Many people try to make something and fail or become frustrated along the way. As a reminder to myself, and to others who want to make things, I’ve outlined this handy step-by-step guide. For small, personal projects, some of these steps can last a few seconds and exist entirely in the mind. For more ambitious collaborations, each step might require a lifetime and a team of thousands to complete.
STEP 1: Decide what you want to make
This is by far the hardest part. 80% of mankind never makes it past this part – usually because there’s something good on TV. If you’re having trouble with this part, let me know, as I’ve got a lot of unmade things lying around.
STEP 2: Sketch it out
In a simple way, communicate to yourself and possibly others what it is you decided in step 1. This can take many forms:
- A drawing
- A mission statement
- An outline
- A prototype
- A model
STEP 3: Plan it out
This step can get complicated, because it requires jumping ahead to see what’s coming up in steps 4 and 5. (You can do that now if you like.)
Now, figure out how long it will take and what resources (people, finances, tools, materials) will be required to complete steps 4 and 5. Make sure you have enough of, and the right kinds these things before you start. And please, for everyone’s sake, make a schedule (with a set of milestones and deadlines). If you’re working alone and you blow past this part without much thought, you’ll hate yourself. If you’re working with others they’ll hate you too.
STEP 4: Design it
Figure out all the details, preferably on paper (an eraser is recommended). Again, this can take many forms:
- A set of blueprints or drawings
- A vivid description of each what you’re making, broken down into component pieces
- A “working prototype”
- A script
- A business plan
In many cases, this step is skipped, or done poorly. You can usually tell when this happens by looking at a finished product and seeing that it sucks.
STEP 5: Test it out
By the end of the previous step, you should have something you can share with a few of the people for whom you’re making the thing. They should be able to take a look at it and/or use it enough to tell you whether the thing you decided in step 1 is worthy of step 6.
If your test group says stuff like: “Hmmm,” or “I don’t get it,” or “Do you need a hug?” – then my advice would be to re-visit steps 1-4 and see if maybe you glossed-over something important.
STEP 6: Make it!
This is where you start seeing some real progress as your grand vision unfolds. For the most part, this step should be fun and satisfying. If it’s not, something probably went wrong in steps 1 through 4. Or to put it another way: “You don’t know what you’re doing.” Ok – maybe there are a few things you didn’t count on and the whole thing is just a big mess. If this happens, stop everything, and re-visit steps 1-5 where necessary.
STEP 7: Share it!
Regardless of how well you executed the previous steps, this part can be pretty difficult and unpredictable. Hopefully you enjoyed Steps 1-6 enough to make it all worthwhile, no matter how things turn out in this step. Best of luck. Just know that I’m proud of you.