Leaving Work Behind

The Benefits of Goal Setting (Why I Disagree with Leo Babauta)

Written by Tom Ewer on November 29, 2012. 50 Comments

GoalsMany months ago I wrote a message for my email list subscribers about the benefits of goal setting that is no longer available. I have wanted to publish it here on Leaving Work Behind for a long time but have held back on the basis that it is a frank expression of my disagreement with a very popular blogger — Leo Babauta.

Leo is someone that I have a great deal of respect for. Based upon the interviews I have seen and the conversations I have had with people who know him, he appears to be a very nice guy. However, I completely disagree with his position on goal setting. In fact, I would go as far to say that he has got the concept of setting goals all wrong.

I am sure that Leo won’t even notice this post. Even if he does, I am not disrespectful in my arguments and I am sure he can handle someone disagreeing with him (I doubt he would give this post a second thought). As such, there is little point in holding back any longer, so here goes.

“The Best Goal is No Goal”

Leo BabautaFor those of you who don’t know, Leo Babauta is the author of the astonishingly successful Zen Habits blog, which at the time of writing has over 250,000 readers. He wrote a post back in 2010 entitled “The Best Goal Is No Goal“.

I couldn’t disagree any more with Leo regarding his opinion on the subject of goal setting. And there is no better way for me to explain exactly why goal setting is so important than rebutting each of the points he makes in the above-mentioned article.

Let’s take a look at what Leo has to say.

Why You Should Live with Goals

[Living without goals is] absolutely liberating, and contrary to what you might have been taught, it absolutely doesn’t mean you stop achieving things.

It means you stop letting yourself be limited by goals.

Consider this common belief: “You’ll never get anywhere unless you know where you’re going.” This seems so common sensical, and yet it’s obviously not true if you stop to think about it. Conduct a simple experiment: go outside and walk in a random direction, and feel free to change directions randomly. After 20 minutes, an hour … you’ll be somewhere! It’s just that you didn’t know you were going to end up there.

First of all, living with goals may well be liberating, in a sense that you are not consciously setting yourself up to achieve anything. But that’s not the kind of liberation I want to experience.

As for Leo’s random walking experiment, let me adjust it a bit to expose the falsity of his argument. Say you want to walk to your friend’s house, but you decide to do so by heading out of your house and walking in a completely random direction. Whenever you reach a fork in the road, you head in yet another random direction. What are the chances of you reaching your friend’s house?

Wandering aimlessly is all well and good, but if you actually want to achieve something in life, you must have direction (tweet this).

Goals Can Broaden Your Horizons

If you live without goals, you’ll explore new territory. You’ll learn some unexpected things. You’ll end up in surprising places.

The implication here is that living with goals means you will not explore new territory, will not learn unexpected things, and will not end up in surprising places. Nothing could be further from the truth — one of the benefits of goal setting is that it can push you to places that you would not have otherwise experienced. In my opinion you have a far greater chance of achieving new and fulfilling things in life by pushing yourself to achieve more.

I’ll tell you a brief story — a couple of weeks ago I was in Cozumel, Mexico:

Cozumel, Mexico

It is a truly beautiful place. Golden sands, warm climate, friendly locals…I would happily spend a lot more time there. When we were leaving my brother turned to me and said, “You could just come live here for a while, couldn’t you?” I answered in the affirmative, and he said, “Well — why don’t you then?”

In reality I have a few things keeping me in the UK at the moment (my band for instance), but the very fact that I could grab my laptop and work from an island paradise if I wanted to is enormously liberating and exciting.

The moral of the story? I know that I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for conscious goal setting.

Goals Can Galvanize You

Now let’s get down to the meat of why Leo doesn’t like goal setting:

You know you need to work on an action step, and you try to keep the end goal in mind to motivate yourself. But this action step might be something you dread, and so you procrastinate. You do other work, or you check email or Facebook, or you goof off.

And so your weekly goals and monthly goals get pushed back or side-tracked, and you get discouraged because you have no discipline. And goals are too hard to achieve. So now what? Well, you review your goals and reset them. You create a new set of sub-goals and action plans. You know where you’re going, because you have goals!

Of course, you don’t actually end up getting there. Sometimes you achieve the goal and then you feel amazing. But most of the time you don’t achieve them and you blame it on yourself.

Here’s the secret: the problem isn’t you, it’s the system! Goals as a system are set up for failure.

I consider this to be extremely damaging advice. In that above scenario, the problem most definitely is you — or more specifically, your way of thinking. Leo in fact says it himself: “you get discouraged because you have no discipline”. He is absolutely right — if you have no discipline then goal setting will not work for you. But if you have no discipline, working for yourself isn’t an option. You need to go get yourself a job at McDonalds so someone can tell you what to do.

Setting goals that are so difficult as to be unachievable is definitely a bad thing to do. But setting no goals at all because you don’t like the idea of pushing yourself to achieve something demonstrates nothing to me but a complete lack of drive.

Goals Are a Requirement of Success

…nothing is as flexible as having no goals.

Quite right. It’s like saying no one has as much free time as the person who never does anything. But do you want to be that person? I would like to think that your answer is no.

So, what is Leo’s alternative strategy? What does he recommend as a superior alternative to goal setting?

…you simply do. You find something you’re passionate about, and do it. Just because you don’t have goals doesn’t mean you do nothing — you can create, you can produce, you can follow your passion.

That is very romantic, but I’m sorry to burst your bubble — it’s not likely to get you as far as conscious goal setting would. In fact, I challenge you to find me many people who have been successful in chasing their passion with nothing more than reckless abandon.

Jordan Shipley

The culmination of years of conscious goal setting.

There are people who make a living out of their passions — professional athletes, actors, musicians, and so on. But not one of those people did so without making enormous sacrifices and pushing themselves hard. A NFL wide receiver doesn’t get drafted by just catching footballs all day. No — he spends hours in the weight room, learning plays, eating right, and generally living a life of enormous discipline.

Success always requires sacrifice (tweet this). That, in part, is what makes it worthwhile.

So What Now?

I hope that you are convinced of the benefits of goal setting. If you are not setting goals for yourself yet, there is no time like the present.

First of all, don’t be afraid of success. Far too many people demonize success and consider it something that is reserved for only certain people. I know this, because I used to have that attitude before I understood that success is simply a process.

Once you are no longer afraid of success you need to figure out what you truly want from life. Not too long ago I wrote a comprehensive post on setting achievable goals — I would recommend that you start there.

Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what you want from life yet — I certainly don’t. You can achieve a great many things before you get to where you want to be, and that’s fine. It is not a race — it’s a journey.

Plan For Success

I am not claiming to have set the world alight (far from it), but I am extremely happy with where I am in life, and incredibly excited about where I am heading. Furthermore, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be where I am without goal setting. I doubt Leaving Work Behind would have even got off the ground.

At the end of the day, the benefits of goal setting are numerous. Your ability to set goals is one of the most powerful tools in your armory. Please do not neglect it.

Creative Commons images courtesy of lululemon athleticaaaronisnotcool and eschipul

Paid Blogging: Why it Should Be Your First Option

Written by Tom Ewer on November 26, 2012. 50 Comments

"Money" spelled out in Scrabble tiles

This blog attracts a pretty wide range of readers but you can separate them into two broad categories:

  1. Freelance writers (aspiring or established)
  2. Internet marketers

Or to perhaps be more specific, those who are are looking to make money via service provision and those who are looking to establish passive income streams.

Those two groups certainly overlap — I am an example of that as you can see from my income reports. But I know that many passive income advocates turn their nose up at the idea of paid blogging and consider it a last resort at best. And in fairness, I understand that attitude — I once felt similarly.

But no more. In this post, I want to explain why paid blogging should be your first option when it comes to making money online (tweet this), why it doesn’t have to represent the end of your passive income projects (quite the opposite!), and why it could completely change your life — as it did mine.

Why the “Passive Income Only” Mindset Can be Damaging

There are people in the blogosphere who have made a lot of money from the kind of passive income streams that we could all attempt to emulate with minimal financial investment. Let’s consider a couple of the best known: Pat Flynn and Spencer Haws. I know that these guys are role models to many of you (as they are to me) and there is no doubting their success.

Pat Flynn and Spencer Haws

However, their success was borne out of a lot of hard work for little or no reward, over a period of many months. Pat’s Green Exam Academy was nearly two years in the making before it finally made money, and Spencer toiled away on niche sites for months before hitting on a winning formula. Their patience and persistence were huge assets.

What I want to get across is that the passive income dream doesn’t become a reality for many. Often it’s not because they lack the capability — it’s because they run out of steam. You’re working a full time job and spending a considerable amount of your spare time on passive income projects. There will be a point at which you seriously debate the value of what you are doing.

You can easily go many or months or even years without making serious progress, and it wouldn’t be because you are incapable or a failure. The fact is, establishing passive income streams is extremely tough.

But what does that have to do with paid blogging?

Why Paid Blogging Can be Your Savior

Let’s rewind to September 2011.

A screenshot of my first ever passive income project

My first ever passive income project.

At the time, my goal was to quit my job and establish a viable online business. How I did it was less important than the act of actually doing it. I’d tried various approaches, mainly revolving around niche/authority websites. Nothing had worked. I was at my wits’ end, and seriously frustrated by my lack of progress.

If you’re a regular LWB reader you’ll know the story well — in total frustration I submitted a few pitches to people via the ProBlogger Job Board and subsequently landed a job with WPMU. From there I got another client a month or so later, quit my job, and the rest is history.

My key point is this — I may have started off dreaming about passive income but it was paid blogging that enabled me to quit my job. Not only that but it gave me the time with which to work on my passive income projects without it taking up all of my spare time, and without me being under the pressure that it had to work.

If you’re just having a bit of fun with your passive income projects, fair enough. But if you have a burning desire to quit your job and build a viable and diverse long term business, you owe it to yourself to consider paid blogging very seriously.

How Paid Blogging Can Benefit Your Passive Income Projects

Every passive income project I work on is directly benefitted by my blogging ability.

Whether it was my first ever niche site back in the day, my freelance writing guide, my One Hour Authority Site project or Leaving Work Behind itself — each project has revolved around my ability to write good content. My writing ability is my business’ most valuable asset in everything that I do.

And my ability to write good content has increased exponentially since I started being paid to blog. I believe that it gives me the cutting edge not only in terms of my freelancing business but also with my passive income projects.

But that’s not all. Working with some big clients (and with blogs attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors per month) has taught me a huge deal about blogging. I have gained a huge number of invaluable contacts — my network has swollen.

A spreadsheet of my contacts

Just one screen’s worth of my contacts spreadsheet.

In a nutshell, paid blogging has exposed me to the online world in a way that simply would not have been possible otherwise. Furthermore, it has afforded me both the time and necessary skills that enable me to concentrate on passive income projects.

What if Paid Blogging isn’t For You?

In short, it probably is.

If you have ever written content for a niche or authority site, you could be a paid blogger. If you have ever created your own blog, you could be a paid blogger. If you nearly failed English at school (like I did), you could still be a paid blogger.

Up to about 14 months ago, I never thought I would be a freelance writer. Actually, that’s not technically true — in reality, I’d never even considered it. In a sense it is all too easy to look down on it. Exchanging time for money? How antiquated.

But with the greatest of respect, you are a fool to look at it that way (as I was). And in reality, the absurdity of that thinking can be exposed pretty quickly if you consider how much time you have spent on failed passive income projects without earning a penny.

I was that guy — the passive income failure with a chip on my shoulder about service businesses — but boy have I changed my colors. My freelance writing business now earns me about as much as I ever did from my job in less than half the time. That’s an extra four hours every day that I have to work on passive income projects that I am far better equipped to succeed with because of the experience gained from paid blogging.

Net income over the past four months

My net income over the past four months.

Ultimately, if you want to look down at paid blogging and carry on regardless with your passive income projects, that is your prerogative. But in doing so you may well be turning down the opportunity of a lifetime. Paid blogging completely changed my life for the better, and I would love to help it do exactly the same for you.

So What Now?

Your decision comes now.

I have heard more than one person say, “Paid blogging is fine if you want to make a bit of money on the side, but I’m going to keep working on my blog/niche sites/[insert generic passive income strategy here].” Those people are invariably the ones who fail to ever make any real money. Which person are you going to be?

Leaving Work Behind is packed with plenty of free advice if you are interested in finding out how to become a successful freelance blogger — start here. And if you’re really committed to launching your own freelance writing business, check out my guide: Successful Freelance Writing Online.

Whatever your decision I’d love to know how you feel about paid blogging, so please leave your comments below!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Philip Taylor PT

How I Create SEO Optimized Content for My Authority Site

Written by Tom Ewer on November 22, 2012. 43 Comments

The following is part of an ongoing series, The One Hour Authority Site Project. If you’d like to read more about it then click here!

Writing ContentThere are many different elements that make up a successful authority site, but the content you create is perhaps most pivotal.

The words you publish play a huge part in defining the success of your site (tweet this) in many different areas such as search engine rankings, social media exposure and user engagement. As search algorithms become more advanced and social media becomes even more relevant to everyday Internet users, content will only become more important.

With that in mind, the content strategy for my authority site is something I have spent a great deal of time on. It has evolved drastically over the first 41 posts I have written for the blog, and will no doubt continue to evolve in the future. In this post, I am going to show you my exact step by step process for creating SEO optimized content for the One Hour Authority Site Project.

There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission. It will cost you nothing extra. I only ever endorse products that I have personally used and tested extensively. Thank you!

Authority Site Update

But before that, as always, let’s see how my site is getting on.

My last update was only a couple of weeks ago, but there has been some curious movement in the rankings since then:

Authority Site Rankings

Notice that I said “curious”, rather than “exciting”. Still no first page results, but all of the rankings you see above are for taxonomy pages (i.e. tags and categories). According to Market Samurai, none of my actual posts are currently ranking anywhere in Google. Also, some of the ranking pages are not directly relevant to the keyword ranked for. I have no idea what to make of this and would welcome your theories in the comments section.

Beyond that, traffic is still all but non-existent:

Authority Site Analytics

That’s right folks — a grand total of four visitors since my last update. I’ll look back at these figures and chuckle 🙂

As I said in my last post (before I went on vacation), my focus for the next few weeks will be getting to the 60 post mark before I move onto stage 2 of my plans. I hope to progress things quickly so I can get started with conservative link building/procurement as soon as possible. Although I am in no rush, I think it’s about time that my rankings and analytics figures looked a little more respectable.

Writing SEO Optimized Content

If you have been following the series so far you will know that I have already covered how I set up my SEO optimized site and how I research and analyze keywords. It’s now a case of picking a keyword to write about and running through my system for writing new posts.

The overriding principle that guides my content creation strategy is quality. Once I have hit Publish on a blog post, it will remain on the web for the months and years to come, and has the potential to attract thousands of visitors in its lifetime. As such, I treat each post with the respect that such potential deserves.

So, keep that in mind as we run through each step of producing an SEO optimized blog post below.

The Headline

I cannot understate the importance of a post’s headline in defining its success in terms of attracting views. The vast majority of potential visitors will only see a post’s headline, and as such, they only have that to persuade them whether or not they should click.

Therefore, a headline should be clear, direct, informative and intriguing. For the One Hour Authority Site Project my headlines are largely guided by the long tail search keywords that I am targeting, but I often tweak them based upon the above key principles. Ideally, the most relevant keywords should be placed at the beginning of the post.

My headlines are typically no more than 65 characters (I use this plugin to easily keep track) to ensure that they are displayed in full on search engines results pages. When it comes to capitalization, I use title case (as most professional bloggers do).

Above all else, I make sure that my headlines are natural to read. I would never sacrifice readability in the hope of boosting my search engine rankings. As always when it comes to optimizing my content, humans comes first (not search engines).

The Slug

In case you don’t know, the “slug” is the unique URL for your blog post:

Slug

This post’s slug as shown on the WordPress backend.

It should be packed with relevant keywords. This helps search engines to better ascertain the relevancy of your post to your targeted keywords. Unlike a headline, a slug does not need to read naturally, although it is useful if it serves as an indication of what the post covers.

Something I like to do is vary keywords between the post title and the slug. Say I was writing a post on throwing a curve ball. My title might be, “How to Throw a Curve Ball”, and my slug might be “how-to-pitch-a-curve-ball”.

Optimizing My Posts for the Search Engine Result Pages

I have SEO by Yoast installed on my site and consider it absolutely indispensable. It adds a meta box to each post page that allows you to specifically optimize each post for the search engine results pages (SERPs):

SEO by Yoast

A version of this post optimized for the SERPs.

I define a focus keyword for each post and ensure that it is included in all of the important parts of my post:

I may add an SEO title if I want to display a headline that is different to what is displayed on the actual post. Finally, I add a meta description. Although Google says that it has no bearing on a page’s ranking, creating a manual meta description is a great way of boosting the organic click through rate to your posts.

The Content

Yahoo! Style GuideI’m going to preface everything I say in this section with one simple recommendation — purchase a copy of the Yahoo! Style Guide. If you publish content online in any form, I consider it required reading. It is by far the most comprehensive resource I have ever come across on writing for the web.

Taken straight from the guide are the following key pointers I bear in mind when writing content for my authority site:

You can see all of these elements in action on this post — my general writing style for all blogs is led by the above principles.

Most importantly, each post you write should set out to resolve a very specific question posed by the headline (note — the headline does not necessarily need to be phrased a question, but the question should be implicit). I don’t just write the posts for the sake of having content on my site — I want to provide a genuine service for people in search of answers. If I follow that mindset, I should eventually have a valuable asset (rather than a bunch of posts that no one actually wants to read).

Media

Compfight

I use Compfight (a Flickr search engine) to source the vast majority of the images I use in blog posts.

When it comes to sourcing free images for my writing, I use these resources only. I include at least one image per article (more is preferable), and always endeavor to make them relevant to the subject matter.

My posts’ featured images are always slightly less than half width and floated to the top right of the content (as recommended by Derek Halpern). Each image has alt and title that seeks to strike a balance between accurately describing the image and including relevant keywords.

Video is not something I have included on the site, but it is something that I may well concentrate on in the future. Including relevant videos within your content is rarely (if ever) a bad thing to do.

Links

As you may already know, there are two “types” of linking: internal and external. I include internal and external links on every post I publish. You should not be fearful of linking to external sites — search engines like to see you do it, and if you link to relevant sites, it provides more context with which they can rank your site appropriately.

I take every opportunity to link to relevant blog posts on my own site, with at least two internal links per page. I also have a rule of linking out to one external site per post.

Categories and Tags

I have covered my taxonomy strategy in detail here and here, but there are a couple of things I should make clear in this post.

First of all, I only ever link a post to one category. It’s just a little rule of mine — it seems sensible that a post would only be associated with one broad category. When it comes to tagging, I draw selectively from a list of existing tags, and only create new tags if I feel that it will be used relatively regularly.

Never Forget the Importance of Quality

That’s it — my complete strategy for creating SEO optimized content for my One Hour Authority Site Project!

If I could leave you with just one thing, it would be a reminder that once an article is finished, it sits on the web in perpetuity. As such, you should not rush to publish content — make sure that each post is properly optimized and has the best possible chance of success.

I’d love to know what you think about my strategy, so please open fire with questions and comments!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Bright Meadow

5 Things I Have Learned from a Successful Information Product Launch

Written by Tom Ewer on November 19, 2012. 54 Comments

Successful Information Product LaunchIf I have learned one thing from the launch of my Successful Freelance Writing Online guide, it is that practical experience often beats theoretical learning.

I expected to learn a great deal from the process of creating and launching my guide, and it is fair to say that the experience has not disappointed from an educational point of view. And whilst I can now look back at the initial launch period and view it as a success, I can already see things that I would have done differently, given another chance.

In this post I want to highlight what I’ve learned from my first ever information product launch with the aim of helping you to launch your own product(s) more successfully in the future. But first, let’s take a look at how well my guide has sold to date.

My Guide’s Sales Figures

I’ll start with a caveat — success is of course a relative term, and you may feel that my achievements are modest. However, I judge my launch to have been a success relative to the initial goals I set.

So let’s start there — what did I hope to achieve when I started out? At some point during the creation of my guide, I decided that I would be happy if it made $3,000 during its lifetime. That was based upon a rough calculation (first revealed in the first post in this series) as follows:

( 50 * 50 ) + 500 = $3,000

Essentially, I wanted to be “paid” a minimum of $50 for each hour that I put into the guide and recoup my costs. In reality I spent more than 50 hours on the guide (I’m not sure how many exactly), but since the whole exercise was intended to be a learning experience as much as anything else, I kept the calculation rough.

I felt that $3,000 was a target that I could meet in the long term — after all, I hope to sell this guide for many months and even years to come. So how have I fared? Here are the vital numbers as at the time of writing:

Information Product Launch Sales Figures

These figures include a couple of purchases I made myself to test the system, hence the slight discrepancies.

As a result of the pre-launch period and subsequent launch on 6th November, I am already over 80% of the way towards my target. In terms of optimizing the sales process and developing the product further I still have a long way to go, so I feel that I will smash my $3,000 target within the product’s lifetime. So it’s fair to say that I’m pretty happy with how things have gone!

Lessons Learned

But as I alluded to at the beginning of the post, the launch has brought me more than just financial gain. I have learned a huge amount over the past few weeks, and I know that my new-found knowledge will help me to improve my product and sales process moving forwards.

With that said, I have listed below the five most important lessons. If you are currently planning a product launch or intend to create your own product soon, I would recommend that you take my lessons on board!

1. A Big Pre-Launch Doesn’t Guarantee a Big Launch

During October and early November I built up a pre-launch list of around 220 people who would gain early access to the guide at a heavily discounted rate. I promoted the list via this blog, my main email list and my social media accounts. It is fair to say that the vast majority (if not all) of my regular readers would have had the opportunity to sign up to this list at least once.

I hoped that the pre-launch would result in 20 sales — a rough 10% conversion rate. So you can imagine my surprise when I managed to reach that target on the first night of the four day pre-launch. When the pre-launch closed at midnight on Friday 2nd November, 80 people had purchased my guide — four times more than I had hoped for, and a conversion rate in excess of 35%.

Those four days were pretty exhilarating and made me feel extremely excited about what was possible for the main launch. Little did I know that the greatest rush of sales was already behind me.

In contrast to the pre-launch, the launch went off with more of a whimper than a bang. I made a few sales on the first day, and since then the flow has slowed to a trickle of around one sale per day (propped up by affiliate sales).

In retrospect, I can see two clear reasons as to why this has happened:

  1. Almost all of the people most likely to buy signed up to the pre-launch.
  2. My sales page caters towards loyal fans, not “walk-in” visitors to my blog.

I don’t view the launch as a failure — I just sucked all the life out of it by promoting the pre-launch so heavily. Perhaps that is something to consider for the future.

As for the second reason, it leads me directly onto the second lesson I learned from my information product launch.

2. If You Want to Sell, You Have to Sell

Regular readers of LWB will know that I am not the “salesy” type. I don’t engage in hyperbole or bombastic language to make my point. I don’t like “selling”.

However, as you might expect, that approach runs contrary to making sales. That has never been much of an issue for this blog, because its purpose is not to “make sales”. I will never use LWB as an overt tool for selling my guide (beyond mentioning it when relevant).

But the purpose of my sales page is to make sales — not that you would really notice by looking at it. Here’s a current screenshot (on the assumption that it will change soon):

Successful Freelance Writing Online Sales Page

It’s not “bad” by any means, but it’s not exactly dynamic either. I knocked it together in a bit of a hurry on the day of the pre-launch. And I’ll be honest — I’m no copywriter. It’s not something I have practiced or have a great deal of experience in.

My theory is this — I made a bunch of sales to start with because my loyal fans (you guys rock!) didn’t need the “big sell” in order to buy my guide. You’ve read my income reports, you’ve followed my story and you trust me. As such, you’re capable of making a buying decision without too much encouragement. But some guy or girl who is hitting my site cold isn’t likely to purchase my guide on the existing sales page alone — there’s just not enough to go on. I need to weave in my story to the sales page and be more persuasive.

My primary aim of being totally transparent and non-pushy will always take precedence over less scrupulous sales techniques, but there is certainly a lot more that I can do to increase my visitor to sales conversion rate.

3. All You Need to Do is Focus on the Fundamentals

In the process of creating the guide I often felt intimidated by the scope of the task I was taking on. Just about everything I was doing was new to me — writing the guide itself, formatting and designing it, planning and executing the launch, and so on.

What I wish I had known at the time was that I already understood the fundamentals, and that was all I really needed. Sure — greater experience would have resulted in a more successful launch, but regardless of that, I had the tools to reach and surpass my goals.

In retrospect I felt that the success of my guide to date was down to three fundamentals:

  1. A good product
  2. A loyal fan base
  3. A great network

If you release a good product to a loyal fan base and promote it via a great network of bloggers in your niche, you’ll do well — it’s that simple. All of the other stuff is just fine print — it’ll work itself out.

4. Measurable Goals are Necessary

Launching my guide was about a six month process. I started thinking about it that long ago. But in reality, the vast majority of the work was done in the last six weeks or so prior to launch.

Why? Because I finally set myself measurable goals and deadlines for the launch of my guide. Rather than simply continuing to write without any real idea of when I would finish, I forced myself to set concrete deadlines.

Doing so was not easy. The reason I had been putting off setting goals and deadlines was because I simply had no idea how long the process was going to take. But I realized that I was in danger of not completing the guide before Christmas, and that was unacceptable. So in the end, I decided that if I had to work day and night to get it finished in time, I would just have to suck it up and do exactly that.

Perhaps the most important thing I did was to go public with the deadline. Once I had done that, there was no going back. I made myself publicly accountable, which is always a huge motivator.

Setting measurable goals is advisable under just about any circumstances. However, when it comes to lengthy and complicated projects, they become even more important. If it weren’t for that moment of clarity in which I decided that I simply had to set myself measurable goals in order to make acceptable progress, I honestly believe that I would not have released my guide yet.

5. Working to Surpass Expectations Pays Off

I worried about a lot of things whilst I was creating my guide. Would it sell? Would I get everything done in time? Would I make some kind of enormous error that would tarnish my reputation irreperably? But by far the biggest concern I had was whether or not people would actually like and value it.

That fear drove to me to produce the best product I possibly could. When I was finally finished, I skimmed through it with pride. I felt that I had created a product that was superior to comparable offerings already available.

But I still didn’t know how people would react. You never do until it is out there. Fortunately, I have been blessed with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback, great testimonials from some highly respected bloggers and not a single refund request so far.

Feedback from Georgina Laidlaw of ProBlogger

Unsolicited feedback from Georgina Laidlaw of ProBlogger.

In the end, I am extremely happy that I poured so much blood, sweat and tears into the guide. I was often struck by the fear that my hard work would be utterly disproportionate to the reward, but I was determined not to put out a poor-quality product.

So if you’re working on an information product, try and ensure that it is as good as you can possibly make it. Make that your absolute primary focus. If you work to surpass expectations, there is a far greater chance that everything else will fall in line.

What Tips Do You Have?

There you have it folks — my lessons learned so far. However, I know that there will be a lot more to come, and my journey on this project is by no means over. As always, I will be sharing my experiences with you along the way.

The whole information product scene is still very new to me — I’m certainly not claiming to be an expert (or anything close to one). With that in mind, I’d love to open this up to you guys for your thoughts.

So if you have any questions or comments, please fire away. And if you have experience in releasing your own information products, please share your own tips with us below. Thanks!

Creative Commons image courtesy of jurvetson

My Monthly Income Report — October 2012

Written by Tom Ewer on November 12, 2012. 31 Comments

Monthly Income Report October 2012I can’t believe it’s November already. It’s been over ten months since I quit my job, and before long, I will have been self-employed for a year.

And what a year it’s been. My first priority was of course to establish a decent freelance income, which came surprisingly early. I then had a bit of a lull in summer as I played far too much golf, before realizing that I really needed to pull my finger out rather than simply “getting by”.

That led to the creation of my freelance writing guide, which was launched just a few days ago. It represented the culmination of a simple aim — to establish a sizable alternative income stream before the year came to an end.

Although the guide was officially launched in November, the pre-launch period (in which I offered it at a heavily discounted price) ran from 30th October to 2nd November, which means that all things being well, I made a little bit of money from the guide in October.

What Happened in October?

Successful Freelance Writing OnlineAs I explained in last week’s one hour authority site project update, working on the launch of my freelance writing guide completely dominated October.

My usual freelance work and this blog aside, I committed all available time to writing, editing, proofreading, designing and promoting the guide. I was completely out of my depth, but what a valuable learning experience! I know that I could do a much better job if I started work on a new guide tomorrow. Regardless of how well the guide does in the long term, I have learned a great deal.

However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I hoped to sell a few copies of the guide. In fact, I set a target of selling 20 copies in the pre-launch phase. At $23 a pop, that would bring in a cool $460 and get me some of the way towards my ultimate $3,000 target.

So how did I get on?

Income & Expenditure — October 2012

  1. Freelance writing:
    • Income: $3,913.62
    • Expenditure: $30.27
    • Profit: $3,883.34
  2. Websites:
    • Income: $5.57
    • Expenditure: $9.92
    • Profit: -$4.35
  3. Leaving Work Behind:
    • Income: $233.02
    • Expenditure: $50.02
    • Profit: $183
  4. Information Products:
    • Income: $889.82
    • Expenditure: $466.32
    • Profit: $423.50

Total profit for October 2012: $4,485.50

First of all, yet another month comfortably above $4,000 is great to see. This is also my second highest earning month after August, when I did a lot more freelance work and also had a good month with Leaving Work Behind.

Speaking of which, October saw a dip in my affiliate earnings for Leaving Work Behind. I’ll be honest — I struggle a bit with affiliate marketing. I have no interest in “milking” you guys for affiliate income, so I only ever recommend products when I consider it “morally correct” to do so (i.e. when the product is relevant and I have used and love it). All I can do on this front is continue to experiment and learn.

However, the highlight is of course the income on my freelance writing guide. In the first two days of my pre-launch phase I sold a total of 41 copies of my guide — more than twice the amount I hoped for during the entire pre-launch. As you might expect, I was pretty happy with this outcome!

What’s in Store for November?

October saw a little dip in my freelance earnings as I was doing less one-off work. My income may recover slightly for November, but I’m not sure at this stage. I’m not particularly bothered either way, as my regular client work at a bare minimum keeps me in a comfortable position.

With the launch of my guide out of the way, my authority site project will become my main focus. November will be a month for content creation only, with link building to start sometime in December, as I revealed in my recent update.

Movember

But the most interesting event to look back on in November’s income report will of course be the launch of my freelance writing guide. Based upon how things have unfolded so far, I will have a lot to ponder and report on in November’s report! Until then, stay tuned for project-specific updates during the month.

Oh and on a personal front (and for your amusement), I have decided to grow a mustache for November as part of the Movember movement for raising funds and awareness for men’s health issues. To the right is a photo of me on day 6. If you want to see how it develops through the month, like my Facebook page!

Creative Commons image courtesy of pasukaru76