About Nick Loper

Nick is an amateur swimmer, skier, business student, softball player, golfer, dog walker, mountain climber and Mariners fan. By day you can find him walking at his treadmill desk, blogging at nickloper.com, selling shoes, and helping people reclaim their time by hiring virtual assistants.

Create a Product or Service to Sell on Fiverr

Do you know about Fiverr.com?  It’s a fun and useful marketplace where everything is just $5.  I’ve used it for some graphic design work, article writing, and even bought a bracelet made out of baseball seams.

You can find a ton of stuff on there, ranging from helpful to hilarious.  The question is, why not sell your own product or service?

Products

Although some people are selling physical products, I believe the bigger opportunity is with digital products like software, ebooks, or video guides.  Because you only collect $4 (Fiverr takes a $1 cut on every sale), a digital product works best because it has a zero cost-of-goods-sold and can be delivered for free electronically.

What are you an expert in? Could you create an awesome video tutorial on how to more effectively manage your time at the gym?  How about a guide on how to earn thousands of free frequent flyer miles?  Or how to crate-train a stubborn dog?  The possibilities are endless.

Services

I’m less enthusiastic about selling services, because they will usually involve your time, and I’m somewhat opposed to trading hours for dollars — especially such small dollars.

Some examples of services you’ll find beyond the article writing and graphics work mentioned above might be marketing consultations, software debugging, resume editing, foreign language practice via skype, and more.

The opportunity I see in selling services is as a creative lead-generation tool for other areas of your business.  For example, if you’re a travel agent, you could offer some insider tips on where to stay in Tokyo.  Then, explain how you can save your Fiverr client money if they decide to book through you.

The best thing about Fiverr is that the marketplace and the customers are already in place.  If you can carve out some shelf space and deliver a great product or service, you’ve got a nice little side business.

The Smart Crowdsourced Caller ID App

I don’t know about you but when I get an unexpected call from an unrecognized number, I usually don’t pick up.  If it’s important, I reason to myself, they’ll leave a message and I can call them back.  Nine times out of ten they don’t leave a message and I know to keep ignoring future calls from the same number.

But curiosity often gets the best of me and I sometimes  google the phone number to try and find out who’s calling me.  There are several websites where users can input the identity of mystery callers.

Why not remove that step and build it into a smartphone app?  You could start with an initial database of known numbers and accept IDs from users to improve accuracy and expand the list.

Among my mystery callers lately:

  • The University of Washington Alumni Association
  • Dell Technical Support
  • Go Daddy
  • The American Red Cross
  • Livermore Ford
  • XM Radio
  • Verizon Customer Support
  • Google

It would be cool to have a Caller ID App that lets you know who’s calling as they’re calling so you can decide on the spot whether or not to take the call.

The app could be sold for a small fee, or made available for free and supported by ads.  For example, if the app knows Go Daddy is calling me, they could show me relevant ads for domain renewals, hosting, or other offers.

What do you think? Is such an app technically feasible?  Would you like to have it on your phone?

Rent a Puppy

A Rent-a-Puppy service is a business we always joked about starting in college.  A sunny day at Green Lake in Seattle, and you could have a booming business.  The basic premise was guys could rent a cute puppy as an icebreaker to meet girls.

Your Rent-a-Puppy service could set up shop near parks and popular walking trails and gathering spots.  You’d charge by the hour and by the size of the dog.

Customers would agree not to leave a certain radius with the pup.

There are obviously some major flaws in this plan and I’m sure PETA would throw a fit.  For example how do you keep the animals safe from creeps, where do they live when they’re not working, and how much play time is too much?

But no business is without challenges, so maybe some enterprising animal lover could make it happen.

To get “inventory”, maybe you could partner with local breeders and share the fees with them.  Or work with the Humane Society to promote exposure and encourage adoptions.  Expand to more locations through strategic franchising.

From a customer standpoint, it would be a unique opportunity to play with a lovable pup without the 10-14 year commitment of dog ownership.

What do you think? Would people be willing to pay for an afternoon of puppy love?

A “Hedge Fund” That Invests in Websites

Ever dreamed of being a Wall Street kingpin?  If you could pool investment money and use it to buy income-producing websites, you could literally start your own mini hedge fund.

There is a healthy marketplace for websites on Flippa.com and other sites, and I think there a massive opportunity to build a real business around this idea.

A website will typically sell for 6-24 months earnings, which in a traditional sense is an insanely low multiplier.  In investment terms, that would mean 50 – 200% returns!

If you can attract investors looking to diversify and potentially destroy the returns they’re getting from stocks or other mutual funds, you’ll have a limitless pool of funds to draw from.

Let’s say you average a 50% return on your website acquisitions — that’s huge! Share the proceeds amongst your investors, keep some for profit and overhead, and repeat.

What you’ll need:

  • Become an expert in Flippa and other website marketplaces.  Learn how to evaluate the value of each sale and how to separate the winners from the duds.
  • A maintenance / monetization staff.  Good income-producing websites are mini-businesses themselves, and it’s rare to find a business that runs completely on auto-pilot.  You’ll need a small team (think virtual employees) that can handle content creation and general troubleshooting issues.
  • Some starter funds.  Although you can get started in this business for less than $500, it will take more to build a serious and sustainable portfolio.  In a venture like this nobody wants to be the first sucker, but if you can generate some consistent returns over time you’ll have people beating a path to your door.

Because the Internet is a young and constantly changing medium, this business idea is certainly not without risk.  Among them:

  • Regulatory red tape.  You’ll have to be careful how you market yourself to avoid trouble with the SEC.
  • Liquidity.  If you (or your investors) need to cash out, it could take some time.  Selling a website isn’t as easy as selling a stock.
  • Google drama.  Many sites are monetized via AdSense, which is becoming notorious for arbitrarily shutting down whole accounts.  Diversified revenue streams will help mitigate this risk.

Still, the rewards and upside potential make it worthwhile to figure out a way around the challenges.

I think a pretty cool business could be built around this idea. All it takes is someone with the ganas to start it.

 

Video Cliff’s Notes

English Lit majors will hate me for this, but I believe most people are perfectly happy with an entertaining plot summary and some bullet-point takeaways.  I once met a woman who thought The Death of Ivan Ilyich was the greatest book ever written.

Spoiler alert: he dies.

I think people have a basic desire to know and understand classic literature — enough to be conversational and maybe get some trivia questions right.  Certain works are part of our collective culture — but that doesn’t mean we need them read it line-by-line and analyze every passage.  (As my English class did with Heart of Darkness).

Even as an ace student, I relied heavily on Cliff’s Notes.  But the problem is, they’re not much better than reading the actual book.

The Pitch:

Create short videos for classic books.  I’m picturing some pen-and-ink-style animation like the Story of Stuff YouTube videos, but really it’s up to you.

  • Plot summary
  • Literary analysis
  • Historical significance
  • 5-10 minutes MAX

Well TED talks get away with 20 minutes so maybe people will have a longer attention span, especially if they’re paying you.  And even at 20 minutes, you’re still saving them HOURS over actually reading.

How to Monetize:

You could turn this into a business in a few different ways.  You could put up a few teaser videos   to get people interested, and keep most content behind a paid membership wall.  The advantage of this is the recurring revenue stream and the scalability.

Another option is to charge by the title.  The price point would have to be pretty low, but there’s a lot of volume potential.  I mean every year how many millions of students have to read Hamlet, right?

A third monetization strategy would be to give all the short video away for free, and charge for “premium” service — access to your team of English majors or librarians, more in-depth analyses, one-on-one essay writing help, etc.  It would be more labor intensive but could be positioned as a more high-end service.

What do you think?  Start-up costs wouldn’t be huge.  Just need an animator/video editor and a giant passion for literature.

Disclaimer: I’m a reader.  But I think there are a lot of people who would find value in this service.  This business idea isn’t about cheating; it’s about making learning more fun and efficient.

Have You Considered a Franchise?

This is a guest post by Carly Messmer of FranchiseClique.com.

Finding the Right Franchise Fit

While making the decision to open a franchise can be an easy decision for some, it can be a scary decision to others. One of the biggest benefits of opening a franchise is that there is already a successful business and marketing plan in place. Because of this, it may not be as scary to open a franchise as some may think.

When selecting a franchise, it should be a business that you will not only be excited to own and operate, but also make financial sense. Your franchise should make you money while you enjoy running it. Though you may be your own boss, you do not want to dread going to work everyday.

Research Your Options

Finding the right franchise for you requires some research. Stop by different franchises to see how the operation works, traffic volume and cleanliness. Speak to a franchise owner to get some tips, ideas and as much input as you can. Gather as much information as you can about the franchises you are interested in and carefully read through each one’s Franchise Disclosure Document.

Select a Type of Franchise

Ask yourself if you will be able to meet your goals and dreams running a franchise. You may want to select a franchise that fits your likes and lifestyle. For example, if you enjoy cooking or entertaining, you may want to consider opening a restaurant. Or if you enjoy camping, a sporting goods store may be the best option.

Determine Financial Investment

Find out how much it will cost to sign up as a franchisee. Ask if your initial investment will include initial inventory and store build-outs. Does the investment include any training, marketing assistance and other business related resources.

Determine how much money you can invest upfront and how much you will need to finance. Ask if the company offers financing or do you have to get your own loan. Consider future finances and ask to see if you can make the payments for the financed part of your investment.

Finding the Right Location

Check different areas to see if there are any stores already open, because you do not want to open one close to another. Next, consider which areas in your town offer easy access for drivers and walkers. If your location is easy to get to, customers will be more likely to come back on a regular basis.

Opening up a franchise take time and should be completely researched before you sign the contract. FranchiseClique.com offers entrepreneurs resources to find the perfect franchise. We offer an easy to use comprehensive directory that lists hundreds of the best franchises and business opportunities for sale. We’ve got all the information you need to identify which business is right for you.

 

Membership Website

A membership website is a simple business model that is both very simple and very lucrative.  Imagine you ran a membership site with 1000 people, all paying you $10 a month.  How about 10,000?

Pretty nice, right?

Think of it like a country club online.  Members pay for special privileges, exclusive access, camaraderie with like-minded people, and (importantly) they buy into the idea of belonging to something.

And the thing is, there are successful membership websites for nearly every niche imaginable, from cooking to marathon training.  

Everyone is in an expert in something — what’s your specialty?

The beauty of a membership site is the power of leverage.  It will take roughly the same amount of work to produce content for 10 people as it would for 1000.  All that extra income is just gravy.

So how to get started?

  1. Establish expertise.  Anyone can be an expert at anything, it just takes some time to study up and become an authority.
  2. Establish trust.  Be honest and authentic.
  3. Establish value.  Deliver amazing content people won’t find anywhere else.

What most people do is give away some content for free, but put the REALLY good stuff behind the membership wall.  Maybe you put a few teaser videos out for the public, but make people join for access to a private forum, exclusive how-to’s, and personal attention from you, the expert.

There are some powerful WordPress plug-ins that can add a membership layer to any WordPress site, so you don’t even have to worry about the technical implementations.

The downside to starting a membership website is that you may be signing yourself up for many years of creating content.  But if you choose a niche you’re passionate about, it probably won’t seem like work at all.  Plus, you’ll have your entire membership base to keep you motivated and it can turn into a great support community.

For more information, check out Seth Godin’s Tribes and Chris Brogan’s Trust Agents.  And then get to work!

Create the Next Big Game App

By now you’ve probably heard that the makers of Draw Something, an iPhone/iPad version of Pictionary, sold their hit game to Zynga for $200 million.

From obscurity to millionaires in a matter of weeks.

With one simple idea.

So why not raid the old board game closet and find what’s next?  Words with Friends and Draw Something didn’t invent some crazy new game like Angry Birds did.  They just adapted old favorites to a new medium.

Here are some games to get your wheels turning.

  1. Sorry!
  2. Clue
  3. Monopoly
  4. Life
  5. Chess
  6. Risk
  7. Connect Four
  8. Yahtzee
  9. Boggle
  10. Apples to Apples

Could any of these be adapted for iPhone play and go viral with popularity?  Games where each player takes a turn seem to work best, but it doesn’t seem to matter whether the gameplay is competitive (Words) or cooperative (Draw).

Monetization

Smartphone games typically make money in 3 ways:

  1. Advertising.  The free version of the game is supported by advertising, so you can collect revenue in this way.
  2. App sales. Sell a premium ad-free version and make 70% on every sale (Apple takes a 30% cut for running the app store).
  3. In-game sales.  Many games create a virtual currency that can be used in the app to buy additional features or bonuses.

Don’t know how to code an iPhone app?  Neither do I.  But hundreds of freelancers on Elance and oDesk do, and they’re just waiting for your idea and leadership.

Personalized Daily Deal Aggregator

Like most people, I subscribe to several “daily deal” sites — Groupon, Living Social, etc.  The problem is 90% of the time I have no interest in what they’re selling, so their emails mostly end up being digital clutter in my inbox.

What if you could create a customized web or smartphone app (or still email) that allowed users to select what kinds of deals they were actually interested in.  For example, just in the past couple days I’ve gotten emails for:

  • Brazilian Blowout (I don’t even know what that is!)
  • Facial Peel
  • Unlimited Yoga Classes
  • 1-Hour Massage + Chiropractic Care
  • 56% off Speaker Dock + Hair Products
  • 20 Yoga Classes
  • 3-Day Football Camp
  • $100 to Spend on Fabric
  • Family Photo Package
  • $20 for $60 of Flatware

You get the idea — there’s no targeting on these messages which means it’s a huge opportunity for someone to create it.

Your business is to aggregate and categorize all the daily deal feeds, and then send to subscribers based on their preferences.  Pretty simple.  Instead of getting a half dozen (often) irrelevant emails, people get just one (hopefully) super-relevant email.

Conversion rates go through the roof and you’ll typically be able to make an affiliate commission on each sale you refer.

Mobile Laundry Service

Successful businesses often get paid to solve a problem for their customers.  And for a lot of people, especially in urban areas without on-site facilities, laundry is a problem:

It’s time-consuming, menial, and costly.

It sounds like an opportunity to create a mobile laundry service that lets busy people outsource the chore.

I invision this as a weekly or bi-weekly pick-up service. Just like the garbage man, right?  You come by and grab the bags of dirty laundry and return them freshly cleaned.

Customers no longer have to worry about going to the laundromat, buying detergent, finding enough quarters, and killing time waiting for everything to finish.

Why I like it:

  • Recurring Revenue Model.  It’s a membership system; as long as you keep customers happy, you can collect income week after week, month after month, and year after year.
  • Start Small.  Starting out, you can make pick-ups in your own car, and maybe even use your own washer and dryer.
  • Upsell Opportunities.  Depending on how you price your service, folding and ironing could be extra, and you can add-on services like dry cleaning.  In the beginning you can partner with a local laundromat or dry cleaner and they will probably be happy to offer some volume discount in return for your business.

I HATE ironing and I can’t be the only one!

It’s All About the Story

Convincing people to change their habits is never easy, but it can be done with a compelling story.  You’ve probably seen the Dollar Shave Club video that’s been making the rounds lately.  They’ve got a great story and there’s no reason you can’t create something similar for your mobile laundry service.

You’re selling convenience, yes, but you’re also kind of selling a lifestyle.  ”Laundry?” your customers will say. “I’ve got people for that.”

Two Challenges to Overcome:

  1. Security — how will you arrange pick-up and delivery so clothes don’t get stolen?
  2. Privacy — how will you make customers trust you with their underwear?

What do you think? Done right, I bet something like this could take off in New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, or other apartment-dense cities.