Today, as I contemplate the way forward for my online business, I realise that I am hampered by the perennial problem of trying to find shortcuts. They may or may not exist, but I know that to get to where I want to be is going to take a lot of work. It is not that I am not prepared to do that work; it is just that I want to be at that place, in the future, much quicker than all the legwork and effort promises to get me there.
There is only so much you can do and you have to focus your effort on the things that will bring you the results you want. But with an ambitious big-picture, it can be hard to determine where the effort would be best placed. Worse, the temptation to search for shortcuts is very likely to make the journey even longer because, at least in my experience, finding genuine shortcuts is a rare occurrence indeed.
Almost every day, for the past seven years, I have spent a small amount of the available time looking for things that can help me to move forward; to become more efficient or productive. The internet is full of people who are promising shortcuts, but in the seven years I have been running my site, I have found very few that were worth the effort of seeking them out. You only ever get to know whether something is worth your time, effort and money after you have tried it, naturally, so many of these shortcuts turn out to be just a complete waste of those precious resources.
Right now, I would like to expand my free books section by another five pages; that’s 5 x 16 books that need to be written, edited, proofed and formatted as well as the creation of 16 new download pages. My free books are usually little tasters, providing useful information on the subject, but a fairy quick read at around 5K words. That said, to do a good job on just one of those books would take about 3 days of effort, so with 80 books needed to get to my target, that’s over 5 months work.
However, I also want to create backend continuity programs for my three main font-end products. This is a little more difficult for me to quantify in terms of the amount of time required, especially as I have not yet specified the required content and format, but perhaps each one might take me 6 months to complete. So I can easily see that I have about 2 years of work waiting to be done to move myself forward to where I want to be.
In addition, there are the normal, routine activities involved in running a site, such as replying to emails, helping people who have difficulties unzipping files or rebranding books, there are products to review for possible promotion, there are JV partners to vet and then there are articles and blog posts to write. Whilst it is all important, none of that kind of activity moves me forward toward my goals. So it is no wonder that shortcuts are on my mind.
In principle, I have no problem with shortcuts, however, in practice, I do. Employing writers is costly and the quality of the finished work varies enormously. Even after writing is completed, the process of getting the work ready to publish is not. In the past I have mistakenly thought that paying high prices for native English speakers would guarantee the quality that I was looking for, but sadly, in practice, it just didn’t.
Then there are the win-win solutions I am always looking for i.e. solutions that truly benefit both parties, for example, like guest posting. Taking my free books section as an example, I have been able to attract very few contributors, despite the fact that this site gets 1.7 million visitors per year. The reason, I think, is that I am very choosy. I only want quality books that fit with the central themes of the site and I need people to provide me with the source text so it can be formatted to house style.
Win-win solutions are not easy to find because many people are so focused on their own goals that they are often not open to the idea that someone else might be able to help them in a way that could benefit both parties. It doesn’t stop me from coming up with win-win ideas, but perhaps I have just not (yet) managed to find or create the right ones.
But the Hannibal in me (we will either find a way or make one) keeps telling me that there must be a way that we can find or make, so today, despite the foregoing, I am looking for shortcuts. I am going to spend the whole day looking too. It could be a complete waste of time, but then I also remember Thomas Edison who tried over 1,000 times to find the right combination of gas and filament for the incandescent light bulb. Somewhere in the back of my mind those guys are egging me on.