What Massive Failure Taught Me About Successful Entrepreneurship
We're coming up on the two-year anniversary of a project I started with high expectations. That project, however, failed miserably.
Success isn't about always winning. In fact, the most “successful” people out there are the ones who fail the most. Today I want to share about my project, why it failed, and why it might not be a failure after all.
Want to listen? There's an audio version below
Toward the end of 2013, I had the idea that I wanted to create a website full of video tutorials to help people get started with blogging. Though I was still new to the online world, I still felt as if I had something to offer newcomers, and I felt pulled to remove the obstacles standing in their way.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at the Platform Conference in Dallas, and I had just met my good friend James Kinson for the first time. I shared my idea, why I felt it was important, and asked for his feedback.
Later that same evening, at iFratelli in Irving for a meetup hosted by Cliff Ravenscraft, I shared my idea with another friend, Noble Crawford, and other future podcasters and bloggers. The response was good, and I felt I had enough validation to move forward with my big idea.
The Big Idea
WordPress isn't all that complicated. In fact, it's a pretty easy content delivery platform to use once you get used to it. Despite having what I'd call a steep but short learning curve, WordPress is one of the best tools out there for building and designing websites and blogs.
But, despite all of the free tools out there showing you how to set up your blog, I found very few tools that showed me how to do some of the more technical aspects of tweaking a site.
Want to grow your blog in ? Then check out my free 30 Day Blog Transformation email course!
I felt like there were dozens (if not hundreds) of videos out there show you how to start a blog in 20, or 10, or 6 minutes or less, but few videos were out there to show what you should do next. Lots of people wanted to show you how to start a blog (oh, and by the way, click my affiliate link in the process), but almost no one wanted to help you with the challenges that come afterward, i.e., what comes next.
So, in early 2014, I started a website called What's Next Blogging. The URL no longer works and I stopped paying for it a few months ago, but we'll get to that in a bit.
And, in full disclosure, I now have one of those tutorial posts about how to get started blogging. I later realized that my readers wanted to learn how to get going from me, not from someone else, so I created a video walkthrough found here. And yes, it does include an affiliate link – so sue me).
My big idea was to have a tutorial site that showed not step one, but steps two, three, four, and five along the path of creating a thriving blog.
Instead of an expensive membership site where you paid monthly for the same static training, I wanted to charge people per tutorial. Instead of big dollar amounts, I'd charge $2-5, so the barrier to the knowledge you needed was low.
Also, instead of low-quality, blurry videos on YouTube, I was offering all HD video walkthroughs that showed customers EXACTLY how to what they needed to know and let them follow along instead of sharing screenshots that left gaps between steps.
So, once I had the idea, I began recording and editing videos. I purchased the domain, installed WordPress, and began the process of learning how to set up a transaction-based e-commerce site from scratch.
I purchased a premium theme, my first ever, from StudioPress, and got started. I spent the entire month of April learning about e-commerce, the best WordPress plugins to use, how to accept payments and deliver a digital product, and how to protect my intellectual property.
Hundreds of hours went into developing my new pet project. And, since this was just months after I got fired from my job, a LOT was on the line for me and my business. My wife believed in me, and I believed in my project, and I locked myself in my office all day almost every day to make this business a success.
Why it Failed
After recording and producing about twenty videos, I realized I didn't want to do this for a living. Not only was there too much to teach, but I was too late to the game, and there were already people out there who were doing a better job than I wanted to put in the time and effort to do myself.
Oh, and it wasn't all that fun anymore.
Before I had gotten started, I'd done my research and hadn't found many sites doing what I wanted to do. Well, the deeper into the project I got, the more sites I found that were doing something similar, and they were doing the job well enough. Specifically, WPBeginner.com, run by the famous Syed Balkhi, was and is an incredible resource for learning about WordPress.
But, “nothing to worry about,” I thought. My content was good, it solved specific problems that needed solving, and my site was built to stand the test of time and generate passive income once it was set up.
It wasn't about the content; my blogging tutorial site failed for other reasons. Here's why:
- I was late to the game. I had no desire to spend the time, effort or money learning enough to catch up, much less be on par, with the experts.
- My advertising was non-existent. I didn't have the copywriting talent at the time to make my content worth noticing.
- My heart wasn't in it. When it comes to helping people, I'm there. But helping people via 10-minute video tutorials wasn't how I was going to do it.
- My brand. I didn't want to be known as “the WordPress” guy. I wanted (and want) to be known as the guy who helps aspiring entrepreneurs develop an exit strategy from their jobs and execute that plan.
Why All is Not Lost
One thing I've come to realize about being an entrepreneur is that there are very few complete failures. Sure, things might not go according to plan, but most things in life are that way.
As entrepreneurs, everything we do is a learning experience. And, those learning experiences are rarely, if ever, wasted. Just because my project failed doesn't mean I didn't learn something in 2014 that I can use in my business today. And that's one of the coolest things about building a business that's entirely yours – Very little goes to waste!
That project that didn't go according to plan… you can take what you learned and use it next week, next month or even next year. That product you created that didn't sell when you first launched it… you can relaunch it later or repurpose the content for something else.
While building What's Next Blogging, I learned how to edit videos. Two years later I'm still editing, and videos are going to be an even larger part of my business moving forward.
I learned how to put the infrastructure in place to sell digital products.
I learned how to accept payments and deliver a solution.
I got better at writing sales copy.
I improved my speaking skills behind the microphone.
I learned how to set up an affiliate program and create resources to help my affiliates promote my material.
And the list goes on…
I want you to stay encouraged that nothing you learn in your business goes to waste, and nothing you create is a failure unless you allow it to be.
In the end, I decided not to renew the domain, and I let the website lapse having not made a single dime off of it or the content it contained. But, looking back at where I was two years ago and where I am today, I see tremendous value in having gone through that experience.
I want to encourage you to try new things, even if you're not sure they'll work. I encourage you to put yourself out there, take a risk, and do something bold.
In entrepreneurship, there is no such thing as failure. You never know which skills you pick up today will be the ones that turn your business around or take it to the next level tomorrow.