Did you see The Transporter? It’s quite a ride. Jason Statham’s character, Frank Martin, survives his high-octane lifestyle by following certain rules:
#1. The deal is the deal.
#2. No names.
#3. Never open the package.
I imagined how might Frank might filter “money-making opportunities”. What projects would he take on to live large and avoid entrapment? Which would he skip? Let’s take a look. How does your project score against these 10 rules?
1. Productize Your Service
Most services involve too many variables and options to support confident repetition.
The solution is to package your service as a standardized product.
Can you design your product such that you get paid on a recurring basis? Even better!
For individuals and micro-teams, the “product” is likely to be niche knowledge: consulting, training, coaching, speaking, writing, technical solutions, or information. It could be a physical product as well, as long as it’s not customized (rule #2).
2. Repeat and Refine
Customization will drive you crazy. Even expending the energy to consider individual customer whims increases the likelihood the project will be far too time-consuming. Custom work involves too many unknowns and unique modifications. It’s unscalable and potentially disheartening.
The antidote to customization is to select projects that are sharply defined and that lend themselves to repetition and continuous refinement — kaizen. Each project (or customer) may still be unique, but the process should be the same.
3. Market What You Know
It’s so tempting to get involved with projects that are beyond your experience and skill set. It’s a growth opportunity!
But no matter how straightforward something *should* be, it often turns out to be much more difficult or time-consuming.
There’s a risk of a truly bad outcome, with all the downstream reputation damage and opportunity costs that entails. For example, new technology is a notorious graveyard for the well-intentioned.
Is your project a natural fit that evolved out of real experience?
4. It’s Not a Hobby
When is a project involving art, design, writing, composition, coding, or optimizing truly finished?
It’s largely a matter of opinion. Your customer’s opinion may be different than yours.
Ideal projects are discrete. They have a beginning and an end, with a specific deliverable and known compensation.
Just say no to open-ended projects.
5. Keep it Short
For marketing purposes, your project must be explainable in a simple way. Buyers want a straightforward, clear explanation of how your product benefits them. Boil the project down to its essence, without industry jargon.
My vote for best explanation goes to Apple’s original iPod: “1,000 songs in your pocket.”
If you can’t explain your project in a concise, compelling way, maybe it’s the wrong project.
6. Deliver Fast
Low-risk, sustainable projects benefit from short delivery times. How short? Let’s say one day or less.
That might be mean actually performing the service, shipping the product, or providing customers with the resources to do the project themselves within that time frame.
Fast delivery opens myriad opportunities to earn money, and if necessary, recover from mistakes. Slow delivery leads to slow innovation and huge opportunity costs if anything goes sideways.
Speed also drives sales. Can you provide a quote, pitch your product, sign a contract, or deliver faster than anyone else? That’s a huge strategic advantage.
7. Release the Robots
Automation is the best way to extend reach, connect with ideal customers at scale, and speed things up (rule #6).
For example, automate your marketing to qualify prospects and pre-sell your product. Since computer and communications technology is ubiquitous and cheap, perhaps it can take on a role beyond marketing. Is there a way automate production and delivery?
If your project cannot be at least partially automated, consider other options.
8. Collect Up Front
Payment in advance or on-delivery minimizes cash flow problems.
The worst high-risk scenario is to invoice a few customers (or only one!) for large amounts. Invoicing relinquishes cash flow to someone else. If a major customer can’t or won’t pay, it’s game over.
The ideal low-risk scenario is for many customers to pay a small amount for a standardized product (rule #1), on a recurring basis, in advance. Use computer technology to make it happen (rule #7).
9. Differentiate or Die
Market position is how customers perceive your brand versus competitor brands.
You must define your position. Understand and control what differentiates your project from others. Low-price vs. high-price; premium vs. value; niche vs. commodity; quirky vs. mundane; adventurous vs. staid; global vs. local.
Take a close look at your potential project. Can your strongly differentiate it the market?
10. Design Your Project
All of this gets down to a core rule: you must design your project to match your nature and expected outcome.
That’s a very different mindset versus stumbling across opportunities, getting lost in research, doing anything to pay the bills, or continuing to work in an industry because you’ve been in it for ten years.
What project dovetails with your native skills? What project would be both satisfying and pass your personal filters?
Frank is an expert driver. He’s adept in the criminal world. He always finishes the job. That’s why he’s the best transporter. Highly-paid. Respected. Independent.
Distill the things you do best, then design a project around those skills and experience. Filter out the rest.