I'm beyond excited today for one very awesome reason:
I am working on a brand new project (a brand new business model for me!) that I'm starting from scratch. And I’m sharing this with you here today on Smart Passive Income.
The project is in a realm that I’ve never experimented with before, which is exciting simply because it’s something completely foreign to me. But, before I share this new idea with you, I want to talk a little bit about what it means to start something new.
Do you like starting new things? For me, starting something new is tons of fun, but it can also be nerve wracking because it’s a different experience that’s challenging and exciting in ways that are beyond my previous experience. Starting something new comes with the chance of amazing possibilities.
Starting new things can also serve as a much needed shift in business direction if, for instance, what you’re working on hasn’t been as exciting as you anticipated, or you haven’t seen the results you initially wanted. And, on the other side of it, as you probably know, starting something new has the potential to work against you if you eagerly move onto the next thing before you’re even finished with the thing you started.
As I've mentioned in blog posts before (most recently here), you can't earn 50 percent on a project that's only 50 percent complete. You have to finish your project before it actually gets in the hands of the end user, and definitely before you can start generating an income from it.
More than that even, you have to finish your project before it can actually help people. Often, starting something new is a result of procrastination, or an indication that whatever it is you're working on may not be as exciting anymore.
This is why it’s so important to remember why you are doing what you are doing.
There are times during each project that we work on when we’re going to come across aspects that are not exciting. When we run into those moments, it’s important to remember the why of what we’re all doing—to focus on what is essential, and to maintain clarity around your priorities. This way, when you start something new and commit to it, you are very aware of just how much of an impact it can have on everything else that you’re working on.
With that said, I am definitely aware that starting this project is going to be a lot of hard work, and that it’s going to test me in ways I can’t even fathom at this point. But, hey, I am the crash test dummy of online business. That is exactly why I am here.
I put myself on the line for you—so you can learn from my experiences.
Every step of this new journey of mine, I’m going to share with you—so that you can take my journey as an example for your next great business experiment. My editorial team and I have even scheduled out a post every month dedicated to updating you on the progress of this new project!
Now, you may be wondering, “Pat, don’t you have enough on your plate?” And you’re not wrong! As you know, I just released a brand new course, Smart From Scratch®, which I validated with a group of founding members at the end of 2016. Just about a month ago, it was released to the public, and it did well! I'm currently working with the Smart From Scratch students, helping them through the process of validating their first business idea.
The course is closed at the moment, but if you’re interested in getting on the waitlist for the announcement of the June launch, you’re more than welcome to sign up at SmartFromScratch.com.
I am also working on book number two. Book number one, Will It Fly?, did very well last year. It was self-published and somehow became a Wall Street Journal bestseller, which has me even more excited about writing this second book. I am exploring, although nothing is concrete yet, the idea of publishing it traditionally. I have the interest of a few different publishers already. Right now I’m working through finalizing the first draft, and I’m about halfway through at this point. The outline is completely done. I’m excited for what’s coming up. Of course you will hear about that in the future as well. And, like I did for Will It Fly?, I’m going to invite many of you to apply to become a part of the launch team!
The SPI Physical Product Experiment #1
(I’m almost there; I promise!)
As an online business owner, I’ve learned over time how important balance is in my work life and personal life. When I started thinking about this new project, I made sure that it wouldn’t negatively affect both my business, and most importantly, my family. If it took away from being supportive to my wife or present with my children, it would be off the table. There’s no way I’d do it. I had to make sure my priorities were set.
Speaking of priorities, when I think about the most helpful content on SPI, from the most shared to the most talked about, I think about the Niche Site Duel from 2010. Then, in 2013, with FoodTruckr. In those experiments, building businesses from scratch and sharing every bit along the way—from how I discovered those topics to how I built the websites to how I started monetizing them—it makes me realize how much you all loved watching me take a stab at something new.
You see, I’ve tried new things before. But I haven’t really been trying anything big or totally brand new of late.
Yes, I wrote a book last year, but I’ve written an ebook before and I already had an audience. Yes, I’ve done some experiments related to design and search and podcasting, and all other aspects of building online business, building an audience, and generating raving fans. I’ve shared those things along the way and what’s been working and what’s not. But I’d like to keep challenging myself to bigger and better things.
Beyond just the attraction of starting something new, I’m excited for the possibility of how this might help you. I’m also excited because, after all of the research my team and I have done, I realized that it’s a product that I am really passionate about and, if executed properly, will help a lot of people, even outside the reach of SPI.
This new project also has the potential of helping my business grow in a major way. But, even beyond that, it has the potential of transforming Smart Passive Income and changing what I’m known for. As I’m writing this, I realize that’s a lot to say. After all, Smart Passive Income, my business, over the past eight years or so, has become an established brand I am really proud of.
So, you want to hear about this physical product I’m working on? Let’s do it!
Physical Product Experiment—What Is It?
I’ve never created a physical product before (outside of selling a shirt). So why start now?
The idea sparked when I was going through the Will It Fly? validation process. Simultaneously, I was discovering new ideas and researching various topics that were of interest to me, and understanding where there were holes in the market and what the competition was like. I landed on a physical product designed to help people in the area of productivity.
Interestingly, there have been a lot of productivity tools and resources that have come out over the past year. Some examples include productivity journals and calendar planners. That, in a way, validates the idea of a productivity-related product. I know there’s an audience for it. However, that alone is not a good enough reason to continue moving forward. I need to approach this productivity product idea smartly, with a position and angle that make sense.
I need to be sure there is interest, both from the audience and from me. The last thing I want to do is jump into a project and lose steam because of a dwindling passion. I also need to think about the people in my community who can help with feedback (validation, testing, constructive criticism, etc.), and those who can help spread the word if this thing becomes what I envision it to be.
And what do I envision it to be? Well, the idea right now is to create a productivity calendar.
I came upon this thought when I was going through the writing process, market research, and all of the exercises for Will It Fly? What eventually came out of it was the idea of creating a wall calendar to help people insert specific goals that they have and habits that they want to form into their already busy lives. A productivity calendar!
This was of particular interest to me because I have used a wall calendar for the past two years. I’ve also called over three dozen people who have used wall calendars as well, asking them what they liked and disliked about it. One thing is obvious: People like seeing an overview of what was happening throughout the year. When you can see what’s happening in front of you, a sort of visual reminder, it’s easier to make sense of your day-to-day, establish work rhythms, and simply be more productive.
Now, through my research on how people keep track of things and plan ahead, I realized that there is really no way that a simple calendar could replace how people schedule their day-to-day lives.
The calendar I had envisioned originally was just a calendar. It wasn’t going to compete with the likes of Google Calendar, or calendar apps you might have on your phone. But it could be a complement to those things.
Don’t forget that one of the big reasons I wanted to create this thing was that I needed something to help me plan my year. But the calendars I had used, and the calendars of the folks I spoke to, just weren’t designed the way I think they needed to be designed.
The boxes on the calendar itself needed to be bigger. There needed to be a tracking mechanism, not just a blank square for each day. And the calendars needed more of an inspiration component, some guidance through all of the goal-setting and tracking we want to do.
So my mind started to race and I thought, okay, having a sort of mechanism to outline projects and other things happening in your life within a calendar would be amazing.
I started to explore different materials and ways that we could do this, from being able to write on the calendar itself to using a corkboard so you can tack things to it. I even went so far as to get a prototype complete for what I call the “snapping mechanism exploration” (Very LEGO, because FTW! See image below.) where you could select different colored snap-on components that insert right onto a particular day to mark a certain project that you’re working on, or when you’re on vacation or something like that. That way, when all these things are in place, no matter what the mechanism was, you’d be able to get a snapshot of everything that was going on during certain periods of the year.
Through even more research I discovered that most people who had these twelve-month calendars—and there are a lot on Amazon too, another place I did my research—really only planned up to six months of the year at most. Most people who did plan twelve months would often have to rearrange things because, you know, things come up, life happens, and all the unforeseen things that we encounter.
This little insight got me thinking:
Maybe a twelve-month calendar is too long.
In asking around, and literally having conversations with people as if this was something I was going to create—again, I wasn’t yet certain that this is something I was going to do, but I was going through the validation processes—it became apparent that a three-month or a six-month calendar was going to perform much better and be much more useful.
I also liked that idea of a smaller calendar in terms of date range because, as is often the case for a lot of us, extreme planning modes come in bursts. I get really pumped up over planning out my calendar, but that can weaken sometimes. If you’re able to, every 90 days, come up with a plan or check in with yourself and your calendar and have an excuse to do that like you do before every single year, you’d be able to do it for goal setting. You would be able to get better results. You would be able to have those same feelings that were driving you at the beginning of the year at least four times a year. I like that idea, being able to check in with yourself. That’s something that I know I do internally with my mastermind group anyways. We check in with our goals, we rearrange things as we go along.
Now, my team and I are going through these efforts of researching more about habit forming and goal setting. It eventually became apparent that tracking what you do and the milestones that you reach are really important, and that there would have to be some sort of written component beyond the calendar to go along with it. Initially, I fought back. I just wanted a calendar, that’s it. They sold calendars individually that didn’t come with written components, and I felt like the calendar would be just enough.
But, in order to truly help people with their goals, I realize that there needs to be more than just a blank space on the calendar. There has to be some sort of written component where people can check in with themselves daily (or something along those lines), which is why I think a lot of the journals you see out there have been very successful.
As an example, John Lee Dumas came out with The Freedom Journal last year, and this year he came out with The Mastery Journal. There’s also a ton more. What this says to me is that people are interested in engaging with a written component to help them with goal tracking, checking in with their progress, and journaling. I think we all know how helpful that can be. However, I knew that if I just simply created a journal with a calendar that happened to go along with it, it wouldn’t stand out. It would be like everyone else’s out there.
I didn’t want that.
There was a disconnect there, and I didn’t really know where it was going until I started again, talking to more people about this. Then I came up with the idea of, well, what if there was a journal or a workbook that was built specifically for somebody reaching a very specific goal? That’s when it hit me.
A calendar has the foundation for inserting a particular goal into a person’s life, and the ability that tracks the specific habits that support that particular goal within that time period. Let’s say 90 days. Then a companion workbook that is specific to a goal that you have that is created by an expert that just doesn’t ask you to fill in the blank, but also gives you real direction, almost coaches you through the process. That in combination with the calendar can really make it feel like you have somebody on your side when you’re actually trying to accomplish your goals for a particular topic.
And then you’d have the means to take that information and plug it into the calendar and keep track of yourself along the way. That’s where we’re at now.
We’re still in the building stages. Right now we’re in the process of creating a very rough prototype of this workbook/calendar combination. Then we’ll choose a very specific goal, finalize the prototype, and invite beta users to go through the process before we create anything else. It’s going to be very rough, but hopefully we can get a number of people on board to give it a shot. If we can't do that, then we know that this isn’t an idea people are interested in. However, based on the research, it sounds like something that would potentially work.
This is where you come in.
Physical Product Experiment—What You Can Do
This is, as I mentioned, a work in progress. It’s going to be iterative, and it starts right here. What I’m going to do is give you a specific goal to apply to this workbook/calendar prototype. If you are interested in pursuing the specific goal in context of helping me test out the validity of this new physical product idea, great! If not, no big deal.
The first topic is:
How to write the first draft of a book in 90 days.
Imagine a workbook that walks you, step-by-step, through that process. Plus, a calendar to go along with it that you can view on a wall, that you’ll see and check in with yourself everyday. The interaction between the workbook and the calendar is going to be really important.
So, if you want to join me on this collaborative journey, and you are interested in writing a book, just say so. I am going to pick twenty people who really want to be a part of this process and get access to the calendar/workbook product to help me validate the idea. That means, if you are interested, you also have to be interested in testing out this idea honestly, provide feedback, answer questions from me, that sort of thing. And, on the other side of things, we’ll be there to help you achieve your goal of writing the first draft of your book!
(Note: We're no longer accepting applications for the Physical Product Experiment. Thanks to those who've expressed interest in being a part of this!)
My team, who has a strong background in helping authors, is going to be a part of that, which is exciting. We’re going to see what this process is like and then see if it can be duplicated in other particular realms of goal setting. Then we’re going to take it from there.
Okay, I’m not going to reveal any more information about that because we’re still in the process of creating it and working with experts to see how we can best move people through this process. I’m really excited about this idea, because down the road, you can imagine that there might be many goals someone can choose. Every 90 days, it’s time to choose another goal. Every 90 days, you’re checking in with yourself and understanding what it is you’re working toward. You are able to keep track of your habits that will support these goals every few months. Over time, it could grow to become a huge library. We’ll see. It starts here, and next month I’m going to give you an update on the prototype, what it’s like and what some of the struggles have been. I’m also going to get into a little bit about what it will take to actually produce this thing, and what some of the marketing and other plans like that are going to be.
Woot! I am excited and nervous. This is a brand new idea, and a brand new challenge. I want to create something different than what’s out there. The most important question I need to keep in mind during this process: Is this product going to help people?
Thank you for the support. I appreciate it. This is an exciting next step in my journey, and I am excited to share it with out. I look forward to keeping you up to date, with a new post next month with more details about the prototype!