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?