Everything you ever wanted to know about making your first product
You’ve started a blog, you’re writing content, you have subscribers… it’s time to monetize. But, how?
You know you can make money online by selling a “product.” But… what does that mean, exactly? In the online business world, a “product” can mean a lot of things and take many forms. Price points range from $1 for a mini-ebook to $3,000 for an online course to $100,000 for a coaching mastermind.
It sounds easy… until you try and actually do it. What should you charge? What product is right for your customers? And once you have one kind of product, when should you move up the value chain to something more expensive?
With all the options out there, it can be all too easy to fall into “beginner-mediate” analysis paralysis.
That’s why, in this article, I’ll help you get started with your first product by walking you through different offering structure/pricing models, with examples, so you can pick what’s right for you.
Hopefully, I can save you the troubles I went through in building my $350,000/year business, Introverted Alpha. By the end, you will know what kind of product to offer and at what price point, based on your unique situation.
First, I want to set an expectation:
Business is choosing your own adventure
Good news: There have never been more resources or tools for building an online business. Bad news: When you sit down and figure out the best way to serve your customers, you can pretty much make anything you want. This is liberating, and also a bit daunting!
One of your primary hurdles when starting a business is your own psychology and motivation. As a result, the products that you (a) enjoy creating and (b) see your audience getting results from are the ones you’ll go further with, compared to the ones where one or both of those elements is missing.
There are lots of articles out there touting why a course is the best product. Or why coaching is the best. But business is a choose-your-own-adventure book, and that involves maybe doing things you like to do even if it’s not the “correct” choice by other people in the industry. Be honest with yourself.
And now, to the options:
$1 mini-ebook or app
- What it is: A downloadable mobile app or a cheap PDF. This is the least expensive option for someone to engage with you outside of your free material. Example: KonMari.com
- Marie Kondo is a home-organization consultant in Japan. She has been tremendously successful founding the KonMari Method, rolling out best-selling books, and even developing a consulting certification program.
- She has two apps: the free KonMari and the $0.99 TidyLife – Decluttering Checklist.
- She has four (and counting!) books: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Spark Joy, Life-Changing Magic: A Journal, The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story.
- She also now has another revenue stream: Certified KonMari Consultant.
- Who it’s for: A mini-ebook or app is a strong strategy once you’ve built up a large audience who is engaged with you, loves hearing from you, and has developed trust in you over time. This is not a good option if you are just beginning because it’s going to take forever just to make $100. Instead, it’s a good way to introduce your audience to the concept of paying for a product, while qualifying them for further (more expensive) products. Marie Kondo used this approach by first offering low price books and apps and then later offering the KonMari Consultant program for super-dedicated readers.
$50 ebook or small program
- What it is: An in-depth ebook or short audio or video course that helps people solve a simple problem. Example: minimalistbaker.com‘s 31 Meals Digital Cookbook: https://31cookbook.com/
- Who it’s for: Businesses who have an engaged audience who has communicated what problem they need help with. And whose problem to be solved is the right size to (a) warrant about 30,000 words worth of information and (b) doesn’t require 1:1 help to achieve the promised result.
$100 – $600 self-study program
- What it is: Like an ebook with (a) two to five times the information and/or (b) a wider variety of learning modalities (reading, audio, video). Example: CharismaonCommand.com’s Charisma University for $597.
- Who it’s for: This is a great strategy for people who have an audience that has been responsive and vocal about what they’re wanting, and whose result can be achieved in about 60,000 words.
$1K – $3K self-study/coaching program
- What it is: More in-depth information than a lower-priced self-study program with higher-touch elements like group or individual coaching. Think of an online course with weekly meetups or coaching calls with an expert. Example: Nisha Moodley’s Fierce Fabulous Free for $1,000 or Seth Godin’s AltMBA for $3,000.
- Who it’s for: This kind of program solves a problem that requires around 120,000 words (about the length of a novel) and more in-depth focus on the client’s part to achieve the result. It is a great strategy if your audience has developed trust with you over time and looks to you as an authority, and if you also are very confident in your ability to get results at scale (meaning you’re comfortable that your advice translates into a step-by-step system that you don’t need to be there to guide). Compare this to “open-ended” 1:1 coaching, which is a great place to start when a business is brand new and still discovering common pain points of an audience.
$5K – $10K coaching program
- What it is: A coaching program at this price range is typically more 1:1 than group, offers proven results, and is customized to the client. Coaching sessions can take place in person, over the phone, during in-person VIP days/weekends, monthly group coaching, and more. Example: IntrovertedAlpha.com (this is my business!). We have four program tracks, ranging in price from $3,800 to $7,000 each, depending on frequency of 1:1 coaching calls with my team.
- Who it’s for: This is a strong option if you have an audience of about 5,000 to 10,000+ people, many of whom you’ve gotten excellent results for 1:1. At this point, you can command higher prices because your results are so good (and predictable), while your branding communicates that accurately.
$25K – $100K mastermind
- What it is: Coaching masterminds typically run for 12 months and include regular group and/or 1:1 coaching. They also include a community for the business’s like-minded customers to communicate and learn from one another, which many mastermind participants say is the best part. Most masterminds also host a few in-person retreats at various locations throughout the world. Example: warroommastermind.com, $30,000 annual dues.
- Who it’s for: This is a more advanced option that requires a lot of audience trust and a strong track record with one or more of the other product options above. At this point, your audience is usually about 25,000 or more with years of experience.
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How I choose what product to make
When deciding what product to make, I use a few frameworks:
- Step one: The “Investment/Friction” framework
- Step two: Conduct a “Position Test”
- Step three: Use the “Position Goldmine” to use the inherent strength of my position in choosing what product to develop
Following these steps helps me take into account important considerations to make the product as effective as possible, understand my starting point, and then chart my course into an awesome product that feels natural to create based on where I am today.
Step one: Investment/Friction framework
Investment is the time and money involved from you and your team to deliver results, and the time involved from your clients to receive those results.
Friction is the effort required on both sides due to a process that could be improved. Always aim for less friction.
Your goal is to get the best results for you and your customer with the least amount of friction and investment from both parties. In other words, you want to be on the left side of this chart as much as possible.
And remember: High price (often correlated with higher investment) doesn’t always mean “more profitable.” If you can get better results in three months with only 20 hours from the client, whereas it used to take six months and 60 hours to get less of a result… that is more valuable and is worth more dollars to both you and the customer.
On the other hand, if you need higher touch to get them the results they need, do it. Do not sacrifice quality to get low investment. This is a mistake made by entrepreneurs who have fantasies of building their first product and then living on a beach somewhere. Sometimes your audience actually does need high levels of investment to get the results.
For me, in my realm of dating and attraction for introverted guys, they need human-to-human support from my all-women coaching team. That is part of the process, critical to the result of connecting genuinely with women they date. They will not get the same results at all by just reading information. It takes our clients three solid months to get to a good place with any one goal (confidence, filling their “dating funnel,” et cetera).
It’s something I only learned after many rounds of trial and error. Other entrepreneurs may look at my setup and think it’s too involved or demanding of my team. But it’s the best product I can offer my clients, so I do it.
So the minimum viable investment to ACTUALLY get results is higher than most other businesses’, but it’s something I noticed and adjusted to over time (evidence you can start at “imperfect” and learn as you go!). Again, this is why each business is a choose-your-own-adventure.
Now let’s get into “The Position Test,” which will help you know where to start, what general kind of product to make first from where you are today.
Step two: The Position Test
To determine your position, ask yourself these two questions:
- How much experience do I have communicating with my audience?
- How big is my audience?
Based on your answers, you will fall into one of several positions:
Position #1 aka the Latecomer: You have experience communicating with an audience but haven’t quite built them up in your business (think of a personal trainer launching a new fitness blog).
Position #2 aka the Passion Project: A sizable audience, and experience communicating with them, but no product yet.
Position #3 aka the Newbie: You don’t have experience communicating and not much of an audience. We’ll skip “The Newbie” because you shouldn’t be monetizing at this point. You should be learning and building an audience!
So that leaves the Latecomer and the Passion Project. In either position, you will have experience understanding and supporting your audience. It’s impossible to know NOTHING about your audience. We all have hunches about them. That’s why we started our businesses.
Communicating with our audience, though, is another matter. That is a skill developed over time through the course of building an audience: listening closely to them, mirroring back what you hear, providing deeply relevant insights just for them, and continually refining to make better and better work for them all the time.
These two aspects determine what you should offer your list for the best chances of success. In short:
- If you are a Latecomer, you likely should start with 1:1 coaching.
- If you are a Passion Project, you likely should start with lower-priced ebooks or self-study products.
If you are a… Latecomer
I recommend starting with 1:1 coaching if you are in Position #1.
I did that with my own business, IntrovertedAlpha.com. Starting with 1:1 coaching helps you get your footing and make an income quickly while learning about your audience and helping them.
When I started Introverted Alpha in summer 2014, I had zero audience, but I had been coaching men on dating and attraction full-time for a year already with another company before starting my own business.
It was long enough to see a pattern:
Introverted guys were (and are) told, “Fake it til you make it!” and, “Just do it!”, which is never going to work for an introverted guy. Instead, he needs to use the thoughtfulness he already has towards his success, not repress it.
So I wanted to communicate that through a solid piece that felt refreshing, relieving, and insightful. I wanted to share my philosophy in an easy-to-understand way that would whet their appetite for more from me… whether that would be more free content or more in-depth work with me.
I did this because I knew that out of 100 new subscribers to my email list, one would become a client. I wanted to work with men 1:1 because I wanted to understand how to help them better and how to market to them better.
Over time, this real-time feedback inherent in 1:1 coaching helped me build my list and therefore client base by communicating with them about what was important to them in a way that made sense to them.
If you are a… Passion Project
In Position #2, you have a lot more flexibility with where you start. A great place to start in Position #2 is a small $50 product like an ebook or downloadable audio file.
This way, you can test the waters to see if what you have to sell is viable, without having to commit your time working with people 1:1.
This is what Barron Cuadro did with his business, EffortlessGent.com. When he was about 18 months in with a list of about 4,000 subscribers, he offered a $26 ebook called “Graduating Your Style.”
The ebook was for young college guys who wanted to upgrade their style. He created it to help them understand the fundamentals of dressing well and gave them examples of what to buy and how to wear it.
He offered that product because his audience asked for it. After doing a few blog posts that touched on high-level topics that the ebook would cover, and after sending out emails asking his readers what they were struggling with, he was getting a lot of great information on what his guys needed.
After gathering a few weeks worth of responses, he compiled everything into one doc and sorted them out based on general themes and ideas. From there, he had the meat of the ebook, which made it easy to put together.
As he already had an idea of what he wanted to write, asking his readers solidified that, plus gave him the exact topics to cover.
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Step 3: Use the “Position Goldmine”
No matter if you’re a Latecomer or a Passion Project, you have a starting strength.
The Latecomer’s strength is a beginner’s mind and a willingness to get in the trenches with customers to solve problems together. You may not know everything, but you are committed to helping them! This energizes the process, deepens their trust in you, and moves things forward into a strong business for years to come. It all starts with learning how to communicate with them 1:1 so you can then communicate at scale and grow your audience.
A Passion Project’s strength is the established audience they already have! If you have a large audience, they will help you help them and sell to them! It’s all a matter of knowing what to look for and how.
I’ll show you how to utilize the strength of each position below, so you can get going with the right product for where you’re at, armed with a few helpful hints and tools at your disposal.
Using Latecomer’s strength of a beginner’s mind
Starting off, you have quite a lot of experience with your craft, but you still have a lot to learn about your specific audience that your business is attracting.
It takes humility to start a business. You might not be able to charge as much as you did when you had a different audience under someone else’s business. This was the case for me. In the business I did dating coaching in before, we charged $500 per hour for my coaching.
Starting Introverted Alpha, I went with $300 per hour because I had to take time to get to know how to communicate with my new specific audience and build trust with them.
So don’t be afraid to start where you are. Here are a few keys to keep in mind if you are starting as a Latecomer. If you just do these few things, you will be off to the races towards a great start with 1:1 coaching, so you can grow from there and take it wherever you want it to go!
- Don’t be afraid to charge very low rates in the beginning to get going. For example, you can charge $50-$100 per session if you’ve never done this before, or $150-$200 if you have. I charged $300 per hour to start (down from $500 with the previous company). But because I didn’t have the backing of an established brand, it felt very steep to potential clients.
- Sell in packages of time instead of packages of sessions. I offered sets of 5, 10, and 20 sessions, and things would awkwardly fizzle out at the end, instead of monthly, which my team and I are doing now, which works very well with the project’s momentum and makes for a better client experience.
- Make a genuinely respectful, niched opt-in. What have you seen with your audience where their needs are not being met? What is a better way that will work WITH their nature/situation/values, and not against those things? Make a piece of content that not only will resonate with them, but also will be much more successful than the alternative. And then, give chances for your site’s readers to obtain that content by offering their email address.
- Hold low-friction free strategy sessions, offering monthly paid 1:1 packages. In your strategy session, you’re exploring whether it’s a mutual fit. Coaching is a safe offering when you don’t have as mature of an experience with your audience. It’s also very valuable to have that 1:1 touchpoint period, regardless of your knowledge level. There’s no reason not to get started with that.
- Send them the “5 Days, 5 Emails Training Sequence.” What is the problem you’re helping them solve with your coaching? Plug it into a 5-day email sequence starting with two days of setting context and offering valuable insights, one day where you transition into your offer (a strategy session with you to explore coaching), and then two days of selling.
Here’s how the 5-Day Sequence works:
Day 1, Education: Set context for problem-solution, valuable new way of seeing things.
Day 2, Education: Continue educating about problem and set up solution benefits.
Day 3, Education > Sales: Educate with step-by-step system outline that is your product.
Day 4, Sales: Sell the program (in my case, I sold a free strategy session with a link to apply).
Day 5, Sales: Continue selling the program or strategy session, adding optional scarcity.
Those keys plus the 5-day sequence will get you started if you’re in Position #1, like I was, and are building your audience from scratch.
Using the Passion Project’s strength of an established audience
If you have a sizeable audience already, then you have experience communicating with them. Otherwise, your audience wouldn’t have any people in it! So you can use this asset of an audience to understand them even more deeply and create even better products for them.
If you’re not sure what they want to learn about, pay attention to what they’re already telling you!
Here is a step-by-step walkthrough of how to brainstorm your next product and get a contextual sense of what your people would most like to learn and what they’d be willing to pay for it:
Make a spreadsheet of your blog comments / email replies from your list. If you’ve been building up an audience for a while, go back through your blog comments and email replies from your list.
Notice trends: what are they most vocal about? You can make a spreadsheet, enter responses line by line, categorize them according to what they’re pretty much saying, and notice what most of them are talking about, period (for example, there are more comments/replies on making more money compared to being frugal).
Explore their “5 Layers of ‘Why”: Take the item they’re talking the most about and see what their “5 Layers of ‘Why’” are about that topic. Maybe you’ve heard of the “5 Whys” to go deeper with someone’s desire, as in, “Why do you want that?” and then continuing to ask why.
I’ve turned this into 5 Layers of Why, from surface to deep: Practicality, Image, Pain, Pleasure, Meaning. All 5 layers are important. Let’s apply it to Barron’s product, “Graduating Your Style,” which helps college guys upgrade their style:
- Addressing Surface Practicality (using college budget wisely to look good)
- Supporting Surface Image (standing out from all the other college guys, actually looking put together as a man)
- Healing Deep Pain (uncertainty, not knowing where to start, if what they liked or chose to wear looked good and sent the right message)
- Providing Deep Pleasure (confidence, certainty, feeling good in the clothes they wear, feeling attractive)
- Activating Deep Meaning (self-actualization, being the kind of person who is worthy of looking amazing and who is knowledgeable about style)
Use those discovered 5 Layers of Why to build and market your next product. Each layer is important! And they all work together. Your offering should be effective enough to resolve the problem, so they can experience all 5 Layers of Why. From there, your marketing communication can highlight each of these, because each layer is one level of benefit to using your offering.
- Also use those 5 Layers of Why in your 5-day email training series outlined above. The 5-day series doesn’t just work for coaching! You can apply it to any product, replacing the invite for a strategy session with an invite to your sales page and to purchase your product if it’s under about $3,000. If your offering is above $3,000, I recommend still leading to a strategy session with you or someone on your team for best results.
Overall, the more Layers of Why you (a) cover in your product and (b) address in your marketing, the more valuable the product will be to your customers and the more you can charge for it over time as your reputation and results grow.
Your next step
Now that you have the lay of the land, are you ready to choose your path?
Here is your step-by-step that we covered in this article:
- Understand the range of offering structure and prices available.
- Keep the Investment/Friction framework in mind.
- Take The Position Test.
- Consider Position #1 and Position #2 examples.
- Use the Position Goldmine to capitalize on the strength of the position you’re in to make your next product.
By this point, you should have remarkable clarity about where you stand today and the roads you can take from here.
If you pick one of the positions and corresponding paths above, you’re in good shape.
You’re never going to get more info than I just gave to pick one. You’ve got this!
Any questions you have, feel free to comment below and I’ll see if I can help.