5 New Jobs of the Web 2.0 Generation

March 2, 2007

Entrepreneurship is a craft. But given the risky nature of starting one’s own business are there opportunities to practice the skills involved? Absolutely. Below I’ve taken five online opportunities that would be a natural extension of a web worker’s daily routine. Each does require certain skills and, in some cases, a small amount of capital. However, all are purposely picked to have the lowest barriers to entry. The goal is to learn. If something doesn’t work its possible to iterate until it does; the only major cost is the time invested. The exercises below probably won’t make you a Rockefeller. However, they will help hone those entrepreneurial chops and give you a greater appreciation for the issues and effort involved.

The experiments:

1. New Media Producer
As reported on New Tee Vee last month Ask a Ninja, a popular comedy video blog (or vlog), signed a six figure advertising deal. Ask a Ninja could be summarized as a rapid fire series of non-sequiturs, a funny premise, and not much else. Production for another notable vlog, RocketBoom is equally as sparse. For as little as a webcam, the free editing software that comes with your OS, and a YouTube account a person can produce their own show. You do need something to say and better production does require better equipment (cameras, microphones) and time (post-production editing). However, the number of places to distribute (YouTube, MySpace, iTunes, etc.) and sources of monetization (pre-roll, post-roll, product placement, revenue sharing) has never been greater.

2. Clothing Label Crafter
Third party fulfillment services for items like t-shirts are nothing new: Cafepress launched in 1999. But given the explosion of blogs dedicated to the subject and the now universal acceptance of purchasing things online, small boutique shops can thrive. And a degree in graphic design isn’t necessary to make something that sells. The Lactivist is a T-shirt shop founded by Jennifer Laycock as part of a 30 day business experiment (a recap of her experience is available in a free PDF). The shirts that you’ll find there are text only. Jennifer is able to sell them because of her wit and unique audience. The fulfillment behind this type of site – companies like CafePress, SpreadShirt, or even Threadless – handle the mundane things like printing and shipping. This leaves you free to focus your entrepreneurial energies on the bigger business picture: finding an audience and best serving them.

3. Micro Investor
When most people hear the words ‘investing’ they think of power ties, ticker symbols, and wads of cash usually reserved for lotto winners. However, there are web sites that allow geographically diverse investors to aggregate small amounts into meaningful returns. Prosper.com (and its U.K. equivalent, Zopa.com) enable direct borrowing and lending on a person to person level. Thousands of dollars aren’t required to get started. A person can take a tax return or unexpected bonus and begin creating a unique investment strategy. This entrepreneurial experiment does require more capital to start than the others listed here. But the time investment is less and you’ll be learning about diversifying portfolios and acceptable risk while funding people that you can believe in.

4. Publisher
The web is a publishing medium. However, reading a full length novel on a laptop is still a sub-optimal experience. For those that have something to say LuLu.com is a solution. LuLu will print and ship your treatise for a percentage revenue cut. Can’t think of what to say? Intimidated with the prospect of writing a few hundred pages? Take an example from Carolynn Duncan’s most recent business experiment: in exchange for stories about entrepreneurship the contributing authors are getting recognition in a highly publicized way and a free copy of the finished product. It’s just one way of building both an audience AND a product. Your experiment may find others.

5. Community Curator
The final entrepreneurship example is to build a community. While not directly creating a product, by providing the impetuous for people to come together you can create opportunities for monetization. Whether it is incorporating appropriate affiliate advertising or facilitating transactions between members this is probably one of the most difficult and time consuming projects to pull off. However, if done successfully, it can be the most rewarding. Sites like Ning.com simply the software setup for your social network. All that’s left is creating a site that’s sticky; a place where what’s shared is valuable and worth coming back to again and again.

The web is not only revolutionizing the way we work; it also creating opportunities to experiment with what that work might be. Have you tried any of these five things in your time online? What was your experience? More importantly – what have I missed?

Sphere Software Apps, Workplace Trends


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