Do 5-Star Work

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Ever since The Lean Startup hit the scene (and probably even before that), there’s been a widespread push in the entrepreneurial community to “just ship it.”

Get your product or service out there, and refine it later based on customer feedback.

There are books like 60 Day Startup, How to Start a Business in 27 Days, and The 7 Day Startup (which is actually excellent, by the way).

Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn explains, “If you’re not embarrassed by your first product, you’ve launched too late.”

But that’s not a license to put out crap.

If you want 5-star results, you’ve got to do 5-star work.

Like Corbett Barr wrote in 2014, if you want the big sexy business muscles, you’ve got to be prepared to lift some heavy-ass weights.

And I’m certainly not writing this from on high to say I never put out sub-par work either.

For instance, in my painting days, there were a few jobs that really didn’t go as planned.

I built a niche site in the wine gifts industry, and it was pretty lame. Since I didn’t know anything about the subject matter, and didn’t particularly care to learn, all the content was regurgitated from other sites.

There was no unique value added, and very little reason for anyone to visit the site.

A few years ago, I spent a bunch of time working on a Slow Carb recipe book, hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the diet Tim Ferriss described in The 4-Hour Body. To make it unique, it would have required testing, tweaking, and photographing every recipe in the book, which didn’t sound like much fun. Because of that, the book never saw the light of day.

All of these are examples of less-than-5-star work on my part. I think you know the kind; work you’re not particularly proud of, work you’re trying to get out there with the bare minimum effort, or work you’re doing purely to chase the money.

The Customer is Judge, Jury, and Executioner

The problem with The Lean Startup mentality and putting out sub-par work is that customers might not give you another chance.

Their idea of a “minimum viable product” might be quite different from yours.

(Where you can run into trouble is the paralysis of the endless pursuit of perfection, which is equally futile.)

And while I strive to put out 5-star work, quality is in the eye of the customer.

Even when you put forth your best effort, some customers will have a different opinion of what constitutes 5-star work. Here are just a few of the people who disagreed with my concept of it.

On Amazon:

someone who thought my book sucked

I assure you it took a LOT longer than 10 minutes to compile :)

another person who thought my book sucked

Must you?

On the Treadmill Desk book:

someone who thought my treadmill desk book was horrible

Totally unfounded … except for the case studies in the book…

And on Udemy:

someone who thought my udemy course sucked

Not sure how this guy, an experienced fiction author, even ended up in my course, which was aimed at new non-fiction writers.

And most recently, from just last week:

crabby comment on linkedin

This stuff stings! It hurts.

When I read some of the more scathing of these for the first time, they made me physically uncomfortable and actually a little sick to my stomach.

When you put your best effort out there and someone thinks it sucks, well, it sucks.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

But the best defense against “haters” is 5-star work.

You can’t please everyone and have to trust the consensus. Thankfully the examples above really are the minority!

Yet we all crave the same validations; that we’re smart, funny, creative, helpful.

In school, test results days were the best because the grades gave validation. A 5-star rating today is the same as getting an A on a test; a vote of confidence that someone else thought you did good work.

These days, reviews are my grades.

I’ve actually been a little nervous and afraid when my work (on Amazon or Udemy for example) starts to go viral beyond my immediate circle of influence.

What will people think? What if they don’t like it?

Never mind that reaching those new customers is the entire point of those platforms!

And nothing makes me happier than a 5-star review from a total stranger. That’s the ultimate validation.

In the last couple years, I’ve been immersed in a new world that relies heavily on user reviews for exposure and discoverability:

  • Books
  • Podcasts
  • Courses

As a content creator, it’s essential to go out and hustle for those initial reviews. It’s part of the game. But do 5-star work and don’t put your friends or peers in the awkward position of giving you a review they’re not comfortable giving.

Creating 5-star work takes more time, effort, and investment.

When creating my Udemy course, it would have been much faster and easier to just use my built-in webcam instead of shooting the video with a DSLR. But the quality wouldn’t have been as good.

When publishing my first book, it would have been cheaper to not hire an editor. But there would have been some embarrassing typos.

And when creating content for this site, it would be faster to write shorter posts, skip the images, or even accept more guest posts. But the writing, stories, graphics, and formatting are all important parts of the platform.

I was recently gifted a copy of So Good They Can’t Ignore You from Paul Middlebrooks (host of the Entrepreneurs in Training podcast).

Related: The Best Gift Ideas for Entrepreneurs

The premise is same as this post – DO your best to BE your best to BECOME the best.

Doing 5-star work is the first step to 5-star results.

Your Turn

Have you ever knowingly put out less-than-5-star work? What was the result?

Have you ever had anyone trash your best effort? What did you do to recover?

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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

9 thoughts on “Do 5-Star Work”

  1. This story pretty much sums up my feelings of this article and people who intentionally leave bad reviews on products they don’t enjoy.

    “It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”

    So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

    “It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”

    “Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.

    “B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”

    To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

  2. Ah but Nick, look at all that feedback! Most folks don’t even get feedback. That’s gold for Lean Startup implementers. I would love to get those reviews, after the initial sting and bender they’d cause. Most of them have valuable information about how to improve the product.

    “It’s just a link collection”- Now you know in the next iteration you have to make it clear why it’s more than a link collection (assuming it is! If not, it needs to be more than a link collection)

    “Losing 50lbs isn’t real”- Now you know you have to win over that group of thinkers. Either it wasn’t addressed at all before, or it wasn’t convincing.

    I’m by far no Lean Startup expert, just trying to channel one.

    Keep up the 5-star work!

      • the weirdest kept secret is that everyone wants validation and not feedback. why do we continue validating negative feedback? (i know this is a bit of a tangent, but i think it’s relevant so i’m going with it!)

        i’ve been interested in negative feedback for the past few years, mostly how it seems to be more harmful than helpful. people get hung up on it, wasting time and energy. it doesn’t matter how many 5 star reviews there are, or how far and few between the negative reviews are, they sting just as bad.

        negative feedback isn’t as helpful as we give it credit for being. i think we buy into the idea that it is because humans want to make the best of a bad situation. also, it’s easy to give negative feedback; it takes far more effort to give constructive positive feedback, and drop the negativity.

        i have had the chance to practice this as a toastmaster speech evaluator. now i do get some flack for not providing negative feedback (not surprisingly, it bothers me to hear that!). but what keeps me going is that speakers walk away from my reviews with an aha moment (“i didn’t think about it like that”), and other club members have said that i’m one of the best speech evaluators they’ve heard. plus honestly, i just prefer seeing people light up.

        ok, tangent over! thank you nick for your email re: “perfect work doesn’t exist but 5 star work does.” it is a refreshing angle i’m hoping will get me over my procrastination. as soon as i’m done writing this reply :D

  3. Your comment about the web cam vs DSLR is true. It definitely influences my perception of the content and authority of what I watch. That’s probably not fair, but it’s human nature.

    AND – it’s a totally defensible argument to the spouse when asked to justify the purchase of the DSLR….

  4. I can understand your pain! I tolled all last year to deliver my first book in an English as clear as possible and on a topic with high (health) ROI like how to implement calorie restriction with optimal nutrition.
    Guess what: after a couple of sales and a 4-star review, I received my first 2-star review. Ouch. “Poorly written and not that informative?” It stung my heart.
    My second book is almost ready – hopefully it will be even better.


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