This is actually an easy question to answer and I hope that by answering it, you may understand a bit why I talk about the things I do with respect to testing the market, talking to customers, etc.

My biggest failure as a freelance came when I released a product into the wild called WP Field Guides.

My idea was what I built

It was to educate people on the best practices of WordPress and targeted to businesses wanting to manage and grow their website.

I got the idea from the leads that would come into my business, but then either because of budget or timing, they didn’t become clients.

I took those reasons of budget and timing as a reason to build this product that I could offer as a sort of down-sell to leads that didn’t sign up with me.

I went off writing up these guides, posts, created a website, social media profiles, linked up the e-commerce store and laid out all the pieces to fulfill the orders.

Why it failed

Well guess what? I sold 4.

What happened you ask? Well here’s what happened. I took the WP Field Guides as the solution to the timing and budgetary reasons.

I thought that a lower cost solution to their projects where they could essentially manage things on their own but have the manual to do so would be the answer they were looking for.

I was wrong.

I assumed when I should’ve gone out and spoke with the potential buyers to see if this was the solution they were looking for.

After this time spent, all the late nights and resources I put into this, I folded it all up and gave the money back to the 4 people that made purchases.

Validate the idea before building it

I went back to the drawing board, only this time I had conversations with people and found that they didn’t want a DIY solution, what they wanted was a done-for-you solution and they didn’t mind paying for it.

What I realized was that the offering I had at the current time wasn’t a fit because it wasn’t built for the type of clients that were turning me down.

In fact, I learned that the ones turning me down were actually willing to pay a bit more if there was more depth to the services. Which I didn’t provide at the time because:

  • I didn’t think of it because I didn’t have the conversations
  • I couldn’t take them on with the way my existing client base

So as some projects ended, I started to offer a higher end service to those that I spoke with, refined the model and validated the idea for the business with paying customers.

Ever since WP Field Guides, I will always test the idea first with real people and potential customers. Never again will I be Kevin Costner and think “If I build it, they will come.”

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