Five Questions to Answer Before Creating Your First Product

Some of my highest highs and lowest lows as an entrepreneur have revolved around “launch” days.

A launch day is the one you spend months working towards, and in a matter of a couple hours, or sometimes minutes you’ve either validated all of the hard work, or you’re left feeling like a complete failure.

I’ve experienced both.

I still remember my first product launch in late 2010 when I put out Overcoming the Fear of Uncertainty.  I’d spent the better part of a year working on it, and had absolutely no idea how it would go.  In the first few hours I sold around 25 copies and was ecstatic.

I’d worked so hard, and it turned out there were actually people that were interested in what I had to say.

Then a few months later came Make Your Photos Not Suck.  I’d started working on this when I first got into HDR photography, and let it sit around for much longer than I needed to.  I put it our pretty hastily because I wanted to start focusing on Location Rebel, and it cost me big time.

In the first 24 hours I sold three copies.  At $14.97 a piece, minus Paypal fees, it wasn’t exactly a roaring success.

This is in stark contrast to launch #3 where I sold 24 copies of Location Rebel in 48 minutes.  The hour period when I first released that product continues to be one of the very best moments of my life.

Finally we have Hacking the High Life which has been performing really well over the last week, but we’ll see how it continues to evolve over the next couple months.

So why am I telling you this?

I mention it because I’ve had some experience with product creation.  I’ve had success and failure, and I know there’s a good chance you are reading this and have some kind of idea of a product you want to create.

We all have our own unique expertise, but whether or not we can successfully turn that expertise into a product that people pay for, is a different question entirely.

Today we’re going to look at six questions that you should be asking (and answering) yourself before you even think about putting a product out in the world.  By answering these questions you will either make yourself thousands of dollars, or save yourself dozens of hours of work.

Do you have the time?

Before we can even start talking about content, feasibility, and marketing you need to ask yourself a very honest question:

Do you have the time to invest in everything it takes to create a successful product?

When I was getting started I didn’t even think about a product until I’d quit my job and was working for myself. There was a lot going on at that time, and there were much more important things to get done before working on my first premium piece of content.  I had to make the time in order to be able to do it.

If you aren’t quitting your day job right away, then you’ll have many more distractions and obligations to consider.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s possible to get a product up in a weekend, but if you’re really serious about turning this into a business, it’s going to take more thought and planning.  Here are some things to consider that you might not have thought through:

  • How many hours can I devote to product creation each week?  If it’s any less than five, I’d focus on something else until you’re more serious.  Anyone can find five extra hours if they’re serious about a new project, so use this as a good litmus test to gauge your actual level of interest.
  • What are the primary activities that will get in the way of my work on my new product?  Do you have a family? A day job? Like TV more than the average person? Have a rigorous schedule at the gym?  All of these things can get in the way, so put some thought into planning out your weeks throughout the process.
  • Are there more important business building activities I should focus on first?  We all have limited time for our side-hustle.  Is it more worthwhile for you to spend this time working on building an audience, blog, or a useful skillset before starting with the product?
If you aren’t willing to make the time to focus on this new venture, don’t bother starting until you are.  Decide where your priorities lie and pursue with vigor.

Do you have the (relative) expertise?

Ok, so you say you have the time. Great, now would you consider yourself to be somewhat of an expert in your desired topic?  If the answer to this is no, then just stop right now.

To create a successful product, you have to establish expertise.

Do you want to learn how to play a guitar from someone who can barely strum three chords?  Of course you don’t.  If you’re going to invest the time and energy in this product, you need to first make sure you’ve given yourself the best advantage you can have: in depth, expert knowledge on your subject.

I’m not saying you have to be Jimi in order to create a product about the guitar, but you do need to have proven yourself, and have stories to back your knowledge up.

Let’s take Hacking the High Life for instance.  I had the idea for it last September.  If I’d created a product right then where I taught people how to get free hotel rooms and get into exclusive venues and events, I’d have been a fraud, because I didn’t have much in the way of personal experience in order to do it.  It wasn’t proven, and people don’t want to buy theory – they want results.

Fast forward 8 months and I’ve executed my strategies on every trip I’ve taken since, written about my findings, and shot videos to prove I know what I’m doing.  I’m an expert relative to the average person.

So take this into consideration when creating a product: what sets you apart from everyone else?  Why are you qualified to teach about this particular topic?

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Would I buy a product from myself? This is huge, if you wouldn’t buy a product from yourself due to lack of knowledge or reputation, no one else will either.  Start by establishing your reputation and go from there.
  • What unique knowledge do I have on this topic? For instance when I created Location Rebel, I decided to focus less on internet marketing, and more on tangible skills.  By teaching these specific skills, rather than theory and BS marketing tactics, I took a different approach than most people do.  Everything has been done in one form or another.  It’s up to you to find a unique spin or angle to improve on what’s already been done.
  • What don’t I know about this topic, that I’d like to? If there’s something directly related to your product, that you don’t know.  Go figure it out.  If you are a bit of an expert and don’t have the answer to these questions, there’s a good chance most other people don’t have the answer either.  This represents opportunity to create something truly useful for your customers.

Do you have the audience?

There’s been plenty of debate in blogging and marketing communities as to how many subscribers you need in order to successfully launch a product.  Some people have proven you don’t need that many to be successful.  I also know people with very large audiences who have had very little success converting their traffic into sales.

The bottom line, you have to do something that’s going to be a good fit for your audience.  Have you done any kind of promotion in the past?  How did your readers respond?  If you did a big affiliate push for something and didn’t make a single sale, that’s probably a sign that they aren’t ready to start forking over the big bucks.

Or perhaps it was just the wrong offer.  You need to know everything about your audience before you actually start creating the product.  I’ve done numerous surveys to figure out what my readers are struggling with, the format they’d like to see premium information presented, what they are willing to pay and much more.

You don’t need to have a massive pre-built audience to be successful.  My friend Clay has seen HUGE success with his program the Hollywood Physique, and he doesn’t have any kind of blog.  He built all of his expertise and case studies into his sales page, drives traffic through other sources, and makes a full time living off his product.

That said, this is the hard way to go.  If you can establish yourself as an expert and gain a legion of fans beforehand, you’ll be much better off.

Here are some questions to ask about your audience:

  • Do I actually have any idea what they want? Have you heard from readers via email? Have you ever sent them a survey? If not, better get started.
  • Is my current audience the right audience for my new product? With my photography book, I was marketing to the wrong audience, thus the reason I had so few sales at launch.  Location Rebel on the other hand was the exact solution most of my readers needed, and this is why it’s been so successful.
  • Do I have ideas for ways to grow the audience before I create the product? With Location Rebel I created a free ebook and gave it away along with free videos months before the product was even available.  It helped establish credibility, got people interested, grew the audience, and provided me with a list of a few thousand leads before launch day.

Do you have the interest?

Every product I’ve ever created has been based around something I legitimately enjoy doing.  If you just want to “create passive income” and aren’t really passionate about the topic, that’s going to show through.   Not only will your audience see this and be less inclined to buy, but you’re going to experience burnout much quicker.

If you’re spending months working on this, you want to make sure there’s some longevity to the product.  In the future, you’re going to need to update it, continue to provide support, and talk to dozens if not hundreds of people about this on a regular basis.

If you’re thinking about creating a product about how to cook healthy vegan food, but you hate cooking and aren’t a vegan, you probably aren’t going to be very effective at marketing, creating a compelling product, and providing customer service.

THIS is why it’s so important to find something you really like to do when you’re creating a product.  Everyone says follow your passion, but there are very valid reasons as to why you should be doing this.

Things to ask yourself about your interest level:

  • Is my product based around something I’d do for free? If it is, then it’s probably not something you’re going to grow to resent later.  I think this is a great way to figure out if your idea is something worth building a small business around.
  • Why do I want to create this product? Is it solely to make money? If so, might want to rethink if it’s actually worth the effort.
  • Do you see yourself continuing to learn about it in the future? Whatever you build a product around, you want to make sure you stay on top of your game, and know more than everyone else.  Do you see yourself continuing to practice and learn about what you’re doing?  For instance, I’ve added 4 new blueprints among other new features to Location Rebel since I initially released it.  You’ll need to make updates in order to truly keep it evergreen, so think about that from the beginning.

Have you looked at your competition?

Looking at, and assessing your competition is one of the best things you can do before you get started on your product.  You should have a solid understanding of what’s out there, along with both the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

If you have the means, buy the products.  Go through them with a fine-tooth comb and see how applicable their strategies really are.

You don’t want to copy their material by any means, but you want to make sure if they have gaping holes in information, that you provide the answers.

If there’s a lot of competition out there for your product or niche, don’t throw the idea out right away, competition means there’s a market. If there is absolutely nothing out there about your topic of choice, it could be that you’ve struck a goldmine, or more likely, there isn’t as many people interested as you’d expect.

Here are some things to consider related to your competitors:

  • How can I take a proven idea and add a twist? For instance Chris Guillebeau has killed it with his Travel Hacking Cartel.  My new product Hacking the High Life is completely different, but it has a similar core goal of wanting experiences that, without certain tricks, would otherwise be very expensive. What’s your twist?
  • What do my top three competitors do really well on their sales page?  Analyzing a sales page can oftentimes be just as important as analyzing the product itself.  Take note of the things that really hook you, and make notes for when you inevitably create your own sales page.
  • Is it smarter to partner or talk to your competition first? I’ve had an idea for a golf site forever. After doing a little research I saw that there was another similar site out there already.  I met the guy who started it for a beer, and found that my original idea would be much tougher to execute than I thought.  So I bailed the idea and then got a killer deal to golf at the nicest place in town with him a few days later.

There were a lot of questions posed in this post, but if you take a couple hours and write out answers to each of them you’ll not only be more prepared going into the creation of your product, but you’ll have increased motivation as well. This is what you need to do in order to know for sure product creation is right for you.

Have you created a product before? What questions would you ask beforehand? Still thinking about it? What do you want to know? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Want help creating your first info-product? We have a complete in depth guide over at Location Rebel that is just one of twelve blueprints that will help get you going.

Amy Gutman June 14, 2012 at 9:00 am

I found this really practical and helpful, Sean–thanks for posting it. Makes me feel better about the fact that SEVEN WHOLE MONTHS after launching Plan B Nation I have yet to create a product. Re-posted on the Click Workspace FB page–that’s the Northampton MA-based Internet incubator/shared worspace where I do much of my writing.

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Erick Widman June 14, 2012 at 9:23 am

Great stuff – and I think you’re exactly right about asking: “Is my product based around something I’d do for free?” We can all tell when someone is writing about what they love to do vs. going through the motions. When you are pumped about doing something, it’s much easier to talk about it. Ciao!

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Stephanie @ Empowered Dollar June 14, 2012 at 9:40 am

You read my mind :) This is exactly what I needed to read. Thanks for the sneak peak into your own product launch experience.

“What don’t I know about this topic, that I’d like to?” is a great question that I’ve been struggling with. In addition to researching the topic myself, I want to defer to the experts and include their interviews in my products. I think that adds another layer of credibility.

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Momekh June 14, 2012 at 11:34 am

Wow. A very comprehensive post, Sean. Feels like I read an eBook guide! Nice.

Sharing it. :)

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Andrew Sawyer June 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Thanks for a knock-out posts Sean. I was looking for some advice like this as I prepare to go down the info-product route. I also picked up a couple of new terms for my word weaponry: “side-hustle” and “evergreen”.

Cheers!

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Suzanne June 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Very helpful blog posting. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

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Justin Archer aka "The Posture Guy" June 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm

This post couldn’t have come at a better time as I am smack dab in the middle of creating my first ever product. A product that will help teach people how to get rid of chronic/acute pain and/or enhance their physical performance by improving their posture through the use of exercise. It has been a monumental undertaking to say the least. I’m talking 1-5 hours per day of product creation while simultaneously trying to stay in shape, keep up a day job, and preparing to leave the country for about 6 months (courtesy of Sean and Chris G.’s travel hacking tips and tricks) starting in November. But if you have the passion and the expertise, and surround yourself with people like Sean, well then, that’s a recipe for success. All my best to everyone in your future product creation endeavors.

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Leila Jean June 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I launched my product with very little preparation in the way of time span. Having content like this article to help assess my current standing, reflect on recent months and things to consider for the future continues to build my drive immensely. Thank you for providing such delicate questions!

Relative expertise – important to examine where one stands

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Matthew Setter June 14, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Hey Sean,

That’s some sound advice that you’ve written. It covers all the bases I’d say so that we have the right focus and motivation and weigh up everything without getting into analysis paralysis. I’m sure it will help me as I get started down the road launching my first product in the coming months.

Thanks.

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Dylan Divine June 15, 2012 at 5:42 am

Hey Sean!

These are great questions that I found incredibly useful in taking into perspective where I stand in the product creation process!
I really thought about the question “Do you have an audience?”, because honestly right now the answer is no. This question was a call to action of sorts for me. There’s no reason that the lack of a present audience should stop me from creating good content. I might find that there are truly a group of people who are interested my relative area of expertise. I think I have an interesting niche (Buffing Wheels and Compounds) and I see an opportunity to capitalize by creating video content. Once I gain an audience and more expertise I might look more into building an e-product for the people in my niche. I realize now that creating a product is by no means the first or most important step in online marketing.
Build Rapport and Sales Follow

Thanks!

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Élan June 16, 2012 at 11:57 am

Thank you so much for writing this. The timing is great for me: I’m trying to decide if I should launch a product on my oldest blog or a newer one. These questions give me a way to figure it out so I don’t have to go with my usual method: a coin flip. :P Bookmarked!

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Izzy June 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Freaking Awesome Post man!

“Are there more important business building activities I should focus on first?”

As soon, as I read this question I immediatelly realized I don’t need to focus on a product right now. I am a reasonably new bloggger. I am still learning about the industry and growing my understanding. It would be a waste of time for me to focus on a product right now because there are so many other things I need to focus on first. I think most important above all else is providing truly valuable content that people can apply to their lives. As I do this, then my subscriber list will continue to increase. As this increases, it grow my audience and gives me greater opportunity to identify the needs of my readers. Once this happens then I can start to develop a product.

Great Post. It really helped me realize why I need to hold back on product development for the time being.

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mirko vukasovic June 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Cool, short and sharp post! I find myself in many of the processes listed above and much of these questions have been already answered, yet some points are a newly addition for me to review…

Thanks and keep this excellent piece!

Cheers from Patagonia.

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