I’m going to warn you, this blog post is me being honest. That probably means it’s going to rub some people the wrong way. So be it. If it helps another person who is struggling with some of the same questions, it’s worth irritating a few others. This is a story of failure.
Sometimes you have an idea that just sets you on fire. You’re invested in it, heart and soul, not to mention time. Everyone says to do what you love and follow your heart and everything will work out great. But what if it doesn’t?
What if your idea ends up not being worth the time, effort and love you put into it?
This question is a pretty personal one for me right now. Ever since my virtual assistance business allowed me to make my living being my own boss I’ve had a heart for others who desired to do the same. At first I did my best to help others by spending many hours answering forum questions and responding to private emails from people wanting to start or needing help with a virtual services business. And then I had that idea that set me on fire. I’d start a ‘school’ for those people. An online learning course that was available 24/7 from anywhere there was an internet connection. In it I would share everything that I had learned through trial and error, personal experience and training. It was what every person I had helped and coached along the way had mentioned the industry needed. I even implemented a scholarship program that reduced the cost of enrollment to what often equaled less than the cost of a trip to Starbucks. So why is it that I’m sitting here contemplating closing the virtual doors to Virtual Assistant Survival School?
Before I give the reasons I believe my ‘work of love’ failed, I want to say that I did have a small group of students who not only signed up for the course, but worked through the program and found success in their own businesses. To me, that makes everything I did worth it. Not only that, but I’ve made connections with some of them that I never would have made if not for my program. That’s the success I can claim from my experience.
But why wasn’t it a success in other ways? Why didn’t the program draw more students? Why didn’t more of the students it did have gain the success that a small group of them did? Why exactly did my ‘work of love’ fail, leaving me with a bitter taste and a decision to make? Probably for the same reasons a lot of great ideas fail.
- I failed to understand my market. Yes, people wanted information about working from home and turning their work experience into their own business. I was dead on about that one. What I failed to recognize was that there weren’t many of these people willing to pay for that information. Because the majority of them were familiar with finding information on the internet, they couldn’t see the wisdom in paying for information. Even when it was pointed out to them. I should have listened to a colleague when she said that “they don’t want to pay for anything.” Not even a program that could have helped them to find success faster.
- I over-estimated student commitment to the program. As I stated earlier, the students who worked their way through the material found a huge benefit and ultimately their own success. However, that number was small in comparison to the number of students who signed up, watched one or two videos and then cancelled their membership. You can have the secret to untold wealth in your material, but if you can’t find a way to get the student to consume it, they will never realize it.
- I lacked the time needed to market it correctly. Since this was basically a labor of love, I still had my own business to run. Which was fine until life threw me some curve balls, like moving, losing a loved one and realizing I needed down time from the business or I was going to crash and burn myself. It’s entirely possible if I had been able to devote more time into it, I could have found a marketing angle that worked.
- I slowly fell out of love. As I began to realize the points above I also slowly began to lose the fire and passion for the program in the early years. It’s hard to stay fired up when so few students got excited about what I was trying to teach. It was also exhausting to work a full day and then work for hours writing, recording and preparing learning units that so few people were consuming. Not only did my love for the program fade, but I found myself getting a little bitter about the fact that people were still emailing me for the information I was offering in the program, not willing to pay for it, but more than happy to ask me for it for free.
You’ll notice that all four of these reasons start with the word “I”.
I failed, I over-estimated, I lacked, I fell. I’m not ashamed to say it. I’m also not sorry I tried. I learned a great deal through the experience and those lessons will help me succeed somewhere in the future when another idea sets me on fire.
What can you learn from my experience?
If you haven’t had an idea that sets you ablaze yet, you’ll be a little better prepared when it does. You’ll know that you really need to know your market inside and out, the good and the bad. You’ll know that you need to have realistic expectations, whether it’s about the commitment of others or the viability of your grand idea. You’ll realize you will need time to devote to marketing and still have a balanced life. Perhaps knowing these things will keep the love alive.
And if you’re someone who has found yourself falling out of love with your own ‘work of love’ maybe you won’t be afraid to examine it the way I did and be brave enough to let it go if it’s just not worth it.