If your desktop is covered with scattered pieces of ‘almost ready’ products and courses, you’re not alone. Lots of folks — experienced product creators, ambitious first-time creators, and everyone inbetween — can find themselves in the same position:

  • You invest time in researching, studying, and building your audience…
  • You discover a painful problem that you can solve…
  • You start to work on building your product or course…
  • You wait and wait to keep adding just one more feature…
  • …and your launch date keeps slipping away.

It’s too easy to get bogged down in the details and forget why you’re working on your product.

If your goal is to launch a product or course, that is the finish line. It doesn’t need to be perfect or the Ultimate Product for Everything in Your Industry.

No — your goal should be to launch something small, specific, and valuable. Something that teaches your audience something they want to know, like teaching freelancers how to double their rate or teaching bootstrappers how to ‘Just Fucking Ship’ or helping Software as a Service businesses get valuable metrics from their Stripe accounts.

But even with the best of intentions, your commitment to shipping a small, specific fix for your audience can slip away.

You want to launch your course, but you end up not shipping. And it isn’t fear of launching, it’s something much more subtle. In Just Fucking Ship, Amy Hoy describes this feeling:

Is [fear] really how you feel when you fail to sit down and write your sales letter?

Is that why you haven’t launched your product? Is that why you haven’t flipped the switch from free public beta to ‘show me the money?’

Be honest, isn’t your experience more accurately described as a subtle… s l i d i n g away of attention?

You haven’t launched yet because it feels easier to just let your attention focus on something else:

  • Maybe you haven’t launched because you’ve been growing your consulting business.
  • Perhaps you feel overwhelmed with just getting started.
  • Or maybe you haven’t launched because it’s easier to say ‘I can’t launch yet, this isn’t 100% complete!’ than to launch something basic, barebones, or simple.

We were curious, does this ever get easier? What do experienced product creators — people who have launched small and large products — have to say about the challenges that stop people from launching their product or course?

We sat down with a group of product creators (Amy Hoy, Brennan Dunn, Sean Fiorrito, Ruben Gamez, Josh Pigford, and Paul Jarvis) to talk with them about their experience developing and launching products and courses.

Here’s the question that we asked them:

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?

And here are their answers:

Amy Hoy, creator of 30×500


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, creator of Double Your Freelancing Rate

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 Fiorrito, creator of Sketching with CSS

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 Gamez, creator of Bidsketch

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.

Josh Pigford, creator of Baremetrics

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, creator of The Creative Class

Scope creep.

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.

The major factor that stands out in all of their responses? You should focus on launching something small and specific.

  • Don’t get sidetracked building the Ultimate Tool.
  • Launch before you feel ready.
  • Stop procrastinating and just ship.

Cut features. Trim down the scope. Solve a small problem.

There’s a fabulous article by Robin Sloan in Snarkmarket titled “Stock and Flow“. In the article, Robin riffs on the economic theory of Stock and Flow. Bare with me, this makes sense, I promise:

There are two kinds of quantities in the world. Stock is a static value: money in the bank, or trees in the forest. Flow is a rate of change: fifteen dollars an hour, or three thousand toothpicks a day. Easy. Too easy.

But I actually think stock and flow is the master metaphor for media today. Here’s what I mean:

  • Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist.
  • Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.

(You should go read the whole article. It’s a perennial favorite).

If you’re toiling away, waiting to ship that ‘perfect’ product, you’re stuck on creating stock, not flow. Stock is the 100% feature-complete product.

Again, here’s Robin:

No: this is no time to hole up and work in isolation, emerging after long months or years with your perfectly-polished opus. Everybody will go: huh? Who are you?

And even if they don’t—even if your exquisitely-carved marble statue of Boba Fett is the talk of the tumblrs for two whole days — if you don’t have flow to plug your new fans into, you’re suffering a huge (here it is!) opportunity cost. You’ll have to find them all again next time you emerge from your cave.

You can spend months or years toiling away in obscurity and working on your product, but when you finally launch, no one will know who you are.

It’s better to launch something small today as flow and work on building up an audience of fans and friends. Your first product should be small: an article, a screencast, a podcast, a cheat sheet.

Ship that small product first. Don’t get stuck wanting your product to be ‘perfect’ because, friend, it will never be perfect. You’ll get stuck. You won’t launch.

Don’t get stuck on the stock, all of the product creators we’ve talked to focused on creating a piece of flow, a small fix that could grow and evolve, and over time their collection of small fixes developed towards something larger.

That’s how you get unstuck. That’s how you launch.

Ready to get the whole collection?

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About the author: You don’t have the time to do outreach yourself. I help consultants and product creators, like you, grow their audience of freelancers and consultants. I help you by taking care of the details: I look after your most valuable relationships and help you build new ones.