A few years back I was making the majority of my income from the products I sold. My apps, my book, they were all doing well. But that changed in 2013. Things came crashing down, and I found myself wondering how I was going to pay the bills.
Luckily I have a marketable skill, so I decided to focus on consulting. This was my attempt to reboot my company. The idea was to do consulting work to raise cash, then when I had enough cash I would take time off to work on my business, which in my case meant building another app or two and improving on the ones I already had.
Unfortunately my attempts to reboot didn’t work. Sure, I released two new apps, but once they were out the door my focus returned to billable work. I wasn’t growing and nurturing the products I had. And I wasn’t taking advantage of the momentum I had built up through the end of 2012. I stopped working on my business (again), and things only got worst.
Today I barely make any money off of the products I have. My average monthly product revenue is around $800 per month now, which is better than nothing but certainly not enough to live on. And my attempts to relieve personal stress on the consulting side of has put me into a situation where my hourly bill rate is much lower than it was a few years back.
To get back on track, I started listening to podcasts and reading articles and books about bootstrapping and being an entrepreneur.1 From reading posts by Amy Hoy to watching videos from the Appreneur Summit, I’ve been consuming as much information as possible to figure out 1) how I got myself into this situation, and 2) how I’m going to get myself out of this situation. I’ve even started attending a mastermind group, which gives me an opportunity to talk through issues with my business and bounce around new ideas. But even after doing all this, I wasn’t feeling any better about my situation. In fact, I’ve been toying with the idea of giving up and taking a job elsewhere. But that changed two weeks ago.
Two weeks ago I woke up early one morning and thought, “I’ve been doing it wrong, and I know what I need to do to correct it.” It was as if all the information I consumed about making products and being an entrepreneur had finally mashed together in a way that made sense to my brain and the light bulb finally turned on.
My cycle of doing full-time consulting work followed by taking time off to work on an app or other product doesn’t work for me. That is now so obvious to me. But how do I get out of this cycle and start building up the momentum on the product side again.
The answer was right in front of my face. It’s a common theme in everything I was reading and listening to. And Justin Jackson says it best in his Build and Launch podcast, “Start small, start now.”
I was using consulting work to save cash so I can take months off at a time to focus on building something. But what I built doesn’t make money. It’s not that the apps I’ve published suck. It’s that once they hit the App Store, my focus returns to consulting work. I’m not sticking with what I started. I’m not marketing the products I have. I’m not doing what I need to do to let more people know about them.
But at the same time I have a wife and a kid that I must provide for and rent and bills to pay. This is why I keep returning to consulting work.
So how do I break this cycle. It’s simple. I need to start small.
Instead of taking two to three months off to write a new app, I need to start creating small, even tiny, products that only take a short amount of time. Once the momentum is going and I have cash coming in from product sales, I can cut back on the consulting.
But what products can I create now, in a short amount of time, that will get the ball rolling. Here’s what I’m currently thinking:
- Productize part of the services I offer. I’ll share more details on this soon, but in general the goal is to take a consulting service I already offer to my clients and turn it into a product that my clients, and hopefully others, will subscribe to. Now this might seem like a huge gamble. I mean after all, generating monthly recurring income is a tough nut to crack. But it’s a small gamble for me in that I will not spend more than 40 hours over the span of a few of weeks getting this setup. If no one subscribes, I’ve only lost a week’s worth of my time. But if just one company signs up, I’m that much closer to getting back on track.
- Start publishing ebooks. While I don’t love writing I do enjoy it a lot, and frankly, I miss it. But writing a big book like Learning iPad Programming took too much out of me, so this time I want to do it differently. I want to keep it small. Again, I’ll share details later but the plan is to create highly focused, short ebooks on specific topics.
- Video tutorials. This is something I’ve explored in the past, and it’s something I want to explore again. But this time I want to do it under my control.
I don’t suspect any one of these ideas to make a ton of money, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to start small and start now so I can build momentum. And if any one of the products fail, then I’ve only lost, at most, a few weeks of my time. Besides, pursuing these small product ideas will not be a failure anyways even if they don’t earn a single cent. That’s because I will be learning a lot more about marketing and building a personal brand. And once the momentum does grows I can turn my attention back to my apps with new found knowledge on how to market and grow those apps.
Wish me luck, and stay tuned to see if I succeed or fail in the coming month.
I’m not a fan of calling myself an entrepreneur because I don’t think of myself as one entrepreneur. But I am a business owner, and I have been for nearly 12 years, so I guess that makes me an entrepreneur. ↩
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