This was a year of mistakes. I stood up and brushed off after each one. But they were still painful. I guess it’s inevitable when you dive into something with your ego leading the way. I knew what I wanted and how to get it. I was wrong. A lot. I’m okay with it because I think the mistakes were the only way I was going the master the things I want to learn most. Let’s talk about some of those mistakes. I hope this helps you avoid a couple of them.
This statement isn’t even original. But, it’s true. I haven’t heard a great idea in years. Shopping on Amazon is just another way of shopping. Hailing Uber is just another way of catching a ride. Booking a room with Airbnb is just another way of finding a couch to crash on. Where the hell are the holodecks and levitating cars?
The only way for me to save myself from this kind of cynicism is to find the beauty in discovering new ways to do old things. It’s about evolution. The information we’re sharing isn’t nearly as important as how it’s delivered. The ride isn’t important. It’s the convenience of the entire experience. Little stories on Instagram are nothing more than digital postcards. But it’s the novelty of having it in your pocket that makes it work.
My ideas don’t matter. What matters is how much those ideas mean to other people. That’s why I should have found a way to test my ideas with my audience when I first started. But I didn’t have anything to share. I could have shared a framework or mockup of an idea, but that’s not my way. I’m stubborn and like things that are fully baked. Looking back, I wish I would have learned to test things early. It would have saved me a lot of time, money and frustration.
I ignored the people standing at the end of the aisles giving away free samples. I ignored the articles andbooks telling me to share things early and often. I was convinced I was offering something fresh that people want. And I was right - they do. But I didn’t know why they wanted it, or how they wanted it delivered. That’s where I went off the rails.
Now I test everything. I give all of my ideas and creations away for free so other people can use them and tell me what they think. It’s great to ask new users what they think of your idea. It’s even better to ask people who have used your product how well it worked for them. That’s where you’ll find the gold. That’s the money shot.
I changed the entire way I manage my day to find the time I need to work on this project. Here’s the rub. I could have found the same hours a long time ago to spend with my family and friends. I’m lucky to have a kickass, supportive family who wants me to succeed at this thing. And I need to see it through so I can look back without regrets. But, if time was so easy to find to do this work, why was it so hard to find it to spend with my family?
I bought into a middle-class life that takes a lot of upkeep. Car insurance I never use costs me $1800 a year. I can’t find a place to live for less than $2000 a month. We spend a fortune on food, and a couple thousand every year on plane tickets to see our families. I need to find a way to pay for the braces, vacations, and furniture our boys have destroyed. Life is expensive. I need to make more money.
Two years ago I looked hard at my situation and realized I have few choices. I can sell out at work and try to climb the pay scale. Not happening. I can find another job, but none of them pay what I make now. I can downsize my life and become a minimalist. That won’t fly with the family.
My best option is to find a way to market the two things I can offer - my time and my experience. To do that I need to squeeze more into a day and make some sacrifices. And if I’m going to ask my family to also make sacrifices, I need to make sure it’s worth it. I don’t need to guarantee success. But I need to guarantee that I’ll make a plan and stick with it. I can’t use my “side project” as an excuse to hide out when the in-laws are over. Every minute I spend away from them is another minute I have to try and make this work. I owe them that much.
A book and a few articles sent me down a lot of rabbit holes. Those were deep holes. There are articles and blog posts written on just about every piece of starting a business you can imagine. Most are opinions, others are bait, but many are legitimate stories with great lessons.
My original plan was to learn everything I could about my market and customer, and use that research to start my business the smart way. learned a shitload of stuff and can now tell fact from fiction. I’ve been able to share great ideas and resources with others in my tribe. I’ve really enjoyed the last year of exploring and learning. But an exploration is not a destination. And learning isn’t doing.
It took me a good six months to realize I was running in place. My “aha” moment came when I stumbled across some research on the power of habits. In short, people who establish good work habits tend to produce good work. They might spend an hour doing research, but it’s only after spending an hour producing something. I’ve never met a productive thinker. But I’ve met a lot of productive workers.
Now I produce something every day. I still do my research, but it’s targeted research. For example, right now I am in a phase where I am trying to build up my email list and community. The only thing I’m researching now is how to build an email list and community. I’m not reading the blog posts about marketing or creating sales funnels. I’m finding the experts on building my tribe and putting their lessons to work.
This article is part of my work for the day. Right now I want to generate as much good stuff as I can and share it with as many cool people as possible. I want to stir up conversations, get feedback and use it to make better stuff. I want to give people things that will help so I can earn their trust. That’s what I’m working on right now. That’s what I’m doing today. I’ll do my research later when I’ve got 5 minutes to burn.
For the first time in my life, I’ve been at a loss for words. I convinced myself I needed a fully-baked product, website and blog before I could start talking to people. I hid behind my computer and ticky-typed away on some wonderful things. I showed them to my wife, my mom, and a lot of other people who will never be one of my customers.
I don’t like putting myself out there without something to show. I also don’t like people who try to sell things before they are made. Sure, custom items are excellent. But I want to buy something from a craftsman, not a salesman. In my field, the only thing that matters is if the course works. Yeah, sales are great. But it’s also the problem with online courses. All of the big sites and sellers measure their success by the number of butts in seats. Your course is only successful when your students can do exactly what you promised. Sales are not the right success metrics.
That bias for legitimacy kept me on the sidelines for awhile. I didn’t want to share articles that wouldn’t help. I wasn’t going to promote a website that looked like I built it myself. YouTube videos were not going to be the way I introduced my product to the world. It’s cheap. It’s lazy. And it was probably a mistake.
People want me to succeed. People I don’t even know want to see me put together something great. And they want to help me do it. They don’t expect my work to be perfect. In fact, they want to see the mistakes so they know I’m trying. They want to see the work because it’s the work they respect. It’s the work that gives the final product its integrity.
I asked random people on LinkedIn if they would like to connect. They said yes and I’ve used them to test out my ideas. I found a community on CoCommercial that has answered every question you can imagine about starting and running a business. They do it for free because they want to help. I give back everything I can because I want to help them succeed, too. I wish I had known that the best day to start building my support group was on day one.
If you ever need proof that you get what you pay for, give me a call. I’ll tell you about the 4 discount web builders I’ve worked with over the months. I’ll show you the laughable pages I built myself on cheap plug-and-play sites. I’ll show you the second-hand camera equipment I bought and the mass-produced lights I used to film my grainy videos. I got what I paid for. Crap.
My biggest fail was asking a friend to shoot and edit my video course. I’ll say this right up front, my friend is a badass videographer. One of the best I’ve ever seen and easily the best I’ve ever worked with. He is worth every dollar and more than he gets. I don’t deserve to work with him because I don’t pay him. He has to work with his paying clients first. That means I come last. Our production schedule is shot and might not even get back on track. The worst thing is how awful he feels every time he tells me I need to be bumped. I hate making him feel like a loser for being a professional.
I finally found a webmaster who charges a fair rate. I pay her what she’s worth and I get good stuff from her. I’m still waiting to shoot my next round of scenes with my friend. We have some time on the books, but I don’t know if he’ll be able to do it. I tried filming some things myself and got the results I expected. Trash. I’m now to the point of doing what I should have done months ago. I need to pull some money out of savings and pay my buddy what he’s worth. The sooner I treat him like a professional, the sooner I’ll get a professional product.
I could go on and on about the mistakes I’ve made this year. I’m okay with them because I’ve learned a ton and now have a lot to share with others. But a lot of the mistakes were avoidable had I not been so damn certain and egotistical. I hope this article helps you avoid some of the ones I’ve made. Let’s review.
I hope this helps. Good luck making your own mistakes in 2018.
Gregg Eiler is a Master Course Builder helping creatives take over the world one course at a time. Thanks for reading and please forward this to a friend.
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