Leaving Work Behind

Why All Bloggers Should Consider Creating an Information Product

Written by Tom Ewer on December 11, 2012. 37 Comments

Information product salesMy freelance writing guide has now been available for just over a month and I am really happy with how things have gone so far.

With over $3,500 in sales I have already smashed my sales goal of $3,000 over the duration of the guide’s lifetime. And the future looks bright as I have plenty of ideas which will help me establish a consistent flow of sales in the future.

However, this relative success was borne out of uncertainty. I had absolutely no idea how the guide would sell and the same questions kept rotating through my mind — did I have a big enough audience? Would the end result be worth all of this effort? Will people actually buy it?

I think anyone who is creating their first information product asks these same questions. Fortunately, in my case, they were all answered with an emphatic “yes, and then some”. And that is why I want to talk to you today about why you should put serious consideration into creating an information product.

Why Create an Information Product?

I think that the easiest way to make a decent chunk of money in the blogosphere is to create and release your own information product.

Sure — you can do affiliate marketing or put advertising on your blog, but you’ll need a high volume of traffic to generate a decent level of income. You don’t need a huge audience to produce a relatively successful information product. In fact, with a small (yet loyal and captive) audience, it can be an entirely worthwhile process.

And I say that not only in financial terms, but also in terms of growing your blog and your brand. I have learned that actually creating something and putting a value on it actually opens you up to greater interest (and by extension, greater scrutiny). If you produce something of value, this can only be a good thing.

Should You Create an Information Product?

DollarI am not saying that anyone with a blog can create a profitable information product, but I am saying that it is something you should give serious consideration.

I’d recommend that you do what I did — estimate (roughly) how long it will take you to create, how much you will need to invest, and how much you would like to “earn” for every hour that you invest into the project. From those numbers you can calculate the lifetime amount of income that your product will need to produce in order to “break even”. In my case, that calculation was as follows:

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

Don’t worry about being too precise here — one of my biggest motivators was the fact that even in the face of failure, I knew that I would have learned a great deal. I cannot stress enough how valuable the entire information product creation process has been for me in terms of expanding my horizons.

But how do you calculate if the final figure is realistically achievable? In reality there is only one way to answer that question definitively (i.e. create and release a product), but you can look for specific markers to determine your chances of success. Although there are potentially many considerations, I believe that the following three questions are key.

Can You Produce a Product of Real Quality?

Without wanting to beat around the bush, do you have the knowledge and experience that will allow you to create a product that is on a par or better than products currently available? Confidence in the product you are producing will be necessary in order to take you all of the way through the process.

How Big Is Your Audience?

This is the million dollar question — what most people look to. But whilst the size of your audience is of course a key factor, it is not the only factor.

For instance, Emilie Wapnick made $4,000 in the first month of her product launch — to a list of just 500 subscribers. Meanwhile, my four day pre-launch to a list of just 225 people resulted in $1,835 in sales.

Are Your Audience Evangelical and Loyal?

Perhaps a more important consideration is how much your audience actually cares about you. Are they truly engaged with your blog? Do they consider you an authority on your topic? If the answer to either of those questions is no, you may find that asking them to fork out money is a bridge too far.

Why a Disastrous Launch Doesn’t Have to Be a Disaster

Failed launchI don’t think that a lot of bloggers necessarily fret about spending a lot of time on a product only for it to fail. More specifically, they worry about the effects of that “failure”.

Think about it — as startup bloggers, we are used to producing a lot of content for little reward. You have to put in a lot of hard yards before you reap the rewards — I can certainly attest to that. So working hard isn’t such a big deal, but there’s no going back from an unsuccessful launch, is there?

On the contrary, I believe that an unsuccessful launch is almost entirely inconsequential. By its very nature, an unsuccessful launch is not going to be noticed by many people. At the very worst it gives you an opportunity to analyze what went wrong and put things right for a re-launch down the line. As long as you create a product of fundamental quality, your time will almost certainly not be wasted in the long term.

As it is, my launch was successful. However, I made many mistakes and there is plenty of room for improvement. I will be working hard over the next several weeks to optimize and add to my guide in order to make it as appealing a prospect as possible.

The moral of the story is this — putting the time into creating the guide is just the first step. A failed launch isn’t the end — it can be the beginning.

Where to Start with Information Product Creation

In creating my own information product I almost exclusively referred to two awesome resources:

  1. How to Launch the **** Out of Your eBook
  2. Publish Your Book on Kindle

Furthermore, I documented my progress in a series of posts here on the blog. I think that those three resources will provide you with everything you need to create a successful information product.

Now please ask yourself — what is to stop you from creating your own information product? If you have been running a blog for a while but are not sold on the idea of doing so, I would love to know why. Please share your opinion in the comments section!

Creative Commons image courtesy of jurvetson

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

How to Plan and Create an Information Product

Written by Tom Ewer on October 4, 2012. 6 Comments

How to Produce a Successful eBook (Part II) -- Planning & Writing My Guide [Case Study]I’m nearly done!

Three months and over 25,000 words later, the first draft of my freelance writing guide is nearly complete.

And that is certainly a good thing, what with the official launch being just over a month away (more on that later). My path to date has been long and winding, and my lack of experience has gotten the best of me on multiple occasions. I now know a hell of a lot more about writing a book than I did a few months ago, and I only wish I had known what I know now beforehand!

So, whilst the process is still fresh in my mind, I thought it would be helpful to detail what I have learned, and perhaps give you a roadmap of how to plan and create an information product more efficiently than I did.

Planning

I am generally terrible at planning — I love to sink my teeth into things.

I can generally get away with this when I’m writing 500 – 2,500 word blog posts, but there comes a point at which something becomes too big to do on a wing and a prayer.

A 25,000 word guide is one such thing. And whilst I appreciated that planning would be necessary when setting out to write my guide, I didn’t commit to the concept wholeheartedly. That resulted in it taking a hell of a lot longer to write than it should have.

The question is, how do you plan an information product? What is actually involved? The honest truth is that I had no idea to start with. I simply spent a few minutes writing down all of the topics I could think of that I wanted to cover.

These were the chapter headings I had in my original notes:

To start with, that was essentially the plan I had before I started writing — a bunch of chapter titles. It wasn’t enough.

First of all, because I didn’t put a great deal of thought into planning, I was missing a number of chapters that would eventually make it into the guide. These had to be written and inserted into the guide in a rather haphazard fashion. Whilst I eventually ended up with what I consider to be a great guide, it would have been far easier to write if I had fully understood the complete structure of the guide before I started.

What I should have done is spent far more time considering what I wanted to include within the guide. Not just chapter titles, but sub-headers too — a complete framework, more like this:

I cannot over-stress how much easier it is to write when you have your chapters planned out in this fashion. Because you know what you want to say, you just have to write. You don’t have to think so much — which is what really slows you down.

Exactly how you plan your book isn’t that important. You will probably find a technique that suits you. The most popular methods are:

  1. A chapter/sub-header list (like mine above)
  2. A mind map
The key is to be totally indiscriminate. Write everything and anything down, then sort the mess into a sensible order when your brain is completely empty of ideas. And I mean completely empty — don’t carry out this planning process in twenty minutes. Give yourself a couple of days. Make sure that nothing is left off the plan before proceeding.

Although planning can feel like a lead weight on your progress, time invested upfront will make the actual writing process exponentially quicker. When I was about half way through the guide, I went back and plotted out everything I wanted to include in detail, and my productivity was boosted enormously thereafter.

None of this came to me in an epiphany though. Whilst writing my guide, I have referred to two information products:

Both have been extremely useful in helping me write my guide and plan my launch, but special mention has to go to Publish Your Book on Kindle. Although the course is geared towards Kindle publishing (which is something I will be doing after the initial launch — more on that in a future post), I found it to be an invaluable resource in helping me write and plan my guide.

If you are planning on creating your own information product, I would recommend that you invest in one or both of the above products. Quality branding and marketing can make an enormous difference in the success of your product, so getting my hands on quality advice wasn’t something I was prepared to compromise on.

Writing

If I had just one piece of advice to give to someone planning on creating their first information product, it would be to not plan your launch until you have completed the majority of your first draft.

I have recently discovered that a launch plan is a bloody complicated thing, with a huge number of moving parts. Trying to calculate how quickly you will write a book is almost impossible to do without considerable prior experience (and even then, I’m guessing that it’s pretty damned tough).

The potential downside to not setting a launch date ahead of time is that you simply “float” along, not really committing to getting the book completed. I did this for a period of weeks, before getting my act together.

The solution is to set yourself a simple goal to write a certain number of words every day, and stick to it. If you hold yourself accountable to a word count, you will find that a book begins to take shape before too long. And if you have planned out your book effectively, the actual writing probably won’t be as painful as you had anticipated.

I prefer to set a target based upon words, rather than time, because it is all too easy to sit down for an hour and procrastinate. If you enforce a word count, you will have no choice but to write.

I also found that doing my writing first thing in the morning was a huge help. Client work is difficult to put off — there are clear repercussions if I don’t meet deadlines — but skipping a day of book writing is far easier to do. If writing my guide is the first thing I do in the morning — when I’m in a good frame of mind for working — I’ll always get good work done.

Join the Pre-Launch List!

As I have already mentioned, the launch of my guide is now planned out. I know what I need to do between now and the official launch day — it’s just a case of actually doing it! I have given myself a small timeframe to get a lot done, because I decided that I need to create pressure in order to wrap this project up. The time for procrastination has passed!

So for those of you who are interested, my freelance writing guide will launch officially on 6th November. However, there will be a pre-launch period, in which you will be able to pick up the guide for an exclusive (and hefty) discount. If you are interested in getting your hands on my guide, joining this list is a no-brainer — you’ll get it earlier and save money. Click here to sign up!

Creative Commons image courtesy of Bright Meadow

How to Choose the Correct Topic for Your Information Product

Written by Tom Ewer on August 30, 2012. 15 Comments

How to Produce a Successful eBook (Part I) - Research [Case Study]A couple of weeks ago, I revealed that I am writing a guide to freelance blogging that will be released as an information product. Much of that post focused on my uncertainty as to whether or not such a project would be a success, and my resultant procrastination.

A lot of my uncertainty was predicated upon the topic that I wanted to write about. I kept asking myself if people would actually want to buy a freelance blogging guide. I had ideas as to why I thought it could work, but I was far from certain. Eventually, I decided that taking action on something that might fail would be better than taking no action at all.

Now that I am well and truly rolling in terms of writing the guide (the first draft word count currently stands at around 22,000), I thought that now would be a good time to revisit my reasons as to why I thought a freelance blogging guide would be a good idea.

What Do My Readers Want?

I started my project with an advantage – an audience. I cannot undersell the value of an existing audience in terms of giving you direction. You guys were my first port of call when it came to considering a topic for an information product.

Some of the most valuable information I have received from LWB readers is contained within the replies I have gotten to my newsletter’s first (and only) auto-responder email. That email includes a simple request:

Reply to this email and let me know what you’re struggling with right now. It doesn’t matter how big or small – I’d love to hear from you.

This is an idea I originally learnt about from Derek Halpern of Social Triggers, and its value cannot be understated. The answers I get are fascinating, and some people are surprisingly candid. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the stories you guys have told me – not only is it great to get to know you better, but assuming that the stories are representative of my audience as a whole, it gives me great insight.

When I go back through the stories I have received, two “struggles” come up regularly:

  1. Blogging
  2. Freelance writing

It seems that most LWB readers are either keen bloggers, or aspiring freelance writers. That is no great surprise, given that I am a keen blogger and a freelance writer. It would make sense that I would attract people like me, no?

My answer to the first group is simple – go buy Corbett Barr’s Start a Blog that Matters. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most comprehensive blogging guide I have ever come across. My secondary piece of advice, if people are not willing to pay for Corbett’s course, is to check out my beginner’s guide to blogging.

So that’s the bloggers pretty well wrapped up for the time being. There is no way in hell I am going to try to compete with Corbett’s course – it is outstanding. That leaves the freelance writers, which is an area in which I really think I can help.

So, if you are interested in creating an information product, I would recommend that you start asking your audience what they are struggling with. It can be via your email list, your blog, your social media outposts, or a combination of the above. Get to know your readers, and they will give you the inspiration.

On a final note, also consider who else you know in the blogosphere. I know quite a few guys and girls in the freelance writing field, and a couple of them have already said (without me having to ask) that they’d love to support and promote my guide. Remember – it’s not all about your own audience – consider the audiences that you may be able to tap into.

What If You Don’t Have Readers?

I personally wouldn’t recommend trying to sell an information product without a blog. I know that many people have done it, and doing so is entirely possible (not to mention potentially lucrative), but it involves a whole different set of tactics to what I am focusing on.

You would need to nail your SEO in order to attract leads to your sales page, and/or you would need to engage in a PPC campaign, which is notoriously easy to get wrong. “Manufacturing” an audience in such a way is not a road that I would like to go down – I would rather go down the “organic” route of relying upon my audience and blogging connections.

Convergence

I touched upon the concept of convergence in my introductory post to this case study series, but I want to explore it further now.

When it came to picking a topic for my information product, I didn’t simply spot that a proportion of my readers are interested in freelance writing, and therefore decide to write a freelance writing guide. It is extremely important to me that I create something of true value – something that will really blow readers away. I wanted to find that sweet spot between what people want, and what I could offer:

Convergence

I feel that I have to lot to offer when it comes to freelance writing, and more specifically, freelance blogging. Over the past year or so I have gone from a non-existent freelance income to earning $3,500 – $4,500 per month – whilst only working 20-25 hours per week. I have learnt a great deal about every single aspect of freelance blogging, and I think that my experience can help others who are keen to replicate my success.

Furthermore, the positive reception I have received regarding posts such as my guide to setting and negotiating freelance rates leads me to believe that people value my opinion on such matters.

Those factors combined to give me confidence that I could produce something that other people would find truly valuable. That is an absolute must for me.

Desire

It is one thing for my readers to be interested in freelance writing – it is another thing for them to be interested enough to actually pay for advice. This is something that is covered very well in How to Launch the **** Out of Your eBook, an awesome guide that I purchased a couple of weeks ago. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in releasing their own information product.

One thing alone almost guarantees that there is a big enough desire – competition. If you are writing on a topic for which there have been a number of guides produced in the past, you can be pretty sure that there is a market for it.

On the other hand, I think that instinct also comes into it to. A question I asked myself was, “Would I buy the guide I am writing?” You can call me biased, but the answer was a resounding “Yes!”. After all, I was once subscribed to the Freelance Writer’s Denand I threw a few hundred bucks at the Freelance Writer’s Blast Off Course. The fact was, I wanted to make a living from freelance writing, and therefore I was prepared to invest in it. I think that many others feel the same way.

One final consideration is the financial reward that a product will bring to people. Let’s say you pay $97 for an information product that teaches you to generate $4,000 in monthly income. It’s a pretty good deal, right? That is how I see the value proposition of my guide.

The Competition and Your Unique Selling Proposition

Finding a great topic to write about is the first step – figuring out what you can bring to the topic that is of value is what comes next.

As soon as I thought of the idea of a freelance writing guide, a very clear unique selling proposition came to me – a guide to freelance blogging specifically (as opposed to freelance writing in general). There are a number of reasons (which I will not go into here) as to why I think freelance blogging is great choice, and I feel that a lot of people see it as a relatively “accessible” form of freelance writing.

At first, I couldn’t actually find any other information product that had focused on freelance blogging specifically. This was one of my concerns that I had to override with my “What the hell, let’s just do it” attitude – if there’s no competition, is there demand? I did subsequently find a direct competitor, which left me with mixed feelings. Competition is good (because it indicates demand), but it is bad (because it’s competition). In my mind, there was only one way to rationalize this catch-22 situation – accept it, and get on with it.

The fact is, if I didn’t believe that I could bring something of unique value to the table, I wouldn’t be doing this. And I believe that I can produce a great guide, absolutely packed to the rafters with value.

What Next?

So there you have it folks – the above represents the research I carried out to select my guide’s topic. In a nutshell, I went through the following process:

  1. I found out what my readers wanted
  2. From those wants, I picked a topic that I could bring value to
  3. I assessed the desire for that particular topic
  4. I assessed the competition and defined my USP

At this stage, I have nearly finished the first draft of the guide. To be honest, I would love to set a launch date, but I feel as if I am stuck in no-man’s land at the moment. There are so many things that need to come together (completing and editing the guide, interviewing experts, attracting affiliates, creating sales pages and autoresponders, and so on), and I simply don’t know how long it is going to take.

So I am left at a bit of an impasse. What I really need is a schedule from now to launch, but the problem is that the accuracy of such a schedule would be in severe doubt. Should I continue writing for the time being before setting a launch date, or should I just bite the bullet and pick a date on the calendar?

Creative Commons image courtesy of pnoeric and uxSears

Introducing My New Project: an Information Product for Freelance Bloggers

Written by Tom Ewer on August 15, 2012. 72 Comments

My New Project - Will I Fail or Succeed? [Case Study]I’ve been focusing on highly actionable posts over the last couple of months on Leaving Work Behind. Whether it’s been setting and achieving goals, blogging, or negotiating freelance rates, there has been something for just about everyone.

Whilst I love producing those posts (and there will be plenty more to come in the future), today I want to take you back to where it all started.

Those who have been LWB subscribers from the start will remember the blow-by-blow accounts of projects I was working on through 2011 and early 2012 – from niche sites, to authority sites, to freelance writing. Well, I have been working on a project for a few weeks now, and today I want to introduce it to you.

Trapped

You may recall from a recent post on business inspiration that I had come up with many interesting ideas on holiday in Bulgaria back in May. And yet, it took until just a few weeks ago for me to finally start work on any of the projects that I had dreamt up.

This kind of procrastination is extremely damaging (but also extremely easy). I was effectively floating along, achieving little. Sure – I have a healthy freelance income which pays the bills and then some, and the blog is growing, but in terms of setting up independent income-generating assets, I was going nowhere. I was caught in a form of what Corbett Barr calls “The Blogging Trap“.

I realized that without a project to work on – something more than just the freelance work – I was quickly slipping into mere “existence”, rather than “advancement”. And that is not the Leaving Work Behind way.

So I have decided to take a big jump out of my comfort zone and release an information product, and I want you along for the ride. This is the first post in a series in which I will share every step of my journey – from the first word, to the final launch, and beyond. You can expect the same level of candidness as you have ever witnessed from me on other projects.

Why Decide to Create an Information Product?

If you have read my recent post on business inspiration you will know that I am certainly not short of ideas. When I finally came to the decision to pull my finger out and get something done, there was a considerable selection of potential projects to choose from – blogs, membership sites, plugins, and other miscellanea.

So why did I choose an information product? Simple – because I wanted something that acted as a convergence point between the following:

  1. What I’m good at and can teach
  2. What my existing audience wants

Whilst I could have started a new blog (I’ve got an idea that I am completely in love with) or developed a WordPress plugin, doing so wouldn’t really be making the best of what I already have. I decided that it would make most sense to produce a product that my existing audience might want to buy.

Convergence

Convergence is key.

Finally (and perhaps most importantly), I felt that I had spotted a gap in the market.

A Guide to Freelance Blogging

Which leads me to the announcement of my upcoming information guide, which will be a guide to freelance blogging.

I believe that freelance blogging specifically (as opposed to freelance writing generically) is highly underrated and undervalued. Not only can it pay well (I earn the equivalent of $100 per hour from some clients), it can also lead to an enormous wealth of opportunities.

Freelance blogging can lead to:

…and so on. Not only that, it gives you the absolute freedom to run your day as you see fit – whether that is doing just 3-4 hours of writing per day (as I do), or treating it as a full time occupation and earning yourself a six figure income (as I could). You can effectively quit your job, work half the hours and earn the same amount of money, freeing up an enormous amount of time to pursue other projects (or have a round of golf).

And with my audience, I believe that I have a glorious mix of people:

  1. Those who are already interested in the concept of freelance blogging
  2. Those who are not interested, but might be if they understood just how lucrative and freeing it can be

I am really excited about releasing this guide – not only to help those who want exactly what I am offering, but also for those who are struggling to figure out how to quit their job and build a life on their own terms. For those struggling bloggers, the answer is staring them right in the face, and I can’t wait to open their eyes to it.

My guide is not going to be a 20 page pamphlet – I plan for it to be a comprehensive resource that will teach you everything you need to know in order to become a successful freelance blogger. If you consider the effort I put into some of my blog posts (such as my recent goal setting guide) and multiply it by a number of times, you will have an idea of what to expect.

Will It be Worth It?

In short – I don’t know (who ever could?). However, I am reasonably sure that it will be.

In putting time and effort into this guide, I am taking a calculated risk. My viability calculation is as follows:

Time Taken * Desired Hourly Rate = Necessary Break-Even Point

So for instance, say the guide would take me 30 hours to produce, and my desired hourly rate (i.e. how much I would like to earn for each hour I invested in the project) was $75:

30 * $75 = $2,250

In order for me to consider the guide a success, it would have to earn a minimum of $2,250 in its lifetime. If I were to offer the guide for say $47, I would need to sell just under 50 copies in order to break-even on my time investment.

Although the above numbers are not the ones I used to calculate my break-even point, they are indicative of the process I went through.

Since I have never released an information product before, I can have no accurate expectation of how it might perform. However, I am relatively confident that it will do well enough in the long run for me to recoup my investment. Only time will tell.

Fear of Failure

The idea itself and the calculation of viability were the easy parts. Actually creating the guide, and subsequently marketing it, is where things will get tough.

In short, I don’t know what I am doing. This is one of the key factors that kept me procrastinating for so long. I had the idea, but I feared failure. What if the guide is a flop? What if I get it all wrong?

The $100 Startup

I would happily recommend this book to anyone.

The answer finally came to me whilst I was reading The $100 Startup, in which Chris Guillebeau essentially gives you two options:

  1. Continue to procrastinate and get nowhere
  2. Embrace the chance of failure

I chose option two. I am embracing the chance of failure. The worst case scenario is that I sell a handful of copies of the guide, make a few hundred bucks, and learn a great lesson regarding how it all went so wrong. Best case scenario, I meet or exceed my expectations, grow my blog’s following, and kick my business up to another level.

It rather sounds like a win/win, doesn’t it?

What Next?

I have been writing for a good few weeks now, and the guide is already well over 10,000 words long. I basically jumped in without planning the book out in detail, which was a bit of a mistake.

Now that I have got a good start on the guide, I plan to step back from the day-to-day writing and focus for a week or so on planning. I also need to think about an actual launch date – I am hoping for sometime in October, but am not quite ready to publish a formal date yet.

I need to map out the chapters, headings, and subheadings, coordinate interviews and case studies, and consider pre-launch marketing and affiliate networking. I need to decide in what format I will release the guide (PDF? Kindle eBook?). All of these things are completely alien to me. I don’t know what to do. But I will do something, and I’ll either screw it up or do a decent job. Either way, I’m going through with it, and you will have a front row seat for the whole experience.

Who’s coming along for the ride?

Creative Commons image courtesy of h.koppdelaney and uxSears