Just Hit Send

Forget the details, embrace imperfections, and get your work out to the world. This process of shipping - making something public is the first step towards making any idea/product real.

Just Hit Send
Credit: @golimitless

Have you ever found yourself holding off on shipping out a project because it's "not quite there" yet? Maybe it's developing another feature for your product, tweaking the final chapter of that book, or adding more content to your online course.

This happens far too often for many of us and I'm here to say, "just hit send!" and realize it will never be perfect. What we learn from shipping far outweighs the fears we hold.

Several distinct problems manifest themselves as delays in launching: working too slowly; not truly understanding the problem; fear of having to deal with users; fear of being judged; working on too many different things; excessive perfectionism. Fortunately, you can combat all of them by the simple expedient of forcing yourself to launch something fairly quickly. -Paul Graham, The 18 Mistakes that Kill Startups

What's Holding You Back?

We have a collective problem that all of us need to work on. We have ideas, thoughts, and information that we hold back from sharing because we worry about what other people might think of it. In the past, before the internet and email, there was a strong incentive to suppress your own work until it was perfected.

Ever get that sinking feeling when you launch a new product?

This tweet by Erik comes to mind when the fear of launching seeps in, what comes next is an invertible rollercoaster of emotions, interactions, and an often fluid outcome that we must manage. Embrace the unknown and great things can happen.

It's probably because you launched it before it was ready to give your customers the best possible experience (in your view). The thought of delaying a launch to further develop your product is scary, but the delay is a double-edged sword that we must be cognisant of - continuing to push back launches to fix "one more thing" can do more harm than good.

After all, what good is it if you can't get it into the hands of your customers?

You can tell yourself all the reasons why you shouldn't launch, here are a few that have held me back along the way:

  • The product's design isn't final.
  • The pricing or marketing strategies aren't validated.
  • The final feature needs to be added.
  • The help docs need more work.
  • The article needs a better hook.

They can all be valid, but rarely are these reasons enough to withhold shipping your work. They're "nice-to-haves" that we convince ourselves are "must-haves" in the release.

There's good news for you perfectionists out there... The internet is fluid and allows edits. Huzzah!

The single greatest tool of the internet for creators: editing.

Of course, this isn't the case with our beloved Tweets, but our overall ability to gather feedback, edit our work, and reship it to the world makes shipping unperfected work advantageous.

Now that there is little downside to sharing whatever you've written or built as soon as it's done, the biggest barrier to getting your ideas out is internal - your own fear of rejection.

I read a story shared by the former White House U.S. Chief Data Scientist, DJ Patil, about his time in government and what he needed to do to make the country a bit better each day. He talked about how focused on shipping products became a critical tool for him and his team. This was the first card in his notebook.

A card note shared by DJ Patel in his article, Class of 2020: from one data scientist to another.
Prototype for 1x, build for 10x, and engineer for 100x. Let’s not be afraid to test ideas out. Let’s give ourselves permission to fail. Through trial and error we’ll figure it out together. Once we’ve got the idea, then let’s scale it from small groups to neighborhoods, cities, states, the country, and then the world! - DJ Patil

Trying to launch the perfect product is a recipe for disaster. There's no such thing as a product that is 100% ready to launch. Instead, embrace all of your beta testers, even if they point out problems or issues with your product.

The only way to get ahead in business is by taking risks, and launching products before they're 100% ready is one of those risks. More and more it's becoming the standard success blueprint.

As long as you have time to make corrections if something goes wrong, don't be afraid of launching your product early!

Methods to Reaching the Finish Line

  • Define "Done": Our own interpretation and expectation of a finished product are what hold us back from shipping it out. Think about what matters most - the features or content that allow your audience to "get it" is all you need!
  • Utilize a Template/Checklist: Though your work evolves over time, the method to releasing it can often be streamlined. Build a checklist you can stick to in order to calm the noise in your own head. By knowing what you've done and what's next on the list, you build a visual map to the finish line - you'll learn to reach that finish line faster and faster each time.
  • Build Your Feedback Army: As you grow your audience, make a list of people who enjoy giving you feedback. Make it official by creating a subset you will reach out to on a regular basis - an audience who both expects and is willing to provide feedback will be far more valuable than a few close friends.

Audience of None

There is the pressure when you create something to get it out there, to send it out into the world. And that pressure becomes all the greater when you are not just writing but creating something new. You want your idea to be validated or invalidated. You want to know whether all that effort was worth it.

Find ways to share

Sometimes that means demonstrating your software or writing an explanation of what you've done. Sometimes it means sharing early drafts with people who can help you shape your work before you release it--or asking those same people for feedback once you've released it.

Don't send them something polished and perfect. Send them something you wouldn't mind throwing away but still might be worth looking at. If they say "Great!" then send it to someone else whom you respect, but who also might be willing, to be honest in a way that your first audience wasn't quite ready for.

Places where you can share your work:

  • Quora: Find conversations targeted for your potential audience and engage.
  • Medium: Write a short post on your product with simple links for readers to access. I did this recently for a weekend project called Hellur.
  • ProductHunt: Launch your product on PH and share it across social media. You'll find that engaging with those who comment on your product will provide very honest feedback on their experience and impressions.
  • Friends/Family: Someone you trust, who will give you honest criticism and suggestions. Someone who will tell you if it doesn't make any sense. You probably already have such an audience. Use them.

While you're still working on it, your idea doesn't exist in any real sense.

It's just bits in your computer, and a vague memory in your mind. It has no substance, no form. The only way for others to make sense of what you're doing is for you to put it into words and share it with them.