You better learn how to start things.
Because in order to succeed, you’ll need to start all kinds of projects over the years. And when you start those projects, it’s helpful to consider a few things.
Answering the following five questions up front can drastically increase the odds of your project’s success.
1. How Much Time And Effort Will You Commit To The Project?
I assume if you start a new project you at least have some idea of your goal for the project (if not, you’ve got a bigger problem), so I’ll jump right to this question.
When you start something new, it’s important to consider how much time you’re able to commit to developing the project and, equally important, how much you can realistically get done with the time you have available.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question and you can (and likely will) spend more time than the minimum commitment you make to your project up front, but it’s important to think through what it will take to get the project going and to shape it in a way that fits your available time frame.
For example, it takes a lot of time to write a screenplay so if you only have an hour a week to work on it, your goal of completing a script in a month is not going to happen.
That doesn’t mean you have to abandon your screenplay project, it just means you should reassess your time frame. If you can commit to work on it an hour a week, then maybe your goal should be to complete the screenplay in a year instead of a month.
“Being honest with yourself about your time commitment is important when you create a project that makes a promise to an audience.”
If you can’t commit the time to do a weekly web series, then don’t launch one — make it monthly instead.
Nothing will sink your project quicker than making promises you can’t fulfill. It’s a recipe that drives you to quit before you have a real chance to succeed.
2. What Is Your Key Success Metric?
No matter what kind of project you launch, you’ll have a lot of different metrics that seem important to you — everything from views, to Likes, to shares, to subscriptions, to sales.
But it’s worth choosing a single most important metric to use as a gauge of the project’s progress.
“Which metric you choose depends on your goals, but selecting a single most important metric enables that metric to guide the decisions you make as you develop your project.”
For example, if you decide the key success metric for your blog is to get readers to share your posts, then you’ll want to structure your blog and your blog’s content in a way that leads to more sharing.
If your podcast’s key success metric is your number of subscribers, then you will focus on strategies to get more people to subscribe once they listen as opposed to just driving downloads of individual episodes.
A good success metric not only helps you judge progress, but also helps you identify what’s NOT working.
And that can be even more valuable.
3. What Do You Want People To Do When They Discover Your Project?
This question directly relates to your answer to the previous question.
You want to optimize your project to give you the best possible chance to achieve your key success metric.
For example, if the key success metric for your podcast is to gain subscribers, then why do you promote your Twitter account on the podcast more than you ask people to subscribe?
If your key metric is sales, then what are you doing to make it as likely as possible that people will buy your product?
Every time a new person discoverers your project, an opportunity is created.
“You must do everything possible to capitalize on that opportunity — specifically as relates to your key success metric.”
You may have multiple metrics of success, but you’ll benefit by focusing your promotional efforts around the ONE THING you most want people to do.
4. What Value Will Your Project Provide And To Who?
Your project won’t succeed unless it provides value to people.
So, it’s important to think about what value your project intends to provide and to whom.
Unlike focusing in on a single key success metric, it’s helpful to think broader for this question.
For example, if your project is a live event, there are a lot of different people it could potentially provide value to including the audience, the venue owners, the sponsors, and the performers.
If you launch a web series, that could provide value to viewers, advertisers, actors, filmmakers, and even TV development executives at some point.
A podcast could provide value to all of those as well as the guests you interview.
“Understanding the potential value your project can provide to different entities helps you determine how to present it to those constituencies, which makes it easier to find and build an audience.”
The “value” of your show will be different to the audience than it is to the venue for example, so you’ll want to present your show to each of them in ways that speak to the specific value it provides them.
Too often, people start projects and are so focused on the value it will provide to themselves that they miss opportunities to attract others to support the project.
“An audience doesn’t care about the value your project provides to you — they care the value it provides to them.”
That should be the focus of your pitch to get them to check out what you’ve created.
5. What Can You Learn From Initial Feedback?
Your project is not going to be perfect when you launch it — far from it.
Don’t worry, that’s actually a good thing.
Rather than waiting to figure out every little detail of your project before you unleash it, get the bare minimum you need to launch and put it out into the world.
But the key here is to pay attention to the feedback you get on the project because you will be able to learn a lot from those first few people who experience your new creation.
“Don’t overreact to a single compliment or criticism, but actively seek out and pay attention to whatever feedback you get about what you’re doing.”
Consider things like at what point in a video your audience abandons it, or which blog posts are being shared more than others.
Look for opportunities to engage with your audience.
Don’t be afraid to message somebody who likes your Facebook page, thank them, and ask them why they joined and what they’re hoping to see.
Don’t be afraid to tweet at people and ask them what they’d like to see incorporated into your project, or to thank them for sharing it.
You’ll be surprised what you can learn from the feedback of even just a handful of people and the impact it can have on your new project.
Your project will ALWAYS be a work in progress. But considering these five questions up front gives you a head start to get where you want to go.