How to Survive Your First Launch

How to Survive Your First Launch

Launches are a nightmare. I’d heard this from peers who’ve been through them but only actually discovered it firsthand when I recently opened the doors to Damn Fine Words, my writing course.

I was confident. I was ready. Everything was all set…

And then it all hit the fan.

Not that anyone noticed. In fact, the launch looked smooth as silk from the outside. Behind the scenes? It was a whole ‘nother story, folks.

So today I’d like to share some of my launch experience and the lessons I learned with you, so that you can prepare for your own launch nightmare… and turn it into a sweet, dreamy day at the beach.

Lesson 1: You’ll suck at estimating time.

No matter how much time you’ve given yourself to prepare for the launch, you haven’t given yourself enough.

I’m not kidding. Human beings are notoriously bad at estimating time. We consistently under- and over-estimate time-based tasks. We unconsciously exaggerate how much time we actually spend on what we’ do and cut ourselves short on the time we truly need to get tasks done.

If you think you’ll be ready to launch in one week, give yourself two weeks. If you think that promo email will take an hour to write, assume it’ll take three.

Always, always give yourself more time than you think you need. Trust me: You’ll thank yourself later.

Lesson 2: You’ll forget a million details.

You can plan your launch down to the tiniest to-do, but despite your most meticulous efforts, you’ll probably overlook several key tasks. And you’ll completely miss some crucial ones.

That’s because people tend to create to-do lists based on larger tasks – “set up a series of promo emails”, for example. But those aren’t tasks. They’re reminders.

That series of promo emails? To get that “task” done, you actually need to set up your newsletter, fix the format, write the emails, check the sequence, add links, and schedule for delivery. Whew! And even all those tasks have sub-tasks as well!

Plan your launch down to minute details – and go as deep as you can. Try to think of all the steps that go into completing the task. Write them down in checklist format.

You won’t think of everything, but you’ll have less slip through the cracks.

Lesson 3: You’ll screw something up – and that’s okay.

Don’t bust your head trying to get your launch perfect. Something is bound to go wrong.

And that’s okay. The world won’t end, lightning won’t strike you dead, and your audience won’t come after you with pitchforks. They’ll probably just email you and nicely say, “Hey, this doesn’t work right. Can you help?” or, “I’m trying to do that, but I can’t, for some reason. What’s up?”

Fix the issue, email them back and life goes on. Everyone’s happy.

Stressing about getting your launch perfect is a sure way to make sure that you never actually launch at all. Striving for perfection is a form of self-sabotage… so crush the urge to tinker forever and just LAUNCH, already!

Lesson 4: You’ll piss someone off – and that’s okay too.

You know the saying: You can’t please everyone all the time.

That goes triple for launches.

You’ll probably hear from that one person who got up on the wrong side of bed and decided that taking it out on you was a Really Good Idea. Maybe he hates your marketing strategy. Maybe she thinks your price point is ridiculous. Maybe he thinks your mother’s ugly and dresses you funny.

Whatever. Roll your eyes and carry on. You can’t please the critics, so why bother wasting energy on them?

Smile, thank them for their thoughts, and go do more important things. Like getting on with your launch.

Lesson 5: You’ll wonder where your friends went.

If you’re lucky, you have friends who’ll support your launch just because they feel the love and believe in the awesome product you’ve created.

And if you have those kinds of friends, hang onto them. They’re awesome.

But most people won’t help you out with your launch, even if you’re buddies. And that’s okay – they’re busy with their own stuff. They have their own priorities. You shouldn’t depend on others to pitch, promote, and cheer for your stuff.

That said, you can still ask people for help. And some will totally surprise you by generously offering their time and support. (On that note, thank you Brian, Liz, Karl, Adam, Peter, Andy – you guys were fantastic!)

Lesson 6: You’ll ignore your life.

Did I mention launches were exhausting?

Yeah, big time. And they’re stressful. There’s a lot to do. There’s a lot to remember. There’s a lot to take care of. And while you’re stressing and scrambling (because trust me, you will), you’re going to be riding an emotional roller coaster that ranges between “WOO HOO!” and “Oh shit”.

So that means you might not be sleeping well. You might be skipping meals or eating poorly. You might be up early (did I mention you might not sleep well?) or stay up too late. You might feel tired and elated and frantic and stoked and panicked and excited and all sorts of things.

All at once.

After a few days, you might not even feel coherent… let alone sound it to your family and friends.

No launch should ever overtake your world, even for a day. It’s just a launch. Of course you have hopes riding on it, but this isn’t a life-or-death situation. Really.

Take care of yourself. Eat. Sleep. Take breaks. Laugh with your family. Sit in the sun. Go for a walk. Work regular, normal hours each day and have a regular, normal life.

‘Nuff said.

Have you ever launched anything? What was your experience? Have any lessons you learned or tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comment section!

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. I’ve launched a business…

    Most of it still applies.

    In particular, there’s a real tendency to focus on the negative… what people will think, what risks will be realised.

    It helps if you have some objective ways to measure whether something’s going well, instead of falling into baseless thoughts. If your research indicates a real need, and your service is unique, I don’t think anyone has the right to expect their criticism of your product or service will hold water.

    Likewise, while risks may happen, it’s always better to try and quantify those. Then the risks might not look so big to you, yet to people looking from the outside you may look really confident.

  2. Yup, every single point you’ve mentioned rang true, but the one that best summarises how I felt during the launch of my site is “riding an emotional roller coaster that ranges between ‘WOO HOO!’ and ‘Oh shit’.”
    The most useful thing that came out of my first launch experience was the ability to look back and see which things I can do better next time. Imperfect launch is an invaluable experience.

    • YES. That’s what I said: I won’t get it perfect (and don’t really want to). But I most certainly DO want to learn from the experience and make Damn Fine Words Edition Two’s launch even better.

  3. James, I’m so glad you launched your program. Now that that’s out of the way, you can finally write a book. 😉

    I knew you’d kick some ass with DFW.

    Shane

  4. James,

    Excellent points, all relevant. Probably the one I fall victim to is the time element. I just expect everything and everyone to move as fast and decisive as I do. Oh gee…. guess what? They’re not all hares. in fact, most are tortoises… and this is especially emphasized when speed is what I am after.

    I’ve made allowances for those slow movers now… but it’s never enough!!

    • Yeah, I’m that way too. I’ve been working on remembering that all things considered, the time-based stuff isn’t really as urgent as I think it is. (I still think it IS, of course, but hey.)

  5. LOL Bravo James!
    Although I haven’t made a major launch yet, I’ve experienced all these just launching my first eBook.

  6. You did an amazing job. I’m so glad I was able to help you. That’s why I love what I do. I get to help amazing people bring attention to their projects.

    • It was a very cool experience – especially the part where I threw you a challenge and you said, “Yeah? DONE, baby!” Was so great, and thanks for your part in it!

      (Everyone should go listen to the Damn Fine Words Twitter party interview – me, Brian Clark, Liz Strauss and Peter Shallard talking writing!)

  7. I’ve never launched a program like DFW, but I can relate to your points having launched a business. But you missed all of the points of exhilaration, which are certainly worth noting (if only to balance out the crap)! You’ll have boundless adrenalin (before you crash). You will be overwhelmed with pride and excitement. You will feel a renewed sense of control and ownership. People will look up to you and turn to you for advice. You will have impact.

    • In my particular case, I kept my exhilaration nicely in check. I’d set goals – very small ones. And when I reached them, I didn’t let myself cheer much. I’d say, “I knew I could do it,” and then set a new goal, just a little farther out.

      That way, I never reached the “victory!” point… which often causes freelancers to start coasting on their laurels. Instead, I challenged myself to go a little farther, a little farther, a little farther…

      And when it was all done and doors closed… THEN I cheered. :)

  8. I wonder if I’ll ever get used to launch insanity. Or actually put Lesson #6 into place. :)

    Anyway, you certainly gave a great impression of everything going flawlessly. :)

  9. James,

    Great points here! I concur! I recently released my second product (first was in a completely different niche.) Even though I had done it before, and experienced most of what you said I fell into just about everyone of these and ended up releasing almost hours before I left the country on a month long trip.

    Which of course threw a monkey wrench into marketing. (though I did some while traveling)

    Anyhow congrats on releasing your product. Maybe after 5-6 of these they become easier?

  10. This is cool and all … make me hope I’ll never have to launch anything haha.

    Okay I got just ONE question.

    What are you doing with all your sub headlines in h1 tags? I’m sure you know Google doesn’t like that … which makes me think you’ve got some nifty trick up your sleeve or something. 😉

    • I always have nifty tricks up my sleeve! … but not in this case. I was so focused on getting the right font height/color that I forgot about that.

      (Thanks!)

  11. Love the post, James. Goes to show that no matter how experienced, successful, or smart you are, there are always things to be learned. I bet even people who have done a dozen launches are still learning. But that’s what successful and wealthy people do, right? Always learn and always stay curious.

    As you know I launched an ebook a little over a year ago and since have been developing my relationship with my customers. I’m also getting close to starting another launch, just need to finish building the rocket first.

    Yeah I’ve experienced a lot of the sorts of things you listed above. You certainly can’t please every single person out there, that’s for sure. I had one guy unsubscribe from my newsletter and left feedback as, “Stupid Guy.”

    I couldn’t resist so I emailed him and asked him what triggered his remark that I was a stupid guy. He emailed back, very angry, that he was extremely upset because I didn’t reply to one of his emails… mind you I replied to a few but the last email he sent me was this question here: “I’ve been trying for 6 months to make money online and I’m just not making any. How do I make money online?”

    Uh… not a 60 second email, ya know.

    Little did the guy know I had his email tagged in my Inbox for reply later, but apparently since I didn’t respond within 3 days I was a stupid guy. Then a few days later, he resubscribed and apologized.

    Here’s the takeaway….

    One thing I have learned is that although we can figure out some things about our target customers, like age range, location, browser they are using, etc.

    We can never truly know who our customers are. What baggage are they bringing to the table? Are they at work when they communicate with you? Did they just get in a fight with a spouse? Are there children screaming in the background getting our target customer stressed out?

    For the guy on my newsletter, he had just gotten off a bad experience with another marketer, so he was upset.

    The only certainty that we have is that we are uncertain about a great many things when we launch.

  12. The launch looked awesome awesome from this end. You asked for input from your fans, you field tested and created a product everyone (with a brain) would love, you spent a year in development, you did the pre-launch buzz, as it got closer you were public for guest posts and interviews (actually putting your voice on the web), former clients gave testimonials, you created scarcity by giving discounts in short time-frame, you were visible online, you did it all.

    Plus, you know that the launch is just the beginning, you are putting talent and energy into the delivery of your product.

    I’m sure Damn Fine Words will be an Damn Fine Success.

    Hope you are yelling “WOO HOO!” and sipping cold ones on the beach.

  13. Hi James, congrats.

    May I add #7: “You May Come Uncomfortably Close to a Divorce – and that’s not OK”

    I’ve launched a ton of things in my “day job” (that’s what we do – we launch and relaunch products, programs, and projects), but launching my own book has been different. To the point of my wife, who’s an absolute angel, telling me, “Maybe you want to do that writing thing alone?”

    I’m off to check out Damn Fine Words! :)

    • Ooooh, yeah. I was actually proactive and said, “In a month, I will be incoherent. For about two weeks. I’m sorry in advance; bear with me.”

      I was told that had he NOT known ahead of time, he would definitely have been… not happy. Knowing what was coming made him very able to be supportive and helpful during that time.

      But the only reason *I* knew to mention it was because I’d heard about the couple issues a launch caused with other friends I knew.

      • Being proactive wins – glad he supported you through. I massively screwed up by having the “Never mind, it’s just a book launch” attitude. Ha.

        Enough was enough when, instead of reading a bedtime story for my daughter, I passed out with exhaustion on the floor in her room earlier this week…

        Quite an experience, those launches.

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