Three Months and a Plan

As foreshadowed in my last post I spent the last 3 months entirely focused on my day job. And now my wife and I are in the process of buying a house. Suffice to say I’ve been a bit distracted but at least I’ve been well compensated and things are exciting.

Was it worth it? I think so. I lost momentum on my personal endeavors, but at the end of the day I want to be able to provide a house for my family sooner rather than later.

My next steps are simultaneously clear and entirely nebulous.

I need to learn to market and create and sell.

Where to start? It’s hard to say. The possibilities are endless. Endless, and yet some how each one seems potentially lacking in its own way. And so for the moment I’m going to draw an arbitrary line in the sand.

I’m going to sell knowledge. Specifically something related to JavaScript. Probably a video or a book on debugging or TypeScript or Angular 2 or something.

I’m doing this because with limited time and attention it’s the most straightforward feedback loop I can think of to build myself.

I know I have knowledge that could help other people. I know people already pay for books and videos and other related learning materials. Marketing is where I am weak. Marketing is where I need to improve. Marketing is where this project will live or die. The product I create will be good. Picking the right need to serve, the right product to create, finding the people who need it and getting them to buy it, that’s the real trick I need to learn.

Ultimately I’d like to build software. And I’ll get there. But I think if I start there I’ll get stuck in endless design and bugfixes and I’m too liable to scratch an itch that belongs only to me and nobody else.

The plan itself goes something like this:

  1. Do some basic reconnaissance to find niches that people want to learn about but are under-served. Niches that I am especially positioned to serve due to my particular skills and background.
  2. Narrow it down to one.
  3. Create a landing page.
  4. Start sending people to the landing page somehow (posts? ads? emails? tweets? ???)
  5. Create an outline.
  6. Draft up some sample content (e.g. chapters, sections, or something)
  7. Send out that sample content to anyone who has signed up on the landing page, post it on a blog, put up YouTube videos, etc.
  8. Create the content that I’m actually going to sell, one piece at a time.
  9. Put it up for sale.
  10. Promote it somehow (???)

There are three main failure states:

  1. I fail to do any of the steps above.
  2. I fail to do all of the steps above.
  3. I do all of the steps above and nobody buys what I’m selling.

There are endless success states though, to list a few:

  1. My actions along the above plan lead me to something else that becomes successful, or otherwise give me the knowledge necessary to more easily succeed at something else.
  2. I make 1 sale. More than I’ve ever made before given I’ve never created, marketed, and sold something by myself from scratch.
  3. Earn $100. Roughly on the same magnitude of what I’ve made doing other things during this journey. If I can do this I can build on it and do something greater.
  4. Earn $1000. This is really my “stretch goal” or what would prove to me that I’m learning what I need to learn and am headed in the right direction.
  5. Earn enough money to live of of. Obviously this is a pipe dream for my first product. I don’t think it’ll happen. But however small the chance it is there ;)

#1 seems assured unless I’m completely blind to my own shortcomings. If I’m open to learning, listening to the market, and am doing good work, I’ll get there.

#2 is close behind that. If I really did good work and produced something the market wanted, then at least 1 person should buy what I’m selling.

#3 seems possible but inspires a certain amount of fear and self doubt. Will I be that good? Will I be able to reach that many people? Barring fundamental flaws, this seems possible as well. It could be that I don’t get here the first time, but need to iterate multiple times. Or throw a product out entirely and start fresh in order to get here. But I can get here.

#4 really inspires a lot of self doubt but ultimately if I don’t believe this is possible then I don’t believe starting my own business is possible. And I do in fact believe that starting my own business is possible. Will I get here with my first product? Odds are I probably won’t, but there’s a chance. And I think the probability quickly approaches 100% with enough iteration, enough critical thinking and introspection, and enough raw work.

#5 I don’t think will happen right away but I’m betting that it will one day.

One problem with the plan is the strength of my desire to short circuit it. To just go build SOMETHING. Build a purchase page. Write an article. Write a chapter. Build it and see what happens.

But that’s exactly the problem. If I approach this like an engineer looking to build things just because he can, I don’t think I’ll get anywhere.

I need to start with the customer and do everything based off of that.

Let’s make this happen.

As an aside I can’t help but grapple with this question: “What is the purpose of these posts? Who are they for?”

At the moment they’re for me. Maybe one day somebody will read them and find them interesting or useful. More likely they’ll remain only of importance to me.

As time goes on I’d like to turn this into something that other people would want to read. Chronicles of lessons learned, or advice for people with dreams like mine.

But for now this is for me.

These are rocks I can pile up and point to and say “Look! On this date, this was the state of your dreams.” And whether I succeed or fail I’ll have some way to look back and hopefully make sense of it all.

If you’re reading this and you’re not me, thanks for coming along for the journey. I hope you do great things.