This is a question I’ve often asked. I’ve asked myself. I’ve asked my entrepreneurship group. I’ve asked other developers. And it’s a question I still don’t have a good answer for.
I’ve had a number of things work out well for me, and I’ve had a number of things not work… nothing repeatable, yet. I’ve learned a few things a long the way, but I still have a long to go in this journey.
The Field Of Dreams Fallacy
One thing I can tell you is that the “Field of Dreams” is fallacy.
“If you build it, they will come” – this is absolutely the biggest lie, ever. Its no surprise that Hollywood made this in to a movie, since Hollywood is all about fantasies and make-believe to begin with. Building something and putting it out there usually ends up with crickets chirping, tumbleweeds rolling, anger, frustration, self-loathing and giving up.
Hard Work. And Lots Of It.
When it comes down to it, you need to understand the core problems that people are having. The long term, repeating pains that people are complaining about. Once you understand the pain, you may be on to something that will sell. But truthfully, I don’t know how to find these things very well. I’m as bad at this as anyone else. I think the difference between me and most, is that I’m willing to try even if it’s a bad idea. :P
I can also say that there is no easy answer or easy win for finding a solution that people will throw money at. It takes work. A lot of work. Hard work. These are things that most people don’t want to hear, but it’s the truth. It’s why most of us won’t succeed – because if it were easy, everyone would be succeeding.
There Are No Unicorns
Like I said, I don’t have a lot of answers or really actionable advice for you. But I can recommend checking out the work of Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman at http://unicornfree.com/ – they have a particularly effective approach that I like, called “Sales Safari”. It’s a system for doing the hard work that is required, to really figure out what will sell to your customer base. Check out these specific resources, to start:
Passion Is Not A Prerequisite
For another perspective on the same line of thinking, check out this post by Chris Lema: Don’t Scratch Your Own Itch. In this post, Chris talks about the fallacy of scratching your own itch because it’s something your passionate about. He rightfully makes the assertion that passion is not a prerequisite because if it were, we would never have accounting or scheduling software. Those types of projects tend to be boring, but profitable.
The point Chris makes is that you need to understand what your customers need, and this is done through research, listening to feedback, and adjusting your path to match what your customers will actually pay for.
P.S. This is another entry in the “What one secret do you want to know?” series. If you have a question that you would like me to answer, just hit reply and send it to me. I’ll reply to you, personally, as soon as I can and will hopefully share it with the rest of the list, too.