A Dozen Questions Every Product Developer Should Ask Themselves Before They Start A New Project

If you are serious about achieving success as a Direct Marketer or Product Developer, start by answering these questions.

Thirteen Questions

1. What is my goal this year? Be specific. Instead of answering, “Make a lot of money,” come up with an answer based on your personal reality. For example, your answer might be, “Learn enough about running a subscription website that I can generate at least ¬£2000 a month income from membership fee’s alone.”

2. What are the ‘models of success’ of others who have reached this goal? It helps a great deal to identify other product developers or companies that have attained the goal you are trying to achieve. Look at what they are doing, and how they are doing it. See what works for them, and what hasn’t worked. Try to find a ‘model’ you can use as your guideline.

3. What is my strategy for reaching my goal? After you have identified your goal and a few models of success, it’s time to start formulating your own strategy. Avoid the mistake of trying to ‘over complicate’ your strategy. Keep it simple, with as few steps as needed. Adapt your strategy to meet your own skills, schedule, and budget.

4. What tools or skills will I need to acquire to reach my goal? With most projects, you’ll need to acquire some additional skills, equipment and tools. You’ll want to identify most of these before you start – as doing so will help you understand the budgetary needs and time requirements. With some goals, you may find the skills and equipment needed are beyond your budget or learning level – a good time to find out is before you start the project.

5. What is my timetable? Before starting a project is is a good idea to develop a long term and short term timetable. The long term timetable should have specific ‘accomplish by’ dates leading to the final goal. The short term timetable should be more detailed and cover the acquisition of tools, learning of skills, development of test projects, etc.

6. Is this within my budget/where do I get funding? Almost all projects have costs, some quite considerable. Before starting the project, ask yourself how will you fund the project until it becomes self-sustaining. In some cases, the costs will be low or spread out enough that funding won’t be a problem. In other situations, funding requirements are immediate and you will need a certain amount of cash before you can start. Determine your needs early on, and find a source of funding (perhaps income from other projects) before you start.

7. Will working toward this goal have a negative impact on my health, family relationships, or economic condition? In some cases, you can choose a goal so ambitious that trying to achieve it will have a negative impact on your health or family relationships. I can think of no instance where it would be wise to endanger your health or the relationship with your spouse or children to achieve a business related goal.

8. What will I do if this fails? It is always a good idea to have a backup plan. In my case, I generally take on projects where even if the project fails, what I learn while doing the project is usually worth the effort. For example, if I decide to produce a DVD on a specific topic, and the DVD fails to generate revenue, the experience of acquiring the tools and learning to produce a DVD gives me a huge head start on the next DVD I decide to produce.

On the other hand, if I have invested all my time and resources to producing a single product and have ‘bet my house’ on its success, I better have a backup plan should it fail. The same goes with all projects or goals. Have a backup plan if it fails (because 70% of projects do fail).

9. Is this a realistic goal for me? Is the goal you set for yourself so ambitious that you have no chance of reaching it? Does it fit in with your skills and interests? Does the goal reflect long term desires, or is it coloured by immediate problems in your life not related to long term realities? Are there more obvious goals which you should be trying to achieve first? Keep in mind that it usually takes time and strategy to achieve desirable goals. So don’t feel pressured to accomplish everything at once.

10. Where do I start? If you get this far, the next question should be ‘where do I start?’ In most cases, the place to start is to try to get first hand experience in doing what you want to achieve. If possible, attend a workshop where you can learn the basics from someone who has already done what you want to do. Or get a part time job at a business that does what you want to do. Getting first hand experience (either a workshop or job) can give you a huge jump toward learning what you need to know, what tools you need to acquire, and what skills you’ll need.

11. What do I do next? This is a question you will repeat often throughout the project. As you complete each phase, you’ll have to ask yourself, ‘What do I do next?’ In most cases, projects are a sequential learning process. What you learn in the previous phase, you apply in the next phase, where you learn more. But as each phase ends, you need to have a good idea of what you need to do next. (Check out your model of success . . . what steps did they follow?)

12. Where do I need to make changes? The further you get into a project, the more you learn about what can and can’t be done (within your budget and skills). As you learn more, you’ll discover ways to improve the project by eliminating some steps and adding others. This ‘Where do I need to make changes?’ question is one you’ll ask often, and allows you to adapt your project to changes in your environment.

One Final Question

13. When will I know I’m done? The product development business is one of stepping stones. Each project you take on generally leads to another project using skills and tools you acquired with earlier projects. Often before you complete one project, you’ll have a good idea what your next project should be. While individual projects do reach an end point, rarely will your product development endeavour be ‘complete’. You’ll almost always have a number of projects in mind – just waiting for you to free up some time.

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