When should you create and market your own products?

BY TJ Walker

In MOST cases, you should wait until you already have a successful business based on one strong financial driver, i.e. you’ve developed a high end, expensive one day workshop or you’ve created a consulting practice where numerous clients are paying you substantial monthly retainers for the right to call you and get your insights.

Then, and only then, should you think about writing books, producing videos for sale (simple YouTube videos you can do anytime) or packaging sophisticated fancy information products.

Yes, there are exceptions. Occasionally, someone will have a “day” job and then write a runaway bestseller. That book then propels them financially and in every other way to top-level guru status, including top speaking fees and other lucrative businesses. But this is as rare as winning the lottery.

The far more likely scenario is for would-be gurus to splinter and fragment their time by trying to create eBooks, CDs and video products to sell when they have no clear expertise or audience of followers in that niche yet. The result is that you can easily spend 500 to 1000 hours creating, producing, marketing and distributing a product and make virtually no sales, or sell so few units of a product that it is a complete waste of time.

In the long run, yes, you will need products. You will have to have products. But in the short run, products are a sucker’s bet. It is extraordinary unlikely that product sales will amount to much unless you have a large database of people who know you, love you, admire you and are used to paying you money for your expertise. If you put the cart before the horse, you will fail. It’s only in fairy tale movies that people just write a book in their free time, mail it off to a New York City publisher, go on Oprah once and then become rich and famous. It just doesn’t work that way.

Look at overnight sensations like bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell. He wrote for years and years at the New Yorker before his first book ever came out. He gained a following. He built a reputation. He didn’t simply spring from nowhere—sadly that’s what too many aspiring gurus try to do.

My advice on products is don’t create any products for sale until you’ve figured out your one big thing that is earning you enough money left over to pay your bills, make you happy and you have enough to reinvest into your business for promotion, infrastructure, and yes, into products. (Of course you do need free products such as newsletters, YouTube videos and other digital products that can be given to prospects and clients.)

Another mistake many would-be gurus make is to create too many products. Just because you have expertise on a subject and just because the means of production for video and audio and books has become quite inexpensive, doesn’t mean you should produce a product on that subject. If you don’t have a mass following for a particular subject, plus a lot of time and money for each product too, you probably should do it. Of course all bets are off if outside publishers or producers are coming to you and are willing to pay you money up front for your creative efforts—then you should produce away!

Products are rarely the launching pad for gurus. Products will rarely make someone successful who wasn’t already successful. But products can be a great accelerator and a way for gurus to get to the next step and to cement their relationship with a wide audience. So it’s never too early to start planning, strategizing and dreaming about products.

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