Five years ago I was screen printing and ironing t-shirts in the living room of my 5 people flat share in Shanghai.
While the entire world is producing stuff in China, there I was having my own little sweatshop.
My partner and I didn't have enough cash to pay for large quantities. We were just getting started and didn't want 1000 shirts with the exact same print on it in the exact same color.
No one wanted to produce anything for us. So I asked a friend of mine how I could do all of this stuff myself. So we went ahead, bought all the material and I started producing all our stuff in our living room. Needless to say that all of my roommates were complaining about the toxic smell in the living room.
And that was the first time in my entire life that I created something myself. I never created anything before that. I was 26 years old. And I was your typical university (business) graduate who had no clue about anything. The only thing I learned during those years was to learn stuff by heart and forget it the second I left the exam room.
I didn't learn anything about how to build a business from scratch, with zero cash in the bank. The only thing I learned was how to manage things. I learned how to be an employee and follow orders. I didn't learn how to create things. How to build something out of nothing.
Long story short, that business failed miserably...
And the next thing I did was that I started writing. Simply because that was the only thing I was able to do. I wasn't able to create anything else. I didn't know how to code or how to produce or manufacture or create anything else. And until today I never wrote a single line of code in my life.
But luckily over the years it got so easy to start and to create things that I was able to create so many different things without having to write a single line of code. Without knowing anything really.
So over the years I started dozens of websites even though I didn't know anything about web design or programming. I launched a few online shops even though I never touched a single product I was selling. I published books and created online courses. Again, without writing a single line of code or knowing anything about anything.
Of course most of these things failed miserably. And most of these things don't exist anymore. But I got better over time. So some things started working out. Some small things. And some things that were a little bigger.
So to me the 21st century really is a great time to be alive. No matter what you want to create. No matter how talented you think you are. No matter how many or how few skills you think have. Because the only skill you need is curiosity and the willingness to learn new things. And to be open minded.
That really is the only thing you need. That's the only thing that helped me to move forward. To move from one failure to the next. Until one day I was able to build a life around it.
Here's the thing...
I don't have good taste. I don't know anything about trends. I'm not a designer. Or a programmer. But still, I was able to do and create all of these things.
So how was I able to create all of these things?
I put in the work to understand how things worked. And most of the above things can be created for just a few bucks a month. And it doesn't really matter how smart you are. Or where you live. Or how much or how little money you have. Or where you went to school. All you need is the willingness to learn a few basics and to put in the work.
You don't need a college degree for any of the above things. Or rich parents. Or a huge network of people. All you need is the willingness to learn new things, to understand how they work and to learn how to leverage them.
And again, you don't need to know how to code. Or how to design. Or anything like that. Remember, I also don't know how to do any of these things. There are dozens of tools, platforms and services out there that will help you to do all of this for you.
So if the only thing you need is the willingness to learn, to adapt and to be open minded, what are the 20 rules for?
Well, these rules are some of the things I've learned over the last 4 years. There were a lot more, but I just can't remember all of them. Or write them all down. That would already be an entire book in itself. So I just wrote down a few things from the top of my head.
And I'm sure you'd learn all of these things yourself if you'd do all of the above. So I'm just summarizing them for you. And also for myself. So you might be able to save some time and energy by investing your time and energy into the right things...
# CREATE EVERY DAY
No matter what it is that you want to create. You have to do it every single day. Or every second day. But whatever you do, try to do it as often as you can.
That's the only growth hack there is. That's the only way to hack the learning curve. By doing it as often as you can. That's the only shortcut there is. That's the secret sauce. Just like I said it many times in this book already.
Skills don't matter. Because the only thing that leads to quality is quantity. No one starts as an expert. We all start from the bottom. And have to work our way to the top. That really is the only way to mastery. Create every day...
# CREATE AN AUDIENCE
One of the coolest things about creating every day is that you're going to build an audience and demand for you, your art, your product or your service at the same time. But not by trying to sell stuff. But by adding value.
So how can you add value?
By writing stuff like this right here for example. And maybe one day I'll try to sell you something. And because I tried to provide value before trying to sell you anything you might be more inclined to buy from me.
So building an audience and demand BEFORE you even try to sell your product, service, art or whatever is probably the most important thing out there.
If no one knows who you are, if no one knows what you do, what you stand for or what your product is going to be all about, no one is going to end up buying from you. No one is going to read your stuff. Or listen to your song. It all boils down to trust...
# TRUST & SHOWING UP
The more often you show up, the more people will notice and the more people will start to trust you. Of course, only if you provide value and don't try to self promote or sell stuff.
Trust is at the core of every relationship out there. Where there's no trust, there's no relationship, no marriage, no business partnership and no customer relationship.
Trust is at the core of everything. So your main goal should always be to position yourself as a trustworthy person, entity, artist, business or whatnot. That's why you should create stuff in the first place. And that's what most people get wrong...
Most people think creating stuff is to sell stuff. But it's not. You create stuff to build up trust...
# YOU WON'T GO VIRAL
Whatever you do or create, you won't go viral. Simply because you probably don't have an audience. And if you don't have an audience, then no one is going to magically find out about you, your stuff, your art, your product or your service. And then you will never go viral. don't focus on going viral. Focus on building an audience by adding value...
# LEARN ABOUT SALES, COPYWRITING, MARKETING
Sell simple things to learn about sales, marketing and copywriting. Sell orange juice. Or Christmas trees. Or whatever. But don't invest hundreds or thousands of dollars or months or maybe even years into creating something if you have no idea about marketing and sales.
Learn the basics before you create your big thing. Don't learn all of this stuff when you have your own brand, company, business or product already. Don't try to learn this stuff once you're already recorded that big album. Or created your art. Or wrote your novel.
And instead dropship products from China for example. Put together a few of your blog posts and make a book out of it. Record a few videos and try selling those as an online course. Or even easier, go to the flee market, buy stuff there and the try to sell it with a profit on Ebay.
Learn about how marketing, sales and copywriting works in a low stake environment before you move on to a high stake environment. The mechanics are always the same. If you get it right once, you'll be able to get it right over and over again.
# THE RULE OF 97%
97% of the people don't care about what you do. 97% of the people won't like you. 97% of the people won't read your stuff. Or listen to your song. Or watch your videos. 97% of the people won't buy your product. 97% of the people won't call you back. Or write back. Try to take that into account when you create your stuff...
# AVOID DEBT
Whatever you do, try to avoid getting into debt. And by the way, venture capital is also considered debt. At least in my book. Try to keep control of your life and the things you create for as long as you can...
# VALIDATE AND SELL FIRST
So how do you avoid debt then?
By selling your stuff before you have it.
By pre selling the things you want to create.
So how can you pre sell stuff?
By focusing on building an audience, a community and demand first. By building an audience before you're trying to sell your stuff. Whatever your stuff is. And you can pre sell pretty much everything. A painting. A song. A book. A product. A service. Everything...
The secret sauce is to build up trust and to show people what you're capable of doing BEFORE you ask them for a commitment. By showing them what you're capable of doing. And what problems you might be able to solve.
# OWN THE RELATIONSHIP
Whatever you do, try to get people to follow you, your work and everything you do on as many different platforms as possible and try to own the customer relationship at the same time
Now what does that even mean?
For example get them to sign up to your email list. Email is the only platform that's not controlled by a business. Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Ebay, Pinterest, Etsy and all of these platforms constantly change their algorithm. Because these businesses own the customer relationship. So they can do whatever the hell they want.
So from one day to the next you might not be able to reach your followers anymore. And you might have to go out of business. Because no reach means no revenue. That's why you have to do everything you can to own the customer relationship. And as of writing this, email is still the best way to do so...
# BE EVERYWHERE
Whatever you do, you've gotta be everywhere. On every platform. No matter what it is you're creating. Be it content, physical products, digital products or whatnot.
If you're selling physical items, sell them on Ebay, Amazon, your own shop, heck try to even sell it on Taobao (the Chinese Ebay), Lazada and any other platform out there if you can.
If you sell digital products, sell them everywhere. Be everywhere. The same holds true when you're creating content. Be everywhere. And create all sorts of different types of content...
# PEOPLE BUY WHEN THEY WANT TO
And not when you want them to. So whatever you're creating make sure you're aware of it. Most people buy when they want to buy. And it's almost never when you want them to.
So if you spend months and months building and creating your thing, remember that most people won't be interested in your stuff. So it'll probably take a few more months until they're ready. Until they trust you enough. So try to make sure you build up that trust while you create your thing...
# YOU'LL SUCK
No matter what. When you're just starting out you'll suck at it. And just like I said before, the only way to get better at it, the only way to mastery is to do it over and over again.
It's a myth. There is no such thing as a daily creation habit. Creation is a painful process. And it will never get any easier. If anything it'll get harder and harder the longer you do it. I've now been publishing one post every day for almost two years. And it never got any easier...
Don't believe me?
You don't have to. It's almost midnight right now and I'm super tired and my eyes feel like they're about to start bleeding. I can barely read anymore what I'm writing. That's also why I'm going to stop right now.
And that's what you need to know to be able to go from consumer to creator...