When you first start a project, you’re enthusiastic. You have countless ideas that you want to implement. You have high hopes. You work day and night.
Somewhere between the first and third month, your enthusiasm fades. Your project is nowhere near where you want it to be. You don’t have the willingness to keep doing the same amount of work. The results you have received don’t justify the work you do.
Have you been in a situation like the one above? If your answer is yes, congratulations. You went outside of your comfort zone and took on a project that wasn’t assigned to you by some authority that pays you a wage or awards you a diploma.
Acknowledge that You’re a Change Maker
People who start a project on their own without getting asked for it are rare. Successful entrepreneurs, inventors, and other change makers come from this group. The rest of the people use their spare time for entertainment and relaxation.
Unfortunately, the advice targeting the change makers is mostly misleading. There are bits and pieces of useful advice, but the rest is mostly unrealistic. The problem is our intuitions are not our best friends either.
Beware of Unrealistic Advice
Our intuitions are mostly misleading us to believe in unrealistic advice. Work hard. Work day and night. Be omnipresent. Jump on to every opportunity. Broadcast yourself in every channel. Quit your job. Go all in. And the list goes on.
Unrealistic advice is floating around, because it sells. The marketers of unrealistic advice aren’t in it to genuinely help you. They are in it to sell you as many books, online courses, and seminar tickets as possible. As a result, they tell you the lies that make you feel good.
Unrealistic advice floating around in the personal development industry and how we fall for it is a topic that I have already written a post about. Therefore, I’m not going into further details in this post.
Your First Option Is to Pivot
Seth Godin has a book called the Dip, where he discusses the dip many change makers go through after the first few months of their project. In this post, I want to discuss my ideas on how to go through that dip.
The first and obvious way to deal with a dip is to quit the project or to pivot it. You can keep pivoting your project until you find a project that receives the attention you are looking for.
Create a New Product for Every Month for a Year
There’s an extreme version of pivoting frequently. That is creating a new product every month for a year. That’s not a bad idea, especially if this is the first time you are starting a project.
Your first few projects will most likely flop anyway, so just go through them quickly, learn your lessons, and move on. Treat that first year as education and don’t expect any of your projects to take off.
And who knows, one of those twelve projects might actually take off. Then you can invest more time, energy, and money into it. Even if none of those projects take off, you’ll end up with invaluable knowledge and experience.
How to Stick with Your Project
Sometimes, you might not want to pivot to another project. Maybe you have already a dozen failed projects under your belt and this time, you want to stick with your project until its success. If that’s the case, you need to change how you approach your project.
If you hit a dip and you want to stick with your project anyway, there are a few things you can do. The first one is to determine which stats you want to track, because what gets measured gets improved. In essence, you need to track the growth of your project in this phase.
Track Your Growth
The best metric to track is the revenue growth. If you don’t have any revenue, track the growth of active users. In either case, aim for 5-7% weekly growth.
In my blog, I track the weekly growth of my Medium followers and email newsletter subscribers. They are both around 10%, so, I’m happy with that.
Of course, there’s a potential of your project, because at the end of the day, there are only so many people in the world and your target group will be a subset of that population.
My target for Medium followers is 100K and for my email newsletter is 20K. If I can reach those numbers, I could build a sustainable business around my blog.
Measure Your Runway
How long would it take me to reach that potential? If I can maintain the 10% weekly growth rate, it would take me slightly more than a year to reach my Medium follower potential and around 15 months to reach my email subscriber potential.
How did I calculate it? Here’s the excel formula:
Your Start Value * (1 + Your Weekly Growth Rate) ^ Number of Weeks
In my case, the start value is the number of followers and subscribers that I have right now. The weekly growth rate is 10%, but I have to convert it to decimal, which makes 0.1 and add that value to 1.
The number of weeks is the total number of weeks, it would take to get to your target level. You have to experiment with different values for the number of weeks until you find the number of weeks you need to hit your target.
Once you have the number of weeks, divide it by 52 to find the number of years and multiply the number of years with 12 to find the number of months.
Of course, these numbers are approximate numbers to give you an idea. As we know, the real world doesn’t work like a clock and success comes in plateaus and spikes, as I have explained in this post.
Put Things in Perspective
Once you know how long it would take to reach your potential, you can put things in perspective.
It would be 15 months of hard work to reach the potential of my project and that’s just the beginning. At that point, I need to figure out how I can provide value to my following and how to get paid in return.
In either case, I know that I have to focus on 10% weekly growth for the next 15 months. Now, that I know the length of my runway to the potential of my project, I need to work on my daily and working routine to get there. That will be the subject of my next blog post.
When you hit a dip with your project, acknowledge that you’re a change maker who took the initiative to start something by themselves. You already deserve kudos for that. Your experience already taught you what doesn’t work in real life and that’s invaluable as well.
Now, you have two options, to pivot or to stick. You can take the first option to the extreme and come up with a product per month for a year.
Probably, none of those projects will succeed, but you’ll end up with invaluable knowledge and experience. And if one of them succeeds, you can invest more resources on that one.
If you choose to stick with your project, figure out which growth metric to track. What is the potential of your project? How long is it going to take to reach that potential?
Once you have those numbers, you can put things in perspective and adjust your working routine to optimize those numbers. How do you do that? That will be the topic of the next post.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.