That, of course, is the premise behind such events as:
- Atlassian’s ShipIt days (where you have 24 hours to ship a brand new product or product feature)
- StartupBus (where you literally create a new software startup riding on a bus from one location to another), and
- Gumroad’s Small Product Lab, in which I participated recently.
But let’s back up a bit.
Why Create a Small Product, Anyway?
The truth is, I’d identified several months ago that my business model was missing something.
See, my current suite of offers is fantastic.
I love the model I’ve created. It allows me to work on all kinds of remarkable projects, with some exceptionally remarkable people. I love doing high-end consulting on flagship products and programs, CreativeLive courses, live events, and workshops, all with the aim of strategically designing programs and products that customers can’t stop talking about.
But it’s also a really big investment, especially if you’ve never worked with me before.
I knew I needed an “appetizer” offer: an introduction to my work, which would ultimately be more about marketing than about the money.
It was never the right time, though.
(Sound familiar? Ever felt that way?)
Which is why I signed up for the Small Product Lab when I heard about it, a month or so ago. To give myself some pressure (and invoke Parkinson’s Law) to finally get something out the door, and stop putting it off.
What Can You Create In 10 Days?
Of course, when I signed up for the Small Product Lab several weeks prior, I hadn’t anticipated being on vacation for nearly half of it. All of a sudden, my ten days turned into six.
When faced with a tight constraint like this, you need to bear in mind the advice that many of us likely heard in grade school science classes:
Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!
Now, this is a concept that I believe very firmly in, both in the environmental sense, but also in the world of online products, courses and programs. The simple fact is, your products don’t need to reinvent the wheel. And in fact, you often shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel, at all.
If you’re writing great blog posts, but not doing anything with them after you hit “publish” you could be leaving THOUSANDS of dollars on the table.
Here’s the thing: You’re already putting hours of time into creating content for your blog that supports your business. And hopefully, you’re using it as the nexus of your social media strategy as well, and promoting it around the web.
But what is that content doing for you in the weeks and months after you’ve published it?
If you’re smart, you’re converting that content you’ve already spent time and energy creating into a product that can earn you money.
The beautiful thing is that when you start with reuse and recycling in mind, things get easier. It’s no longer about starting with a blank slate; instead, your options are constrained by what you already have available.
Decision making becomes easier.
Production becomes easier.
And, if you do it right, the value you provide is also higher than if you had just re-shared the original material in its original format.
Those Things You’ve Created … But Never Used
In my case, I realized that I had developed quite a few tools for clients that have never seen the light of day. Checklists, worksheets, prompts, and so on. A major one was an old document — one of the first I’d ever produced — that included five pages of “course success metrics”.
“Hm,” I thought. “What could I do with this?”
When I took reusing that as my starting place, suddenly things started to fall into place.
I quickly identified more than a half-dozen blog posts on my site that fit the theme, and which I could pull from to flesh out the content. And then, as I began writing, I continued to pull from different articles.
In the end, I lost count of how many different sources and resources I drew from. Plus of course those checklists that started it all. There were a few pieces that needed to be written from scratch, and of course, the entire thing needed an edit from top to bottom to turn it from “a collection of random essays” into a cohesive narrative.
It’s like chairs which are made of hundreds of recycled plastic water bottles. The value of those plastic bottles was relatively low. A chair, though, is much higher value because it serves a different function, has different utility, and gives people an entirely different experience. Any recycled product, in the end, contains elements of what went into it it … but won’t really look at all like what you started with.
Marketing Made Easier
Of course, even if your goal is to use your product more for marketing than money, that doesn’t mean you can ignore marketing entirely.
The point of the Gumroad challenge, after all, wasn’t just to create a product in 10 days. It was to create, launch, and sell it.
And that means marketing. Fortunately, this is also a place where recycling and repurposing can make life easier.
Take this article, for example. Its purpose is to show you that it is possible to create a micro-product in ten (or is that six?) days. Yet many snippets are based on things I wrote in the Lab’s Facebook community; progress, musings and ideas composed not for marketing purposes, but just as part of the process of doing the work. I even posted parts of it to Medium during the launch.
But its value is higher here, because I’m writing it for you. I’m adapting what I’m saying, and how, to make it more valuable. I’m curating and organizing my thoughts differently. Focusing it differently. Adding pieces, and taking out others.
Because, as is always the case, it’s about knowing who you are serving: what they think they want from you, and what you know they need.
The Real Lesson Is This
There’s much more I could say about the process. I could talk about tactical things like pricing, marketing, cover design, and typesetting in the math-geek’s favourite publishing tool, LaTeX.
For now, though, here’s what I really want to focus on:
I’ve been thinking about writing a book, or putting together a guide, or creating some other sort of micro-product for months.
I’ve had ideas for what to write and how to structure it, and then pushed them aside: not the right time. Not a high enough priority. Not something I wanted to find the time for. But for the important-not-urgent things, it’s never going to be the right time. You have to choose to make it a priority.
More importantly, you need to realize this:
Want to create a micro-product to fill a gap in your product line? Start pulling from existing content. Want to create a course? Start with a pilot. Want to hold a conference? Start with a living room.
As for me, I’m feeling phenomenal (if not a bit exhausted). Two weeks ago, Beyond Satisfaction: A Guide to Retaining Clients, Maximizing Satisfaction and Measuring Success in Your Online Course didn’t even exist.
Now, it’s been unleashed into the world, and people are loving it.
How about that Parkinson’s Law, hey?