Still working on that shift from services to products

I’ve been in business for four months, hooray! Consulting is going well. I want to learn how to build products, though – maybe short e-books or small apps. That’s going to be significantly different from the consulting that I did as as an employee and as a freelancer, and it’ll be a terrific learning experience.

The idea of about building products is intimidating, though. What can I do to create value? How can I get that into people’s hands, and will people buy? There’s some resistance in my brain even in terms of brainstorming ideas, but if I keep pushing, I’ll break through. AFter all, I’m surrounded by products. People have figured out how to create value for other people. I can do this too.

I have a hard time thinking of ideas when I try to use big questions like: “What kind of difference do I want to make in the world?” “What problem do I want to solve?” “When I look back at this five-year experiment, what do I want to have accomplished?” I’m going to try sneaking up on ideas like this: “What’s the smallest problem I can solve for other people, and can I get people to pay me a dollar for it?” Something like that.

It’s a tough shift for me to make, going from an employee or consultant to a proper entrepreneur. People tell me what they want and they reward me when I make things happen. Coming up with something and seeing if it sticks… there’s a lot of uncertainty in there. I’m getting better at making mistakes and not beating myself up about them, though, and once I can break through that fear or messing up, I’ll do even better.

I don’t have to come up with something new. I don’t have to come up with an innovative business model. I can start by picking something and making it better. The worst thing would be to be overwhelmed by ideas and never get started. I don’t have to hit a homerun on my first time on the plate. What’s important is that I get out there and I learn how to swing.

I am going to write. I want to summarize those ten years of blog highlights. I don’t know if it solves a problem in the world, much less be something that people will pay me for, but it will teach me about editing and formatting, and maybe people will buy it for a small sum considering that people spend on all sorts of other reading. Then I want to start compiling and writing time-saving tips, nifty ideas, and other things I learn. People have figured this out. I can too.

Making good progress! I spent some time editing my draft while sitting outside in the Adirondack chair I built myself, enjoying the summer breeze. Life is good.

  • http://blog.bmannconsulting.com Boris Mann

    Hi Sacha:

    I recently wrote a post exploring this shift from services to product: http://blog.bmannconsulting.com/services-to-product/

    Aside from making a product (like an ebook) I also suggest you productize your services — e.g. a 2 day consulting session with Sacha is X dollars, with the following artifacts and outcomes.

  • http://Prabuayyagari.com Prabu Ayyagari

    Hi Sacha –

    This move to products seems like a natural next step. You are probably aware of the route that the founder of Lifehacker, Gina Tarpani, took as she wrote books and now hosts shows? http://ginatrapani.org/. If you connect with her, you may get a bunch of ideas. Just a thought.

    Right now, I’d be willing to buy a primer on org-mode hacks with basic emacs tutorials thrown in. If you could explain concepts in pictures (say, bring some sense into the various Control and Meta combinations that make it intuitive rather than my current hunt-and-peck), I’d be willing to pay maybe $4.99 or more for such an e-book. I think you know enough today to write this book (you already have a lot of material on this blog). You could even self-publish that using free tools for Kindle and iBooks.

    Of course, Seth Godin’s full of ideas that may spark your thoughts on what’s next. http://www.sethgodin.com/sg/

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    Boris, Prabu: Thanks for the encouragement! I’d love to work on more Emacs resources, so let’s see if that works out. I definitely think self-publishing is the way to go. Looking forward to the experiment!