This week I launched Business Stories, a guide to help you make better video for your business with the tools you already have available. Check it out on my Gumroad page.
This past week, I took part in the second Gumroad Small Product Lab event. The event is a chance to focus and learn some of what it takes to create and run a content-focused business.
The premise is that you start with nothing. Over the course of 10 or so days, you will create, market, and launch a small product aimed at a very niche market. It’s a fantastic experience and teaches you a lot about yourself, about product creation, about marketing, and about business in general.
I followed along with the first Small Product Lab. It was interesting to watch and it gave me a lot of inspiration. I’ve been spending most of my time writing scripts and essentially vlogging, so the idea of creating a product was far from my mind. When I saw the initial communications mentioning that the second Small Product Lab would be beginning I had a small rush of excitement. The inspiration and the feelings that came from watching the first run-through were immediately back in my mind. It didn’t take me long to sign up and start thinking about creating a product.
Lately, I’ve been focusing on building a concept for a production company that both creates content for clients, like films for businesses, as well an arm of the company that allows for filming our own projects, be they films or specific content for targeted sites. What I’ve learned is that there is always going to be outliers who just aren’t interested in paying someone to make content for them, especially video. This realization came at the same time I was thinking about planning a product. That is where the concept for Business Stories came from.
Planning a Guide
I spent a lot of time planning my product. Each day of the #SPL comes with a new challenge and a new assignment. The planning challenges each challenged me and gave me a sense of focus and drive that I believe laid the foundation for the project on a whole. The concept for the guide came quickly, as I mentioned. Creating the outline, and detailing a to-do list for the project helped me see it in a new way and gave me some concrete concepts and deadlines to work with.
Action Item – Whatever you are working on, if you haven’t created a “Need To-Do” list with all of the steps and tasks you will need to created in order to finish said project, now is the time to create that document. Mine are usually as simple as a handwritten piece of paper outlining all of the tasks. Yours doesn’t need to be anything different than that. Just make sure you have it somewhere you can see it and that you are working on the elements of your project that need to be done.
I stuck very close with the task list that I created. What I wanted to be sure and accomplish was to give purchasers of the guide a set of ideas, some concepts they may not have thought of, as well as some actions for them to consider. I outlined what those were, and began laying out what my guide would eventually become.
Here is the thing about creating a product quickly. It made me evaluate, reevaluate, and focus down the elements that the guide needed. A lot of the “could have been” content of the guide was edited out in this planning stage. This is a challenge, even when I’m used to constantly editing out parts of projects.
For future Small Product Lab participants, make sure you spend as much time as you possibly can in the planning and outlining stages. Much like writing a movie, if you spend more time planning and outlining, the process of writing the finished product isn’t as challenging or daunting. It’s just simply finalizing.
Creating the Guide
With my outline and details in hand, creating the guide was simply an exercise of execution.
I chose to write the guide in a Google Doc. This gave me a solid interface and access to the document on all my devices. I mostly wrote at home, but did venture out a couple times. The other thing that Google Docs allowed me to do was to be more drastic in my sectioning. I wanted to see each portion of the guide evolve as I wrote it, so I inserted a lot of page and paragraph breaks throughout to give me a more top-level view of what was happening. Overall writing an editing took me two solid evenings of work, but again, most of the work had been completed in the planning and outlining stage.
From there, I transferred the written text over to iBooks Author to create the final guide. This was my first time using it, and it worked fine. I’ll probably look into custom themes in the future or more customization, but for what I was doing it was fine. No complaints. It was easy to use and the guide came out looking good, so I have no issues.
Marketing is not something that comes natural to me, which is weird. I don’t feel good self-promoting. I’ve made plenty of videos and content for other people’s product that tells all about why someone should be using or doing whatever they are selling, but when it comes to my own content, I feel uneasy about it. Learning to share my content and to create my own personal stuff has been hard. I think that is why I’ve made movies about my kid and made them public. It’s become important to me to share a vision. I’ll get over whatever fears I have.
In terms of marketing, what I settled on was to share on Twitter, to share on LinkedIn (I know, right?) and to share with everyone involved in the SPL project. What I really wanted to focus on was helping others who were making small products. I set out to use the guide I created to actually make some videos for people’s projects. To put my money where my mouth was. I was able to complete three videos and spent a lot of time jumping into the group and helping where possible. It felt good to show that the guide I created was more than just words on paper, that it actually could work and work quick.
I started the project with no email list and no Gumroad followers, so I was literally marketing to an empty room. I was able to gain a small number of followers of Gumroad, and drive some traffic from a Medium blog post. I was then able to reach them directly through Gumroad’s platform.
What I would change in future Small Product Lab sprints is to create a more robust marketing plan. Having an audience in place in the beginning is a big advantage, but I don’t think you can count on it for projects like this. What I would do is this:
Once I identify and plan the initial ideas of my product, I would immediately identify several internet communities that would benefit from what I’ve made and become involved. In the couple days of planning and writing, you could be active in that community and try to get a feel for their social structure. You can then debut your product in front of the audience. My first stop would be active Facebook groups, and then possibly forums and Reddit.
One thing that I was really happy with in the process was being able to launch on-time. In the lead-up to launch I had a number of preorders and it made the launch feel more satisfying. Once I launched, I didn’t really change anything. I continued to be active and support other creators projects.
I was able to get my product onto Product Hunt early after its launch and I feel this was a big help. It drove a good amount of traffic to the product and converted at around 10%.
So, how did I do on launch day?
$22. 15 sales.
I’m actually really happy with that. I honestly was’t expecting much from it. My pre-launch pricing was Pay-What-You-Want. Plenty of people paid $0. I don’t blame them. That is truly what I wanted. I also believe in giving people the opportunity to pay for what you create, which is why I like the PWYW system. After launch, I raised the price to $1. Why $1? Well, the product has value, and I want to make sure that is conveyed. Being free after launch didn’t feel like it was accomplishing that. There is a value that comes from asking someone to pay real money. The base level of that was $1. So that’s where I landed.
Thoughts on #SPL
Overall, the Small Product Lab was an incredible experience. It brought me out of my shell, forced me to work on a timeline, and introduced a built-in community that made the experience even better. Feeling like you have an audience to talk to, even if it is an audience that is doing the same thing you are and not necessarily interested in your product still makes making the product more interesting.
The one thing I wasn’t expecting is the feeling that comes from quickly building and launching a product. That feeling is the desire and pseudo need to do it all again. The idea of taking 10 days to put the creation of something on full display in front of an audience before launching it, warts and all, is wonderfully satisfying. As a filmmaker, I’m really interested in creating a 10 film project. But I also want to give people who are interested in making movies something they can do as well, be it products like Business Stories, or just great nuggets of content that will make them better at what they are doing. The bug to create bigger and better things is a serious side effect of this project.
ACTION ITEM – Go to Gumroad’s SPL page and sign up for the email list. Make sure that you are signed up and ready for the next SPL to start. You’ll want to be a part of it.
Business Stories continues to get traffic and convert sales. I’m excited by what it is becoming. Expect to hear more about products from me in the future. While I’m making movies, I want to make sure I’m helping everyone make better movies.
Send me a tweet and let me know what you thought of the SPL.
More coming soon. Be sure to follow along and sign up for the email list to make sure you are getting the most from me. Thanks for reading. Let me know how I can help you.