November 29, 2012

Q&AA: When to Let Go of an Unsuccessful Project

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Over the next two weeks, I’ll be touring India and then traveling elsewhere in the world. While I’m away, we’ll be publishing a new series of Questions and Attempted Answers (Q&AA) from readers. I’ll share my answer, and you’re invited to share an answer of your own as well.

Today’s question comes from Nicole, who writes in from Wisconsin.

I am writing to find out if you have ever posted or written about letting a project go. I searched the archives and read The $100 Startup but haven’t found much on the topic (I could be missing it). I’m asking as I am running a local events website dedicated to connecting families to events and businesses in the area. It’s been live for six months and I spent three months building it, so about nine months total.

The readership is great, but the money is not! And no matter how I spin it, I don’t feel like it will be fruitful,and I’ve lost gusto for it (AKA no more passion). Anyway, just curious if you have written about letting a project go that wasn’t successful—how do you know it’s the right time?

Great question. Here’s my attempted answer:

You’re right, we should do something on that topic. For now, I think you’ve hit it on the head here –>

“And no matter how I spin it, I don’t feel like it will be fruitful, and I’ve lost gusto for it (AKA no more passion).”

If your project is struggling you might be able to live with one of those problems, but not both. If the project is neither financially successful nor personally motivating, there’s no need to keep it going out of obligation.

So indeed, it seems like the best thing to do is pick a new project. I don’t think this is a bad decision; I often experiment with a number of projects and stick with those that are the most successful.

Your Turn: What Would You Suggest?

Should she stick it out or move on? Have you ever abandoned a project for similar reasons, and what happened as a result?

Feel free to share your advice or experience in the comments. I’ll post as many as I can while traveling and speaking at events in India.

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*Photos from India will be posted on Instagram (user: 193countries).

Image: Dullhunk

Comment on this article

102 Responses to “Q&AA: When to Let Go of an Unsuccessful Project”

  1. I do find that sometimes when I really am stuck and want to quit soon after new discoveries and progress is made and my best work is done.
    Suzy

  2. There’s a whole book specifically on how and when to know when to quit….it’s called “The Dip” by Seth Godin; “The Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit”, and is short, tight, and magnificently comprehensive in looking at this exact issue.

    I have found it invaluable.

  3. Maybe start another and cut back her time on this one, but not nuke it.

  4. If you’re not passionate and you don’t see a way to monetize it in the next six months, it’s a great idea to let it go now. As you step away, though, take note of what lessons you could learn from it. Is there a better way to predict whether or not something will become an earner? How did you research your market? What passion was at the core of it that’s no longer being answered? Celebrate that you just had a “failure” to learn from. Most people just watched TV instead…

  5. Let it go. If you’re a trailblazer, you have to get good at both trying new things and letting old things go. And by “old” things, I’m not talking about my significant other.

  6. I recently started a new podcast and radio program. So far we have been focusing on getting the first episodes finished and published. However, I’m currently working on securing some sponsors and developing some items to give to folks that donate to support the show and to sell when we set up the e-store and support links.

    The money isn’t flowing yet, but I keep telling myself that we’re only a month in to this. We have managed to make some steady gains in audience thanks to being picked up by a new public radio network and getting featured on iTunes.

    I’m choosing to push through with my business partner because this is the thing that we’ve always wanted to do. As long as we feel good about it, we’ll keep it going somehow.

    Unless it’s something that you feel great about doing every day, even on the frustrating days, then maybe it’s time to focus on another passion. If your work isn’t contributing to your enjoyment of life, you may be making the right choice in considering a departure.

    Regardless, best of luck to you and everyone else in that situation.

  7. There is no rule in life that says you must finish what you’ve begun. “Quitters never win” is not only a myth, it’s a soul-killing axiom. In life, we are experimenters. We don’t know what will work–and what will sustain our long-term passion–until we try it, test it. Workhorses who hate what they do aren’t admirable…they are to be pitied.

  8. November 29, 2012

    Stephen Bentley

    Jasmine is absolutely correct. ‘The Dip’ is an excellent book. One that I should probably reread again as the lessons are invaluable. I’ll only add that my favorite teacher in college (Prof Mellard back in 1984) explained the notion of ‘sunk costs’ and that has stuck with me for my entire adult life. Simply put you shouldn’t base a decision to move forward on how much it has cost to get you where you are. That time/money/energy is gone no matter what. The question is are the conditions NOW or in the future worth it move forward. Cheers.

  9. EXCELLENT topic. The takeaway is crucial. I’m in the middle of such an evaluation–and it can be a real heart-breaker. Not nearly as devastating as firing someone from a job…there are MANY lessons to be learned about research, metrics, accountability… Most of us can continue a long slog through the dark, rainy “incubator” night for awhile. But once the passion is gone…well…it’s only a matter of time. And time, btw, is precious.

  10. Ask yourself if the passion is gone because of: 1. lack of success so far, or 2. erosion, over time, of belief in the project’s commercial potential, or 3. limited personal attachment to the content and nature of work, and not just to its hoped-for business potential. The problem with much entrepreneurship is that it looks without, speculating about others’ possible needs and desires. If only we could look at our best offer to the world and OUR NEED to share it. :-)

  11. I think that if the readership is good, you should not just drop it, but put the issue out there to your readers. Lay it out. “I’ve put a lot of time and energy into this project, it has been great but in order to continue, I need to be compensated for my work.” Ask the readers what they suggest. Then, next step, if nothing comes from that. “I am unable to continue my work, but since it would be a shame to just end this website, I am willing to hand the reins over to one or several of you. If you are interested, please let me know.” That way, you will either get remunerated, or if not, at least have a chance to make your work have some sort of longevity.

  12. Oh Nicole, I hear you. I published a couple of books that I thought would KILL. Had the following, etc. And sold SIX copies. Two of them my cousins bought. Sad, sad day.

    I keep this site up and I’m moving on, but the BEST thing I did was write down all the things I learned from the failure. (Yours doesn’t sound like a failure, mine, a Titanic one.)

    So write down what you learned, apply that and move on. The time was well spent when we look back on what we learned.

  13. Hi Nicole, I experienced a similar situation recently with a major side project that I’ve been trying to get off the ground since this Spring. I felt I had lost the spark over the last few months and desire to continue, but I quickly realized that it was because I wasn’t making the time and didn’t have the encouragement I needed from others to keep me accountable to myself. There was a point last month where I had to commit to a last ditch effort, and I’m certainly glad I did! I started talking about the project again, took care of a lingering task that I had been procrastinating, and now I’m back on track and as passionate as ever with a new launch timeline and actionable goals.

    Learning when to let go is important, but if you think it’s something you might regret down the road, my recommendation is to make one last go at making it successful. Is your missing gusto directly related to not being able to generate enough revenue? Focus on that first and see if it’s rekindled in the process. If it is, go for it! If it’s not, then let it go.

    I hope that helps!

    Recommended viewing: http://vimeo.com/29564068

  14. You put a lot of work into this project. And there are probably people who benefit from it. Instead of walking away and letting it die, maybe you can find someone suitable to inherit it?

  15. it seems to me that what she “hit on the head” is the problem with her attitude. nine months is not that long, and according to the ‘law of attraction’, her lack of confidence and passion is casting a dark shadow on her project! bring back the LIGHT! if she wants to attract clients, money, success, etc., then she will need to drop the negativity and focus on the positive attitude she started this thing with! shine on, sister, and you cannot fail!!!

  16. If the success of a project is marked by the individual as having to be both financial and personally fulfilling (good combo), when those two are absent after a period of objective and realistic effort, then it seems obvious to the outsider to drop it. But, when you are immersed is something you have spent a lot of time and effort on, it may feel like you are giving up yourself rather than the project. Nothing will be wasted and you’ll take all that experience into the next project. In this instance moving on will make you stronger in my opinion.

  17. It would seem to me that you have lost gusto for it because you don’t believe that it can be fruitful. I would agree with Chris in saying that if neither the belief nor the passion are there, you should let it go and move on to the next project. However, before you do that I would suggest that you satisfy yourself completely that this project doesn’t have enough financial potential to help you re-discover your passion for the idea that you had when you started out. Take a few days and source information on how it could be re-engineered, talk to someone doing something similar. If after that you still don’t believe that it is financially viable, then let it go and move on. Whatever you choose to do, good luck!

  18. November 29, 2012

    Carl Sergio

    FIND SOMEONE TO PASS IT OFF TO.
    If its something worth doing, but YOU don’t care about it, there may be someone else that would love to take it over, and have great ideas for making it better/more financially viable. Depending on the situation, you could sell it for a modest amount, or just plain give it away- and you’d be happy that your project lives on.

  19. If your passion is gone… then it’s gone. But since you put so much effort into this -9 months! Instead of dumping it by the side of the road, try turning it into an open source kinda thing. If there is a big readership there may be someone out there who would step up and keep the ball rolling. That way it continues to grow and change with the users who do use it. Put it out there that you are looking to turn it over to the next ‘web master’ and see what happens.

  20. I agree with David L above – if, as you state, “readership is great” then maybe you could put it up for sale. Just because you have A) lost your passion for it and B) aren’t finding it to be a profitable venture, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t find a magic wand that makes it profitable for them (advertising in a different way, other connections they have locally, etc). Overall though, I agree with Chris – let it go and invest your time and energy into something you are passionate about. Now that’s a win/win!

  21. Before you pull the plug get some advice from a third party that is savvy about these things. You have a large investment of time and money, so it’s probably worth paying someone to look at your website and your user statistics and give you an informed opinion.

  22. In 2005 my start up project seemed to be going nowhere. I had closed my office and moved it into my house. When the office phone rang I rarely answered it thinking why should I bother because it was probably just another telemarketer. At the end of 2005 I decided to “let go and let God” as they say. I set my intention that if my business was to remain open I would incorporate the people that had the most impact on my life; the ones that made me start this project in the first place….I decided to give back. I was amazed at what happened the minute I set that intention, the very minute I let go. The flood gates opened and I have been very blessed every since. I am glad I never gave up!

  23. November 29, 2012

    petepresto

    getting projects off the ground is difficult but guessing when they will make a return is the most difficult element of the planning process. if you have only been running 6 months and have tried all of the ways that you can think to monetize it, maybe none of the ways you tried had enough time to generate their own momentum before you changed to the next one…
    If you don’t think the value proposition to the sites users is worthy of some form of monetization, maybe it is simply a public service or maybe it will never achieve the level of cash that you need….
    you could leave it in place with whatever is ‘minimal effort’ and start another project to run in parallel… that you are asking the question, is already a step in the right direction…

  24. Be honest with your readers and let them know, maybe someone will step up and help you, take over and run with it, or buy it from you. I wouldn’t just walk away if you really have an asset there. Or figure out what you need to be paid and ask for that from the supporters. In working with business owners, I’ve found almost everyone under-prices themselves, me included!

  25. Given the readership is great, perhaps give the project a timeline and focus on producing the income until some given date. Bailing early without exploiting the greater possibilities in an effective way may mean you’ve neglected seeing something.
    Ask yourself, what do you want it to produce, financially, emotionally, etc., when do you want it to produce what you want, and are you the one that can do this. Once you’ve met your timeline and things are either close to the same or the same the choice is clear.
    Projects lose momentum for a variety of reasons, maybe rather than abandoning the project entirely, network it with someone who has a different take on it. They keep the lion’s share of profits and labor, you get a consistent piece for the idea and the initial startup. Good luck!

  26. November 29, 2012

    Brent Stromme

    First of all, kudos to you for bringing your idea to fruition, proud of ya. Oftentimes “lack of passion” is directly sourced from “lack of funds”. I run a few small companies, each at one time or another felt like it hit the wall. I have a great friend who I ask this question of every few months, “Am I crazy to continue this endeavor?” He looks at it from an outside perspective and speaks the truth to me. So, make sure you bounce your thoughts/concerns off of a trusted person to perhaps get a clear sense of what the next steps should be.

  27. I would ask the “why” questions first — Why have I lost the passion and why am I not making money? And then, see if there are viable solutions to what you discover for BOTH passion AND income. If not… it may be time to move on to a new project, armed with all the knowledge you learned and experience you gained from the project. Something similar happened to me — I started a travel-critiquing site that I thought would be the bomb! It bombed alright… and a huge problem for me was that it wasn’t nearly as fun as I thought it would be. It probably COULD have made money, but without the passion, I wasn’t motivated to make the money. On the other hand, I currently have a WI vacation rental home (click my name for the link) that I LOVE, but I’ve never been able to make enough from it to fully support its costs, and I’ve done the math, so I know it NEVER will. I plan to put it up for sale in late 2013. I believe you really need BOTH income and passion for a business to truly be successful. One or the other won’t cut it. Right now, you have NEITHER, so it’s very SMART of you to be looking at your situation to make a decision.

  28. November 29, 2012

    Victor Reynolds

    I would say step back a bit and look at the project from a fresh perspective. Maybe there will something there you may have missed beforehand that could make her website better.

    However, it that doesn’t work, you should go ahead and let it go. At least you gave it a try. Hope this helps.

  29. You have invested a great time into your project. Giving it up after 6 months is not the way to go, in may opinion. Some businesses take longer to become fruitful. Sometimes, we get unmotivated because we do not see results, but as soon as we see something we get motivated again.

    You should give yourself a deadline, and if its still not successful after your deadline has passed, you should invest less time into it, and start something new.

  30. Great question Nicole.

    My question is–did you start this project because it was a passion or because you were hoping to make some money from it?

    Obviously there is some intersection between the 2, but if you started the project to be a money maker, there’s more sense in walking away. However, before you do that, I would read The 4 hour workweek to brainstorm a couple ways to monetize before you peace out.

    On the other hand, if it’s something you’re really passionate about, then quitting a website isn’t going to make the passion go away for good. In time you will probably come back to it. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll be spending time in it. If you’re spending time in it, you might as well be getting paid. Read Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk (sorry Chris), and dig deeper!

  31. Ditto David Lynch.

    Just having visitors period is a huge hurdle that you’ve overcome – but no obligation to keep at it either. You could work on finding a way to pivot it, turn it over, or sell it off to someone who can keep the service going.

    Bravo for starting it in the first place!

  32. 1. This sounds like the type of project that allows you to meet lots of people and get your name out there. Don’t forget that value, if it’s there.

    2. There’s nothing wrong with abandoning a project that hasn’t turned out how you would have liked, but personally I would delay doing so until I had something else solid lined up.

  33. Here’s the criteria I use for picking projects, but it could be applied to dumping projects equally well: Is a project 1) fun (aka something I’m passionate about), 2) profitable or 3) prestigious? If the project is at least two of the three, then it’s worth my time and effort.

  34. If you have worked hard on the business and the readership is going well I would pass the ball, try to find someone else that is willing to take over, perhaps it is a business that you could sell? 9 months for me would not be long enough to decide, perhaps because of my patience…but if the passion is really gone with no idea whether it will return, the choice is yours and yours alone.

  35. It really just depends on the project. I find that I know in my gut before accepting a project whether I should take it on, and my daredevil “yes” attitude can get me in trouble.

    I am a designer with a great reputation. Recently, I made some changes, hiring on larger teams to handle jobs faster. Bolstered by my first few successful results, I stepped up the pace, accepting a few projects which were well, in retrospect unwise, to say the least.

    Here’s what I discovered. For the majority of projects, the time to let go is before you begin. With perfect hindsight, what I have learned is that 90% of the projects which didn’t turn out so well gave me distinct clues before I ever started out.

    Your first clue is that intuition that says, “This person isn’t very happy.” Pay attention to that one. If they are already talking trash about someone on their team, don’t work with them. If they are already behind on their project, DON’T DO IT.

    We accept these kinds of jobs typically out of a small form of desperation. The fact is that you do not need this kind of client or this kind of job. You can do better, and you will as soon as you learn to say “No, thank you.”.

  36. I’ve had this happen a few times and it was very demoralizing until someone told me that among all the “types” of people in the world, there are Fire Starters and Fire Tenders. Fire Starters have the vision and passion needed to get something started, Fire Tenders have the tenacity to nurture the little fire and grow it to its potential.

    In this case, your role may have just been that of the Fire Starter. If you look around a bit, you may find a Fire Tender who would be happy to take over the project and develop it. You could work out a win/win arrangement with a Fire Tender and move on to something more satisfying without feeling like you “gave up”.

  37. Don’t give up on it too soon. You’ve invested three months in setup, and six on the actual product. Is that really enough time to tell if it will take off? Plus, you’ve said you’ve already seen some interest and engagement in the resource. I just think you should have it running at least another six months to give it a full year before pulling the plug.

  38. November 29, 2012

    Dan Ciriani

    I would have no hesitation in abandoning a project if there’s no value. The one thing that stands out though is that there is a high level of readership. Clearly, many people find value in this website. The big question is are the users willing to pay more for this service? Would a higher level of revenue re-ingite your passion for the project? I would explore this option before pulling the plug.

  39. If it’s not something you enjoy so much that you would do for free if you had all the money in the world, then stop doing it.

  40. I used to be the type that would think I failed miserably if I didn’t follow through on a project. And with that belief and mindset…. Almost every project I started, with the exception of a few, I met with thoughts of doubt and anxiety. I too hold events locally.

    The diffence between those that were fruitful and those that weren’t was the determination to get the results AND have as much fun doing it as possible. If that meant the timeline of a project would take a little longer, I would schedule it in.

    Find ways to have fun again… Reignite the passion by getting creative again. And stick through it… If you have a big enough reason why… Then nothing will stop you. My 2 cents.

    All the best!

  41. I had a site like that once except that I enjoyed it. It had decent traffic, was greatly loved, and I couldn’t come up with a business model I was passionate about to make it profitable.

    In all, I had the site about four years and was emotionally attached to it. I was lucky enough to find a great buyer who already had a business model it fit into.

    I didn’t make a lot, but I did learn a lot, and the site is better situated to serve more people.

    Luke

  42. Just remember your stab at this business, should you decide to end it, is not a failure but a training ground. You will take with you what has worked and learned from what has not in order to make the next business idea a success!

  43. Yes, 9 months isn’t that long for creating a website and generating traffic from it. My photography marketing website has been up around 9 months and I’m just starting to get people buying the products. I take encouragement from the amount of time people are spending on the site. So, although the following is currently small I know the people that are finding me value what I do. If you have a committed readership then it’s only a matter of time before word of mouth, Google’s robots and your marketing activities start to reap rewards. Not everyone takes just 279 days to overnight success!

  44. November 29, 2012

    Chris Hawkins

    Lots of comments here, but I have not seen this yet so… Find a mentor and get their opinion. Everyone learns the hard way that at first, you don’t know what you are doing. Your ventures will fail. A good mentor will either tell you how to save this project or tell you that all signs point toward killing it. In either case, if you don’t have 10 successes and 10 failures under your belt, you are very likely to make the wrong decision either way. You don’t know what you don’t know. But the right person will know very quickly what to do. Seek them out. Successful people like to give back. Be picky and don’t take help from just anybody.

  45. brave question Nicole. i don’t know that i have the perfect answer, but i do have two quick questions for you

    1. Have you tried asking the readership what their real pain points are? if so, what did they say?

    2. Have you received any harsh critique about the site in general (or the business model in particular) since inception? if not, would you consider seeking out this critique from friends and family?

  46. I had a similar idea for my area maybe 10-12 years ago and started the process, got some good feedback, but chickened out and got a J.O.B. and gave it up.

    My questions would be: which came first, the loss of passion or the idea that you’re never going to make money from it? If the first is dependent upon the second, I would get some outside opinions.

    Local businesses are always looking for inexpensive advertising. More than ever, consumers are looking for bargains. Seems like a natural fit to me. Many local businesses don’t have websites, so an online presence through your portal with a low monthly cost to them would be gravy to you.

    Also 6 months of actually being in business is nothing. Getting readership is awesome!! Next is monetizing it. Sounds like your business is right on target to me. Web businesses are different than brick and mortar, and readership is key. The rest will come. Success in life comes from showing up. Day and after.

    However, if you’re truly emotionally turned off by the business, then let it go, but see if someone else wants it, it could be a great little business done creatively and imaginatively I think.

  47. November 29, 2012

    Melanie B.

    Sometimes I want to give up on things because they are difficult or require me to step out of my comfort zone. Sometimes the fear of success or failure causes me to suddenly “lose interest” in something I was once excited about. Those are the best experiences for personal growth and usually the most rewarding. That being said, as long as our friend can be sure it is not fear hiding behind the disinterested curtain I think it is best to pass the baton to another helpful human. The site sounds like a great resource so please don’t do it a disservice by just dropping it.

  48. November 29, 2012

    Dave Moninger

    Depends on why you started the project to begin with. If to earn money, then it’s got to be fruitful financially to continue. If to fulfill a need of yours or others, it’s got to “fulfill” that need.

  49. I wouldn’t give up at only six months of operation. Maybe it’s only time to rethink a new strategy (marketing exposure and the like). As for waning passion, I’d revisit the reasons you started it in the first place, which might rekindle the fire. If the desire is still there, just discouraged, you may regret giving up in the future.

  50. If really have passion you never lose motivation even it’s not been financially successful you need to try out a different approach or the way you think and leading the project. think about Albert Einstein…

  51. First a comment about question everything: If we don’t question our thoughts, ideas and beliefs they too often limit our possibilities due to ego-mind and a lifetime of conditioning.

    Second a few thoughts about Nicole predicament: Have you put out to the readers/user of the website a request for ideas and help to make your site more viable?
    Passion is a heart space often either opened or closed by our thoughts.
    How can you move from contraction of the heart which is often a “no” space to a “yes” space of expansion about this project?

    Hope all goes well either moving forward or moving on.

  52. November 29, 2012

    Claire Evora

    Dump it. You’ll be relieved, and it will free up energy to do something else.

  53. I would look at the original intent and if that is not being met, I would consider what I learned from this experience, as each steps, leads us a little further along the journey, and then consider moving on. It may be worthwhile to let it go, and create the space, for the universe to help manifest something amazing in that space. I think it’s our ego that most often gets in the way, once we let go of ego, we can let go of the project much more easily. all the best to you.

  54. Why are you losing passion for it? Is it because it’s just not exciting to you anymore, because you’re burned out, or is it because you haven’t made very much money from it? If you’re in this project for the money, then pull out now. If you think you can find your passion for it again, then stick with it. It takes longer than 6 months for most blogs to earn money.

  55. Three points to consider before you call it quits:

    1. Have you lost your passion because the project is in a tough place? (An obstacle of some sort?)

    2. What about the project used to make you passionate? Can you re-infuse that somehow?

    3. Have you done everything you can to monetize, truly? Asked the users what would add more value for them?

    Good luck!

  56. I think commenters are evenly divided between walking away and hanging in there. I’d look at it like this – you don’t have revenue yet but you have two good assets now – an audience and a website. So you’ve made great progress. What you don’t have is payment for what you do. So I guess your options are wait for something to change or do something different. I think you should do one of those surveys that Chris G talks about – maybe throw some ideas at readers and see what lights their fire – and I think you should see if there’s anyone in a related field you could work with to make the best use of your assets. If I were you I’d definitely change something but I wouldn’t walk away from that audience till I’d learned all I could from them.

  57. Man alive, I have this problem when I’ve invested more than 500 words and a couple hours of thought into a project! I can only imagine what you are feeling, Nicole.

    I say go with your gut. I dropped out of law school after three years of studies because I just didn’t have the gusto for it. The hardest part was going against the opinion of almost everyone I knew. But…I never regretted that decision for a second. Not one second.

  58. For Nicole: Is it making enough money so that you could pay someone else to manage it for you? Perhaps you could hire a part-time assistant, train that person to take care of the site, and free yourself up to look for other opportunities and use your bandwidth to reclaim your passion.

  59. November 29, 2012

    Susi Buchin

    Not having the Passion/Spark anymore is often an emotional state that comes and goes according to the circumstances. ie – if it suddenly started making lots of $$ the passion might quickly be there again!

    Instead of approaching it emotionally I like to turn it around and quantify logically:
    1) What would I need to see different to enjoy this again?
    2) What would be necessary for me to have #1? (What would I need to do?)
    3) How long would #2 take, or how much would it cost?
    4) Would the output be worth the gain?

    Often it is just a very small adjustment that is needed to change the outcome of a project and how we feel about it.

    Example: Many people don’t want to own rental property (Im a realtor) because of the “headaches” like having to fix a toilet at an inconvenient time. (emotional response) But by applying the above I might see that if the toilet (or something else) breaks down once per year and I have to pay a plumber $250 for a service call then I avoid the headache of doing it personally. And if the rental unit gives back $3000 per year of net income then it is well worth the service charge, and doesn’t *feel* so bad. If it only nets $300 then I would say toss it!

  60. It’s never a “failure” to let something go, I consider it a success that you tried it. Failure is when you don’t try it at all.
    Out of passion, that’s the signal!

  61. I love what Kimberly said about “Let go and let God.” Sometimes what we think we want and where we actually end up are two different things. If we disconnect ourselves from the traditional ideas of success and commit to giving more to get more, I think that’s when we can begin to see surprising results.

    These cross-roads moments in our careers are great because we have an opportunity to slow down and start asking questions. Maybe our true goals aren’t clear. Or the way we define success is off.

    Perhaps staying course with your original intention is what you need to do while you completely overhaul the way you do things. So maybe it will look like you are “dropping” your project, or re-committing to it. Who knows. But the more time you give to figuring out what it is you’re truly meant to do, the more you’ll find your way.

    Good journey to you!

  62. You might consider a partner with the marketing and valuation strengths that are perhaps your weaknesses. That would take some of the “job like lackluster feelings you have although clearly content is good since you have readership.
    Sharing a good site can offer alternate voices as well as give each some time to prepare (by that I mean living) for their part in the site.

    I have also let go of projects for a variety of reasons some, of which may get picked up at a different time and with different resources. Others are lost in the notes of time when brainstorming and trying new things. It is all about the path…

  63. Given the relatively short amount of time that the website has been “live”, another possibility would be to outsource the work; before using the excuse of lack of finances, seriously consider finding someone who is willing to barter services with you. It’s amazing how new blood and fresh eyes can make the difference in a stalled project – it’s what keeps consultants in business.

  64. I went through a similar situation, but it just took me longer to admit to myself that I hated my business because it was actually doing very well and on its way to growing pretty quickly. I was able to find a pretty quick “out” I took it and haven’t looked back since (its been about one year). I haven’t regretted my decision once. It can be a little frustrating to start from scratch again, and even feel defeating… but its also an amazing learning experience and helps you figure out what you REALLY want to do.

    The only thing I wish I would have done/a suggestion to you, is I wish I would have looked into selling the company name/reputation. At the time, I just wanted ‘out’ and didn’t want to hassle with it, but it probably would have provided someone with a base business for someone else to nurture and be passionate about.

    I heavily relied on the book “Strengths Finder 2.0″ to uncover my next move.

    Best of luck!

  65. If the passion is gone it’s unlikely the money will come because part of what fuels the flow of money (which is simply a form of energy) *to* you is the flow of passion *from* you into the world. So if you can’t find a new angle to this project that re-ignites the passion, as others have said it seems an ideal time to let it go.

    Take what you’ve learned and re-apply to something that lights you up. No one reaches success without failing first – in fact, those who are considered grand successes in this world have ALL failed spectacularly (usually multiple times) first. Forget all the social taboos and BS associated with failure and make it your goal to “fail faster”.

    Staying in motion is so important. As I remind myself daily “Your movement alone will attract those ready to move.” Staying stuck just attracts more stuck-ness.

    To Chris Guillebeau: can you circle back to Nicole and (assuming she reads this post and comments) let us know if/how this post helped her, what she decided, and why? It would be so helpful to have a 360-degree look at this and similar questions.

  66. Maybe you could consider continuing that project in another form, allowing yourself to move on to something else, but still maintaining the service in a way that benefits both you and your readers/participants to date. For example, there is a lady in our area who started a simple Facebook page to connect local families with local businesses and events basically because teens were always complaing about nothing to do in this mostly rural county. It’s become a local hub for events and activities which everyone uses. She’s had to split it into 2 pages due to the size of the list, but it now provides her with an ongoing fan base for any project she might decide to spin off in addition to providing a much needed public service.

  67. This was really good feedback for me. I’ve was asked to help manage a music group in the wedding business, something I did relatively successfully in the past, but made little money at. I also am working on a rock band (exciting!) and some investment projects and felt I didn’t have enough time to do everything. As I have no remaining passion for the first project and have “been there, done that” I will move past my sense of obligation to my friends and no longer work on it. In the long run, I would be doing a dis-service to them and myself.

  68. November 29, 2012

    Ryan Freilino

    I’d like to thank everyone for their awesome comments. This is a great crowd and, as a budding entrepreneur, I really appreciate all the different perspectives that get shared on this site. Thumbs up, everyone.

  69. I think the photo says it best: Question Everything.

    Advice can be helpful but the best solutions are the ones we arrive at ourselves.

    With the limited information Nicole gave any advice we give is going to be, on a good day, what we would do in her situation in the best case scenario. No two situations are the same, and whilst there might be some guiding principles, there are ‘no one size fits all’ answers.

    So, at the risk of negating my own argument, I suggest finding someone to sit down with who can help you, Nicole, ‘question everything’, explore your options and discover the solution that is the best fit for you in your current situation.

    (Disclaimer. Being a coach, I recognise I may be bias in this :-)

  70. I try to never do anything if it doesn’t resonate with my core values and inspire me

  71. Hi Chris and Nicole, I will address this question because I deal with it on a daily basis. I run two companies. I flip between running them day by day based on which one I think of in the morning when I wake up. Obviously being clairvoyant I always trust my instincts. I tend to spend a bit of time on one, then when I feel led, shelve it for a bit and focus on the other. Because they are both small (for now) I have the luxury of doing it that way. For you and your project I think the word SHELVE is a good one. If you shelve it for 2, 3 months and don’t think about it again, then you have your answer. If you decide to go back to it, then do so. Sometimes projects need a little “sitting time” to be where they are supposed to be. Maybe you will meet or connect with someone the project will benefit from during that time. Also, NEVER look at it as negative to have to let it go. There is a degree of learning that would not have happened if you had not taken it on in the first place. Be thankful for that, and move on. For me, I don’t focus enough on the “business” sometimes, but the creating – maybe you too?

  72. I find that when the passioin is gone its really not. Its just that I have grown and my POV is to think bigger. You have grown and are ready for a bigger deal. Take your skills gained, lessons learned, let go of the current “little project” move on to the next big project. Good skills are always useful to someone. Keep trying….

  73. Another way to look at this is to ask a few questions:
    1. Do you know why people aren’t digging it, and could you stop doing those things? (and do you know why you aren’t digging it, and cold you stop doing those things?)
    2. Is there a compelling, emotional story to be told?
    3. Is there a rallying (point) cry?
    4. Is there a clear, concise, compelling vision for why you exist and where you want everyone to go?
    In 90 seconds, that was my first pass on it… good luck.

  74. I think the best thing to do in a situation like this is to start asking some tough questions – which you are doing. The fact that your site is not making money and is no longer enjoyable may mean that there is not a market for it. The more you lose passion for the project, the less of a chance you have at reaching the market. If the site can run on its own with minimal effort and expense, then let it keep going while you cultivate another idea. Learn from your current experience to make the next project even better. Lastly, don’t take it personally. I know we all get down on ourselves when a project doesn’t work out. But much of the success I’ve had in the past has been a result of learning from failures. So now, I embrace them and look forward to what’s next. Good luck to you!

  75. Well, it happened dozens of times when I lost interest in my two-years long project which takes loads of time to code not only for me, but for all my team of 3. And, you know what, – let it go. If it really matters for you – it will come back to you. We’ve stopped three times, with no money, no patience and all that mutual hatred that leads to devastating divorce. And then in a week or two we gathered again, three times, and continued our work. Because we feel like it should be done. We feel that it worth our time, energy and emotions. If you don’t feel like that – why bother?

  76. If you’ve lost passion for the project, let it go. You haven’t failed, you’ve just lost the passion to keep it going. You’re just not interested in it anymore. Chances are that even if your project was successful and you had no passion for it, you wouldn’t be happy.

    I dumped 2 projects in the last 18 months because I just wasn’t interested anymore. And yes, I started another one in August and I’m excited to get up in the mornings and work on it.

    I figure if I’m going to spend my time working on something that I hate, I might as well go back to the brick-and-mortar that I walked away from 4 years ago.

    Learn from your mistakes and move on. Good luck!

  77. Thanks both to Nicole and Chris for putting this question up for discussion. Its very helpful to new folks as latterly mentioned. I’m about to go into business myself and got insight of potential brick walls. I know now to question exactly what the wall is about – really a not-working business or my own issues?
    In Nicole’s case, getting a mentor for an independent valuation (is there a mentor network/chamber of commerce locally?) and trying to sell on a great idea if she does decide to move on makes a lot of sense. Well done on getting it up and running in the first place and good luck with your next move, I’d love to hear what that will be.

  78. One of my favorite bloggers/podcasters recently touched on this subject. It helps to ask yourself 3 questions.
    1. Is this interesting?
    2. Does it provide interesting options?
    3. Do I see myself doing this in 2, 3, 5 years?

    If you can’t answer all 3 of those in the affirmative, you may want to redirect your course.

  79. Should you decide to quit, I would recommend that you do so only after making a good search for someone to take it over. You have created a site that has community buy-in and is well used. Give that community a chance to share your “I’m quitting” story around and see if one of the non-profits or community groups might have the passion to continue the project. You lose nothing by passing it along, and your community might well gain.

  80. I think everyone has made invaluable comments to listen to and learn by. I think stepping away and re-evaluating what was positive and not positive may be the thing that you need to know. You said Wisconsin is where you are based. Is there a need for it in that particular area or would it be profitable somewhere else? Meaning, someone also suggested maybe letting someone inherit the project and you still hold a small share in the profits so that it can be taken elsewhere and be sustainable. Second, someone mentioned having the natural flow of passion and the energy for it. And if it isn’t there, there is not energy behind to even see profits for the project/business to even begin with. If this is true, it was an experience and letting go of it may be the best thing.

    I think you already can feel the answer and the action you need to take, but just want to make sure. Since you have that entrepreneuring spirit, you will find that niche that is needed to the world that will drive you in another direction. This was a learning experience, not a failure. I know feeling like a failure and not getting anything done can be draining. Hang in there. Everyone here had some great insight.

  81. Wow–great question and great responses. Bravo to all of you who took time out to help with your thoughts/ideas. I have nothing new to add, but I’m amazed at the brilliant readers!

  82. Hey Nicole, that’s such a great and important question. Contrary to Chris, I would not throw in the towel so quickly! I would first encourage you to explore both of those two topics you have raised: 1) Lost passion: How did you feel about this project at the beginning and what made you excited about it then? What was your vision for it and gave you fire in your belly? What happened (or didn’t happen) that lead to your passion diminishing? What would have to happen in order for you to be excited about it again? And then topic No. 2 Profits: From a state of passion and excitement about it: What else could you try, who could you contact, what other resources would you be able to tap into in order to find a workable business model? Being in a state of resignation takes away your power and resourcefulness and I bet you are a really smart lady who could come up with another 10 things to do and try before deciding to move away from it. Alternatively, you could also think about how else this site could add value to others without you having to make money from it and putting much time into it. Happy to help you decide, commit and succeed either way ANY time, just drop me an email. xo

  83. Several times my husband and I have noticed that at the beginning of a new project or life change at first everything seems right. The universe seems to align itself to give you everything you need. The right people come along. Resources fall in your lap. But most times, there still comes a point where the bloom of new is gone and you are slogging through and wondering if you misread the signs.

    Not weighing in on either direction for Nicole. Just noting that it is a very natural progression that success does not always mean there isn’t a plateau or downturn after the first excitement of something new.

    I just placed a hold on “The Dip”. Sounds like a must read.

  84. I’m doing the same thing.
    Nicole….you’re doing the right thing.
    After 12 months of unsuccessfully generating income, I’m now treating my first start-up as a side hobby. I’m launching a new endeavor in January, and my enthusiasm and confidence are even greater than I had with my first business attempt. I’ve learned so much and I’m applying that knowledge to this new adventure.
    Thanks, Chris!

  85. Pingback: The Heartbreaking Task of Not Doing Everything | Binaebi Akah

  86. I can think of two ways to look at it from the perseverance perspective–the fact that it takes a long time to become an ‘overnight success’.
    1. The project: Is the project the thing that needs to keep going, where you need to show perseverance to get through the dip (as referenced before). It seems like so many online businesses take tons of time to get up, running, and rolling. Is 6-9 months really that long?
    2. The person: Is the project simply part of your process of dialing it what you want to do. Is it one of your ‘classes’ before you graduate to the thing that will really get your juices going? If so, then ditching it and finding the thing that feels more closely tied to you makes some sense.

  87. Hi Nicole. I’ve read a lot of great comments in this post! I have a suggestion as well. Take some time away from the project so you can see things more clearly. Ultimately, you are the only one that can decide whether it makes sense to lean in to this project or close it down in search of another opportunity. There is no shame in quitting but make sure it is truly what you want and not just burn out. When I’ve been faced with tough decisions like this in the past, I find it best to step away from the day-to-day and look at the project once I’ve had a chance to get calm. If you can tune down the inner chatter in your head and listen to your heart, you’ll find the right answer. Best of luck!

  88. Chris, Your readers really rock. I read your blog on RSS or via email and don’t see all of these really on target comments. I’m amazed at how many great ideas they have posted. I guess I need to spend more time on your website!

    Dan

  89. Fantastic comments!

    In the past when helping myself and other business owners with similar dilemma, I found that setting up a clear (and S.M.A.R.T) short term (weeks/months) goal will help to make the decision more “logical” and less “emotional”. If the goal is achieved, you set another short term one. Slowly you can verify the business progress and build a positive feedback (a good idea might be to set a predefined reward for achieving the goal :-). If the goal is not achieved within the short time frame, I will quit the venture and move on to the next one. I think we sometime raise the white flag a bit too soon, and we might be at the cusp of success but not really know it.

  90. I’m not sure you’re asking the best question. Food for thought:

    - If you have “no more passion” after six (or nine) months, you may be confusing passion with “fling”.

    - Doing “what you love”, is not about rainbows and unicorns, fun times and happy endings. It’s about doing something so important that when the going gets tough, you don’t question giving up.

    - If you “don’t think it will be fruitful”, it most certainly won’t. In life, you go where your focus is.

    - Your focus seems to be on the wrong thing. You allude to the problem being the idea. I propose the problem is your execution (sorry to be harsh – I trust it’s helpful). Case in point… I’m in the same business of “connecting families with events and businesses” and after about a year and a half, I’m about to have my first six-figure month.

    Rather than ask “how do you know it’s time to let go of a project that isn’t successful?”, I would ask “Why am I REALLY doing this? How could I reframe what I’m doing – not just “spin it”? What problem am I solving? What is it worth to my customer? What problems am I not solving and what are they worth?”

    I trust this is helpful and best of luck.

  91. I don’t want to encourage someone to do something they have no passion for, but I would make sure that the lack of passion is not simply coming from the lack of financial reward. If that is the missing piece, you should talk to the experts and make sure you’re doing all you can to monetize it.

  92. The fact that you have spend 9 months already shouldn’t influence your decision. You could have spent the last 5 years working on it.

    It is dependent on the reason why you believe you have lost the passion for the project. Perhaps you are confusing the feelings of doubt with lack of passion? I think if you have a lack of passion, you would no longer care if it was fruitful. The fact that you asked Chris makes me think there is a lot of passion, in which case, fruitful or not, you should continue. It isn’t healthy to rate success on how much money you make from something.

  93. There is a section by Cal Newport in his book ‘So good they can’t ignore you’ about the passion worker who injects energy into a blog that fails when unable to monetise.

    His evalation is lack of ‘Career Capital’. This is when you inject energy into something that you claim to have a passion for but lack skill/knowledge/expertise in.

    Passion is overrated when it is not constructively engaged with real life achievements.

    You need to build passions around a skill.

  94. I recently reflected on this for my own situation (blogged about it too). Here’s what I learned:

    First, know that it IS okay to quit. People don’t tell us that, but it’s true. Barring illegality or danger, it’s your prerogative to quit and focus on something else. Sometimes, it’s even healthier to quit – if you’re losing sleep, feeling anxious, being irritable, etc. You don’t need a “good reason” to quit. Not enjoying something as much as you thought you would is fine. Yes, fine.

    Second, is the question of “am I quitting because it’s the right thing for me, or am I quitting because I don’t want to put the effort in, or because I’m afraid, or something else?” That’s a tough question to answer, so I reframe it, and instead ask, “If this were to all work out, does doing this get me closer to where I want to be in my life?” If the answer is yes, then I follow-up by with, “How direct is the connection between what I’m doing and where I want to be?” In other words, is spending your time this way actually moving you forward, or is there a better way to accomplish what you’re going for in your life?

    The best and hardest thing to realize is there is no wrong answer here. Just choices.

  95. This dilemma is faced by just about anyone who has an online business.

    My recommendation is to go with your gut feeling. If you don’t have the passion for it, then there is little hope for success, and its best to cut your losses. But like many before me have said, learn from the experience and make adjustments when you start your new venture.

  96. It takes more than nine months to build a successful business. Nicole’s case is very common among business owners. And there really are moments when you’ll lose the motivation to go on. That’s why it’s important to have a coach or a mentor to help you back on track.

  97. Abandon or pivot. The worst thing to do is to get too emotionally invested into a project as to where you get to a point where you should quit but don’t because you feel like : “I put so much into it so far”. Quitting things you should quit is smart. You may not have to quit the project all together, but you do need to quit the methodology you’re working with if it’s not getting you the results you want.

    For you specifically it might be best to quit because when you’re asking a question like this, in some way you already know the answer and have already made up your mind.

  98. Pingback: How To Kill A Project | Blog Of Impossible Things

  99. THIS IS THE PROBLEM OF MANY PEOPLE, LEAVE A PROJECT IS NOT EASY ESPECIALLY IF IT WORKS A 20 -30% OF OUR EXPECTATIONS, AND FOR ME IS VERY HARD TO TAKE A DECISION IN THIS CASE…

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  101. Loosing your ‘mojo’ after nine months of work on a project isn’t that unnatural.

    I think that when we start a project, we are excited and full of anticipation of everything it’s promising. But then, as time goes by, we see all the time and effort it requires and we loose the spark we first had. Especially if our efforts are not rewarded!

    Letting go is not a bad choice.

    But before doing so I would investigate two things, I would question what sparked the interest in the first place and why you started the project 9 months ago and try see why this got lost in the process. And two, I would stop and ask around to see if you missed some creative step to make it profitable.

    If the answers you get leave you as skeptical as before… then cut your losses and let it go! If not… then you may have to do some more critical thinking to see how to turn things around!

  102. Pingback: The Blogger’s Guide to Cutting Your Losses » 7K Social Media

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