(last updated on April 29, 2014)
It is time for the third Groundhog Day Resolutions Review of the year. Last month, I actually set a measurable goal: add more “money making activities” (MMAs) to my project list. By that, I meant putting my focus on developing products I could sell. Why? I’d like to achieve financial independence through the dint of my own effort. It doesn’t have to be a LOT of money, either…just enough to be sufficient in food, shelter, and creating a buffer of savings. What this will buy me, I think, is the time to pursue the next phase of larger personal projects.
So how did I do?
There are three new additions to the list, which current stands as follows:
- MM-001 Google AdSense
- MM-002 ETP Pads
- MM-003 Amazon Affiliates
- MM-004 PDF Calendars
- NEW MM-005 A5 ETP 7Task
- NEW MM-006 A5 ETP 5Track
- NEW MM-007 Donation
The A5 ETPs are the half-size variation of the full size 8×11 (or A4, if you’re outside the US) Emergent Task Planner, and they are also my first experiment in trying to sell a digital product with a pre-existing physical product counterpart. Sales have been slow, and this is probably due to the key lesson I’m learning this month: I suck at marketing. It’s probably more accurate to say that I suck at following-through with marketing after product development is done, like the many engineers and creative types who have walked this path before me.
From what I understand, the way to optimize your income through business is to first study the markets, then develop a product or service that fulfills a need. That makes perfect sense. However, as a creative type, my first impulse is to serve my individual need, not that of the market. So I am already doing things backwards, compared to the usual wisdom one hears about starting a product-based business.
I also am starting to get a real feel for how not marketing what you’re doing affects your prospects. I sunk quite a few hours into making these new things, which was hard enough. The marketing component is going to be just as time-consuming, which is a factor I didn’t really consider because it seemed tangential at the time. As they say, the devil is in the details.
On a related note, making products to sell has also made me aware of a pattern: I don’t directly describe what I do. I have a tendency to talk around what I do like a cheerily absent-minded professor. There are people who happen to stumble upon what I’ve made or said, decide they like it, and bookmark the website. However, this is more the exception than the rule. The reason for this is partly because I don’t have a ready-made label for what it is that I do, and secondly I don’t really like to talk myself up. So, even when I am ready to sit down and write some marketing copy, I’m already facing strong internal resistance to it.
In the coming month, the goal is to add another MMA (fast and easy websites, version 2.0, for local clients) and also kick it up several notches in the marketing department. Currently, products sell almost by accident, is my feeling.
One breakthrough realization I made was related to a 1990s comedy called Crazy People. It’s a movie about an advertising executive who goes crazy and starts an “extreme truth” campaign. I’ve never actually seen the movie, but I remember a line from the trailer: “Volvo — they’re boxy but they’re good.” It struck me that the problem I have with writing marketing copy about myself was the belief that I needed to use sparkling superlatives to make unsupportable claims. What if I just wrote as plainly and truthfully as the fake Volvo ads? An exercise I did earlier in April seemed to go well, so I am relieved. The next thing is to get it done.
The challenge of marketing, for me, is that I am not particularly excited about doing it. I’d like to be spending the time solving the interesting problems that flit across my mind like bugs asking to be squashed. Now that I’m aware that my resistance to marketing itself is a problem, I’ve been taking care to note all resistances. I’ve identified two primary ones:
- In the absence of anticipation of engaging work (marketing), small resistances because large. For example, switching from one project to another requires opening a number of different documents, folders, and web pages on my computer. This is just annoying enough that I don’t necessarily want to do it. I complain about this on last week’s podcast. Pushing through this resistance requires disengaging my mind and letting the body just do it. It takes some training to identify the resistance and dash by it.
It’s onerous to click on all those icons and browse all those folders when it comes to starting up a marketing project, and yet I find that clicking on Google to research whimsical questions takes no effort at all. Perhaps this is a dopamine anticipation response: I am anticipating a reward of knowledge, which gives me a little zing. Not so with writing marketing copy, which is a chore.
p>In either case, once I’m past the resistance and the mind is on the problem, everything’s fine. One thing that has been helping is listening to Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin on their Back to Work podcast, which Colleen Wainwright turned me on to a couple months ago. It’s good to be reminded by people who you respect that the work is damn hard, and it also reminds me that I need to be searching for people who are driving themselves to do the work. I have no interest of being in the company of people who are not subscribed to the same program. This makes me sort of un-fun right now, unfortunately, but the alternative seems worse: to be an observer, not a player, in a space where I can make a difference.
And with that reminder, let me start this month’s goal: add one more MMA, and have marketing materials for all product-based MMAs for June 6.
This year’s Groundhog Day Resolutions Posts: