Writers note: This is no success story. I failed. And I’m glad I did. This article explains why it didn’t work, for me.
For some reason, I always imagined my muse to be an online course. I would record it once, automate everything, and sell it to infinity and beyond.
Sounds amazing, right?
Also, the perfect moment is now. While traveling the world, some automated cashflow is very welcome. And over the last few months I’ve been getting a lot —or at least occasional— questions on how I do things. Executing ideas is one of them. A perfect subject for an online course. So no more reasons to procrastinate on the creation of my eternal cash cow. Enter experiment 15: How to build an automated money machine.
The first step when executing something new, is always testing the waters. In this case, before recording anything, I make a landing page, and see if I can sell the course.
It will be a 10 day course called “From Idea to Execution in 10 Days”. A price of a 100,- euros —10 euro per day— seems fair. Whenever I hit 10 sales, I record the course, and do a free one hour Skype call as a gift to the early birds. Which is a great way for me to gather feedback, learn and improve my course.
Two days later, the landing page is done, and I’ve designed a nice logo (if I may say so myself). All excited I hit publish!
Immediately a few thoughts shoot through my mind. How long will it take to get to 10 sales? A week? A day? An hour? What if it goes viral? Then anxiety strikes. What if no one wants this? I’ll look like a fool. I am a fool. I shouldn’t have done this…
I calm my monkey mind by deciding to leave it to the gods as the Stoics like to say. I’ll check in 24 hours.
A few hours in, a friend texts me: “Wow, you know how ridiculously much likes you’ve gathered already?”. I text back: “No, and for the sake of this night’s sleep, I would like to keep it that way…”
24 hours later I check Facebook first: 211 likes and 16 shares. LinkedIn has 62 likes and 7 shares, and I find 78 likes on Instagram. For me, that’s a lot.
Then I open my inbox to see how many people have enrolled. I check once, hit refresh, and check again. Then I click my spam folder. Back to my inbox. Refresh again. This can’t be possible.
1 person enrolled….
My response to failure
I would love to tell a story about how I glamorously handled this failure, but I can’t. Since I didn’t. My response: I immediately delete the landing page, all social posts, and let my one and only customer know that “unfortunately the course won’t see the light of day due to not meeting the expectations of the team”. The team, of course, is me.
3 days later, I’ve had some time to think about it and I’m over the disappointment. Contrary to my initial reaction, I’m happy I did this experiment and I’m happy I’ve failed. Or better said, it failed. Also, I’ve learned a lot. Not in the least, about myself.
A few lessons learned
There’s value in finding out what happens. I’ve been thinking about creating a muze for many, many hours over the last 4 years. Wondering what would happen. Now, in a matter of days, I know: This is not for me*. And I can finally let go, move on, and use the freed up mental space and energy for new ideas.
Don’t do experiments to prove something you think you know. Experiment because you’re curious about what might happen.
Never just do something for the money. It wasn’t about intrinsically helping others, but about me making money — that’s why I didn’t bother to make the course in the first place, and abandoned the idea as soon as there was a bump in the road. Just making money has proven many times before not to be the right motivator for me to engage in a project. This time, point taken.
Ask money if you want to test demand. Instead of asking if someone likes your idea (they probably will: hence the social media likes), ask money. Liking something, or being willing to pay money for something, are two vastly different things. So if you want to test honest demand, always ask something in return.
*this is not to say online businesses suck. Or the four hour workweek doesn’t work. It does. I just found out it’s not for me. I’m honestly happy it turned out this way. I love the internet for my writing, but for projects that aim for revenue, I’m endlessly happier engaging with people in real life. I admire people who pull it off successfully and I’ve learned a lot through online courses myself.
So, here goes, my first failed experiment. On to the next one…