Infrastructure and Public Accountability
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we survived a heat wave that kept temperatures near 100° F for much of the week. I felt like an asthmatic Superman at times, but I completed all my running as planned.
Now it’s over, and running this morning at “only” 88 degrees felt like I should bundle up in tights and mittens. Life is good.
It’s time for the weekly store update. If you’re new here, I use this time every Sunday afternoon to write about the small business I’m building to support the rest of the site.
(Over the past few weeks I’ve been traveling, so I didn’t publish the Sunday Store Update each week. I’m home and back on schedule now.)
A guy named Sean Macias recently quit smoking and used Twitter (@rebootself) to provide updates on his progress. He just crossed the three month point this week and has big plans to move on to other goals. I don’t smoke, so I can’t offer a similar window into that struggle – but those of you who are interested can follow along with the small-to-midsize growth of my business over the next year.
It all starts with infrastructure and direction. From time to time, it’s good to step back and ask yourself the question, “Where are we going?” For those who care, here are my answers when it comes to the business side of what I do:
I need a real ‘Unconventional Guides’ site. Right now 95% of sales come through AONC or the growing affiliate army, but I’d like to build up a separate hub for the business at UnconventionalGuides.com. What’s there now is really just a placeholder, but we’re going to turn it into a real site with a life of its own.
I need an awesome affiliate program. Right now my affiliate program is awesome for the people I send $500 PayPal payments to every month, but that’s a short list of people. I’d like to a) send more checks, and b) send more money to the right people.
To work on this, I’ve brought Sean Ogle on board as my new Product Wrangler. Contact him directly if you’re interested in joining an affiliate program that doesn’t suck. Why do most affiliate programs suck? Read this.
I eventually need more comprehensive products. I love the fact that I can make a living and help a lot of people through low-cost ($39-79) products, but I also want to provide some more comprehensive and advanced materials at some point. My plan to do that begins in early 2010, after I’ve finished writing my book but before it hits Barnes & Noble in September.
The overall goal for each of these projects is to serve more people while preserving the core quality of life. Basically, I want the business to do what it does now, at a slightly higher level. I think I’m on track for that, as long as I can win the battle against inertia. Fellow entrepreneurs (and those who just enjoy watching), here are the takeaways:
Know where you want to go. I like the saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up someplace else.” Since I launched my first product here nearly one year ago, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where I’d like to go.
Trust is hard to gain but easy to lose. I repeat that to myself a lot, and I view it as a healthy paranoia. I want to be more careful than ever to be sure I only produce materials that provide excellent value many times beyond the cost. Thankfully, while I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes in other areas, I haven’t made any really big mistakes in this area yet. I feel really proud of everything in the shop, and my customers have come to trust that I won’t release or promote anything that’s not awesome.
Decide on the scoreboard. Even non-quantitative people like me need some way to keep score. The most important metric for me is stories of changed lives. I get them every day for all kinds of reasons – not only through the products, of course – and the stories are what wake me up in the morning. They provide great feedback as I build up to bigger and better things.
Here’s one I received just last night (I’m sharing it with permission):
Hey Chris, I just wanted to say thank you so much for creating the Unconventional Guide To Working For Yourself. It’s been mind-opening and I finally feel excited about starting something. I’ve begun to build a website/blog and am working really hard on content and trying to make it awesome. I even have the beginnings of a plan for the first information product.
I was a little bit unsure about purchasing because I’ve never purchased an information product like this before, but it’s absolutely worth it. Even if all I end up with is the motivation and inspiration to start something, it’s worth it. The guide has helped to get me out of a rut and even my day job that I hate is feeling a little brighter because I have a project that I’m loving to look forward to when the normal workday is over.
Thanks so much,
Thanks for the kind words, Dan, and everyone else who has sent their feedback. I’m really enjoying this.
Some of these improvements won’t be made until I get more serious about the business side of things from January – May 2010, but I’m taking action now to build a foundation. Watch and see, and whether you buy anything or not, thanks for your support.
Two more things before I sign off for the day:
1) I’m on Facebook, sort of
After years of passive resistance, I finally decided to create a Facebook fan page to connect with users who love it over there.
It’s in the process of being awesomized by my great design team (at least as much as that’s possible with Facebook), but you can get a head start and join here if you’d like. I’ll make a longer announcement about it when we get things together in a week or two.
2) Are you in Portland, Oregon? Come to the AONC Meetup
We’re meeting this Thursday, the 6th from 7-9 p.m. in the Southeast. The word on the street is that my pal J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly fame will be there, along with a bunch of other great people. RSVP here for the location – all are welcome.
Tomorrow we’ll look at The Latest in Travel Hacking – how you can get a $200 vacation voucher from Expedia, among other things. I hope your week is fabulous, life-changing, and free of heat waves.
Wishing you well,
Infrastructure Image by Professor Bop