First Drafts

First Drafts

Fail fast and fail hard. Fail early and fail often. This message is drummed into aspiring entrepreneurs, almost like a badge of honor. The essence of the idea makes sense; you need to make mistakes to learn. And mistakes are unavoidable – you WILL make them. I have yet to meet an entrepreneur or businessperson who doesn’t have an answer to: ‘If I knew then what I know now…’

The adage is fail fast and fail hard; learn from your mistakes quickly and move on. The thing is; no one wants to fail. No one wants to see the company they’ve nurtured from a wisp of an idea, break. No one wants to let down investors, staff, customers, or spouses. No one wants to waste hours, dollars or effort.

So, how do you make your list of mistakes and still come out on top? You use a first draft. 

A first draft is a trial, a quick ‘lets see how this goes’ without allocating as much resources to it as you would the ‘real thing’. The main goal of the first draft is to run yourself through the process, familiarize yourself with anything you’re not familiar with, and make a note of what you will do next time. In some instances it also serves as a validation exercise for your idea.  It’s quick, it’s fast, it’s cheap, and it’s all about learning.

This is what a first draft might look like; lets say you have a great idea for an app. Like, ‘the idea’.

Rather than jumping in, set your idea aside for a short period of time (the time will depend on how quickly you can move through your first draft), and run through the process with a very simple idea.

Make a To-Do app. Or a calculator app. Something incredibly simple. Most calculator apps are neutral in design, so create a colorful one aimed at kids, or one for design nerds that like even the little things to look awesome. Go through the whole process of getting the app made or designed in the same way you will do for your main idea, create screenshots, set up a basic landing page and website (you don’t have to bother with getting a domain if you don’t want to – use a free host for the trial), and write up a press release.

Make all the mistakes on your first draft, so that when it comes to the real thing, you’ll hit the ground running. You’ll know where you can save time, you’ll know what you should have done, and the advice you received over the process is now put into context.

Maybe your big idea is a self-published eBook. Your first draft would be a simple (but still quality) and possibly free eBook that you write, design and format, upload and promote. You might trial your idea of using outsourcing to design the cover and edit your book for you. You might set up some Google ads, reach out to others for promotion and advertising opportunities, upload to Amazon, and create a website. When it comes to your real eBook, you’ll know where to start.

It will make the whole process straightforward, and hopefully, stress-free. Or lower stress, at least!

This concept can be applied to almost any business idea, especially if it’s online based; sales, courses, online services. If it’s offline based, explore the idea of a ‘pop up’ store or service as a first draft.

Just remember – it should be quick, cheap and simple. The best-case scenario is that your first draft will take off, and you could grow that into your big idea. The worst-case scenario is that you’ll have a much better understanding of the process for the real thing. You could almost call it failing smart. How would you create a first draft for your big idea?