Fail Fast For Free
A startling revelation for many entrepreneurs entering the Internet business arena is the very low cost to get started. The article headline is a phrase I think I first heard from Robert G. Allen back in 2001. Since then the business climate has changed from irrational exuberance to the attention age. Today all entrepreneurs need to consider one resource that is definitely not free. In fact it’s the most scarce resource you have: your attention.
You can get your website or blog up and running practically without any cash outlay. You can even fill it with content, add affiliate links and AdSense ads without paying a dime. However, if you spent 3 months of your attention on this project it definitely does not qualify as free (or fast for that matter). To avoid this attention trap you need to approach your projects systematically.
Define Your Goal
A goal needs to be both specific and measurable. If it doesn’t meet both of these criteria then you don’t know when you’ve won and earned the right to celebrate.
“Make money online” is an example of a poorly defined goal. A better goal would be “Make $500 per month as an online affiliate marketer by working on average 2 hours per day”.
Define Your Projects
When you have defined your goal, you need to come up with several project ideas that can help you reach that goal. Brainstorming ideas and dreaming about how successful they will be is very alluring and many people spend their entire lifetime in this stage. As a beginner there is an easy way to cut directly to the chase: Follow in the footsteps of someone who has already achieved a goal similar to yours. If you’re already a seasoned veteran you can skip ahead to the next section.
Allow yourself one hour – definitely not more – of online research to find a mentor that you can follow. Start searching at Amazon.com for books on your subject. While there are literally thousands of ebooks on every conceivable subject, the hurdle to have a book published and distributed by Amazon eliminates most of the junk for you. Also scan a dozen or so blogs that cover your topic. Don’t get sucked in, just look for names that keep coming up in multiple blogs, and frequent linking to the same authority blogs.
Once you have found your one mentor purchase their beginner’s book, ebook or ecourse. It is very important at this stage to stick with one mentor and one information resource. There is a cacophony of contradictory voices out there and as a newcomer to the subject you have no way to evaluate who is right and who is wrong. Trust your gut instinct when you selected your mentor and stick with it through the duration of your project. Do not switch horses midstream. That will cause you to lose your focus and bring you back to square one.
As you’re reading your new book or ecourse, make notes of projects that your mentor recommends and which you think you can accomplish.
Evaluate Your Projects
When you have several potential projects that can bring you closer to your goal you need a systematic way to select which one to implement first. Create a list of evaluation criteria. There is no right or wrong evaluation criteria, but each item should be important to you. Here is my list:
- Size of market
- Proven market
- Cost to reach prospects
- Profit per item sold
- Complimentary products available for upsell and back-end
- Startup cost ($)
- Your attention required for startup
- Your attention required ongoing
- Your passion for the project
- Strategic fit
For each project, answer each evaluation criteria with one or two sentences. Then assign a value from 1 to 5 to each, where 1 is bad and 5 is excellent. With this scale a very large market would get a 5 (excellent) while a very high startup cost would get a 1 (bad).
Do not spend more than 2 hours on this. Too many projects never get off the ground because they are analyzed to death. Read the headline of this article again.
Once you have assigned values to each criteria for all of your projects, you simply add up all the numbers for each project. And the project with the highest total score is the one you should start with. Once you are comfortable with this evaluation methodology you can assign different weights to the evaluation criteria. For example, if you are low on cash reserves the Startup cost criteria may the most important to you. Then you can multiply the 1-5 score for this particular criteria by 2 or 3 to give it more weight in the overall score.
Approaching your projects systematically like this has several benefits:
- The likelihood of you selecting the best project is much higher.
- You have justified to yourself why you selected this project. When you’re having a hard time and you’re doubting if you’re really doing the right thing, go back to your notes and reinforce the reasons for selecting this project.
- Keep your list of evaluated projects. Each time you have a new idea for a project, evaluate it using the same criteria and compare it to the other projects. Each time you complete a project you know which one to tackle next.
Complete Your Projects
The fact that you have a large list of potential projects does not give you a license to jump between them. Focus your full attention on your current project and see it through to the end. Finish it even if you come up with a new project idea that scores much higher than the one you’re currently working on.
Even with this systematic approach not all your projects will be successful. Learning to fail and learning from your failures is also very important. And if you never complete your projects you are guaranteed to never be successful.
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