Launching means giving up control

Launching a product is an amazing, stressful, and proud moment.

The problem is, the second you press the “launch” button (if those existed outside of rocketships) you relinquish most of your control.

PSST: Stop guessing when I publish new posts and get articles like this in your inbox every Sunday.

This is a point of anxiety for most of us because we wish we could control how many eyeballs see our product, how many sales we make, and how many people share how awesome their purchase of our product was.

I release products a few times a year and it’s always a mix of delight and anxiety. There’s sweating (which requires a shower, which means I can’t check stats and email for 10–15 whole minutes). There’s a lot of hitting refresh, even though my inbox automagically shows new emails without refreshing. There are problems or bugs to squash, and customer service to deal with.

This week, I released a bundle of products, courses, and discounts for my podcast.

There was a massive bug with a service provider that we didn’t find before launch. So, for most of the day I had to sit and wait for orders to come in so I could manually generate the delivery of what that person just purchased, before they could email me to tell me that what they had just purchased didn’t come through. I felt like a pavlovian dog. Stimulus = email receipt, response = quickly go into MailChimp to generate a new email to the purchaser.

I did worry, though, that sales wouldn’t come in at all. No matter how much I believed in what I was selling with my co-host, Jason, and regardless of the “air tight” plan we had to promote the bundle to our lists, to our close circle of friends/Internet people, to our social media accounts — I still worried.

All we could do was make a plan based on the knowledge we had, hit launch, and see if our idea was incredibly awesome or insanely stupid (the two categories all my ideas fall into).

What I learned was the following (when I took a few minutes to breathe after we squashed the email delivery bug).

The ability to control things happens before you launch. You are in charge of how the product works, what it looks like, what features it has or doesn’t have, how you describe it in words or images or videos, and even how you’re going to get the word out about it when it is live.

You can’t know for sure what will work or net the most sales (or whatever metric you track for “success”) until later. Uncertainty sucks. Not just sucks a tiny bit, but basically, sucks a metric ton. You put a lot of work into your product — time, money, effort, skill, basically everything you had in you to give.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen someone else launch their product in a way that worked for them. Hell, it doesn’t matter if you personally launched a product that worked well for you. Releasing a product is releasing control. This is hard to do.

Planning the build of a product, the marketing push behind it, and its reception is only slightly better than rolling a dice. But, you don’t get to hold those dice in your hand and roll them unless you actually launch.

Each time you launch something you learn a lot. This is worth more than any success or failure you might have. Releasing something into the world is trial by fire and the knowledge that comes after it is worth a bit of burning.

The planning before you launch is all you can do to make or break how it goes. But once it’s out there, all you can do is hope the thousands of micro-bets you made with your decisions pay off. Because they’ll either pay off or they won’t. You can set something up for success as best you can, but at launch, you put your best foot forward and hope to all hell the next step isn’t off the side of the Grand Canyon.

Sitting and refreshing your email to see if you made a sale doesn’t magically sell more products. Neither does refreshing stats or stressing out. Every piece of promotion or marketing needs more effort before you implement it than it does stress after you do.

Breathe deeply and be stoked that something you worked so hard to build is now out in the world. Sometimes it won’t work until much later (ask Amanda Hocking or any other author that found success much later than writing their first book). But it will work out or it won’t. Neither defines you or stops you from launching something else later.

In my latest launch I learned that giving up control isn’t always a bad thing. And even if things go wrong, it can still work out well in the end. Worrying and stressing doesn’t solve anything — only moving on, iterating on mistakes, and learning does.

You can’t control when sales of your product happen, all you can do is make it as great as it possibly can be so sales will be more likely to happen (when they do happen).