Product Creation a la 4-Hour Workweek

Over the holidays I’ve been doing a lot of driving to visit family.  (28 hours of driving down, 16 more to go)  I used this time to finally read (listen to) the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.  Great. Book.

For those that aren’t familiar with the book, it basically covers 3 things:

  1. Using your time more effectively.
  2. Earning money online.
  3. Mobile working and travel.

The part that really caught my eye was earning money online, of course.  Ferriss talks about business strategy and product creation in a straight-forward and detailed way.  The approach he talks about seems to be much less time consuming than idea extraction and software development.

Why abandon software?

There is a lot of upfront work that needs to be done before any benefits can be seen.  Ultimately I’d like to return to software, but for the time being, I want something that can be immediately realized.  A physical product is so direct.  Sell, fulfill, repeat.  If you can’t sell, then you don’t need to worry about fulfillment.

I’ll come back to software when grad school allows, but for now I’ll see what I can learn from this.  If anybody has any good tips, please let me know!


Dealing with Hard Times

Over the last week, I haven’t been able to spend time on this blog or my entrepreneurial pursuits.  I’ve been struggling for productivity in my day job and in my grad school work.  There is a feeling of helplessness when you’re failing a class and can’t seem to understand anything the professor is saying.  Watching and rewatching lectures… going to the professor during office hours (he’s not there)…. no other students to talk to because I’m taking it online.  Like drowning in slow motion and not being able to pull yourself up.

“If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” ~ Mary Engelbreit

Well, here goes, Mary.  I can’t change the struggles I have so I’m going to attempt to change the way I think about them.

Changing My Perspective

Is my situation REALLY that bad?  My school is connected to my job, so failing a class could mean losing thousands of dollars and putting my job in jeopardy.  It would be bad.  Could I recover? Yes.  Unfortunately this may all mean that I really need to put my entrepreneurial endeavors on hold.  Time will tell.

Traffic Generated with a Facebook Post

I’ve noticed a pattern in the generated traffic when I post a link to facebook.  Here is my learning.

The link post generates a spike.

I’ve seen this time and time again.  Huge spike in traffic that quickly falls off.  It was the same thing when I was running my photo site.


This is not a targeted audience.  These are my family and my friends from high school, college and day job.  They might click the link because they know me and they are casually curious what I’m up to. (Isn’t that the point of facebook? Here’s a picture of my dog, here’s what I did this weekend, here’s what I work on in my free time.)

Blog Traffic Spike

Blog Traffic effects of Facebook posts

So why does this matter?  What have I actually learned?

Lessons Learned:

1)  Network.  I was surprised to find the entrepreneurial spirits that already existed in my personal network.

2)  Trust.  People on my facebook know everything I’ve been up to for years.  They don’t have to worry about whether or not my link is what I say it is.

3)  Targeting.  My facebook friends are not an audience that is specifically interested in starting businesses.  I am curious to see if there would be more lasting traffic effects or more engagement (likes/comments) with a similarly sized audience the IS interested in this content.



Applying Lessons-Learned to a New Project

I was recently contacted by an old friend who wanted to work together to create a web app with advertising revenue.  My thoughts on this were varied.

Pro: Plenty of people make good side money on creating a useful little web app and slapping some advertising on it.

Con: I just came off an experience where my primary problem was driving traffic to a tool that ended up not being as useful as I thought.

But! My previous project didn’t encourage repeat use and sharing.  This product could be designed to encourage sharing and repeat use.

I decided to pursue this in addition to my long-term goal of selling custom software solutions to businesses in need.

2 Lessons Learned that Bear Repeating

1)   Customers THEN products.  In that order.

2)   Speed is king.  If I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail FAST.

I will keep those at the forefront of every decision and action.

How Long Does It Take A Startup To Gain Traction?

When I start any new project, I have some timeline in mind.  Conscious or unconscious.  How accurate is that timeline?  Am I being realistic?

I was having beers with a friend last night, discussing our entrepreneurial endeavors, and an interesting topic came up.  My friend quoted a connection of his as saying that it takes 18 to 24 months to really know if something is going to succeed or fail.

Expectations vs Reality

Twitter had less than 300 users at 20 months.  That seems doable.  I follow the blog of David Cummings and he had about 4,000 subscribers at 20 months.  ZenHabits became a top 100 blog in a year.  Clearly, they’re in a different league than I am.

There will always be that fear of quitting just before it really takes off.  I ended PhotosMeow knowing that it wasn’t right for me.

For now I’m going to keep my expectations high and do my best to help reality get there too.

Strange Google Adwords Behavior: 25X Normal Site Traffic

I noticed some very strange activity when I checked the google analytics on my abandoned site recently.  On one day, my traffic spiked to 25x normal traffic.  I was left with a lot of questions.

My Investigation

Traffic Source?  According to google analytics it was all direct traffic.  Strange…

Facebook or Blog?  I stopped writing new blog content for PhotosMeow long ago and I hadn’t added any facebook content around that time either.  And even good posts only generated a third of that kind of traffic.

I started GetBackOn a few days prior to it, but the post that day didn’t have nearly the traffic to have an impact like this.  (2 visitors can’t possible drive over 100 visitors to a buried link)

Google Adwords

The only thing that was still driving any visitors to my site was my very modest Google Adwords campaign.  It was driving an average of about 4 visitors per day.  Then I realized that the spike was on the day I shut my campaign off.  Upon looking closer, I realized the adwords traffic buzz flatlined completely after the spike.

Chart showing a spike in traffic, then a flatline.

The spike at the end of the adwords campaign

My Theory

I had noticed throughout the adwords campaign that my analytics was showing fewer visits than adwords was charging me for.  My theory is that all those unregistered visits were somehow added up and counted when the adwords campaign ended.

Does anybody that knows more about Google Analytics/Adwords mind explaining this to me?

Trouble Moving Forward? 3 Mission-Clarifying Questions

Lately I’ve been struggling with getting myself to do the work I need to do during those precious moments of free time.  I’ve found that asking myself mission-clarifying questions help me get motivated to move forward.

Here are my 3 questions

1    What is the objective I want to accomplish?

2    What barriers are stopping me from accomplishing that objective?

3    How am I going to overcome those barriers?

How To Use the Questions Correctly

Be very concrete.  If you don’t have a clear goal, then there is no way to know if you achieved it or not.  Having good answers to the first two questions will help you identify the answer to the third question.  I’ll use my current struggles as an example of using the 3 Mission-Clarifying Questions.

My 3 Answers

1    I want to identify and document the real problems that businesses have by calling them and learning about their day-to-day frustrations.

2    It is difficult to connect with business owners because I work during normal business hours at a full-time, day job.

3    I will adjust my work schedule to make time for making calls at the beginning or end of the day.  Scheduling time and setting clear goals will help me move forward.

Notice that I have narrowed my objective by adding the current strategy I’m planning to pursue.  There are several ways I could identify business problems, but each strategy is going to have its own barriers.  Making the objective as specific as possible helps clarify the barrier which helps clarify the path forward.

Staying Motivated

After identifying the path forward, the hard part is ACTING.  How do I get myself to perform the necessary tasks?  This becomes extremely difficult because I’m already so comfortable with life.  My bills are getting paid.  My 401k is growing.  My wife and I get to enjoy vacations when our schedule permits.

I recently heard a quote by Khalil Gibran. (I heard this from Todd Henry on a podcast)

“Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning at the funeral.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

I won’t let my comfort sabotage my entrepreneurial passions.

I will perform the necessary work to meet my objectives.