I'm wondering if we can get some discussion started on this topic. I probably shouldn't be posting it on a Friday afternoon, but like so many other "rules" of working the web, I tend to go with where my attention span leads me.
I don't think it would be a surprise to anybody if I said that "If I could make a living out of doing the Shakespeare thing, then yeah, sure, I'd certainly go for it." The question then becomes, "What exactly is the Shakespeare thing?" And that's where I'm a bit stuck, because I'm really over here carving out my own niche. I don't act or direct it. I don't teach it. I'm just....me.
I have skills, though. I'm quite the competent computer geek, and I'd like to think I'm a fairly competent writer as well. And I think it's safe to say that after five years of doing this, even though I have no real "academic cred", I know at least a little something about my subject matter.
So I often (and I do mean often) ponder, how can I combine those things? I read business books and listen to entrepreneurial podcasts all the time. I'm listening to several as we speak. The lessons tend to be the same.
Lesson One : People will pay you money if they think it will make them money. This comes in many forms and includes things like "if you save me time, that will save me money." But in general there's a whole big market out there for people to write "Succeed in Blogging Now!" and "Get Rich Slowly!" and all sorts of other items that clearly fit this pattern - if you buy this from me, then you stand a better chance of making more money because of it.
Lesson Two : Easing the "Pain Points". This one is a little trickier, because it basically says that a given group of people will pay money to change something that they don't like about their current situation. They won't make any money on their own, and probably won't save time (since that tends to be directly related to money), but they'll pay money anyway for the peace of mind factor. I think that golf is a great example here. No matter how much money you spend on golf, you're never going to make money (unless you're a golf pro, of course). But that doesn't stop people from spending a fortune on everything golf related you can imagine. The same with weddings, and so on. There's just certain things that people say "Yes, I'm willing to spend money to get what I want."
So, where does Shakespeare fit in? I can't see the business of Shakespeare, from where I sit, as having anything to do with the first lesson. Yes there are people that "do Shakespeare" for a living, so theoretically there are products that you could produce that would make their lives more productive. Therefore we could assume that these professionals would pay for those products. But that market's not really about Shakespeare, is it? It's about the business. Would a Shakespeare actor's iPhone application be basically the same thing as any other actor's iPhone application?
Lesson Two is more intriguing to me. I know that I, personally, have a pain point - my kids' education. I want my kids to know and love Shakespeare, and I work hard to achieve that. So I assume that there is another market of people out there in a similar situation - they are willing to pay money to increase the quality of their child's education. Maybe not many of them are specifically thinking about Shakespeare, though.
There's also the pain point group of "students who want the answers to their homework." That audience has been addressed many times over by Sparknotes and the like and, quite frankly, they don't have a lot of money. :) But still, it's a valid audience to target.
What about you? We all have Shakespeare in our lives, in one form or another. What sort of business needs are there? What application, or web site, or service or book or magazine subscription do you wish existed?
Yes, I'm trolling for ideas. :) I have many, but ideas are a dime a dozen. Market is everything. Never build a product and say "Is there a market for this?" because if there's not, you just wasted all your time and resources. For a long time I've been taking the "build it and they will come" stance to my Shakespeare Geekery, and I'd like to think that it's done pretty well. But no way am I on a course to ever make a living at it, and that's why I'm looking to hedge my bits with a little bit more traditional business thinking.