The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 23.44

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Original image by Hannah Wei on Unsplash

The escalating costs of unfinished business

There’s a truism in the software world:

It costs about 1,000 times more to fix a problem after the product has shipped than fixing it during the design stage.

The principle is simple: just about any software product consists of tens or hundreds of thousands of lines of code. The code, even when well written, is so large that when you change something in one place, it can affect other parts of the code. Bugs appear. Debugging commences.

Now you’re stuck with trolling through thousands of lines of code and multiple interdependencies to fix the problem. If only you had spent more time on the design, this problem would never have happened.

The same things happen in the business world

Take the case of my logo for SoloBOSS, for example

When I started out with SoloBOSS, one of the things I knew I had to create was a compelling logo. A couple of months ago, without really thinking about it (and lured into the promise of AI-generated logos and brands), I started poking around the Internet. A couple of AI-assisted logo sessions later, I had something I thought was not half bad. Here it is:

My first attempt at a logo.

I sort of liked the circle, loved the font, and the gold gradient text on the dark blue background looked, well, enticing to me.

I shared this with my Mastermind group (one of whom is one of the most respected brand strategists out there), and the response was underwhelming.

So I parked the idea of generating a logo while I focused on completing SoloBOSS and the other bits and pieces.

Fast forward a few months

Today I’m starting formal beta testing and the topic of the logo came up again. After all, when I go into full-blown launch mode I need to have this thing polished, right?

I like to think that I’m good at quite a few things, but I know that I’m no designer. But I didn’t let that hold me back. I started playing around with logos again (unplanned, again), and with some more AI assistance came up with this version:

Second attempt - not much better?

Again, back to my Mastermind group and again — the response was underwhelming.

I know I will have to do this the right way, and I also know that’s going to take effort and time.

The cost of this unfinished business is escalating

So here I am, starting beta testing and getting ready to launch, pressure is mounting, and the number of unfinished items is beginning to make me nervous.

There are three fundamental problems we have to deal with here.

1. The number of things we have to do

There’s a tremendous amount of stuff that goes into building a business, an online course, or a product (like SoloBOSS). As solopreneurs, we feel we have to everything ourselves, so we sentence ourselves to doing things we’re ill equipped to do.

Or in my case, trying to design a logo when I know I’m just not that good at graphic design.

The sheer number of things we have to get done is a conscious and subconscious burden. We carry it with us, and over time it creates stress. And stress, as we know, is the enemy of creativity and getting things done.

2. Unfinished business creates more anxiety

To compound the stress of all the stuff we have to do, unfinished business (the logo, in my case) contributes to our feelings of unease and anxiety.

My response to this is to work harder, but that doesn’t end well.

Anxiety never produces great results. Working harder is not always the answer. And diving down rabbit holes (especially when driven by anxiety) seldom produces anything good.

3. We don’t remember what’s done - and what not

The third problem is that when we work on something half way, leave it and come back later, we can’t remember what we did and what still needs to be done.

So now we have to play catch up, get familiar with the problem again, and find out what we still need to do. More time, more hassle.

If the thing you’re working on is small and self-contained this is not a huge problem. But throw in one big thing and a couple of smaller things and the number of things you have to remember gets overwhelming.

How the costs mount up

So here we are:

  • There’s a ton of stuff to do.
  • We forget what we did and still needs to be done.
  • We’re getting more and more anxious.

And this adds up:

  • We work harder and longer.
  • We jump from one unfinished piece of business to the next.
  • We don’t produce our best work when we’re anxious.

So, what to do?

How to avoid the escalating costs of unfinished business

On the face of it, the answer is simple:

Finish each piece of work, and do it well, so it doesn’t come back to haunt you.

(When someone starts a sentence with “on the face of it”, you just know it’s a lead-in to hidden complexities. But bear with me…)

The first thing you have to learn (or rather, teach yourself) is a mind trick.

The mind trick that will help you finish stuff

Sometimes you just have to say:

Damn the consequences, get this done now.

Tell yourself:

Despite all the other things clamouring for my attention, I’m going to focus on just this thing and get it done. Even if it means that someone has to wait. Even if it means I will have to scramble to get other stuff done later.

You do of course need to be responsible. If a client is waiting for something you promised to deliver today, get that done first. If there’s some deadline that will have negative consequences if you don’t meet it, do that now.

But when that one thing has been waiting in the wings for too long, not done or half done, just put everything else aside and get this one thing done.

Once you’ve mastered the mind trick, you have to get stuff done. There are three situations:

1. If you know how to do it

if you know how to do something, all you really need to do is sit down and do it. Get it done, and do it well enough so you know it won’t come back to haunt you.

I know how to build a product like SoloBOSS. It’s big, so I break it down into chunks, and I use it myself (multiple times a day), so I understand what works and what doesn’t. And my alpha testers (a small number of tech savvy people who love to play with technology), gave me lots of feedback.

It didn’t happen overnight (in fact, it’s been months in the making), but fundamentally I know how to do it so the only real cost is my time.

2. You don’t know how to do it, and you can afford to outsource it

When you don’t know how to do something, the best thing to do is outsource it.

There are usually lots of options available – for a logo (in my case), I can go anywhere from Fiverr to respected graphic designers. You usually get what you pay for (so be cautious of cheap promises), but keep in mind that high cost does not always mean into high quality.

You will still have to spend time with the person doing the work. They will need information and guidance from you, so don’t skimp on that.

3. You don’t know how to do it, and you don’t have no budget

This is where many solopreneurs are. Big ambitions, small purses.

And that’s fine – this is where many of us start.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Check to see if there are cheap options. I’ve had some amazing results from Fiverr and Upwork, so even a small investment can get you what you need. (There are 270,770 people on Fiverr who do logo work - I just checked.)
  • Ask an AI to help. One of the things AI’s like ChatGPT are really good at is to distill expertise into something you can use.

AI is the biggest thing that’s happened to the world (and especially solopreneurs). It can teach you stuff, it can help you do stuff – invest the time to learn how to use it well.

And finally, knuckle down and just do it.

So what’s with the logo?

I’ve found someone on Fiverr who I’m going to engage right after I post this. I will let you know how it goes.

What are you waiting for? Go and get that thing done! 😁