You want to offer a new course, launch a new clothing line, or bring something new to the market?
If so, the following article will hopefully save you from making the same mistakes I did in the beginning. At the start of an idea, you usually feel like you’re on cloud 9, just like you’re in love. When I quit my corporate career, I was eager to finally devote myself to my own new projects. What I didn’t know was how to properly start them. It was painful….
However, YOU have a distinct competitive advantage. You’re on social media and may even run your own blog. You have your theme and your community. You also generally know what works and what doesn’t. Nobody knows your people better than you!
Still, all of us repeat this one mistake when starting something new. We focus on our idea and what we want to build. It’s inside us. We LOVE what we do. We are completely infatuated with our own idea of how things should be one day. And that’s a good thing, because if we didn’t, how could we possibly be motivated to do our thing?
The following are principles that I have tried out myself and are based on “Lean Startup” principles. In this context, I’d like to particularly recommend the book „Running Lean“ by Ash Maurya to you, an excellent guide that has helped me get on track. You should also check out his excellent blog. There, you will also find the example of the artist below. His work saved me a ton of time while figuring out what works and what isn’t.
Is my new idea really that good?
Starting something new means, by its very nature, taking a risk. Most endeavors fail because you offer something that not enough people want to buy. Unfortunately, by the time you realize it, you’ve invested time, money, and effort into, say, writing your new book, branding your collection, or creating your workshop. The fact is: If it’s not bought enough, your effort was (partly) wasted.
We often act like artists. We think that, by the time we’re ready, others will also see what amazing thing we’ve been planning all along. Unfortunately, that only works out in the fewest cases. An artist doesn’t know beforehand whether they are painting the next “Mona Lisa.” And they certainly cannot plan it. Statistics show that most products fail. Unfortunately, often it doesn’t even matter how great your new book is.
You don’t have to invest much unless you are certain that your idea is going to turn out to be “it.” You can actually minimize the risks before starting to build if you keep a few things in mind.
Time is more valuable than money – set yourself free!
If you look at your bank statements from the past six months, you can see that sometimes you had more and sometimes had less money. Time, on the other hand, trickles away like sand in an hourglass. It’s not worthwhile to invest a lot of time in something and save money at the same time. In reality, you should try to generate income as fast as possible and grow it. Each project requires only a few core tasks that are really important for your subsequent successes. Focus only on those. Core tasks that need to be done, but not necessarily by you, you should delegate to cheaper online tools or external consultants. You don’t save money if you do everything yourself. Focus on what will keep you moving. Your time is a precious treasure. Many things aren’t important anyway. You can simply ignore them.
Minimize your risks. What good is the most beautiful house if it is built on sand?
If you want to minimize your risks, you should tackle them right at the start. If you can’t minimize them right at the outset, pause and reevaluate. Imagine you’re building a house. If the foundation isn’t suitable for building one there, simply don’t even start constructing in that place. The ground surely won’t change itself overtime time. It’s similar to a product. Before you waste time, money, or other resources, you should collect evidence that enough people will buy your product or service. It’s better to test that right away, not only after writing your book or building your house on sand. The greatest risk is always like the weakest link in a chain. The chain is known to break at its weakest link.
If you can’t manage to get these risks out of the way, you just have to change your plan. Nothing is lost! Think about whether you can find another plot of land to build your house. Anything is still possible! You have avoided making a huge mistake.
Your competitive advantage: You have a community. Use it!!! But beware of traps!
Many are jealous of your starting conditions! You have expert knowledge, a niche, and all attention is on you. Many can only dream of that. If it wasn’t so, no one would follow you on social media, listen to your podcast, or read your blog. Plus, you already have an idea about what works and how it works. Your community will not only help you in promoting you and recommending you and your product. They will also support you with your project—man, how I would have loved to have had that when I first started. Talk to your community and find out if and to what extent your project will be met with positive feedback.
But beware of the following trap: Don’t rely on group discussions, nor on surveys!
Group discussions, clubs, and workshops are excellent. You can achieve and learn much more together! But a group is inevitably prone to thinking like a pack. This can even start with two people. Look at the show “Come Dine With Me” for example, You often see that the second person, who really liked the beefsteak, doesn’t dare to give a great verdict after listening to her neighbor’s damning verdict first. Her verdict will be influenced by the previous statement. She will say something like. “My steak was quite good, but I also think that it has been served too cold.” Avoid group thinking!
In one-on-one meetings, we also tend to tell well-intentioned lies, either because we don’t want to offend our counterpart or because we don’t devote enough time to the topic of our conversation. How often have you heard in your circle of friends statements like, “Hey, your idea is terrible. It won’t work out that way.“? Often, we, as humans, want to support others simply because we like them. We just politely nod along.
Therefore, dig deeper when you talk to your people! Your goal is not positive feedback but to learn.
„Love the Problem, not your Solution” (Ash Maurya)
First, ask your people about specific problems you need to solve. Your idea of a solution should stay in the background for now. It’s best to have already formulated problems and ask about them one by one. Why? Now you can clearly see how people react to your theories. After a few conversations, you can then adjust the “problems.” You can always talk about other problems in more detail afterward. Your goal is to find the problem that people respond to. You should pay attention to what group of people give you the most positive signals. You should have that group in your mind when you make your plan a reality. And of course, you should ask everyone how they would solve today’s problem. Can you compete with the solutions they are currently using?
Stay alert, stay alive! You’re done with these conversations when you notice that everyone is just nodding their heads frantically when you ask them about their problems, and when you’ve identified the group, that tells you, “Yeah, it’s the same with me!”
Do I continue? Set clear, measurable criteria for success.
If you put your time and money into something, you should get something out of it. It could be that you don’t want to make money with your project but that you just want to make a difference. Cool! It can be that you want to earn money. Also cool! Maybe you even wish to achieve both: Even better!
So, set clear criteria for success for yourself. How do you imagine your project in five years? And how many readers, buyers, participants for a class do you need for it to be worth starting? Start selling even before you start building your solution. Make your people an offer they can’t refuse. Only when you have reached the minimum number of interested people, you know that your project is ready to go.
As I said, the abovementioned principles are proven “Lean Startup” principles. I want to recommend the book Running Lean by Ash Maurya and/or his blog once again. This is not an affiliate link but a genuine tip for a great book! His work has helped me to make sense of it all.
Do you have a new project? Are you also like me, in that it is challenging to start something new? Let me know how you are doing.
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