When we sold our first $2,000ish package to a customer who I didn’t know and who had only known me for the length of a short webinar and this brief phone call, I knew we were onto something.
When we sold 5 of those, I thought to myself, GET THE CASH CANNON, BABY!
I was thinking about a future where people would invite me to speak at their conferences and I’d tell them profound things like, “Start slow, Build Slower,” or some other total platitude, and people would eat it up!
We even created this ridiculous video ad for about $500:
It’s hilarious. We had such a blast creating it.
… and then, a few weeks later, the headaches started:
- The client onboarding process was a mess. It was confusing, unclear, convoluted, and we constantly lost where we were in the editing process with clients and where their videos were. Yellow flag.
- Clients wouldn’t deliver us the thing we needed to get from them. The surprising thing was when clients would sign-up for a bunch of edited videos and then… crickets. Even with weekly trainings, one-on-one calls, and frequent emails to clients, some of them simply didn’t budge. Probably because I sucked at walking people through the process of how to do this well in the first go-around.
- After the initial excitement wore off, communication with the team started to grind to a halt. For the first few months, it was fine. We’d chat at least once a week — then weekly turned into every other week. Then, just text messages. Then, when things got really difficult — also crickets.
Oh, and we never actually ended up using that video ad for anything.
Still, even in light of all of those challenges, we kept working on the process and iterating.
Eventually, we fixed the client onboarding process — and I feel like I got it to a point in which it at least made sense.
Then, we started to focus on finding clients who were really excited to create their own videos or already doing it — these people would send us videos and it was great.
And yet, this process took months and months, and during that entire procedure, we were paying for an editor full-time who we didn’t really have a full work-load for since we’d decided to go all-in on the concept and hire him to handle the fulfillment right from the get-go.
Not a bad decision, but in hindsight maybe it came a little early in the process.
… and then communication with my partner continued to dwindle.
I think we’d both gotten to a point where we were over it — he wasn’t exactly sure where he fit into all of this, and I wasn’t sure either.
Eventually, I made the executive decision — about 6 months in, after burning $1000s in time, energy, and money — that we would shut it down.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through how to step-by-step validate (through actual sales), launch, grow, iterate, and then, uh, eventually shut down a service-based product that generates at least $1,000 a month.
In 99% of instances, the expenses to get these things setup shouldn’t amount to more than a few hundred dollars, and your monthly software expenses should be less than $100.
And depending on your delivery method, the rest of that revenue should be your profit for you to do with whatever the hell you want.
Step 1. How do I identify a business need?
Tools you will need:
- A calendar tool like Calendly (free).
- A LinkedIn account, or email list. (Even just close friends + contacts works, it doesn’t have to be anything formal.)
- Zoom or Google Meet (both free for one-on-one) to record the meetings.
In the weeks leading up to that stupendous sales month, I’d been having conversations with business owners asking them, “If we built a program where we would effectively help you script, teach you how to shoot your own videos, and then edit them for you — would you be interested in that?”
And the answers often waned from, “Hmm… sounds interesting,” to, “Yes! That’s exactly what I need!”
Those are the people who I focused on.
I tried my best to understand their challenges, to anticipate what was getting in the way of them creating awesome video content, and worked on developing a solution that would address that.
I decided on video because I knew video was a thing that I was interested in, and that a lot of people were already asking me about.
And I challenged myself to do all of this all the while investing $0 in marketing, advertising, website development, and any other expensive tools that often get in the way of selling the thing.
And we accomplished that — multiple times over.
So, the $1 million question… how do you find people who might be interested in buying a service that you’re offering?
Interview real people, who might need the service you’re offering.
BUT MIKE… how do I find those people?!
You ask them.
Post this exact message to your Facebook, LinkedIn, and other feeds, and to your email list:
I’m looking for 5 service professionals who want to level-up their [video, marketing, sales, etc.].
Over the next few months I’ll be working one-on-one with a handful of [niche you’ll work with] to help them [achieve x result].
We’ll start [next month].
Just respond to this update/email with the phrase [LEVELUP, IM IN, DOWN,etc.] and I’ll reach out.
Here’s an example from a LinkedIn post I shared a while ago:
Responses often range anywhere from a handful of people, to a few dozen, depending on the need and relevancy.
If it doesn’t work the first time, try it again with a different message or a different challenge.
Then, schedule a call with anyone who reached out.
For anyone who responded, simply send them this message:
Message #1 — Hey [name] — excited to connect. Can you let me know if any of these times on my calendar work for you? [Link to your Calendly or other scheduling tool.]
The next step is to have those conversations.
The questions I’d ask in these conversations:
- What challenges are you running into related to developing your own [solution to the thing you’d like to help them solve]?
- How are you trying to solve that challenge right now?
- If you could wave a magic wand — what might that solution look like?
- Do you feel confident in your ability to solve those challenges right now?
- And how critical is it for you to be able to develop a solution to this right now?
Ultimately, your goal is to find people who are saying, “I need a solution right now, and I have zero confidence that I can solve this problem entirely by myself.”
More often than not, that’s how I found my first few clients — I was able to whet their beak enough that they might be interested in a potential solution.
Calls allow you to dig deeper into the problem, and are recommended for at least a few of these conversations — beyond that, you can learn a lot through a simple messaging back-and-forth or email.
Step 2. Deciding what kinda service to offer.
There’s this book called Ikigai and in it, they have this chart — here’s what it looks like:
You should care about what you’re selling (unless you’re a sociopath), but it should also solve a real need in the marketplace.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve just created a tool that completely eliminates the need for using toilet paper if consumers aren’t ready and willing to at least make the leap towards a toilet-paper free life.
(A terrible example, I know.)
When we were developing our service — what would eventually become Make You Famous — we’d first had about a half-dozen conversations with different professional service providers in order to understand their challenges with video, what was stopping them from being able to move forward with it, and what the ideal solution might look like.
Almost always, it centered around the idea of helping them learn how to script and shoot their own videos.
(And a need that I anticipated which was rarely mentioned was that of editing — it was sorta the icing on the cake that actually made the shot at home videos look half-decent.)
Eventually, we decided that since we wanted to develop a service centered around editing videos, we chose to deliver a program that effectively coached people in writing and filming their own videos, while we handled the challenging piece of getting those videos edited.
Here’s what that service initially looked like:
- Weekly training + accountability — weekly one-on-one guidance + support in helping our clients learn the skills necessary to script and shoot their own videos, and manage delivery to us.
- Unlimited one-on-one Access — First through Marco Polo, but this eventually shifted to Notion since people weren’t using Marco Polo (and then ultimately email).
- Edited videos (as many as 12) — depending on what package our clients signed up for initially (we had lower packages but I only ever brought it up if they asked), they’d get as many as 12 edited videos delivered.
Pricing was simple — $1995 upfront for the full 12 videos, or $795/month for 3 months if they wanted to pay monthly.
Most people chose to pay upfront.
Before I get started, should I talk to competitors?
This is one of those steps that sounds cool in practice — learn what’s working well, what they’re doing to market their business, how they generated their first few sales, etc.
Wow! You’ve learned so much!
But like most work that people convince themselves to spend an inordinate amount of time doing, it is little more than busy work.
Business isn’t a war-zone like books and leadership gurus and Jordan Belfort-esque sales coaches have taught you to believe over the years.
There’s plenty of space for new competitors, even in heavily saturated markets.
You can adjust on the fly, and chances are if the market is oversaturated and you’re not providing a convincing enough solution, you’ll learn that very quickly through your sales conversations because nobody will buy whatever the hell it is you’re trying to sell.
Step 3. How do I make my first few sales?
If you are selling a service-based product — not a SaaS-product, or a research-based product, or a new drug, or anything else — here is an exhaustive list of things that you don’t need to sell your product which you think you might:
- A brand. Any sort of logo, website design, sales materials, etc. Your first few sales are not people who are going to be investing in your brand, they will be investing in you and the promise that you tell them that you can deliver.
- A landing page. Our first clients happened purely over the phone and through email. I just communicated what I was planning on delivering to them, how long it might take, what the ideal timeline and outcome would look like, and how much it would cost. Then I addressed any specific objections or challenges that they might have directly on that call.
- Any time-consuming marketing materials. You shouldn’t invest in any marketing materials or advertising because the honest answer is you have no f**king clue what your product even is. It’s going to iterate and change wildly once it’s launched, and the more time you spend on marketing materials is just a convenient excuse to avoid having the difficult conversations.
Here are just a few things that you will actually need to close your first few sales:
- A 3-bullet summary of what you are delivering. This should be something that will quickly encapsulate exactly what you will be delivering to the client, and what the expected outcome will look like. It should speak to the specific pain points they’d mentioned on your calls earlier.
- A simple delivery method. For the first iteration of our product, we simply used an onboarding form (Typeform or Google Forms works perfectly for this); a shared Google Drive folder for videos; and a Notion home page for each individual client.
- A way to accept payment. Whether this is through a Paypal business account, a Stripe account (recommended) or some other invoicing software, it doesn’t really matter. All you need is a way to accept payment.
If you need to setup a new LLC, you can do so pretty easily through Stripe but I’d recommend first collecting a few sales, invoicing them under your own name or current LLC (if you have one) until you’ve generated enough income to rationalize actually opening up a separate business account for your need business.
(For tax purposes, that’s ideal but also check with your accountant but also if you don’t have one an LLC is fine.)
Everything else is a distraction.
Most of this ‘setup’ should take maybe a few dozen hours.
Again, your focus for the first few weeks and months should be almost entirely on generating your first few sales and enough income to validate (or invalidate) your idea.
You’ll know you’re onto something when it feels EASY to convince people to sign-up — when we first started Make You Famous, it was honestly the easiest thing I’ve ever tried to sell in my entire life.
That’s when I knew we were onto something.
… and then it stopped being easy and at some point I realized that either we needed to dig deeper into the problem or need, or take a step back and completely restructure the product.
Address all of their objections while you have them on the phone.
This isn’t true of everybody you work with, but unless you already have a massive brand and a huge amount of consumer trust built up, you will be starting from scratch.
And with that, comes plenty of uncertainty around who you are and what you deliver and whether or not you’re the best person to deliver on that.
These are questions that you should be addressing throughout your sales conversations, but inevitably you will get to a point in the conversation where somebody is ready to buy and then at the last-minute one of you two will get skittish.
You’ll say, “Ok, cool! I’ll send over an invoice to you after the fact…” and nobody will fill that form out.
Because once you’ve gotten them off the phone, they’ll come up with all sorts of reasons and rationalizations as to why you’re not the best person for them to work with on this.
And chances are, they will be right.
Not a single conversation should end with, “Ok, cool! Yeah, send some stuff over and then I’ll let you know in a few days.”
Clarify any and all objections they might have while you have them on the phone.
Beyond that, any potential objections that might immediately eliminate them as a prospect should be addressed before you even have a call.
i.e. Your service is for B2B clients, and they’re strictly B2C; they don’t have a budget of more than $5,000 to invest in services like yours in the next year; they wouldn’t be ready to take this project on for at least another 6-12 months, etc.
Common objections you will hear regardless of whatever service or product you’re offering, and potential responses:
- I need to talk to my business-partner/husband/wife/dog, etc. “I totally understand that – now, just so we’re on the same page, given everything we’ve just discussed, if this decision were solely up to you, how would you decide to move forward?
- Do you have any previous clients I can talk to? “I’d be happy to connect you with someone, but I’m curious… what information would you need from them in order to be 100% confident that we’re the right fit for you?”
- How do I know this will work? “Great question… a few questions you should ask: do I trust that what you’ve outlined is something that you can deliver upon? Do I trust that when you do deliver upon that, that it will make a meaningful impact on the metrics we’ve discussed? And lastly, do I believe that I have the time and capacity right now to take this project on?”
Every conversation should end with a clear next step – if that next (or current step) isn’t to acquire payment information, then it should be to schedule a call with another decision-maker, or to introduce your plan for executing a strategy with them, or to address any other final objections that you simply didn’t have time to address.
Sales usually die when there is no clear next step and the impetus is left on the other person buying your product to make that next step clear.
Lastly… when you get to the point in the conversation where you’ve presented what you’re offering, you’ve discussed price, and you’ve asked them whether or not it’s something they’re interested in… if they say, ‘Yes!’ then walk them through the payment process directly over the phone.
If that’s as simple as sending them an invoice and just sitting on the phone with them while they’re going through it, great!
This might sound strange and uncomfortable and sales-y but often this is the point in the process where someone’s last-minute objections will come up and if you aren’t there to handle them, THE SALE WILL DIE.
Don’t let that happen.
Step 4. When should I build the software?!
Not until you’ve gotten to the point where all of the simple, viable solutions — i.e. Google Docs, Dropbox, Slack, Teachable, Vimeo, etc. — simply aren’t working anymore.
We on-boarded our first 10 or so clients strictly using Google Forms, Google Drive, and Notion.
Here’s what our on boarding form eventually looked like:
The Notion template that we created for our clients was incredibly simple and easy to set up — it meant that onboarding each of our clients took less than 5-10 minutes each, including walking them through the software.
Here’s an example of the dashboard that we had setup for each of our clients:
(And here’s a link to that template if you want to duplicate it for your own purposes.)
Which means that, for all intents and purposes, we could’ve easily scaled our solution to 100s of businesses and stuck with that format.
This minimized our expenses — aside from hiring our editor, which was our largest expense by far, the software to keep our business running was less than around $200 a month total, and that was including big expenses like LeadPages which we ultimately didn’t really need, and a few other silly expenses.
The major pieces — Google Drive, Zoom, Notion, etc — were less than $50 total.
Step 5. How to develop an onboarding process that doesn’t suck.
The first few iterations of our delivery were, frankly, pretty shitty and looking back on it I’m totally embarrassed and saddened.
Clients got confused in the onboarding process, they didn’t know where to find things, communication was confusing, and eventually we learned perhaps the most important piece which was that people will do whatever the hell they can to avoid filming their own videos for as long as humanly possible.
We had Basecamp (which I hated in spite of the fact that I respect the cofounders immensely) — and getting clients onboarded was confusing.
I’d tell them to do something, and then they wouldn’t be able to find out where, exactly, to do said thing.
And then they’d ping me with the same repetitive questions that I should’ve covered in onboarding but clearly didn’t.
They say that the first version of your product will suck and I think that’s generous.
The first version of your product will be a broken piece of shit and you’ll be stunned that your clients are as patient as they are.
Eventually, we eliminated Basecamp, moved everything to Notion, ensured that on our first call we walked them through ALL of the steps they’d need to take to get started, and even helped them write their first few scripts.
Here’s an example of what one of those ‘AHA!’ moments looked like with a recent client:
Not long after that, we started finding clients who were already filming their own videos — this was a supercritical piece that we delayed for far, far too long — and that made the next part of the process much easier.
Step 6. Finding more customers through webinars + followups.
Tools you will need:
Our first customers, we found primarily through our LinkedIn networks by posting statuses like the thing I posted above, but also by hosting short webinars about once a month.
We promoted those webinars through short videos that often looked like this:
I would then invite anybody who responded to the actual webinar, OR I’d message people who responded a link to download the replay.
We spent $0 through LinkedIn advertising, Facebook advertising, etc. because we were still getting a steady-stream of leads organically and I had $0 desire to play around with tools like that.
That said, paid advertising is obviously an extremely effective way to generate registrations for webinars but know that the cost per registration could easily be $50-$100+.
Here’s what those webinars ultimately looked like:
(I kept iterating – at some point, I just made them strictly NO SELL webinars and focused on providing as much value as possible.)
I won’t go into extensive detail about why we talked about what we did,. but the overall structure of the webinar looked roughly like:
- Step 1. Introduce ourselves, and highlight the problem. (5-10 minutes.) You should address why you can help them solve that problem, and talk about a before — i.e. You are frustrated because it takes you hours a week to produce just one video and it’s not good.
- Step 2. Help them solve that problem in a short, live-training. For 20-30 minutes, speak to the problem they’re having, how you can help them solve it.
- Step 3. Q+A and a clear call-to-action. For the last part of the webinar, provide some time to address questions and challenges that they might have that are related to the service you’re offering. While you’re doing that, give them an opportunity to fill out an application or to schedule a call with you to talk about next steps.
Most of the sales don’t happen immediately on the webinar, so a lot of it is reliant upon following up with everyone, making sure everyone gets the replays, and checking in with people to see if they have any challenges.
Be as helpful as humanly possible – your goal isn’t to try and sell everyone you can.
It’s obnoxious and not particularly effective. Trust me, I’ve tried it all.
Make sure you’re using a reliable service for the replay and that you won’t run into any technical glitches because you’ve used it before.
Everything I’ve used outside of Zoom has given me major technical bullshit, including Ninja Webinar, Easy Webinar, etc. – they all suck.
Zoom seems to almost always work pretty seamlessly, so I can’t recommend that enough even though their privacy policies seem to be questionable at best.
This process worked for finding our first handful of customers and continued to yield maybe 1 or 2 a month, but at this point I was already kinda tired of the service I was offering and getting frustrated by our lack of traction.
Step 7. Iterating your product to some success.
Success, to me, was creating a process that…
A. Is delivering the product that people want in a timely fashion that they’re excited about and…
B. They will continue to pay for, month-to-month.
When we first signed up our clients, we asked them to pay for what I predicted would be three months of videos — 12 edited videos, effectively — and the training, and support that they needed in order to produce those videos.
Those clients paid around $1995 for that.
And the part that surprised the shit out of me was that some of those clients paid that and then didn’t ever send us a single video to get edited.
That was mystifying — paying for a service that you won’t eventually use.
But the more and more I look back on our process, the more I realize that it was entirely my fault.
Either for signing up the wrong clients — if you have to teach people a new behavior, you’re already trying to move a massive boulder uphill.
Or, by not making it clear exactly what the next steps should look like, and what they need to do in order to achieve success in the program and to get videos to us.
Because I thought this would solve a lot of those problems, I moved our pricing model strictly to month-to-month — in hindsight, this was stupid, and was instead putting most of the risk on our shoulders to prove-out a product that was way, way too early-stage to have been figured out by then.
So we’d sign-up several clients for a month, and then they’d cancel, and I’d be pissed off and frustrated because all of that time, energy, and money that we’d poured into them in getting them onboarded was now worthless.
Not to mention the fact that, now — it was becoming increasingly difficult and challenging to find new clients.
Over time, I worked on iterating our delivery process and what all that looked like.
Here’s how we changed our process:
- Establish clear expectations upfront in an onboarding call, video, whatever. With every new client, we had a short onboarding call that was designed to walk them through how to use the client dashboard, how to write scripts, and how to shoot their first videos.
- Send them everything they need. Instead of waiting for clients to order the equipment they needed, we simply sent it to them. We just went onto Amazon, bought the cheapest lavalier mic and ring-light and sent it straight to them.
- Have ONE easy means of communicating and problem-solving. Since Notion has commenting built-in, it was easy for us to stay on top of where clients were at in the video process, what challenges they were running into, and any other issues they were having. Instead of having communication through email, then Slack, then Notion, we simply cut everything else out and focused on one.
Clients seemed to prefer and perhaps even enjoy this process.
But — I’m happy to say that just weeks before we decided to shut down the product (for reason I’ll get into), we did finally have our first, “Hey, Mike, I’d love to renew!” client.
Step 8. How to tweak things when they’re not working.
At first, our delivery was haphazard, hands-on training — every week, we’d have a 1-hour long ‘office hours’ call that anyone could sign-up for, and then in the middle of the week we’d have a ‘training’ focused call.
For the first few weeks, our clients regularly showed up to those calls, asked questions, and we provided them with helpful solutions.
Then, they stopped showing up.
And, worse, our clients weren’t delivering the videos that we needed them to deliver in order for us to deliver on our end of the process.
And then the challenge was that we hadn’t built anything into the process to disincentivize them from waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
So, while we were on the hook to continue to pay our editor even though we didn’t really have any videos to edit — because we’d ignorantly decided that we should go ALL IN even though clients hadn’t started to deliver us videos — our clients could just wait, and wait while we bled our cash reserves dry.
(Looking back, I think our #1 mistake among the litany of other crap was hiring BEFORE we needed the help.)
But instead of firing our editor because we still had our own video projects that he was helping us with and that frankly would’ve just been extra, extra shitty, we decided to tweak our model.
Instead of it being purely group-focused, I instead focused more and more on one-on-one support.
Now, every new client would be walked through our step-by-step process of scripting their own videos.
And then I had a series of videos that I’d send clients to walk them through the process of filming their own videos — this was the greatest challenge, and perhaps the one thing I’d grossly underestimated throughout the process.
Here’s an example of what that introductory video series looked like:
You’re always going to run into headaches throughout the entirety of the process of building and delivering a product, but this was the one major choke-point that we never really developed a great solution to.
Step 9. It’s not working… how do I close this down?
At some point, when the communication between my partner and I fell off the face of the earth, I’d realized we were taking literally any client who would pay us, and that a majority of them weren’t returning to continue working with us, I decided that it was simply way too much of a burden and that clearly it wasn’t working.
Beyond that, I realized how much complete and utter bullshit these short-form videos were — they wouldn’t amount to anything more than something that somebody might casually watch while taking a crap.
These weren’t things that would move people or wildly change someone’s perspective of a company or really move the needle, as they might say.
They were just minor distractions.
I was tired of working with companies to develop minor distractions.
I’m an artist, goddammit!
So, realizing that we had effectively run out of runway, that my business partner wouldn’t suddenly become more communicative, and that I’d created a monster-child that I frankly didn’t care about any longer, I made the difficult decision of shutting down what we’d built.
Even in spite of the fact that many of our clients still hadn’t gotten what they’d originally signed up to get.
So, I sent this email to all of our clients:
(And here’s a link to video that I sent to them, too.)
This is what Kenneth Freeman refers to as the ‘Soft Hands’ approach — I tried to make the transition as painless as possible.
I communicated exactly where we were, what that meant for the future of the company, and how we might be able to continue working together beyond this.
I could have taken it to the next-level (and should have, honestly) and scheduled individual calls with each of our clients to discuss next steps, and what we might be able to do moving forward, but I was too scared.
It was already difficult enough for me to tell people, “Hey, so… we’ve failed you, and I feel like a total fraud,” so leaning into that discomfort in order to have more of those difficult conversations felt even more painful.
I assumed that if somebody really wanted to talk, they’d schedule a time with me on my calendar.
Nobody did — in fact, only one or two clients even responded to that email, which just reiterated the fact that I think this is a much bigger deal than it actually is and my clients don’t actually care.
And moving forward, I’m going to be using that as an important barometer for how I build things — if this suddenly stopped existing, would my clients miss it?
Most of the time, the answer to that can be met with a swift, ‘Hell no!’
What about firing employees or contractors?
I took the same approach towards our editor, too — at the beginning of April, we scheduled a call, and I was just painfully honest with him: “So, here’s the situation — we only have enough runway to last through the end of April.”
(Which was a lie, actually — we only had enough runway to last through the first week of April and then I’d be paying him out of other business bank account for the rest of the month.)
I sent him an email a few days later recapping everything that we’d discussed on the phone:
So, I agreed that we’d be paying him through the rest of the month, then I told him what we’d be doing with the rest of our clients, and how he could continue working with them beyond that.
Additionally, I tried to line up and forwarded as much work as humanly possible to him as I could in the weeks leading up to the end of the month, and following that.
I also mentioned that I’d happily continue to support him in future endeavors, and send more work his way.
While it certainly sucked — being told that a steady paycheck would no longer be there — I tried as best as humanly possible to make the transition painless.
I know how much it sucks to be told, “So, this isn’t working,” and then left to fend for yourself.
And I really valued our relationship and what we’d built over the last few months and took full responsibility for the failure of it, so I didn’t want to leave him in the lurch after all of the blood, sweat, and tears that he’d poured into it.
He’s still working with a few of our clients, and the best part is that I don’t have to manage any of those projects.
These are questions that often come up in the process and based off of my own anecdotal evidence and other things, I thought I’d address them.
Should I get a business partner?
But also, with caveats that I’ll address, sure.
Just make sure there are clear expectations upfront.
In my case, my business partner was working a full-time job at another company. If you believe that a partner working full-time in another organization is going to be able to contribute as much as somebody who isn’t, you’re delusional.
At best, we can put it around 30-40 productive hours of work a week.
I knew that going into it, but didn’t want to believe it.
While I was running my video production company around 20-30+ hours a week on the side to actually pay my bills, I was contributing my leftover time and energy to help build this product that we were working on.
In hindsight, I’ve always found that while it’s lonely and isolating to create things by yourself in a vacuum, it’s much easier to hire people when you need them and less confusing.
When you pay a fixed fee to work with somebody, you have clear expectations — when you find a co-founder, they’re often vague and malleable.
If yes, what about ownership?
Somebody should be a majority owner. Think 70 or 80%. I think that’s enough to say, “I’m the leader, I’ll be focusing primarily on helping to get this off the ground.”
You can always adjust as workloads shift down the road, but I think that’s a good starting point.
(And this is based off of nominal research and anecdotal evidence.)
Going into launching Make You Famous, my partner and I had agreed to be 50/50 partners which was actually my proposal because it was my business partner’s idea and frankly I didn’t think much of it.
Looking back on it, it probably should’ve been closer to 70/30 — in that, I was doing a majority of the executional work, and he was working on the back-end stuff, and I would’ve been happy with that because it would’ve signaled from the get-go, “These are our roles and expectations.”
That said, I think it’s infinitely easier to simply start a project by yourself, be the sole creator and visionary, and then hire people as you need them.
And don’t offer people equity unless it’s simply in addition to working together — at best, you’re putting the risk entirely on their shoulders that what you’re creating is going to pay-off (which any competent consultant who understands basic math won’t ever take on), and at worst you’re getting shitty work that will actually sidetrack your company and potentially create more work than it’s worth.
You get what you pay for.
If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it, or if you need it, you need to develop a creative solution to deliver something that is good enough right now.
Is crowd-funding a good idea?
I’ve seen it work, but typically the time, energy, and monetary investment that has to be poured into a crowdfunding campaign could just as easily be spent on developing a simple product or solution or experiment that could yield the same (or perhaps better) results.
That said, if you’re exploring launching a GoFundMe or other crowdsourcing-related campaign, I wrote an extensive blog here that’s worth exploring.
But I need to raise money!
Yes, there are some ideas that require extensive capital upfront to make happen — a product-based company or any product requiring extensive FDA testing all come to mind.
That said, I challenge you to think even more granularly — if I took just a small piece of this, and was able to turn it into a service that didn’t require a product, how could I deliver that?
You might find that you can develop a creative solution that delivers part of your vision, without require extensive capital upfront.
And then, once you’ve validated that process, you can use the revenue that you’ve actually generated in order to develop a product from there.
I think it’s much easier to fund a product based off of a pre-existing need that you’ve already discovered a solution to, than it is to raising funding for a product based off of a hypothetical need.
(But YMMV and I’m sure you can find plenty of support for a perspective that runs counter to mine — maybe your own network believes you piss gold and is just waiting to shower you with money for your next $1 billion idea.)
Will you send me a proposal?
If somebody is asking for this, more often than not it’s because they simply don’t understand what you’re offering, or don’t view it as a need right now.
They want to create more bullshit work for you because they don’t have the gumption to tell you ‘No’ right now.
I’d do whatever you can to get to that ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on a call as quickly as you can.
Tell them, “To be totally honest — I’m not at the stage where we even have materials like that to send over. But maybe I can help you address some of those concerns while we’re on the phone right now — is there anything about this process that you’re unclear about?”
And then you’ll either get a bullshit answer like, “No… I just need to think about it,” to which you should say, “Totally — and based off of everything we’ve just discussed, where do you feel like you’re leaning towards right now?”
Or, something along the lines of, “Yes, actually. I’m unclear about this part of the process, and it feels extremely confusing.”
If you can’t succinctly summarize what you’ll be delivering to your clients within a short email, then it’s too complicated.
Everyone thinks it’s a great idea, but nobody is buying!
Because they don’t want to tell you that it’s either a shitty idea, or that they don’t understand how it will help them solve a greater problem they’re having in their business.
If people aren’t willing to pay for something, or they give you something along the lines of, “Cool, cool — let me know when it’s fully fleshed out and we can revisit then,” then it’s not because you need to develop more shit, it’s because they’re unclear about the result that the thing you’re offering will create for them.
(Or, they simply don’t trust that you will be able to deliver that to them.)
People don’t like confrontation, and would rather create more work for you and let you down gently in an email (or, worse, ignore it) than actually tell you that you suck straight to your face.
But I’m not a salesperson!
Either find a business partner who will care about your idea as much as you and will be as capable of communicating that (unlikely and difficult), or learn how to communicate your products in a way that will will understand them and be willing to buy from you.
Sales isn’t about learning to be a greasy, no-holds-barred, used-car flinging, talks-too-fast skeezebag.
It’s simply, “How do I communicate a service, product, or idea in a simple way, that will get people to say, ‘Yes, that resonates with me!'”
And beyond that, “How do I eliminate as many barriers to entry as possible, and make them feel wholly comfortable with this purchasing decision?”
That really comes down to understanding what they want to accomplish in their personal lives and in their business, and then presenting what you’re offering as a solution to help them get closer to that.
Sleazy is when somebody routinely says, ‘No’ and you continue to harass them non-stop.
Sleazy is preying on somebody’s ignorance, incompetence, or insecurity in order to get them to buy something. (Think, predatory loans or malware that disguises itself as IT support for old people.)
I know sleazy — for years, in New York I was trained to be, the ultimate sleazy salesguy.
It worked, but it doesn’t help you build any relationships — it just makes people despise you.
Learning how to sell is perhaps one of the most valuable business-related skillsets that you can teach yourself, so no better time than now.
Building a business from scratch is easily one of the most exhilarating and memorable experiences I’ve ever gone through, time and again — none of mine have ever had any massive, breakthrough, $1 million success, but they’ve managed to help me pay my bills and continue to invest in myself over the last few years.
And it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to go from, I have this absurd idea, to, yes, I would love to invest in your absurd idea.
If one of the primary motivating factors behind why we live and work and do and explore the ideas that we choose to explore is that it moves somebody else in a positive way, entrepreneurship is perhaps one of the greatest levers for doing so.
Every day, I feel so humbled and honored to be able to do the work I get to do, to work with the clients who I am able to work with, and to have the impact that I get to have on the people who I interact with.
So get out there and create.
Now is the time.
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