The last year has been a crazy journey for me. If you’ve been following along you’ve watched me learn how to build, launch, and market products ranging from my books to ConvertKit.
Those are just a few of the valuable lessons from the last year.
But you can’t have multiple packages or a launch strategy for a book that was never written. If you don’t share anything you can’t build an audience. If you don’t create anything you can’t have a product.
This brings me to the most important business/life lesson I’ve learned in the last year: slow, consistent progress is the only way to make big things happen.
The “big thing” I wanted to accomplish was to build an audience. I saw writing a book as the first step to doing that. The problem was that I’d tried to write a book several times before, each time not making it past an outline and the first few pages. Any time progress is directly tied to your current motivation level, it will fail.
I was really excited at first, but that fizzled out over time. Once my initial motivation was gone so was all progress.
At Chris Guillebeau’s recommendation I started writing 1,000 words every day. At first it was really hard, but I was determined to actually finish this book. Over time writing became easier.
By the time The App Design Handbook launched I had about 80 days in a row of writing 1,000 words. With a streak like that there was no way I would break it. So the logical step was to start writing another book the day after launching my first. Ninety days later Designing Web Applications launched to double the audience and sales.
That streak has continued now to 365 days in a row (tracked with Commit).
A few people have asked questions about the last year, so here are the answers:
Not quite. I didn’t actually write 1,000 words every single day. My system was a bit more relaxed.
First, the content didn’t always have to be words. Recording a screencast or video tutorial counted as well. I didn’t have an exact system for converting recording time to word count, but if I put in at least an hour of effort, that was about equal to 1,000 words of written content.
Second, life is busy, so I didn’t write 1,000 words on each day. Instead I wrote 1,000 words—or the equivalent in other media—for each day. Meaning if I was taking a week-long trip I would write extra to get ahead by a few days, then do maybe one day’s writing while traveling, then catch up once I got home.
So long as the words got written for each day, I didn’t worry about missing a particular day.
Where did the words go?
I was more concerned with writing each day than tracking the total. Because of that these are really rough numbers, but it should give you an idea. Also, these counts will differ from what is published since I often cut out a lot of content.
- The App Design Handbook: 29,053
- Designing Web Applications: 35,684
- Authority: 43,535
- My blog: 68,181 words (71 posts)
- Guest posts: 35,154
- The Productivity Manifesto: 3,429
- Email courses: 28,900
- Chapter for Smashing Magazine’s Mobile Book: 11,004
- Unpublished content: 11,504
Rough total: 266,444
That’s what I could track down without too much effort. Combine that with over 70 videos and you get pretty close to content equal to 365,000 words.
Looking at my business revenue from the last 365 days, I decided to filter it down to just revenue I could trace back in some way to my writing habit (which is almost all of it): $249,602 (before expenses). That’s insane.
Most of that is from book sales, and the rest is from two small contract writing projects I did. Divide that number by 365,000 words and you get $0.68 per word written or $683 per day. That’s an incredible return on investment.
Where to start?
Start by thinking big. What have you been wanting to accomplish? The goal is not to get you to write 1,000 words a day. But I do want you to start doing something every day. That could be learning a new skill (programming, guitar, design, drawing, etc.), or making progress on that side project that would otherwise never be finished.
If you don’t have something specific to commit to, you can say, “I will create something every day.” That is a small step, but it could be exactly what you need to start shifting from spending all your time consuming content to getting into the habit of making things.
Creating can mean anything from writing a blog post to designing a product, doing a household project to cooking dinner instead of getting takeout. Change your habits, change your life. Just always remember that habits are enough to build a quarter million dollar business in a single year.
If you’ll excuse me, I have 135 words left to write today.