Making New Products, Yankee Swap Style

Making New Products, Yankee Swap Style

SUMMARY: I’ve been thinking about making and selling products to support myself, and I am trying to find the “low hanging fruit” that I can start selling now. The challenge reminds me of the “Yankee Swap” game that many of us play during Christmas.

As I’ve been going through my finances for 2009 and 2010, the thought that I need to create packages to sell has kept bubbling to the surface. The bummer is that everything I was thinking of required significant time to design, develop, test, and then market. However, it occurred to me that perhaps I was being too precious about making products, a point driven home by an hour well spent browsing Regretsy (tagline: where DIY meets WTF). There you will find horrifying sweaters-turned-pants, bad photo compositing sold as “exquisite” art, and baffling mashups of hardware store odds-and-ends. Although my sense of design, craftsmanship, and aesthetics are stunned into silence by some of these items, I have to admire the urge to make, reimagine, and repurpose. I should apply some of that to my own situation: what do I got in the back that I can repackage and sell?

The mindset is like having a yankee swap of product. The idea of the Yankee Swap (or “White Elephant Exchange”) game is that you find something used in your household to get rid of and package it up. You meet with several others who have done the same, and you proceed to draw numbers and pick presents. It’s played usually around Christmas here in the States, as a fun and sometimes-vindictive way to save some money while (technically) exchanging gifts. There are many things that I have thought of doing on my website and with my design practice that I’ve been slow to implement or have rejected outright, as my gifting mentality is to give really unique and wonderful things tailored to the recipient. However, this is quite expensive in terms of time and resources.

There are things on this website that I could technically repackage. The Chain Mail Breaker, for example, or many of the tracking forms customized as a PDF workbook or daily planner. I could even distill some past writing into ebooks, or provide all the PCEO downloads as a simple all-inclusive ZIP file and charge some kind of download fee. All these ideas seem borderline-exploitive to me, but perhaps there IS value there that I find difficult to see. One thing that I’ve noticed at Yankee Swaps is that invariably, someone brings in a piece of junk that EVERYONE WANTS because it is legitimately awesome. I am not the arbiter of what’s awesome or not, so I should just start peddling stuff. And perhaps I need to shake myself out of the “gift giving” mentality with everything and target those people who are looking for a quick and affordable solution to some problem without the desire to make a connection with myself and our community of eclectic productivista entrepreneurs. It occurs to me that at least 30% of the traffic here comes from search engines; those are people looking for something to buy/download that FIXES something in their lives.

So that’s my thought for the day: how to package what I’ve already done in bite-sized, graspable chunks to bring in more revenue?


  1. Suzanne 13 years ago

    Hi Dave,
    I’ve been a long-time lurker and really enjoy your blog.

    I’m a communications consultant (the non-IT kind) and have been putting a lot of thought lately into how to get away from hourly pricing by packaging my services.

    I heard a thought-provolking interview by Alexis Neely on the Escape from Cubicle Nation blog about packaging and pricing (sorry not sure how to link but if you search on EFCN it’s easy to find). This might give you some ideas?

    Maybe there’s some value in you packaging your thinking/coaching together with your products?

    Look forward to reading about your efforts.

    (PS-blog link is my hobby blog)

  2. Lynn O'Connor 13 years ago

    Hi Dave:

    see my comment on prior post, which leads into this:

    I have an idea, not new obviously, something you have been struggling with —put all of your already created CEO forms into an ebook, and if someone wants to get ahold of them, they purchase, for a small price, the whole package. Then, as you come up with new ones, you release these free of charge the way you now do, but after a year or so, then again take them all off of free access, and sell another ebook.

    Another idea:  I’m also thinking of you organizing yourself and your products, into a membership service. So if someone want to routinely get good copies of your products, they have to be a regular member, renewable every year, something like that. I can’t imagine charging for my commentaries to my listserv, but I can imagine putting them in a book (only problem is I’ve been doing this listserv for five or so years, and I don’t even begin to have all of my commentaries.

    Just ideas, I think we might be struggling with similar problem.

  3. Federico Figueredo 13 years ago

    Quick idea here David,

    Providing value (in the form of analysis, entertainment/thoughts and even your PDFs) does things for you in the realm of traffic* and authority and is possibly a big thing in terms of conversion.

    *Then again, this doesn’t mean that you get more traffic by simply having great value on a site.

    I would think of something that could complement what you are already providing in a more convenient/comprehensive/current way and sell that as a sort of premium service or package.

    This example might serve as inspiration:

    A certain website that dealt with software used to release their older versions for free, only the current version was sold. The audience could either wait for a new version to be released (and then the one they wanted would be released for free) or could go ahead and make the purchase thus getting what they wanted now (pleasure) getting distinction from those using the free version (ego trip and social capital) as well as getting premium support (functionality.)

    Most people get hung up on the “But if you give it for free then they just have to wait it out.” People don’t realize that by giving a value for free, they created an audience that had a real reason for sticking with them and looking at their website on a regular basis (not only for getting new versions of the product but also for getting tips/info/whatnot.) With all of these people already involved and invested in checking their stuff, it wasn’t so hard to work at conversion… that is, to make some of these gents actually take the jump and buy the product.

    Well Dave, hope it helps.
    Federico Figueredo

  4. Edwin 13 years ago

    You could sell me an eBook / Video instruction / Powerpoint that helps me in creating the kind of cool forms you make. That would be a fun thing for me to learn. I tried to make one for my own ‘scorecard’ but it doesn’t look as finished as your stuff.

    There are two parts to it (as far as I can see).
    1. The technical / drawing part
    2. The more complex ‘where to start’ part

    You seem to have quite a lot of ideas about how and why you should track certain things. Maybe there are some guidelines or general principles that you always come back to? Hmm, that could even be a whole book probably (and hence some lectures where you multiply your hours * audience).

    BR Edwin

  5. Vinay 13 years ago

    Why contemplate and mull so much over money matters! Do not push your generous soul out nor keep your entrepreneurial spirit from kindling and giving you the much needed boost.

    Value your own products on the scale: Free and/or Paid, be your own judge of it. Charge for some and give away some.

    I shall still come around and maybe even buy from you.

    P.S.: I rate you work as the neatest around.