Sometimes you can put all of your hard work (and expertise) into something and it doesn’t pay off.
Sometimes you can sacrifice everything you’ve got to make something work, and it doesn’t.
Sometimes you can spend every hour of every day working at your business and it makes you no money.
Sometimes you can make a great product and no one buys it. Or write an epic blog post and no one reads it.
If hard work was all it took to “win” in business, then we’d all have a clear path to victory. In the past, this was somewhat true. You’d work a farm or a factory job for as much time as you could muster and your reward would be food (or money to buy food).
But now, especially with creative work, hours spent does not equal food or money. Our economy is now more driven by information, data and ideas – more than simply guaranteed time spent for guaranteed money paid.
A lot of times it’s not the amount of work put in, it’s more a matter of the type of trackable work put in.
What I mean is this. First, if you don’t keep track of what work is paying off (and what’s not paying off), it’s hard to make good decisions moving forward about where to focus your efforts. And second, the type of work is often the most important thing. As in, if I have a course created, then the type of work I need to do next is promoting it. And not just tweeting about it, but more than likely, spending time connecting with the target audience for it, sometimes one-at-a-time, or working the relationships I’ve built with people to support the launch and promote to their own audiences.
Work can essentially be broken down into a few areas, if we’re talking about making money from products:
- Brainstorming – coming up with the idea, maybe testing the idea a little bit and really nailing down what you’re creating (i.e. the features or lessons included).
- Building – actually making the thing you have the idea to make.
- Selling – getting that thing into the right hands, i.e. showing the folks you built it for why they need it right now.
Most of the questions I get from folks revolve around the sellingpart of work because that’s where folks are putting in a ton of time and not seeing any return.
Unfortunately, you can have a great idea, a great product you worked hard at and still see utterly shitty results. But fret not! If you’ve got the first two bases covered you might just need more support, more connections and a better conversation with your audience.
Selling, or launching, isn’t a singular event. In fact, you usually won’t see your best results the first time you launch something. My best months for revenue for Creative Class came in months 8 and 9 (technically the “third” time I launched it). That’s why you’ve got to keep launching, by doing things like: adding new features (or new lessons), creating new funnels (like webinars, workshops, free email courses), putting out new content (like blog posts or podcasts) or even doing timed offers (like discounts or joint ventures), and most importantly, listening to feedback from paying customers.
Selling has little to do with actually telling people to buy your stuff. More important (and what will naturally lead to sales) is building your authority, usefulness and trustworthiness. People don’t buy things they don’t think will help them nor things like courses from people they don’t know.
That’s why the best use of your time isn’t just telling everyone to “buy my thing!”, because that’s usually the last, tiniest, step.
We want to think selling looks like this:
Person hears about your product >>> person buys your product.
But this isn’t how it typically works. Even if you have the best sales page, best product, best idea. From all my experience, it looks more like this convoluted run-around:
Person hears about you on a podcast >>> person sees your name on social media >>> person reads a blog post linking to you >>> person signs up for your mailing >>> person opens an email about a free webinar you’re hosting >>> person hears your name again on social media >>> person attends your webinar >>> person buys your product.
So the “selling” here isn’t just about broadcasting your new thing. It’s about showing up where your potential customers spend their time and connecting with them as a useful and helpful person. This takes more time than sending one email and one tweet about what you’re launching.
A good example of hard work not paying off for me is running ads on social networks for my Chimp Essentials course. I put in so many hours, paid a team of experts, and gave it all of my effort and energy. But at the end of the day, the ads didn’t convert, regardless of the tests we ran. What converted better was my mailing list. I spent less time working at it (still quite a bit of hard work though), but it paid off at an insane rate.
If I wasn’t tracking the source of my sales, then I wouldn’t know that the ads didn’t do anything for my bottom line. If I wasn’t tracking the data, I wouldn’t know what was working and what wasn’t. That doesn’t mean it was a mistake to try ads either. I’m actually glad I did (even though I lost money). It doesn’t mean that ads won’t work for you either (they work for lots of people). That’s an experiment you’d have to run for yourself to see.
Experimenting, which is how most business ideas are born, means you sometimes invest time or money or hard work into something that doesn’t pan out. This isn’t bad or wrong or a mistake. It’s just an experiment where the results didn’t go in your favour.
When tracking the results of my work, I definitely look at revenue, but I also care about a few other things:
- Was it enjoyable to do the work?
- Did others benefit from the work (regardless of revenue generated)?
- How much time did I spend on it?
- What can I learn from this work and the results of the work?
- Would I do this same type of work again?
So hard work isn’t always productive. I can work really hard at slacking off, for example. But when you start to look at what came from the work you’ve put in, you can start to make better decisions moving forward.
Hard work is definitely required for success, but it’s certainly not the only thing. Since our time is finite, where we focus our efforts matters a whole lot. So if some part of your work isn’t… working, then you’ve got to figure out what can be changed or done differently in order to see better results.
Otherwise, your blood, sweat, tears and efforts are for nothing.