My last few essays focused on products for people who make products.
If you didn’t see your own future in those lists, well, this email is for you.
So you’re not a developer. Or a designer. You’re still a professional with valuable skills — if you (or people like you!) can charge an hourly rate for your skills on a freelance or consulting basis, you — YES, YOU! — are in a position to create a product.
That’s the key right there:
As long as the hourly rate is about your skills (and not just your physical presence), you can turn that into a product.
How do I know? Simple syllogism:
- All humans strive. To do more, earn more, be stronger, safer, healthier, happier, smarter…
- Striving requires skills.
- Therefore, there will always be: A. people who want to learn skills, B. people who want to improve their skills, and C. people who want to hire skills.
Obviously the skills in demand will change over time, but guess what? So can you!
(Aside: I am now accepting cookies for talking outright about syllogisms in a newsletter email. Pretty sure I earned it.)
But even if your products are all about skills, you can do more than straight-up teach. Not everyone wants to learn, but everyone wants to achieve.
So when I say you can make screencasts (or whatever), don’t think they have to be Learn This Skill Today. They don’t have to be step-by-step demonstrations either.
- teach people taste (how to judge if something is good, or effective, or right, or right-for-now)
- walk them through making a difficult decision (it’s teaching, but not the traditional skills way we think about it)
- present options, with pro’s and con’s or even a decision tree
- compile all the research, examples, or resources they’ll need
- create a coherent narrative for something that is scattered among a million different sources
- help them develop the confidence they need to act (sometimes people just need to know they’re not alone and they’re not doing something outlandish or crazy risky)
And, last but sooo not least…
You can take the same exact type of “content” that is elsewhere and present it and deliver it in a way that will help your customer actually execute. You can make it usable. You can add the glue that holds the things together.
You don’t need to be a designer or developer to break up a process into steps, or to transform what could be a huge and daunting How To Book into an actionable email course.
Yes, that thinking takes work — work that most people won’t bother doing! Making an opportunity for you to swoop in and get ‘er done.
Without further ado…
Here are 4 ideal products for ANYONE to make…
4 Screencast, video, or podcast/audio
You know what a screencast is… but you’ve probably pigeonholed it as a multi-session, instructional, scripted, edited-to-the-max, step-by-step here’s-exactly-how kind of thing.
Screencasts don’t have to be multi-hour-long educational extravaganzas. Screencasts can demonstrate a live process. They can target experts rather than newbs. You can record and then later sell a presentation. Any task you perform, wisdom you have earned, or experience you use to do work that delivers value could potentially be the subject of a screencast.
And of course, you can use screencasts to outright teach as well.
Same goes for audio content and live, paid webinars or online events.
3 Course / Workshop
A course can be a set of email lessons, or exercises, or videos. There are also hybrid service-products like paid newsletters and membership programs. Of course it could also be a live workshop either in-person or online (like a webinar).
A course is typically a more structured and more guided (and more expensive) experience than a book.
2 White paper, research guide, compilation
Remember: Thanks to the magic of the internet, you’re no longer constrained by the physical size or format of content. You could research, write, and sell a white paper that’s 20 pages and if it does the job — if it delivers value — your customers will be happy. You can make like 37signals and release a (paid) white paper that outlines the biggest mistakes costing people money, time, or security. You could build a library of examples, cheat sheets, things to try, analyses, or case studies… the opportunities are pretty much endless.
You aren’t wedded to the 300-Pages-and-an-Index book format.
But whatever your not-a-book thing is… remember to focus on making it actionable.
Books are great: They share knowledge, they help people, they make money… and they build your reputation.
And a book doesn’t have to be A Book™. You don’t have to write “How to Learn X” or “Everything About Y.” It doesn’t have to be a big, huge, scary, formal thing.
Take a look at the best-selling books in non-fiction categories: from business books to crafts to self-help to careers, a lot of best-sellers are what I would call “non-technical.” They are stories, narratives, pastiches, examples… all held together with a Lessons Learned or Principles to Follow. Don’t let the idea of A Book™ intimidate you.
OK… speaking of narrative, let’s get back to it, shall we??
Fact: When you truly help people, they’ll look past many flaws.
So what if writing or designing or whatever isn’t your main skill set. Nobody cares!
You don’t have to be the world’s best writer. Or the world’s best screencaster, or whatever!
I’m not saying you won’t need to learn some new skills, but I am saying that it’s not a huge deal! Most modern creative tools — like Ulysses, and Apple Pages, Garage Band, Keynote, and Screenflow and their Windows (or even web-based) equivalents — are set up to help you get to “good enough” fast.
Those app designers & developers know that it’s their job to help you achieve. (Sounds familiar, right?)
Bottom line: If your audience wants it and needs your skills, wisdom, and experience — if they’re suffering from a lack of what you have — and if they know they’ve got a problem, you can help them.