July 28, 2006
MarkBernstein.org
 
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A nice little work-at-home business

Linda spent an hour yesterday, trying to get Photoshop to export a jpeg.

This represents a great business opportunity. Lots of smart people run up against small, simple technical hurdles. It happens all the time. You need to use some application that's not in your daily repertoire but that everyone uses occasionally. You want to do something simple.

For some reason, it's not.

So here's the plan: you hang out a shingle on AIM that says, "Photoshop" or "Excel" or "graphic design". Customers buzz you with questions. You respond right away with an offer.

Customer: I need to export a jpeg from Photoshop.

You: OK. I think I can help. $25 if things work out, $10 if they don't.

Customer: here's my credit card....

To make this work, I think you need two features:

Kill fees are used in magazines. The editor assigns a story to a freelance writer; they agree on a price for the article, and a kill fee. If the magazine takes the piece, they get the rights and the author gets the price. If the magazine doesn't take the article -- the article is lousy or the editor was replaced or the subject of the article is suddenly radioactive -- the writer gets the kill fee and keeps the rights. It's a good way to draw a line around a small project that might blow up; get the kill fee right, and everyone can stay friends and work together next time.