Photo by stevendepolo
This post is an accusation. A call to arms. A sharp stick that says “get off your ass and make something happen.”
But I didn’t write it for you; I wrote it for myself. Every one of these reasons has haunted me at one time or another over the past 10 years. Many a moon ago I thought I was the only person who struggled with them. Now I have several conversations a week that indicate otherwise.
These reasons will come to life every time you start something new, be it an application, a website, a book or a presentation. Excuses don’t discriminate based on what you’re creating.
So with that, here are five reasons you (and I) haven’t launched…
Reason #1: You’re Still Trying to Find the Right Idea
Give yourself a month. If you spend a month of “thinking” time, interspersed with a few hours a week researching ideas and you still haven’t settled on one, close up shop.
Keep the day job. Hang around the water cooler. Become a lifer.
If you can’t find a worthwhile niche in 30 days of intense thought and research there is trouble ahead, sir. This is an important decision, and yet it’s just one on your path to launch. There are thousands more that need to be made before you’ll get there.
If you can’t make this decision in 30 days, save yourself the time and aggravation of trying to launch a startup.
The clock starts today.
Reason #2: You’re Set on Doing Everything Yourself
Yep, I am going to say it again.
One of the most time consuming startup roadblocks is your need to control every detail and do every piece of work yourself. When you’re scraping together 15 hours a week of night and weekend time, outsourcing 5 hours a week makes you 33% more productive.
You may be able to slice PSDs, but there are people who can do it faster and better than you. For $159 save yourself several hours of time.
You may be able to write web copy, but there are people who can do it faster and better than you.
Depending on your skillset, the same goes for graphic design, theme creation, creating unit tests, and a slew of other pre-launch tasks.
Time is one of your most precious commodities. Conserve it with a passion.
Reason #3: Hacker News, WoW, and [Insert Distraction Here]
Distractions are everywhere, including new-fangled distractions that disguise themselves as productive work (think Twitter).
Forget the TV and video games, how many times have you found yourself thinking you were being productive only to look back and realize you spent 3 hours searching and evaluating something you may not need until 6 months down the road? And frankly, you’ll probably never need it.
Another common distraction masquerading as productivity is reading business books. I’ve already beaten this one to death so I’m not going to re-hash it here. Suffice to say, most business books are the entrepreneur’s Kryptonite.
Avoiding distractions takes discipline, and discipline is hard. Especially when building your product is supposed to be fun.
Wait, this is supposed to be fun, right?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but maybe building a product isn’t quite what most blogs, books and magazines make it out to be. Maybe it’s actually a long succession of hard work, late nights, and a boatload of discipline.
For some people that’s fun. For others, not so much. You should decide which camp you’re in before you get started.
Reason #4: You’re Busy Adding Features (That No One Will Use)
When was the last time you spoke with someone who is planning to use your application in the wild?
Not your friend who’s testing it out to make sure it doesn’t crash when you login, but a real customer who entered their production data and told you they are anticipating the release of your application more than Iron Man 3?
If you’ve not working directly with at least two customers you have no idea if what you’re building is adding value. Or a total waste of time.
Reason #5: You’re Scared
We all are.
In my experience, fear is the #1 reason that keeps people from launching. Except most don’t recognize it as fear because it manifests itself in other ways. Needing to make everything perfect, to add one more feature, or to read one more marketing book are all ways that fear turns itself into excuses.
This is how fear really works. It keeps you from launching by tricking you into thinking you have real work to do, when that work is actually pointless busy work created to stave off your launch. Because launching is scary.
Actually, it’s terrifying.
But we’re all terrified at one time or another. You just have to deal with it and move on or you’ll never get your product out the door.
Bonus Reason: You Have Launched, But No One Noticed
You had a great idea for a product. You went and built it in your bedroom. And now it’s available for sale. Hooray! You made it to launch. Only problem: no one noticed.
You missed one minor detail in your mental business plan. You need a targeted, sustainable strategy for bringing prospects to your door. Or in this case, your website. If it’s not both targeted and sustainable you are out of luck.
You can have a great launch day with a link from TechCrunch and an article on Mashable. But then it goes away. The traffic dies. 10,000 uniques the first month, 500 the second. 300 the third.
How can you build a business on 300 unique visitors a month?
The answer is: you probably can’t. You need to figure out how targeted prospects are going to find you consistently, month after month. Because 10,000 unique visitors in a month is a nice bump in sales…nothing more.
What are your best bets? I know you want me to say “fun” and “sexy” things like Facebook and Twitter, but alas it’s the un-sexy things like SEO, building an audience (blog or podcast), and having an engaged mailing list that work over the long-term.
(I have a lot to say about these un-sexy strategies. If you want more info check out my startup book for an entire chapter on this topic).