Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Business Brainstorming

I am thinking about career and business. As much as I enjoy working at home, this one current contract I'm spending all my time on is not what I want to continue forever. I've known that since I started it, and am frequently plotting and pondering. I just wish I could identify a service or product that I want to market.

My expertise is in simple to moderate computer skills, like database conversions, and basic network and email support, and setting up simple websites, or hooking up fax machines and telephones, office voice mail administration. Those little day-to-day things that come up that an amazingly large number of office personnel scratch their head at and say "What's wrong with the computer?" or "How do I do that again?" - that kind of stuff that business owners hate forking out cash to the experts on, and are always looking to save a buck at, and could probably do themselves if they had the time.

So I know mine is a marketable skill, I just don't like getting stuck with that business owner who stubbornly refuses to go hire an expert for the portions that I can't do but I know they need and advised them so, and yet they keep calling me back for more bandaid repairs. I need to learn how to say "I am sorry, I can not fix this problem" and just walk away. Actually, I did say that a couple of times but I kept going back anyway for a long time. Now I've walked away, but I am thinking of resurrecting that client and even setting up their website and a also business site for me and pulling in references and such from it, but ugh, then again, what a mess. Could I really do it and actually make money off it?

The way things were going, their needs were pulling me away from my primary income and the opportunity cost of lost commissions (I had to to reduce my workload in advance of an in-office visit in order to remain within my contractual deadlines for order processing) far outweighed the revenue stream from them even when I increased my fees.

Theoretically I could avoid that problem entirely by purchasing a laptop and redirecting my 800-number to my mobile phone for those times when I must visit a client office. Then I could still fulfill my contractual obligations to my primary client, via a quick phone call or two from the parking lot before I walk in the door, and still be able to take incoming calls and faxes as well. I would certainly not process one client's work while physically at another client's office, but I would have a mobile office to use in the parking lot or at a quick coffee shop stop so that I would not have such large downtimes sucking away my productivity.

Then I could start bringing in more clients, but would that really mean more money? Is this idea even viable?

I would really prefer to find some other market entirely. Some sort of tangible goods perhaps. ... Really? Retail? Ebay selling and shipping? Okay, maybe not. I read, in the cover story of the Jan/Feb issue of Inc. magazine, about the creator of Plenty of Fish, a free dating website. He's raking in millions off a simple site that he coded and put out there using his home computer as a server, and all his revenue comes from competitor paid dating sites that advertise on his free site. There's gotta be an idea out there that I can think of. Some paid service that could be offered for free on a plainer scale. He wrote algorithms to narrow people's matches based on profile views and other stats. However, I'm no coder. Macros, sure; C++, D or Java or any serious programming language, nope. I don't speak it. What could I do?

The beef pot pie got put off till last night. I didn't feel too well Monday night (and early Tuesday) so we just had Whataburger instead. Once I did make it, that pot pie was sure delicious. I used the beef I had cooked for the Swiss steak, and a double crust. The Fannie Farmer cookbook calls for single crust pot pies, but I love pie crust, so I always make a double instead. They also have this weird thing for putting cinnamon with beef - ew - I always omit that. Salt, black pepper and chopped onion are the perfect flavorings. You simply don't need anything else. Mmm ... think I'll be having leftovers for lunch.

Tonight is going to be shrimp linguine. This recipe comes from the Louisiana Kitchen cookbook. Again, I reduce the amount of butter somewhat, and use a little less cayenne pepper, but this one I follow fairly close. I should bake a loaf of bread to go with it. And salad of course. That's the "understood" vegetable to go with pasta. I don't make much mention of the vegetables I serve (that may change in summer when the farmers' markets are open), but I always serve one on the side if vegetables aren't plentifully incorporated into the main dish.

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