Welcome to the Summit Evergreen Authority Interview Series!
This recurring interview series invites experienced product and course creators into Summit Evergreen to share their advice and hard-won experience with you, along with tips and tricks to identify, launch, and grow your course! We’re always looking for advice and resources to make your courses better and help your students succeed.
For this episode, we invited these authorities to answer a question that we see experienced, intermediate, and beginning course creators run into:
For someone who is working on their own product or course, what’s something they should be on the lookout for that could keep them from launching?
Let’s take a look at what these authorities had to say!
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When you’re waiting to feel ready to launch, anything and everything seems like a valid reason not to. That’s the rub! The key is to inventory the actual, hard and fast facts of what you must have in order to ship, get those in place, and for anything else, accept that your feelings will just have to catch up later. Example: people presell books all the time, and so do publishers. What rules do they follow for “what you must have”? Unless you’re a monster for execution, don’t presell when you have nothing. Presell when you have enough to prove to yourself (and others) that you will follow through. There, one emotional assumption managed.
Brennan Dunn is an agency owner turned bootstrapper and product creator. His best selling course, Double Your Freelancing Rate is trusted by over 5,000 freelancers.
Obsession with “it’s not perfect”.
I once had a consulting client who was a former movie producer. He was obsessed with perfection. He would hold rulers up to his screen to make sure all the elements on the website we were building lined up perfectly. This insistence that everything was perfect kept him from launching, and learning a lot about what his customers really needed.
Your course is digital. It can be updated. Nothing is set in stone. Don’t let the fear of imperfection keep you from shipping.
Sean is an entrepreneur and designer in Chicago who writes about web design and front end development. His book, Sketching With CSS teaches you how to use the CSS Flexbox Module to get exactly the layout you want.
Here are a few ways I’ve seen people fail to launch (myself included):
- Lose interest before they finish, because they picked a product/customers they don’t like.
- Lose interest before they finish, because they are building something nobody wants. (seriously, if you’re building something people want, you will get positive feedback from the beginning, hell you could even get sales before you’re done building the thing).
- Product is never “perfect” enough
- Product scope is too huge
- Wasting time on tooling
Ruben is the founder of Bidsketch, proposal software and proposal templates.
I often see people struggling to do things that have worked for others. It’s great to learn from others, but you want to consider your strengths, and use whatever you have to your advantage. People overlook this all the time.
Of course, there will be a ton of stuff you’ll need to learn while building and launching a successful product, but don’t make things harder on yourself by ignoring your strengths.
You should follow Ruben on Twitter.
I think the biggest advantage I gave myself was a total lack of competition. Nobody was really doing or saying very much of anything about onboarding when I started, and I was able to really quickly establish myself as “the person” for that topic. As for identifying a topic to begin with, I’d recommend thinking about people who have problems you’d like to solve, and taking one specific problem off their plate. For me, that’s UX/Product people and onboarding, but for someone else it could just as easily be community managers and grantwriting, or reality TV stars and personal security.
If you plan on using the internet as your primary means of distribution, one thing I did that turned out to be super helpful was setting up a simple google alert for the phrase “user onboarding”. I get around 3 alerts a day about what people are posting/saying on the topic, which lets me keep up with things comprehensively, and comment on / link to the best stuff. If your topic doesn’t produce alerts very frequently, there might not be a lot of demand for it. If there are tons and tons of alerts every day, that might be a sign that the topic is super competitive and you may want to find a more specific sub-set of it.
Also, don’t underestimate the expanse of even a small niche — there’s TONS to explore in even very specific topics if you’re curious enough!
You should follow Samuel on Twitter.
Ben Nesvig is a marketer, writer, and the author of the book First World Problems: 101 Reasons Why The Terrorists Hate Us.
Launching an eBook is often a battle against the self. While you may work with a designer and editor, you’re the one who has the power to hit publish.
The hard part about creating an ebook is understanding the psychological dip that happens. While you may love the idea you first had for the ebook, you’ll likely hate the first draft. This is normal. I don’t like the first draft of anything that I’ve written, but I know that if I keep editing and revising, I’ll eventually get to a point where I’m happy with it. Now isn’t forever even though it often feels like it.
Another potential roadblock is time—not the lack of, but having too much of it. Setting a deadline to create urgency to finish the ebook or course can be very helpful. Without a deadline, it becomes easy to endlessly edit and tweak the book beyond the point of diminishing returns. Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” The same is true for eBooks.
You should follow Ben on Twitter.
Rob Cubbon is an Amazon bestselling author, online teacher, graphic designer and all-round good guy who wants freedom for you and success for your business.
Perfectionism. I think this is the problem with people first starting out.
They lock themselves away working on their “baby” and spend too long making it perfect. You’re first attempt at something will never be perfect. You need to finish it and put it out there as quickly as possible so you can start working on number two.
You will make mistakes. So make them quickly so you can move on quickly and do it better next time.
You can read Rob’s writing on his website, sign up for his course on how to build a list of customers, and follow Rob on Twitter.
Just is the host of the Product People podcast and is passionate about building products that delight customers.
Start small. Take your idea, and cut it in half. Then, cut it in half again. What’s the smallest possible thing you could release that someone would pay for?
The mistake most people make when they’re getting started is they work on something too big. They never end up launching because they can’t finish it. It’s better to create something small (that ships) than try to create something big and complicated (that doesn’t).
You can read Justin’s email newsletter where he writes about building software and digital products.
Nathan Powell is the founder of Nusii, proposal software for creative professionals.
The pursuit of perfection. A small mailing list. Lack of confidence. Fear of failure. No previous experience…The list can be a long one.
When I launched the Nusii MVP back in 2013 it was slow, buggy, ugly as hell and lacking in essential features. Even still, it managed to generate some interest. More importantly, it showed me that people were willing to pay for Nusii. Warts an’ all.
If I had waited for it to be perfect, it would never have launched. I know that for sure. So brace yourself and don’t let your fears ruin your chances. Oh, and don’t let embarrassment hold you back either. I was very embarrassed by the Nusii MVP.
Josh is the founder of baremetrics, stripe analytics and metrics.
The biggest thing that I see keeping people from launching is simply finishing. People are great at knocking out the first 80%, but true to form, the last 20% takes 80% of the time and you simply procrastinate.
People start getting a nasty case of imposter syndrome and find every way possible to procrastinate instead of just shipping the thing.
Stop being a perfectionist. Shipped is better than perfect. Every. Single. Time.
Paul Jarvis is a best selling author who creates simple, meaningful things — like best-selling books, courses, and websites for creative people. His online class, The Creative Class, helps freelancers master the details of being a one-person business.
It’s well and good to pay attention to this when you’re hired by a client to do work, and you need to keep them to strict deliverables. But when you’re creating your own product I’ve found that it’s easy to get carried away with features, content, etc, that may be adding value to what you’re building but it’s also adding extra time and delaying launch. Easier, is to launch small with a smaller, focused product that you can use to test the market with, iterate on and tweak based not just on your ideas but on feedback from the intended audience.
You can read Paul’s writing on his website or sign up for his weekly articles about freelancing, creativity, and life’s ponderings.
A lot of my work goes into preparing new services – and I deliberately schedule 8–10 hours every week to focus on developing new parts of my business. I write (and rewrite, and re-rewrite) my marketing pages ahead of time, and frequently vet things for free to make sure that I have put everything together correctly. Make sure you have something that people want – that people will jump out of their chair to pay you for. You can’t fake quality.
But I’d watch out for your own self, really. I’m personally my own biggest critic, and I stop myself from launching things all the time. But if it’s your first proverbial rodeo, you don’t know what you’re going up against until you get out there.
Got butterflies about launching a productized service? Not entirely clear on what you’re going to offer? Scared that it’ll die off the vine? Yeah, me too. Do whatever you can to find support from kindred spirits in your industry.
Be careful not to overcomplicate it or make it overly complex. Remember, the value of the course isn’t in how many pages or videos you include, but how effective it is at helping your students get from point A to point B.
If this is your first course product, start small and build up from there. eBooks can be deceptively large undertakings. I like the idea of a one-time workshop, which can later be developed into a course. But you can certainly create a course and keep it simple on your first go around.
Don’t start with an idea. If you can build stuff, then building stuff isn’t the bottleneck. Marketing is the bottleneck. Do your marketing BEFORE you build something. It will inform what you should build and how you should build it. Then when you launch, you’ll have a bunch of customers eager to buy from you.
Jane Portman is an independent UI designer and consultant from Russia. She helps software businesses make more money with strategic design.
Building and launching a product is a long multi-level game. If you’re a perfectionist (like myself), it’s incredibly easy to fixate on each separate step. Don’t take me wrong, quality is important! But any particular component doesn’t matter as much.
The subject, the name, the landing page, the content — it all doesn’t matter unless you ship the product. My friend Brian Casel recommends using outlines(http://casjam.com/use-outlines-and-ship/) as an antidote to decision fatigue.
Also embrace another simple fact. Your first product won’t be a platinum bestseller! The key is the initial experience that will make you better with your next products.
Virginia is an Online Dating Consultant in Seattle, Washington where she’s working on an online course on online dating.
I think there’s a tendency to get into excessive market research and comparisons. Just because someone else’s course on your subject is 43 minutes long doesn’t mean yours has to be. Just because they use Vimeo or Udemy doesn’t mean you have to. Just because they shoot in front of a green screen doesn’t mean you should. Don’t worry about matching what else is out there; make something that’s a great business fit for YOU and your unique place in the market!
Christoph lives in Munich, Germany and is bootstrapping his own SaaS application as a part-time entrepreneur.
The desire to deliver a perfect product. Many of us don’t want to put a “raw” product out there, because we fear that others will think less of us for our product not being “perfect”. We want to have every feature right from the start and a design lauded by designers around the world.
The problem with this is, that customers mostly don’t care how your product looks and what features are missing – as long as it solves a pain for them.
To give you an idea about what I mean with this, here are a few of the things that were missing in LinksSpy when I launched:
– password reset emails
– users who cancelled were not locked out of the application – there simply wasn’t any code for that. Even after you stopped paying, you could use LinksSpy like nothing happened
– The algorithm behind LinksSpy was so slow, that it could not deal with 20 or more customers
– no automatic cancellation of accounts when their CC charges fail (That “feature” is still missing today! It’s all done manually)
– during signup you could bypass adding your credit card details and use the application – again without paying!
In addition to that there were so many bugs in the code, that at one time the Space Marines from Starship Troopers threatened to storm in to get rid of the bug infestation.
I would not have launched LinksSpy, if it weren’t for a few of my friends who constantly told me: “If you are not embarrassed of your first version, you are shipping too late”
Ned is the CEO of Elto, a curated marketplace of developers and marketers helping small business grow online.
When we first launched Elto I was really concerned about the design being awesome. It didn’t have to be perfect, it just had to be something I could show to my designer friends and not be embarrassed about.
I love the phrase “if you’re not embarrassed by your first version, you’ve waited too long to launch”.
So while our first version of the product for public release did look great it wasn’t as functional as it could be. And it also took us about a month or two longer to launch that it should have, which is a big deal when you’re bootstrapping (which we were at the time).
The second thing is to try to sell your product before you’ve finished building it. Ideally before you’ve started building it, but at the very least before you launch.
Going out there and talking to customers about what you’re building and, ideally, showing them mockups of what you have in mind, is a great way to get early feedback on your product and validation. You might don’t have to actually ““seal the deal”” but getting pre-commitment from a group of people who would pay cash money for your idea demostrates you’re putting the customer first and you’ve got a market that wants what you’re building.
It can also be a great way to bootstrap a product, especially for non-technical founders. I’ve had three different products where I’ve been able to fund the entire prototype development cost out of pre-orders by rabid clients. “
The biggest roadblock in not launching is not finishing. My hard drive is littered with half-finished projects, but to the rest of the world they might as well be 0% complete. Keep in mind that perfection is the enemy of good enough, and while you should always strive to create excellent helpful products, learning to be OK to launch with “good enough” is an important skill.
Karol is an entrepreneur and product creator who specializes in writing and strategizing email autoresponder sequences.
I’m not sure exactly what the question is. Keep them from launching because of a mental barrier of some sort? Or keep them from launching because everything goes haywire?
The mental barrier I can’t help with much. Some people are able to ship and some people make excuses about why they’re not ready to ship. Nothing I say here will change that for anybody.
As for something going haywire: especially if it’s your first launch allow yourself more time than you think you need. And test everything. Test your shopping cart with live transactions. Credit card and Paypal and whatever else you accept. Have someone else test the same. Once the user experience is how you want it to be you can relax, and the only way to really know what the user experience will be is to do a live test. I could probably write about this for another hour, but just test everything.”
I would say that the thing that keeps people from releasing products is the same thing that keeps people from doing a bunch of stuff and that’s perfectionism. The very first version of my eBook took me 2 days to write, and 7 days to make the initial videos. I wrote it in vim (a geeky text editor) formatted with markdown and then used linux command line tools to convert it to PDF. It was 17 pages. The videos ran for about 1.5 hours I think when edited.
I priced it at $297 and launched a “pre-order” version for $97 on a landing page and then sold it for $59 on a deals site (bizzbuzz.com.au). I emailed Andrew Warner from Mixergy (where I’m a premium member) to ask if I could teach a course on keyword research. Altogether between Mixergy and BizzBuzz I sold 78 copies.
Although it was called “pre-order” when people purchased, I actually sent them my super ugly PDF and crappy videos, and the feedback was great.
That really gave me the encouragement to “finish off” the product, which took me about another 2 weeks and I also paid a professional video editor $1,000 to help me with the editing and sound.
So don’t agonise over something for too long before you try and sell it. If the content is good enough, if the demand is strong enough, there will be some people ready to buy. If you can’t sell even one thing without having a polished, perfect product, then there’s something wrong and you’ll be pushing shit up hill forever trying to sell it.
Just throw something together, put it on gumroad, and email around trying to find some folks to buy it. Sometimes PPC traffic can work if you’re writing about something people are already looking for, but even though I would try and sell at least a few units through your personal network or through partners first.
You can always improve the product, but you can never get back the time you spend agonising over something before you start trying to sell it.”
Jonathan Stark is a mobile software consultant who helps big brands thrive in the post-PC era.
The #1 issue is fear. Fear rears its ugly head in a variety of forms: procrastination, perfectionism, self-doubt, and so on. The only advice I can offer is set daily progress goals, give yourself a drop-dead deadline, and realize that you owe it to others to share your passion.
Glenn Stovall is the creator of the Freelance Pricing Handbook and provides metrics-driven business and software design.
It’s very easy to try to do too much, and get bogged down in always building and never shipping. I’d say start small at first, and put some sort of a time or scope limit. Amy Hoy has recommended building a ‘tiny product’ in 90 days, which I think is pretty sound advice.
My products were books: paperbacks and ebooks. So for similar content-related projects, I’d have a few things to keep in mind:
1) Is there any marketing in place, or that would be optimal to have in place, that precedes the release of the product. For example, for my second poker book, I wanted to coincide the release so that I could get publicity during the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Planned publicity included seminars, book-signings, and magazine ads. If there are similar time-of-year-based events that would fit into a publicity campaign, it’s important to think about those things. And this might mean speeding up production to hit those deadlines.
2) For content-based products, be sure to factor in proofreading and editing. For me, I’ve learned that editing and proofreading take longer than I used to think. I’ve learned to better estimate that process and factor that into the schedule.
Neville is a Kopywriter who teaches people how to write like you speak and sell like hell.
Well the suckiest part is when someone spends a lot of time & money building a course….then have NO CUSTOMERS TO SELL IT TO! Generally people fail to build any sort of audience or demand for their product…..unveil it……and then sit there sad as no one buys 🙁
Kurt Elster is the founder of Ethercycle and one-half of the Unofficial Shopify Podcast. His productized service, Website Rescues helps eCommerce store owners turn their Shopify stores into a revenue generating machine for their business.
When people approach me about launching their own offerings, the biggest thing stopping them is self-doubt. Don’t talk yourself out of launching your offer. It’s not set in stone, and it won’t define you if you fail. My service offerings all started as packages I noodled on during my commute to work to solve an existing client’s pain, and then offered via an email or proposal. I have service offerings that went nowhere, and all of mine that succeeded have been modified or tweaked dozens of times since launch. But you’ll never know until you try, so get out of your own way.
You read Kurt’s writing on his website, sign up for Kurt’s course on making your website better on his website, or follow Kurt on Twitter.
Thanks for reading! Does someone stand out from these responses? Do you see a common thread in what these product creators did (or didn’t) do to launch their products or courses? Leave your reply in the comments!
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