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:
- 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.
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:
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.
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 Den, and 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.
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:
- I found out what my readers wanted
- From those wants, I picked a topic that I could bring value to
- I assessed the desire for that particular topic
- 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?