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Ten questions before you start something new

Are you thinking of building a new plugin or theme?

If you’re part of the larger WordPress community, it’s likely you’ve thought about building your own plugin or theme. Even if you’ve only been a part of the community for a few months, it’s easy to get bitten by the bug.

After all, you see others doing it. You see companies making money and having success. You can do that too, right?

Of course you can. But wait.

This past weekend I had a conversation with a friend that I hadn’t talked to since October. Her first words?

“Thank you so much for your advice. You saved me a ton of money and time.”

What was she talking about?

I have this conversation a lot

It was a reference to a conversation I have pretty regularly with people. It’s not that I don’t want to encourage entrepreneurs. I love them. And I love creating something from nothing. I couldn’t live life without doing that.

But just hoping that things will work out right is a poor strategy. You’ve likely heard me say it before, “It’s a nice thing to have, but hope is not a strategy.”

So when people start asking me for advice about their new project, I ask them ten questions. And I push them to really think about it.

My Ten Questions

  1. Why Now? What about this time makes this the perfect moment to create this project? Would it be better in 6 months? Did the moment pass 6 months ago? I built a recommendation engine to compare products that would have been awesome for Amazon – but I did it two years too early. Great ideas at the wrong time still don’t work.

  2. Why you? Maybe this is the right time, but are you the right person? Do you have the credibility to do this? If you’ve spent your career working with high end corporate customers, are you sure you’re the right person to do a consumer play?

  3. Does your target market even exist? If you tell me you’re going to build a theme framework that is drag and drop for developers to help them speed up their development, I’m going to go, huh? Because developers don’t need drag and drop builders. They want APIs and quick ways to re-use code snippets.

  4. How big is your attainable market? Are you seeing that word in the middle? “Attainable” isn’t everyone. It’s the realistic sense of how big your actual, addressable market is. Your product won’t be for everyone. So who is it for? And how have you determined the count of that segment of the market?

  5. Who is your competition? Don’t tell me you have none. People are solving this problem already – even if it’s not with a technical product. So be clear on your direct and indirect competitors and make sure you have an angle on how you’ll step into the market without getting crushed by your competition.

  6. Do you have what you need to start? To Win? Some people I talk to don’t even have the resources to start. They want to build a technical product but can’t code and don’t have a coding partner. Others have just enough to start, but not enough to sustain the business until enough money comes in. Plan well!

  7. How will you make profit? Notice I’m not asking about revenue or sales. I’m talking about profit. Do you have a business model that you can analyze that highlights your costs as each new customer comes on board? Trust me, those “unlimited” offers suck when you put them in a real business model.

  8. Do you understand your dependencies well? If you’re building a solution on top of WordPress, do you understand how to interact with it well? If you’re building it on top of MailChimp, do you understand it well? If you’re building a plugin for Genesis, do you have the understanding of how to sit on top of it the right way?

  9. How will you know it’s working? If you’re having success, do you know what signs you’re looking for that will lead you to put more fuel on the fire? Do you have a clear sense of how to know that it’s time to double down? Have you even thought about it? How can you leverage your initial success?

  10. How will you know it’s not working? If you’re not seeing success, do you know what signs you’re looking for that will tell you it’s time to stop? It’s not a fun idea, but it’s just as critical. Don’t get stuck thinking (hoping) that success is around the corner.

What about you? What questions do you ask before you start something new?

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