To begin with, you’ll need something that only you can supply – the spark, the idea for your online business. The concept that gets the ball rolling.
Ah, but what if you haven’t got that elusive idea yet?
Well, as a programmer, you naturally solve problems every single day at work. So, take a good look around and think about those little annoying things that irritate you. Things that could be solved through simple networking or, indeed, by the brute-force computing power at your fingertips; everyday activities like buying, selling, dating, reviewing, writing – and a whole lot more – are all areas that have been improved upon with the advent of the internet. Just the simple act of thinking about setting up an online business can open up your mind and make you much, much more receptive to new ideas.
Sadly, many programmers waste a huge amount of time trying to come up with a unique idea. This is an easy trap to fall into.
Just remember that unique really belongs to geniuses and – unfortunately – very few of us are geniuses. The good news is, most successful sites and products are simply based on existing ideas. They may have some unique twists, or they may just be implemented more effectively, but the vast majority are not unique.
There are thousands of great ideas out there that have been badly implemented. Your aim should be to give your visitors something worthy of their time. To provide them with something no-one else has done as well. It could even just be something as simple as a well designed user interface, built around an existing open source library. If you execute it correctly, present it well and provide great support, you could be on to a winner.
However, you really do need to remember that ideas – by themselves – are virtually worthless. They only begin to have any real value once you actually do something tangible with them. While they’re locked away in your head, with no substance to them, they’re just aimless neurons. You need to draw the ideas out, float them to your friends, and see what they think.
So, be warned. Getting your site or product out there needs to be your primary goal – don’t spend years endlessly dreaming about the perfect idea.