Note: This is part of a 7-day challenge called “Please Don’t Starve” which is intended to help you create and sell something in a week. To learn more about the challenge click here. Today is Day 1.
People don’t typically buy what they need. They buy what they want. Which is why I love the saying, “Sell them what they want, give them what they need.” But how, exactly, do we do that?
Listen to the audio version of this lesson here:
The first thing I ever created and sold on the Internet was, in fact, the first thing I created and sold ever. In the past, I had unsuccessfully done fundraisers for the high school choir boosters program (because I wasn’t cool enough to be in the band), and support raised my salary for the nonprofit organization I worked for in my twenties.
But never had I really just made something and sold it. Even when I was a professional musician, the idea that I could create something and sell it felt pretty foreign to me.
I was still thinking like a Starving Artist.
Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to not think like a Starving Artist without intense pain or crisis. It seems nothing else really motivates us to completely change the way we view ourselves and the world. At least, that was the case for me.
For years, I had dreamed of writing for a living and had even started a blog that had become fairly popular. But it wasn’t unit my wife became pregnant with our first child that I got serious about turning my passion project into one that could generate an income.
At the end of 2011, I had a few thousand subscribers on my email list and a wife who was starting to show signs of being pregnant. At the time, we both made enough money for us to live, but we couldn’t survive without both salaries. Ashley wanted to stay home and be a mom for a while, but it was something we simply couldn’t afford.
I don’t know what it was—maybe the shock that comes with realizing I was going to become a father or simply feeling sick and tired of not doing my dream for a living—but something welled up inside me and I told her one night while sitting outside on our back deck, “I am going to find a way to make it so that you don’t have to go back to work.”
The next thing I knew, I had created a short e-book that I was now selling every day on my website for a few bucks. After a month of doing this, I had made about $3000, which was equivalent to my monthly paycheck at the time. I had effectively replaced my salary.
How long did it take to create this product? Seven days.
Given the right motivation, I believe that your life can change in a relatively short amount of time. Almost every big change I’ve experienced has come down to a few moments that changed the trajectory of my entire life.
Given the right motivation, your life can change in a short amount of time.
I believe that your life can drastically change this next week if you really want it to. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. But you have to do two things right:
First, you need the proper motivation. For me, it was finding a purpose bigger than my dream. It was the welfare of my family, being able to give my wife something she had always wanted but felt like she couldn’t have, offering a better life for our yet-to-be-born son, and, yes, getting to do my dream.
Second, you need the right plan. So many of us start things and never finish them. We attempt greatness but never complete it, because we’ve bitten off more than we can chew and we’ve set ourselves up to fail from the start.
Today, all I want you to do for this challenge is to create a plan. There are three aspects to an effective plan, and some of them may surprise you. I’ll share those with you and then ask you three questions.
1. Make it urgent
First and foremost, nothing ever gets done without a deadline.
You need a date by which this will be complete. I recommend seven days from now. It needs to feel urgent. Don’t make it tomorrow, though, and don’t make it two years from now. It needs to create a heightened sense of energy and awareness in you that doesn’t overwhelm and incapacitate you with feelings of anxiety.
Nothing ever gets done without a deadline.
You can get a lot done in a week, believe it or not. With every book I’ve ever written (and I’ve written six so far), I experienced tremendous levels of productivity the final week.
Why? Well, because I had to. That’s what a deadline does.
2. Make it easy
Right now, you’re thinking about some big thing you want to do. Some audacious goal, some crazy way you’re going to change your family’s life or the fate of the world.
Don’t do that.
Think of something small, something easy that you can do this week to set yourself down a new path. I don’t even want you to know what you’re going to sell just yet. Just imagine what it would look like if it were easy.
Maybe this begins by you imagining all the ways you made it difficult in the past and learning from those failures. Everything that’s happened to you is preparing you for what’s to come.
Imagine what it would look like if it were easy.
One of the best ways you can take something and quickly sell it is by using your byproduct, the stuff you’ve already created and maybe even discarded.
Gasoline was invented as a byproduct of the oil refinery process. My first eBook was made by me taking some slides from a talk I gave to my sister’s college journalism class and turning those slides and notes into a short, 5000-word “book.”
3. Make it fun
As my friend Jon Acuff says, “If it’s not fun, it won’t get done.” This is truer than we realize.
When you’re starting out at anything, the activity has to be fun. You have to enjoy doing it long before you ever paid for doing it because when you start, you’re just not that good. And it takes time to build a skill that will make you even worth noticing.
This is why, I believe, if you want to be a writer, you first have to fall in love with writing. No amount of discipline will make drudgery enjoyable. You have to either learn to love the work or do something else.
That said, there are almost always less fun ways to do something as well as more fun ways. Especially early on, pick the fun way.
No amount of discipline will make drudgery enjoyable.
For me, I like writing. It’s easy, I’m decent at it, and it helps me figure out what I think. So writing an eBook was an easy way for me to create something and enjoy the process while I made it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The whole process isn’t enjoyable; it’s not like an amusement park ride or something. Hard work, no matter what it looks like, has its not-so-fun parts. Be ready for that.
But when you begin, you should be excited. Make it fun. Get it done.
All I want you to do is jot down some notes, answering these three questions:
- What’s your deadline?
- What would it look like if it were easy? Consider using some of your byproduct (something you can repurpose from your past) so you don’t have to create from scratch.
- How can you make it fun? Think of the things that you do well and come naturally to you, and build on those instead of forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy. If you don’t like audio, don’t create a podcast. If you hate video, don’t do a video course. And so on.
Once you have your answers to those questions, go to the Facebook group and share your work. (If you’re not on Facebook, you can leave a comment in this post.)
And if you’re not already subscribed to the challenge via email, make sure you do that so you don’t miss anything. Click here.