A Guest Post by Phil Hughes
“Progress over perfection”. I’ve written this on the whiteboard next to my standing desk in the home office/guitar studio/mancave/junk room.
I heard this statement earlier on in the year. Must have been around May or June, it instantly struck a chord with me.
Working full time and trying to get no less than 3 side hustles and a podcast off the ground is a big ask.
I have used the progress over perfection mantra before. It was worded slightly differently; I can’t remember the exact statement.
However, I hadn’t fully embraced the concept.
When it came to my core skill of software development, I could easily apply this principle.
Every other part of the side hustle lifestyle was still “I got to make sure this is the best it can be”.
Already Integrated into My 9-5
Like I’ve just touched on. I’ve used progress over perfection, day to day with my software development ‘hat’ on.
I’m going to sound arrogant now. Having spent 14+ years developing software, I’m confident in my skills and the fact I can get stuff done and out the door, quicker than a lot of my “development” peers.
By using this principle, I can get the feature ‘X’ out to the world. Start feature ‘Y’ and deliver that in rapid time. Same too with Feature ‘Z’
Then go back to feature ‘X’ and make it better. Progress over perfection in action.
Progress Over Perfection – A Real World App Example
I’m writing this post towards the end of 2020, having gone through the Coronavirus pandemic.
At the start of lockdown, I had more spare time and I came up with a mobile app idea for a hobby of mine, fishing.
After doing a bit of product validation and finding out what other fishermen would like to see in the app. I sketched out the features I was going to include in version 1 of the app.
One of the features was to allow the user to upload photos to the app, linking them to a fishing trip.
Having never done anything like this before, it was a learning curve, to say the least. I decided to use the “progress over perfection” mantra by making sure the uploading, editing, removing, and retrieving of the photos, from a functionality point of view, was “perfect”
However, the way the user uploaded the photos and then viewing them was shocking, “perfect” was just a dot on the horizon.
5 months after the initial idea came to me, I had published the app on both platforms. WAHOO!
After feedback from people testing version 1. And the fact I wasn’t happy with the photo upload/viewing features. I have been able to start work on version 1.1 to sort this problem out.
Another day or two and I will have a slick way of managing the photos. Be able to release an update very quickly. As well as ironing out a few bugs that have come to light.
I genuinely believe if I had kept on working on the app until I was entirely happy with the photo functionality, I wouldn’t have it published or have people downloading the app and using it.
The key here was “progress over perfection” to get something live that was usable, then go from there.
Side Hustling and What You Need To Learn
When it comes to other aspects of side hustling, I’m still “newborn” in a lot of the skills you need.
Writing blog posts, writing social media posts, copywriting, creating nice-looking webpages, building sales funnels, creating ads, shooting walkthroughs for YouTube, recording video sales letters, editing videos, coming up with offers, researching, scheming and plotting, creating eBooks, creating eBook covers, creating eBook mock-ups, recording podcasts, editing podcasts.
How did I come up with that list of things to do? I looked at my planner at what tasks I wanted to achieve over the last 2 weeks.
That’s on top of coding 3 software products by myself. Working 8-4 Monday through Thursday. And, having a life, like spending time with my wife, playing guitar, and going fishing.
It can be very overwhelming.
You see how great other people are at all these other things and want your stuff to be as “perfect” as theirs
That’s why this new mantra has been a bit of a breakthrough for me.
Progress Over Perfection and Switching Your Mindset
As I’ve touched upon. For certain aspects of my day to day I would apply “progress over perfection”. Not all aspects though.
Hearing this really got me thinking about what I wanted to achieve.
One thing it also did was remove some fear I had around things.
For example, I had started digging deep into the concept of creating online sales funnels to promote my products and reach my “golden goose” of 350 paying customers.
My dream is to work for myself running a software product. After a bit of number crunching, I worked out I would need 350 monthly subscribers for me to realize my dream.
Sales funnels could help me achieve this.
Sales Funnel Progress Over Perfection
This is where the fear kicked in. I was worried that I would create a sales funnel, it would completely bomb, and I would feel like a failure.
I wanted my sales funnels to be successful as soon as I start driving traffic to it. If this were a software product, I wouldn’t think like that. I know they will be some bugs and users would probably want something different than what I had built.
After consuming a lot of content around the sales funnel process and how even the most experienced “funnel hackers” can’t get their funnel to work out of the gate.
I decided that I just need to get it out there and see what “feedback” I get.
So, I continued to put it together as best I could, giving myself a time constraint that it must be done by the end of that week. Then the week after I could drive some paid traffic to it.
I got the opt-in page up and running, where someone could submit their details and in return get a free eBook user guide.
Next, I spent most of my time working on the sales page and putting together an offer and pricing.
Thirdly, I added a “One Time Offer” that the person would be shown if they subscribed to the product I was promoting on the sales page.
Finally, I put together an email sequence that would be sent to anyone who opted in for the free eBook, as a follow up to get them to revisit my funnel.
The next week I created a Facebook ad campaign and got loads of people into the funnel. Guess how many sales I made?
Analyzing the Results
Sounds terrible right? It was, but I wasn’t downhearted.
Looking into the stats, the opt-in page was working. I was getting almost 45% of the visitors to put in their email address and request a copy of the eBook.
Yes, no one bought from me. I knew that part of my sales funnel did work. However, I was building an email list of people that I could keep in contact with, which I hadn’t be able to do before.
“Progress over perfection”.
I ended up scrapping this funnel as I still didn’t ‘convert’ after a few attempts at rewriting parts of the sales page.
Taking the learnings from the opt-in success, I created a brand-new funnel. This targeted a different group of people. Again, this funnel wasn’t the success I wanted. My opt-in rate was still high, 35% and I got my first ever paying customer.
Someone signed up and subscribed to my software product called Outflash. They even took my up one-time offer.
I was blown away. Yes, it wasn’t the riches you pray for, but I had made progress on this skill.
Progress! Progress towards what I deem successful.
Podcasting and Getting Yourself Out There
A problem with being a developer, is you think it will be like the movie Field of Dreams. “Build it and they will come”. With a software product, this NEVER happens.
Someone said if you want to get yourself out there to promote your products and services. Use a platform or media that you enjoy yourself. For me this was podcasting.
I’m an avid podcast listener. Whether it be working out, going for a run, listening while coding. I even put a podcast on while cooking a Sunday Dinner.
Starting a podcast can be scary though. What do I talk about? Do I have enough content to get past the first 10 episodes? How do I even publish a podcast? Which platforms do I publish to?
Excuses, Excuses, Just Do It
Having mild success with the sales funnels gave me a lot of belief in the saying “Just Do It”.
One of the podcasts I listen to is by two guys that have launched their own podcasting hosting and publishing platform. I know, a bit Inception right!
So, I decided to use their platform to publish and host my podcast. Which platforms to publish to? Their service had guides on how to publish to Apple and Google podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. I didn’t overthink it, I registered with those 4 providers first and thought, “progress over perfection”, I can publish to more platforms later.
People also think they need a mass of equipment to record and edit a podcast. I was on a roll; nothing was stopping me from getting my first episode out to the world.
Quickly opening Amazon and searching for “cheap podcast mic”. I bought the 3rd one I saw for £20, with Amazon Prime it was delivered the next day.
In another quick search for “free podcast editing software,” I found a piece of software that I could do basic audio editing with, like snipping or increasing the volume.
Other People Skills To Progress Over Perfection
The last two pieces of the podcasting puzzle were that I needed a logo/header for the podcast that will be unique to me and my chosen topic.
I have used Fiverr in the past and thought it would be a good place to find someone to do it for me, quickly.
If I didn’t like it, I could always change it a few months down the line. I found someone who had a decent portfolio of similar work, that wasn’t too pricy. I put the order in, with a description of what I was looking for, and forgot about it for the rest of the evening.
While the logo was being designed, I needed to get together a list of episode ideas so I could record a least a handful to get me started.
This time I turned to Evernote, created a new note, and spent 20-30 minutes listing the “title” for each episode/idea.
Turns out, I didn’t have 10 episodes in me, I had no less than 40 ideas jotted down.
The next day started off with a pleasant surprise. The guy had finished the podcast logo and it was a lot better than I had expected. In fact, I haven’t changed the logo and have no intentions of doing it.
If I had tried to create my own design, I would have wasted a week playing around with loads of different designs. It would have been awful compared to what I had received in less than 24 hours.
Progress Leads To Opportunity
I can tell you about the dates. I said to myself on the 3rd July 2020, I’m going to have a podcast done and published by the end of this month, no excuses “progress over perfection”.
The first episode of my podcast went live on the 16th of July 2020 and by the end of 2020, I will have published one episode every week, consistently.
Having my own podcast has led to loads of opportunities. I’ve been able to interview 6 people on the podcast with another couple of interviews lined up for the start of 2021.
This has grown my network of contacts so quickly. A week doesn’t seem to go by without me speaking to one of these new people, either on social media, via email, or on a zoom call.
One of my software products Elementary Analytics has had more interest in the last 6 months than in the first 2 years of building it. Because I’ve mentioned it a few times on the podcast.
And my podcast, Find Your Side Hustle is going to be listed as a featured podcast on the home page of a new podcasting directory that is launching very soon.
Progress over perfection has led to all these opportunities. If I had waited and tried to make the best podcast I could, I would still be tweaking a design in Canva.
Progress Over Perfection and YouTubing
YouTube is a great platform.
Where else can you upload as many videos as you would like, about whatever you want to chat about or record? For free! Get people to find your videos over and over.
YouTube even pay you money. It’s insane.
The scary thing with YouTube is being comfortable in front of the camera. To me, this is far scarier than podcasting.
In fact, the first few videos I recorded, I just recorded my computer screen and I talked over it.
So, how did I use progress over perfection for my YouTube videos?
I wanted to record 3 tutorials, showing how you can install and authorize Outflash, the email add-in for Outlook I have built, to send emails or you. The third video running through how to use it to send your first emails.
Again, I just smashed these videos out one afternoon. Did a bit of editing, uploaded them to YouTube, and linked back to them on Outflash’s marketing site.
Job done….for now.
After releasing some improvements to Outflash. I needed to record more up to date tutorial videos.
This time, it wasn’t as scary to do this. I decided to show my “ugly mug” in the top corner of the video as I’m running through things. Giving my video a more personal touch.
For the new videos, I’ve been able to get a cool animated intro/outro made for Outflash, again using Fiverr.
The second batch of these video looks more professional, personal, and are more in-depth than the first three.
If I hadn’t done the original batch of videos. I wouldn’t have known how and where to improve them. You need to get stuff done to see where the improvement can be made.
If everything is always inside your head, you will never move forwards with anything.
Repurposing Your Content
I did some basic editing and realized that I needed an intro and outro “video” for these videos. After a bit of searching, I found a website that would put a soundwave on top of an image for you.
Great, I had a voice recording of the podcast intro and my logo. I spent all of 5 minutes creating the videos that would be at the start and end of all the podcast interviews on YouTube.
Blockage #1 cleared.
It is also recommended to upload a thumbnail for each video too. In the past, I would spend hours googling and reading the best way to create a thumbnail.
I just wanted the videos uploaded. I turned to Canva, created a basic, but very boring thumbnail template which I could change as needed.
Blockage #2 cleared too.
Before I knew it, I had 4/5 podcast interviews uploaded on my channel. Amazing. The thumbnails were pretty bad, but they served their purpose.
Knowing What You Don’t Know
Interestingly a month or two later. I was listening to a podcast and the host introduced a YouTube expert and he started discussing how to create thumbnails for your videos to catch people’s attention.
It was interesting stuff.
As soon as the podcast was over, I logged back into Canva, created a brand-new template using the tips from the podcast. Then spent the next 15-20 minutes redoing all the thumbnails and replacing them on each video.
Progress over perfection when you know what you don’t know.
If I had spent hours trying to work out the best way to record, edit, and produce each video, nothing would have ever been uploaded.
In the past I would have wasted probably a whole week playing with these videos, trying to get them to a place that I was happy with.
What happened instead, as I spent a morning getting the first batch done and dusted. Not knowing how to do certain things didn’t stop me.
It’s funny how things pan out. Stepping back from the videos for a few weeks, I discovered a great way to structure thumbnails. Which took another 30 minutes to replace the old ones.
Which is best?
A weeks’ worth of effort or 4 hours’ worth of intense focus spread over a month. For me, it must be the latter.
If I had spent hours debating how to design a thumbnail. When I heard the tips on the podcast, I wouldn’t have gone back and changed anything. I wouldn’t have wanted to feel like those hours were wasted effort.
Using “progress over perfection” means you don’t feel like time has been wasted when changing and improving things. It’s a more natural progression.
You will never know what you don’t know. So just get something out there. Eventually, the answers will become clear.
Progressing With Your Website
One of the most important things you need to have when starting a side hustle is a website. I believe having a personal blog is also an amazing thing to have.
You never know what content will reach people and build a relationship with them.
The problem is websites can be hard to setup and maintain.
I recently decided to change the design and page structure of the marketing site for Outflash.
If you are familiar with SEO you probably know they are many moving parts to this. One of them is the speed of your site.
After a bit of testing, I found that the WordPress theme I was using and a few of the plugins were slowing the loading of my website down.
I also wanted to create 9 or 10 new “landing pages” that would be linked to the home page of the website.
This was a daunting task as there seemed to be too many things to focus on.
How could I use progress over perfection this time?
Modeling What Is Working
I’m a big fan of some of the things that Tony Robbins has put out over the years. One thing I love is his saying:
“Model what is working and learn from successful people, who have trodden the path in front of you”.
I don’t think I’ve got the statement exactly right…you know what I mean though, right? I knew this is how I could get my website moving in a new direction.
Having found a new WordPress theme that was simple, played well with a few of the plugin I liked to use. And the fact it was designed to load very quickly. I had the first piece of the jigsaw in place.
Next, was to come up with a design. Having worked as a software developer, mainly skilled in backend processing and automation. Design isn’t one of my strong points.
I had found a site that had some nice designs on there and found one I liked. I took the 3 main colors from this design, plugged them into my new theme. Then looked at how they laid out content on the home page and how they shaped their images, etc.
Having spent no more than 2 hours on the site. I had a completely new design, which I preferred to the old one and it loaded a lot faster. Job done.
Progressively Structuring Your Content
The next part of the day was arguably the hardest.
How do I get all the new pages filled with content? How do I structure the content? How do I structure the pages?
I decided my goal was to get the pages published first and foremost. Alternatively, I have published a new page each day/week over the next month or so?
In my experience, this means the pages would never get published. They must be done there and then.
Another tactic could be to put out “under construction” pages on the site which is more likely to make you revisit them.
This could work, but would I just end up deleting the under-construction page and remove any links to it?
I had to get it all done, today.
Using the modeling mantra, alongside progress over perfection. I looked at how one of my competitors (who was killing it from an SEO point of view) had structured their home page and landing pages. I knew that was the way to go.
Now, a word of warning. This isn’t a “copy and paste” task. You aren’t just blatantly copying them with a change of color here, a different button there.
You need to look at how they structure a page and replace the content with your own words and voice. Then, plugin in your theme and design too.
That said, I spent most of the day creating a template in my site that I could re-use, then put the copy into each page.
Again, you just need to get the initial draft published. My goal with each of these pages, now they are live, is to go back and refine the wording on them.
The structure is done and dusted. Using a design that you know is working for someone who is in your market.
The progress with this is coming with, testing, and refining you message on the page. This time the progress isn’t the design. It’s the content.
I will let you know how I’m getting on with this. So far, the site is working well and I have a great foundation to build on, to progress with.
There you have it.
My experience in using “progress over perfection” when it comes to all aspects of my side hustle work.
I could go on and on about other things I have been doing. I just wanted to give you a snapshot of the sorts of things I have been working on. How quickly I have been able to get things done, then build on that initial foundation.
I have honestly been able to get so much done in the past 6 months since first hearing progress over perfection, it’s unreal.
What this saying does is to take the overwhelm out of a task. At the start of the year my task list each week was huge. I had a second backlog list too, that was also growing.
This week I have 5 things that I would like to get done. With a few more on there in case, I rattle through them.
These 5 tasks aren’t “final” either. I want to launch another couple of sales funnels and revisit some that are in the test phase right now.
Each week I’m putting stuff out and refining stuff that is “live”. It’s ongoing and a lot less daunting, easier for you to manage and get your stuff out to the world.
I hope you find this blog post useful and I would love to hear your feedback.
Here’s to your successes.
P.S. If you would like to know more about me, you can visit my personal blog here.
Below are links to the 3 side hustles that I have mentioned.