Buy from a green energy company: Many utility companies generate their electricity using wind or other alternative energy sources. Consider purchasing your electricity from one of these companies.
  4. Create an after hours and weekend thermostat setting: If you know your employees aren’t going to be in the office, create a setting that conserves more energy during these hours. Be sure to allow an override function so that it can be changed if someone decides to come in to work.
  5. Turn off lights when not in use: Ask employees to turn off lights when they leave. Invest in automatic switches in places like the bathroom and supply areas so that they turn on and off whenever someone enters or leaves the room.
  6. Take advantage of natural lighting: Install windows and skylights so that you can use natural daytime light instead of electrical lighting.
  7. Buy Energy Star fixtures: When buying fixtures, look for the Energy Star label to save at least two-thirds less energy than regular ones.
  8. Unplug vending machines: When your office goes on vacation or leaves for the weekend, unplug vending machines.


Like other appliances, computers can be major energy hogs. Adjust screen savers, energy plans and quality to streamline your company’s computer efficiency.

  1. Unplug computers when not in use: Encourage employees to shut down and unplug their computers when they leave the office for the day.
  2. Buy for quality: When shopping for computers, buy units that will last and avoid becoming obsolete too quickly. This way, you’ll avoid contributing to e-waste.
  3. Buy for energy savings: When shopping, be sure to ask if your computers, monitors and printers are energy efficient.
  4. Give your computer a nap: Ask your IT department to set your computers to go to sleep when not in use. Creating short energy breaks can cut energy use by up to 70 percent.
  5. Banish screen savers: Make sure that employees know screen savers won’t save energy. They eat up lighting and processing energy. Instead, set screen savers to "none" or "blank screen."
  6. Buy smaller monitors: You can reduce your monitor’s consumption by up to 30% by using a 2 inch smaller monitor.
  7. Consider laptops: Consider buying laptops instead of desktops, as they generally use less energy and are more efficiently made.


Every little thing adds up when it comes to office waste. Check out these tips for even more ways to reduce your consumption at work.

  1. Use simple cleaning supplies: Discuss cleaning supplies with your maintenance crew. Ask them to consider using cleaners like baking soda or vinegar instead of commercial products.
  2. Do the dishes: Provide reusable dishes, silverware and glasses for luncheons.
  3. Provide filtered water: Instead of bottled water, provide employees with filtered drinking water and reusable cups.
  4. Install low-flow faucets and toilets: Help conserve water by installing low-flow faucets and toilets in restrooms and other common areas. This will also help conserve electricity by reducing your water heater’s output.
  5. Buy local, organic coffee and tea: If you provide coffee or tea service to employees, be sure that it’s local and organic to reduce your environmental impact.
  6. Consider office sharing: If you have a number of employees that don’t use the office regularly, consider assigning offices based on a schedule. You’ll save on utilities, equipment, furniture and more.
  7. Plant a tree for gifts: In lieu of sending a holiday gift to clients, plant a tree in their name.
  8. Buy sugar and cream dispensers: Avoid paper packets and save waste by offering employees sugar and cream in large dispensers.

16 Ways A Web Entrepreneur Can Improve His or Her Sex Life

Monday, August 6, 2007 at 2:41pm by Site Administrator

Now that you’ve successfully started your own business, it’s time to let the money roll in and watch the hotties line up at your door. Easy, right? Unfortunately, as time-consuming as it is to maintain your Web-based business, landing your dream date is just a teensy bit harder. It might sound ridiculous, but unlocking the keys to a man or woman’s heart requires effort, skill, and most importantly, lots of face time.

The dating world isn’t too much different from the business world, but there are a few variances that you should remain aware of. We’ve put together a list of basic but often overlooked ways for you to spice up your dating life and rechannel that ambitious energy into the bedroom.

  1. Step away from the computer. We know, we know. Without your computer, you’d have no business, no money, and no life, right? Wrong! You would still have a life, because the world manages to go on without the aid of a computer. Even though online dating sites can connect you to other lonely hearts, our goal is to help you improve your sex life, which can’t be done unless you get out of the house and meet some actual people.

    You don’t have to pull the plug on your trusty techno friend, but try to gradually give yourself some space away from the virtual world. Set aside a certain amount of time each day that you would normally spend on the computer, and instead, read a book, go for a walk, or catch up with an old friend. Spending time away from the computer will help you ease into a new social circle of friends and potential mates. Check out the New York Times Bestsellers List for book ideas or find a Starbucks location near you.

  2. Brush up on your pop culture and current events. Before you venture out into the unfiltered world of Real Human Beings, you might want to review what’s going on in the world. What are people talking about on the news? Familiarizing yourself with the latest in Hollywood gossip or White House policy will give you something to talk about when you find yourself stumped for conversation. Check out the E! Web site or for a quick way to get your info.

    Your life might center around your work — after all, you’re the one who started it from nothing — but no one else shares the same investment. Others will quickly tire of you if the only thing you have to offer to the conversation are stories about what’s been updated on your Web site or the newest Pay Pal features you’ve been dying to try.

  3. Do something social. Having great charisma in the chatroom doesn’t count. It’s not your fault that being a web entrepreneur has made you antisocial while it made you millions, but you can do something about it now. After you’ve gotten away from the computer and amassed some good conversation starters, it’s time to open the door and step outside.

    Sign up for a class on something you’re interested in, go to a bar, or read a magazine at a coffee shop. You don’t have to venture too far out of your comfort zone. The class could help benefit your business, and the magazine you read might include articles about internet marketing. Visit the Community Colleges Listings Web page to find a class you’re interested in. As long as you’re surrounded by other people, you’re that much closer to snagging a hot date.

  4. Don’t ignore personal hygiene. What’s the best part about working from home? You can dress however you want! Comfy pajama pants and your college t-shirt may have been a cute pairing as you skipped down the hall when you were eighteen – but most of us are grown-ups now. The opposite sex generally responds to clean, tailored attire – not to mention fresh breath, deodorant, and brushed hair.

    Dress in something that makes you feel comfortable and confident, like a pressed shirt that brings out your eyes or a sexy little dress that shows off your legs but doesn’t embarrass your friends. See how the latest fashions will look on you at Style.comA light spritz of cologne or perfume will make the hottie in question lean in closer, but too much will turn them off completely. Find your scent at

  5. Avoid stories that begin with "One time when I was on the internet…" Again, it’s not your fault that your job requires you to be well-versed in Web gossip and computer lingo; however, try to avoid excessively referencing the internet. It will make you sound like a loser with no sex life, and even though it might be true, it’s not a good way to impress a date.

    If you’re afraid you might unknowingly sneak some Web speak into the conversation, turn the talkfest back to your potential hookup. Let him or her direct the conversation, and listen to what they have to say. Having someone genuinely interested in what you’re saying is a huge turn on, so be sure to take notes!

  6. Keep it light. While you may be in the middle of a personal or business crisis, don’t turn your darling into your therapist. There’s a time and a place for weepy confessions, and it does not happen anywhere near date one (or two or three).

    Keep things light and cheerful, and try to focus on the present. Chat about the band that’s playing, what you love about the city, where you’d like to go on vacation, anything that puts you in a good mood but maintains a safe distance. Try visiting the Citysearch Web site to find out what’s going on in your town. If you’ve got a twinkle in your eye, chances are your date will follow your lead.

  7. Be original. It’s the same idea you have for your business plan. Think of it as selling yourself, instead of your product. Don’t worry, it’s not as sleazy as it sounds. Cheesy advertising gimmicks don’t work on your customers, so why use lame pick up lines on the hottie down the bar? Visit the Cosmopolitan magazine Web site for tips. They work for guys as well as girls.

    Instead of dropping a tired-out line, use the situation to make your move. Did a tipsy cougar try to come on to the guy you’ve been eyeing? Throw him an amused glance to share a secret joke. Did the bartender shortchange the perky blonde next to you? Stick up for her or offer to pay for her next drink. Getting creative is the best way to get noticed.

  8. Learn how to be the life of the party No, this tip doesn’t encourage you to dance on tables or take your clothes off. It does, however, challenge you to become the center of attention so that others will notice you.

    Be relaxed, tell a few good stories, and talk just softly enough that everyone has to lean in a little to catch every word. Click on this link to walk you through the dos and don’ts of telling a good story. Smile and have a good time, but keep it natural. No one wants to date a fake.

  9. Be confident. Starting your own business is unbelievably sexy…just don’t get into all the geeky details. If your beloved asks what you do for a living, casually mention that you run your own internet company.

    Believe it or not, the dotcom delirium is still romanticized in the non-computer savvy world. They will see dollar signs and might snuggle in a little closer. You might need to brush up on your internet history, though, so visit the Internet Society Web site for a quick review. If you play it cool, you’ll sound sweet and humble. No need to elaborate on all the html coding or your favorite computer model just yet.

  10. Touch and be touched. The best part about the early stages of dating are that even the slightest touch can ignite he most explosive fireworks. Once you make sure your palms aren’t sweaty, lightly cradle her elbow when you make a point in your story. If you have to excuse yourself to the restroom, place your fingers on the small of her back while you brush past her. Don’t be surprised if she can’t wait to get her paws on you.
  11. A little goes a long way. Who says an internet maven like you can’t be an old-fashioned gentleman? Simple gestures like holding the door open for your lady or scratching your man’s back seem insignificant to you, but giving extra attention to your date will make them feel special. Spoil them with a surprise like a bubble bath or a plate of their favorite dessert. Shop for candles and bubble bath to set the mood at Bath and Body Works or visit to get an idea for something sweet! It won’t be long before they’re willing to reciprocate the generous behavior.
  12. Listen and compromise. If you’ve started your own business, you’re probably used to things going your way. In the dating world, it’s not all about you. Communication is vital, but you’ll score more points listening to the object of your affection than you will talking their ear off. Click here for articles on appropriate dating communication.
  13. Know when to move on. You’ve tapped into your arsenal of best jokes and sexiest strokes but that gorgeous specimen is still not reciprocating, recognize the signs and move on. Don’t chalk it up at it as a loss yet. There’s another, hotter babe just around the corner who’s worthy of you and your fierce internet domination.
  14. Take it slow. Your love life will move more slowly than the business and internet worlds, so be patient. There’s no need to divulge all your scandalous secrets in the beginning of the relationship. A little mystery amounts to a huge aphrodisiac, so don’t rush anything. Allow your partner to feel comfortable, and just give him or her a taste of what’s next. A barely-there kiss on the corner of the lips let’s them know you’re interested but not clingy. They’ll be begging for more before you know it.
  15. Improve your stamina and get some exercise. Now that you’ve sealed the deal, you’d better be able to satisfy all your lover’s expectations. If the only exercise you’ve been getting lately has been that trip to the fridge from your computer, you’re in for some major trouble. Avoid this embarrassing shortcoming by engaging in a routine workout.

    You don’t have to sweat out an entire marathon, but take your dog for a walk around the block once a day or work out to a Pilates DVD a few times a week. Try out a membership to Gold’s Gym .Trust me, you’ll be VERY glad you’re in shape enough to last…a lifetime.

  16. Take the office out of the bedroom. Okay, we get it already. You’re lucky enough to work from home. But if you’re selling baby clothes out of your bedroom, you might want to stash the merchandise into the closet before bringing in a potential hookup. Nothing ruins the mood like a glimpse into the (unwanted) future. Oh, and make sure you use protection!

If you’re confident and ambitious enough to start your business, you’re bold enough to land yourself a hot date. Ease yourself back into the social world, get up the nerve to make a few original moves, and be prepared to make some room in your bed for the sexiest night of your life.

Comments (2) | Filed under: Skills

Innovate to Stay In Business

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 2:00pm by Site Administrator

Sounds like a fairly obvious directive, right? Unfortunately, not every company does it. Witness the demise of SunRocket [NY Times, free registration may be req'd], a reasonably successful player in the VoIP market.

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a group of related technologies that allow consumers to make phone calls over their Internet access – be it cable, high-speed dialup, satellite, power, Wi-Fi, or cellular.

SunRocket, like it’s very troubled direct competitor Vonage, are known as “pure VoIP” providers. They pretty much can only offer a few services, primarily because consumers use their regular home telephones and a special converter.

However, competitors such as Comcast, have a million VoIP customers to SunRocket’s 200,000. Why? Because Comcast is a cable company that can offer “triple play” services. Depending on the Triple Play provider, this may include TV, Internet and VoIP over the same “lines”.

Pure plays cannot offer much more than VoIP service, though a few made an attempt by offering home alarm services. So in terms of a service offering, while there is a market for Pure Plays, it’s probably much smaller than for Triple Plays. Pure VoIP providers simply cannot compete long-term, and were doomed to begin with.

Note, however, that with IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) offerings such as Joost and Babelgum, Triple Plays may very well lose their TV package customers. And with cell phone makers heading towards hybrid models that can work on both cellular networks and Wi-Fi networks (whether in your home or elsewhere), home phone providers may also start losing customers. So Triple Plays may become Single Plays – though probably not for several years.

Companies have to stay on top of these “convergence” trends in VoIP or other markets. Just preparing for the inevitable future is not enough. They’ll have to follow through and actually innovate if they want to stay in business long-term.

Should Your Business Website Have a Blog?

Monday, July 9, 2007 at 8:00pm by Site Administrator

You’re a bootstrapping entrepreneur or business owner trying to keep operating costs down. You’ve heard that everyone and their sickeningly cute lolcats are blogging and you’re thinking you should have a blog, too. Someone told you your website and business need it or you’ll be left behind. So what’s the story? Do you need a blog?

Usability and web design expert Jakob Nielsen of Nielsen Norman Group says no, and that you should write articles, not blog postings. He explains why articles add authority and the majority of blog postings – even those written by “experts” in a niche – decrease authority.


Nielsen conducted a number of “Monte Carlo” simulations, a statistical method used to predict a possibility of scenarios, given the right parameters. His simulation results suggest that the majority of blog posts in a block of 10,000 posts (1,000 experts each write 10 posts) result in average quality writing for most bloggers. Under the simulations, even a top-ranked expert will have the majority of their posts span from high-quality down to below average – which Nielsen suggests is unacceptable, that customers should want to pay for the information you provide them.


Now that said, these are statistical simulations based on assumed parameters. An experienced/ professional writer who has an understanding of the difference between blogging and article writing can produce an effective blog that adds authority to a business website.

This might mean, however, that you, a business owner, have to hire a professional instead of being the blogger yourself. And the content plan should include indepth pieces as well as short summaries. Nielsen discounts short summary posts, but they do have value:

  1. Increased visibility in search engines.
    The way that some search engines’ algorithms currently operate, not having regular fresh content means a decrease in ranking in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Producing indepth articles every day is beyond the ability of most writers/ bloggers.

  2. Varied content density.
    You do want regular fresh content. While quality is more important than quantity, if you can present quality short summaries, they do have value. One is varied content density, which gives regular readers respite from longer, indepth articles.

    That is, posting lots of long articles is no better than posting lots of short posts. In fact, it’s probably worse because regular readers may feel intimidated by the volume of content you are suddenly producing. Even the most popular indepth writers, such as personal development blogger Steve Pavlina, do not write every day.

    We forget that prior to the Internet loads of research showed that the average adult American male – who still dominates in online presence – gave very little time to daily reading. The blogosphere changed that, but some people still read superficially. Providing only indepth pieces is not the way to grab their attention.

  3. Personal connection.
    Some people actually enjoy reading the personal commentary of those writers they’ve attributed some authority and expertise to. Longer, indepth pieces can establish authority, but short summaries with added personal commentary add the personality that blogging enjoys over regular articles. We humans are social animals and tend to a sort of clannishness.

    This is ideal if your business wants to achieve a one on one relationship with customers. If you don’t want this, then having a blog will detract from your site. You especially do not want a blogger talking about what they had for breakfast – something that happens far too often on too many blogs. Unless, of course, your business has something to do with food.


While you do not have to produce daily content, sometimes short posts suffice. For example, if your business resides purely online, a blog that keeps readers updated as to new features, changes in development platform, announcements, etc., is a must. Only indepth pieces are completely out of place. For a blog of this sort, you do not need a professional blogger.

What’s more, what Nielsen fails to mention (unless it was buried somewhere in the sections of his very long, indepth piece that I skipped because it was too intimidating) is that no matter whether you write short pieces or indepth pieces, quality will still fall into a spectrum. As a reader, would you rather read lots of indepth pieces that are of average quality, or would you have more tolerance for average short pieces?

In short, while not every business needs a website and not every website needs a weblog, there are benefits to having a business weblog that offers a mix of article and post styles. The real question to be answered is “Can you present information of value to your site visitors, and can you do so in an accessible manner, with quality content?” Essentially, Nielsen appears to be saying that most bloggers cannot achieve this with short posts on a consistent basis. I’m saying you can, with the right blogger.

Comments (3) | Filed under: Marketing, Skills

How Entrepreneurs Brainstorm

Thursday, July 5, 2007 at 9:30pm by Site Administrator

Every entrepreneur will experience times when problems (will) arise and a solution is needed, preferably before anything significant happens.

Brainstorming is a powerful activity for generating solutions to a problem, and a tool for productivity. The act of brainstorming was originally supposed to be a group activity to generate any ideas, without censoring anything. It can, however, be used by a single person if you follow the same rules: record everything and do not let your logical mind censor/filter each thought. Do the filtering after the brainstorming session. You may even want to wait a few hours or a day, if there’s time, in case other ideas present themselves.

Options for  brainstorming:
These are some options for brainstorming, both in technique and in medium, for a single person or a group.

  1. Mindmaps.
    Some people like to use mindmaps for brainstorming. Mindjet‘s MindManager mindmapping program actually has a brainstorming mode that minimizes distractions. It’s a bit disconcerting at first because this mode forces you to follow a process. This is more useful for a single person, not a group, unless used with a projection unit and screen.

  2. Paper.
    Brainstorming on paper can free up “flow” because it’s done on a blank canvas. However, a blank page can be intimidating to some people. This could work for a small group, say of 1-3 people. Ideas still have to be transferred to the digital medium – something e-paper married with a tablet computer may help with in the future.

  3. Lists.
    Some people prefer lists, though they are restrictive in structure, not allowing much ability to branch off with multiple ideas. Accessibility to a group of people depends on what medium is being used. Lists are probably the least useful in brainstorming, though they can supplement other methods. Web-based to-do list software such as Neptune offers some flexibility for recording ideas.

  4. Chalkboards/ whiteboards.
    In a corporate or academic setting, a chalkboard is comfortable, often productive, and visually and physically accessible to all participants. But chalkboards are impermanent. How do you transfer the information easily to more permanent storage? Digital whiteboards solve this problem, digitizing all penstrokes into screen images, storing them for later retrieval. These are typically expensive and thus not ideal for bootstrapping entrepreneurs.

  5. Audio recordings.
    Audio recordings aren’t so much a way to brainstorm but rather a way to preserve ideas while on the go, when paper isn’t handy or might be inconvenient (such as while driving). In such cases, a mini cassette or digital recorder – even some smart phones – comes in handy. Record your thoughts vocally, then review at a more convenient time. This is ideal for individuals with a tendency to censor their own ideas.  Depending on how you record, you might turn your recordings into podcasts, with a bit of production effort.

  6. Video recordings.
    An alternative to audio recording is video recording, and can include an entire group’s discussions, anything written on a blackboard or whiteboard, and any verbal discussions or physical acting out of ideas. Video cameras are relatively inexpensive, so setting up a couple on tripods and letting them run is often feasible for a small business. Anything recorded would be reviewed later by a smaller group of people. Videos can be posted on various video sharing sites, to make them accessible to remote team members. Just remember to use a privacy setting.

  7. Weblog or forum.
    If you have a popular weblog or forum, present questions to readers/ members. Ask them to comment. This could be a very effective way to produce solutions.

These are only a few methods and mediums. If you can think of others, please feel free to comment.

Being an Expert Online Entrepreneur

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 9:00pm by Site Administrator

It’s been said that to be an expert at something, you must spend 10,000 hours at it. In the normal course of a 40 hour/ week career job, that takes about five years at 50 wks/yr. This includes continually learning what you can about the subject at hand, not just doing the necessary activities.

This unwritten rule of 10,000 hours supposedly applies to everything (including meditation to become a monk, as I found out). But as with all such rules, there are qualifying conditions and exceptions. I’d have to say that when it comes to online endeavours, 5,000 hours of concentrated effort at some role can put you into the rank of an expert. That is, if you spend that time increasing your knowledge of the subject.

That’s about 2.5 years, if you’re working only 40 hrs/wk online. (Which may be a reason not to have a 4-hour work week.) But as any entrepreneur knows, they’ll spend a lot more than 40 hours/wk bootstrapping a business, not to mention more than 4 hours/week – though that could change with the profits that Internet businesses are generating for an increasing number of people.

Even those people working online spending 12 hrs/day, 7 d/week, only have to spend under 2.5 years to qualify as an expert of 10,000 hours. If we redefine the rule to be 5,000 hours, would you be willing to dedicate less than 1.5 years to spend 12 h/d, 7 d/wk to be deemed an expert at something?

You can start off just blogging about a topic, earn some money and a reputation, then find your self in the 8 circles of blog revenue. That is, you may find yourself being asked to write e-boooks, give seminars and workshops, consult, etc. After that time, you could quite possibly command top speaking rates or what have you, and thus reduce your work week.

This all sounds like freelancing, not so much entrepreneurship. But if you jump off from these activities and the reputation you can build, then launch a startup business, it’s quite possible that you can compress the bootstrapping timeline.

To summarize a potential course of action, from zero to entrepreneur:

  1. Build your knowledge.
    Work very hard for a year and a half, learning everything you can about the niche you’d like to launch a startup business in.

  2. Prove your expertise.
    Blog about it constantly and consistently during that time, setting the infrastructure for you to later give talks, workshops, or write an ebook you can give away.

  3. Leverage your expertise.
    Now you can do those workshops and conferences, and probably write an ebook that you can sell. Just do the math: write an ebook and sell 100 copies at $47, and you’ve earned nearly $5000. Just make sure you have a free teaser to give away, say an 8-page excerpt. Repeat the process again and again. You have the expertise now.

  4. Save the capital.
    While your blogging, talks, and ebooks are earning you an income, save capital towards the startup business you’d like to launch.

  5. Leverage your brand.
    If you’ve built up yourself as a brand, you can leverage that, your blog, your talks, towards your startup business. You may have to launch a CEO/corporate blog, too, but at this point you’ve established yourself enough that you can draw some attention to your startup project.

  6. Command funding.
    All the groundwork you spent that tough first year or two to establish yourself will quite likely help you gain funding sooner. That’s if you want it.

  7. Sell and start again.
    If you accept funding, at some point the loaning party will want to sell the business. Take the profit and start another project. You are an expert now. Or at least you’ll be perceived as such.
« Previous Page