Engineering a "Muse": Case Studies of Successful Cash-Flow Businesses

463 Comments

This post has been in the works for a while.

One common challenge for readers of The 4-Hour Workweek is the creation of a “muse”: a low-maintenance business that generates significant income. Such a muse is leveraged to finance your ideal lifestyle, which we calculate precisely based on Target Monthly Income (TMI).

In the last four years, I’ve received hundreds of successful case studies via e-mail, and more than 1,000 new businesses were created during a recent Shopify competition, but I’ve presented only a handful of a case studies. Here are a few dozen we’ve covered:

How to Sell 10,000 iPad Cases at $60 Each (and Other Lessons Learned)
18 Real-World Lifestyle Design Case Studies [VIDEOS]

In this post, I’ll showcase four successful muses inspired by The 4-Hour Workweek, including lessons learned, what worked, and what didn’t…

In the comments, please let me know: Is this helpful, and would you like more of these posts? What’s missing? If you’d like to submit your own muse for being highlighted, please see the end of this post.

All suggestions are welcome, and I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

“EarPeace” by Jay Clark

Describe your muse in 1-3 sentences.
EarPeace improves any loud live music or nightlife experience. EarPeace is high fidelity hearing protection that turns down the volume without distorting the sound, it’s virtually invisible, comfortable, reusable, and comes in fantastic packaging.

What is the website for your muse?
http://www.earpeace.com

How much revenue is your muse currently generating per month (on average)?
$5,000 – $10,000 per month

How did you decide on this muse?
My muse solved my problem. I spent carnival in Port of Spain with my beautiful Trinidadian girlfriend and danced for days in costume next to tractor trailers converted to giant rolling speaker stacks. We recovered in Tobago and the ringing in my ears was louder than the waves. I turned to her and asked if she had ever seen ‘stylish’ hearing protection. She hadn’t. Right then I found my muse.

After all the research, I was confident I could inexpensively design a better product, deliver superior marketing, and construct an infrastructure that would run itself. EarPeace solved the three major problems that people have with hearing protection – it destroys sound quality, looks stupid, and isn’t comfortable. When you use EarPeace, live music is crystal clear (you can even hear your friends), people can’t see you wear it (color of your skin and very low profile), and they are very comfortable (and reusable – high value!). I could also wrap it in beautiful packaging and keep a reasonable margin. And, it’s small, inexpensive to ship, and easy to maintain inventory. EarPeace has proven itself a winner.

What ideas did you consider but reject, and why?
I was on the verge of opening a yoga studio in Amsterdam. In January 2008, I flew to Amsterdam to do the final walk-throughs, meetings with business attorneys, real estate agents, real estate attorneys, pay roll processors, personnel managers, accountants, special accountants, other people to help me stay in code for the byzantine list of regulations around hiring people and paying them, and the list goes on… TO OPEN A YOGA STUDIO (insert total exasperation). I read half of “The 4-Hour Workweek” on the way out, and the other half on the way home. I knew right then that the yoga studio (especially in Amsterdam) was not the way. I spent the first two weeks of October 2008 in southern China doing factory tours for EarPeace.

What were some of the main tipping points (if any) or “A-ha!” moments? How did they come about?
The main A-ha moment was the realization that I couldn’t be tied down to a space. A yoga studio (as much as I love my practice) makes you immobile. I grew up overseas and the wanderlust is still strong. I have to run my business from anywhere. EarPeace allowed me to do that.

The other tipping points were making the right decisions about staying tethered to the corporate mother ship. Overdoing it on vacation and taking as much unpaid leave as possible were critical.

What were your biggest mistakes, or biggest wastes of time/money?
Over-ordering inventory. This was the biggest mistake. As soon as you get your first run of product, you are already tweaking it and making it better. Bargain and promise the moon on future sales, and keep the inventory low. On the second order (blister packed EarPeace for venues), I over did it. Thank BUDDHA the initial run of boxed EarPeace for internet sales are still almost perfect.

What have been your key marketing and/or manufacturing lessons learned?
Ask as many smart people for their opinion as you can. The forest quickly gets lost for the trees when you are in the thick of operational, distribution, creative, and financial decision-making. Give 5% of the company to a couple of clutch advisers that will give you 1-2 hours per week to review strategy, make introductions, and help drive sales. You CAN NOT do it all by yourself. There are so many marketing communications decisions that make it impossible to do everything alone. And, as quickly as possible, hire someone part-time to do continuous PR.

How did you find your advisers, and what would be your advice to first-timers?
I was lucky enough to have a robust network of professionals and friends that I could turn to for quick advice during ramp up and launch.  My Thunderbird MBA network is INVALUABLE.  However, if people don’t have those sorts of people on speed dial, it’s then a matter of networking.  The American Marketing Association is cheap to join and has several meetings a month where you can meet smart people who are interested in helping budding entrepreneurs.  The SBA has formal adviser programs.  Kauffman Foundation will help connect people.  There are lots of resources, but you need to get out and have lots of coffees, dinners, and beers until you find someone who you trust, who demonstrates the types of core competencies you need, and is willing to be involved / mentor you through the mountain that is starting a business.

How did you find your manufacturer, and what would be your advice to first-timers?
I found my manufacturer through Alibaba.com and GlobalSources.com.  I contacted all of them through my business email, because using a Gmail account will not get you serious feedback.  I started off with a list of 20+ potential suppliers and sent them all emails.  Based on how quickly they responded, the quality of their English, and their willingness to answer my questions, I narrowed that list to about ten.  I sent those ten an NDA and narrowed it further when there was no response or issues with confidentiality.

Then I asked them to demonstrate that they could create what I wanted through mock ups, and further narrowed the list to about five.  After that, I used my MBA network to help find an interpreter that could help me with the factory visits and negotiations.  This was critical – you don’t know what you don’t know, and there is a lot you don’t know about doing business in China.  Having someone who speaks the language and can drive the negotiations is worth the money.  After I found my interpreter, I got on a plane and went to Hong Kong.

Any key PR wins? Media, well-known users, or company partnerships, etc.? How did they happen?
“A Ringing Endorsement for Earplugs” on Mashable
– Patrick Dierson on the Jay-Z tour
– The Bowery Presents venues in NYC carry EarPeace
– Thievery Corporation has custom EarPeace
– I am making custom EarPeace for SXSW

These all happened through adviser introductions, lots of blind phone calls, and PR. And, being out there. EarPeace had a presence at every major music festival in the late summer. That is a phenomenal work lifestyle.

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would have brought on advisers sooner, ordered less inventory to enable faster product innovation, and spent more money on PR.

What’s next?!
EarPeace is a great product. I am very proud of it. It really works and it’s designed uniquely enough that competing ‘high-fidelity’ products just can’t touch it for normal lifespan. We’re going to transition EarPeace into a consumer, mass-market product. Right now it’s still relatively niche, but EVERYONE needs this. Foam earplugs are great for sleeping, for instance, but you need hearing protection when you are out and about all the time. Whether it’s the movies, the basketball stadium, a loud bar, a restaurant, or the subway. We still need to hear, we just need to turn down the volume. EarPeace does that, discretely, and in a high value way. I want EarPeace at CVS, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart by the end of next year.

Then, I’m taking a break. I’m going back to my favorite Vipassana retreat in Thailand. When I come out after 10 days of no speaking, 10 hours of meditation and 2 hours of yoga per day, and fabulous vegetarian food… the next muse will have manifested itself.

“Summer Jasmines” by Alissa Kraisosky

Describe your muse in 1-3 sentences.
My muse is a foldable, compactable evening and pedicure sandal. It is patent pending, is launched in the US and currently launching in Japan.

What is the website for your muse?
http://www.summerjasmines.com

How much revenue is your muse currently generating per month (on average)?
$1,000 – $2,500 per month

How did you decide on this muse?
I had read Tim’s book on a flight back from a Paris vacation in 2007. I was stuck in a job that was getting more toxic, and Tim’s book got me excited again – kind of like when I was in college and felt like anything was possible. About a year later, necessity became the mother of invention. My feet were hurting walking back to my hotel at a Las Vegas convention center. I wished there was a stylish shoe I could just pull out of an evening bag and wear for comfort. I also wanted something that would easily separate the toes during a pedicure. I pulled out Tim’s book and re-read the chapters on starting a muse, and voilà!

I also used PRLeads and HARO to gain exposure for the product (as mentioned in the book). The idea was put into motion, and Summer Jasmines has since appeared in the Style Network website, attracted the attention of celebrity stylists, and is in the hands of Paris Hilton.

What ideas did you consider but reject, and why?
I thought about doing something in the medical field (my day job is as a physician-psychiatrist) but read Tim’s experiences with BrainQuicken and decided against it. I didn’t want to do something that was too similar to my day job.

What were some of the main tipping points (if any) or “A-ha!” moments? How did they come about?
I was walking back to my hotel from a convention in Las Vegas and my feet were killing me – that was my “A-ha!” moment. I did not want to walk back barefoot, so I limped back to the hotel with my uncomfortable shoes on. I did some searching online and found nothing similar to what I developed. I wanted a shoe that could be worn in emergencies, but also daily or to pedicures.

What were your biggest mistakes, or biggest wastes of time/money?
I hired a PR agency, but found they needed micromanaging and it was not helpful at all. I did much better with Tim’s recommendations in the book, such as HARO and PRLeads.

What have been your key marketing and/or manufacturing lessons learned?
My product needs to really be demonstrated or else it just seems like another shoe that’s joining the masses.

How did you find your manufacturer, and what would be your advice to first-timers?
Finding a manufacturer was tough, as I wanted to make sure they made the product exactly as I designed it. I searched in the United States with no success, and it took me three months, multiple Internet searches, and a flurry of follow up e-mails before I found a reliable manufacturer. This manufacturer was willing to prototype my designs, with minimal cost initially (around US $300) per style. When I saw that the sandals were generating a good market response, I was able to order in bulk.

My advice to first-timers would be to start with Alibaba.com. It’s fairly easy to find a contact who speaks English (in my case) and I was also able to find some pretty big name established manufacturers (for example, those who work with Disney and L’Oreal). Be sure to ask them if they do private label manufacturing (the acronym ODM–original design manufacturer–is what you’re looking for.) Ask them to ship a few sample items to you (or prototypes) to avoid a huge inventory of something you don’t want.  Some other acronyms to learn are: FOB (freight on board or free on board) and ISF (Importer Security Filing) so there are no nasty shipping/customs cost surprises later!

Any key PR wins? Media, well-known users, or company partnerships, etc.?
Joe Robinson at “Entrepreneur” magazine recently interviewed me on surviving multitasking and setting boundaries. Again, it happened via PRLeads, recommended by Tim.

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would have not hired the PR firm.

What’s next?!
I want to keep designing more shoes, and figuring out how to integrate this into medicine to increase wellness. I know it will happen somehow!

“Hewley L-Carnitine Shampoo” by Daniel Bradley

Describe your muse in 1-3 sentences.
Hewley products (L-Carnitine Shampoo and Saw Palmetto Conditioner) help men and women combat thin, lifeless and limp hair with a daily 2-step regimen for thicker, healthier hair, as well as new hair growth.

What is the website for your muse?
http://www.hewley.com

How much revenue is your muse currently generating per month (on average)?
$2,500 – $5,000 per month

How did you decide on this muse?
We did research on scientific journals and studies with respect to stimulating blood flow to the scalp. We discovered some exciting results and found that there was a viable niche, and that the pricing of the products allowed for necessary margins.

What ideas did you consider but reject, and why?
Our first muse concept was fish oil. We found a great Icelandic company that has a terrific product that they would sell to us in bulk. We tested the concept using 4HWW tools, but found there was too much competition and not enough differentiation.

What were some of the main tipping points (if any) or “A-ha!” moments? How did they come about?
The main tipping point was finding that we could ‘name’ our product with an exciting and key ingredient and also own the domain (e.g., L-Carnitine Shampoo – the domain lcarnintineshampoo.com was available). Tying together the domain and the product name seemed like a great way to ‘own’ a niche. We then realized that having a ‘brand” (in our case Hewley) would add the flexibility of playing around with our products and product line.

What were your biggest mistakes, or biggest wastes of time/money?
The biggest trouble has been trying to outsource website design work. We outsourced our product label design to a great firm, and are super excited about the results. But in the web design world, we’ve not had the best luck. We’ve tried a few firms on eLance and a couple of Shopify designers, but we struggled with finding a designer who knew how to ‘design’ for maximum conversion. This has been our biggest waste of time and money.

[Note from Tim: This is where advisors can be very helpful. First, have an advising conversion expert help you put together “wireframes” or sketches of pages that should convert (using pen and paper, or something like Balsamiq). Then have a designer implement and add aesthetic flavor, after which you have a developer chop it up and create the functioning site.]

We are still struggling with the concept of a brand.  We probably would have stuck to ‘L-Carnitine Shampoo’ instead of ‘Hewley.’  Getting people to understand what Hewley is will ultimately be a positive for us, but right now it’s just a hurdle to get over.

What have been your key marketing and/or manufacturing lessons learned?
Twitter! There are firms out there that will manage your Twitter account for $1500+ per month (yikes!). We found SocialOomph and a couple other firms that troll for followers for about $50/month.  In one month, they helped us build our Twitter following from 10 to 1,400 followers, and it is now a major source of traffic to our website.

We also used a marketer on eLance to develop a brochure for us. That saved us a lot of time, and the marketer knew how to use clear, concise, and powerful language.  The brochure came out great!

How did you find your manufacturer, and what would be your advice to first-timers?
Once we proved the concept and decided it was time to outsource production, we started playing detective.  In addition to Google searches, we took each shampoo product that we studied during our product development and looked for clues as to where it was manufactured (whether it was made in-house or outsourced).  We also asked each potential vendor to name a couple companies that they thought were competitors. With this multi-pronged approach, we found many more manufacturers that were initially accessible on the web through simple Google searches.

My advice for first-timers: Start today.  Commit yourself to your muse by putting the idea out there as fast as possible.  We know a lot of folks who have read the 4HWW and love to discuss it and their ideas, but time moves on and nothing happens.  Call a potential business partner and share the tasks; tell all your friends that you are launching a product on X date; build your test site and get it out there.  My partner and I have learned that the fastest way to get something done is to commit to it. You always have time to perfect the product later.

Any key PR wins? Media, well-known users, or company partnerships, etc.? How did they happen?
We are going to be featured in an upcoming issue of a magazine with 100,000 readers. It came about by reaching out to a rep from the magazine and showing her the brochure. We have also been approached by other sites looking to add our product, but are cautious to protect our margins (4HWW).

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
We would have had our product manufactured faster.  We spent too much time in “test mode” by mixing and fulfilling orders on our own. Once this was automated, it was a huge weight off our backs. We could focus on selling and marketing instead of fulfilling.

What’s next?!
We have learned so much since we started.  We’ve been working with a chemist on a much-improved product that includes a concentrated serum, and it’s backed up by some pretty impressive results. We will be rolling this out early next year, and couldn’t be more excited!

“Shred Soles” by Nate Musson

Describe your muse in 1-3 sentences.
Comfortable, canted, performance, snowboard boot insoles.

What is the website for your muse?
http://www.shredsoles.com

How much revenue is your muse currently generating per month (on average)?
$1,000 – $2,500 per month

How did you decide on this muse?
I had the idea for this product in the back of my mind since winter of 2005. After reading 4HWW in 2007, I started to hand-make and test different degrees of canted insoles in my snowboarding boots. I know it sounds cliché, but the idea was kind of like an itch that wouldn’t go away – I just had to keep taking steps towards it, and 4HWW gave me the “road map” along the way! I also felt that this product could fit the 4HWW muse criteria, so I went with it.

What ideas did you consider but reject, and why?
I’d considered making a more versatile, non-canted, non-snowboarding specific insole with cool art printed on it. It would have been way easier to make, but I just didn’t feel that it was niche enough. I really wanted to have something that was snowboarding-specific.

What were some of the main tipping points (if any) or “A-ha!” moments? How did they come about?
First, my own personal testing. I personally made and tried out hundreds of different insoles with different degrees of canting. Second, the affirmation that I was on to something by a professional boot fitter whose classes I’d attended. I kind of had to dance around the topic since I didn’t have a patent at the time. Third, customer feedback! The very first online sale happened before I even had inventory or marketed the site (the site wasn’t even done!).  I had to send the customer my last sample in my size. A couple months later, he emailed me with this unsolicited feedback: “After 2 foot surgeries, I didn’t think my feet would be able to handle snowboarding, but thanks to the Shred Soles, I’m carving up the mountain. Thanks again.”

What were your biggest mistakes, or biggest wastes of time/money?
$600 phone call to a trademark attorney just to have him tell me that “I’ll never be able to trademark Shred Soles.” He was wrong. I just kept pursuing it with the USPTO and it worked out. Paying for services that I didn’t need yet (or ever), like shopping carts, 1-800#, and a podcasting account. Buying business cards too early, and now the info on them is outdated. Getting stuck on patents and trademarks and not moving forward with the rest of the business because I was concerned that they wouldn’t work out.

What have been your key marketing and/or manufacturing lessons learned?
Manufacturing- Keep making calls/emails until you find the right fit. I made 30 or more manufacturing contacts until I found the right one! I had guys tell me that what I was trying to do was stupid, impossible, and that it’s just not the way things are done!

Marketing- Facebook ads and fan page, Twitter, Email list, submitting to product reviews, posting in snowboarding forums, and a little SEO!

How did you find your manufacturer, and what would be your advice to first-timers?
I found my manufacturer through Google, emailing the few that looked decent, then exchanging more emails and phone calls with them if they responded. I decided that most of them were not a “good fit” for what I was trying to make. Finally, I came across a manufacturer that was receptive to my idea! They always responded promptly, while many of the other manufacturers I’d contacted had been very slow to respond.

My advice for the first-timers seeking a manufacturer would be to send lots of emails, make lots of phone calls, and be persistent! Find one that’s “into” what you’re trying to do and really understands the scope of your project.

Any key PR wins? Media, well-known users, or company partnerships, etc.? How did they happen?
I’ve got some big coverage lined up with the #1 snowboarding magazine through a lucky industry connection. Shred Soles has also been covered by the #1 and #2 independent snowboarding bloggers.

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I’d get set up with a mastermind group from the start! That alone would have made the biggest overall impact in every area of the business, IMO!

What’s next?!
The new site just went up, and it has a much cleaner look! I’m going to add some new items into the mix (socks, for instance), as well as a new secret product!  I’d love to do some kind of information product in the future, and have a couple of ideas on the back burner.

###

IMPORTANT AFTERWORD:

Do you have a successful muse that’s generating more than $1,000 per month?

Please tell me about it! If it stands out (meaning you give specific details of lessons learned and what’s worked vs. what didn’t), I’m happy to promote you and help further increase your revenue. If you qualify and this sounds like fun, please fill out this form here.

Both physical and digital goods are welcome, as are services, as long as they’re low-maintenance, income-generating “muses” as described in The 4-Hour Workweek.

Posted on: November 28, 2010.

Please check out Tools of Titans, my latest book, which shares the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers. It was distilled from more than 10,000 pages of notes, and everything has been vetted and tested in my own life in some fashion. The tips and tricks in Tools of Titans changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for sample chapters, full details, and a Foreword from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

463 comments on “Engineering a "Muse": Case Studies of Successful Cash-Flow Businesses

  1. BEST POST SO FAR!! keep it coming. these type of post with actual success stories are very inspirational. the book got me very excited and this post is my second wind.

    where I am in my muse development:
    Tim emphasized on his book the importance of doing market research and test cases before moving forward with an idea. that is also my bottle neck. I am currently in the process of finding a company that can provide market research and comparative market analysis for my idea for a phone app. Ive tried elance and got a few quotes but not sure how I can be sure the information they provide is accurate. developing this app will cost about 20-40k and I want to make sure I do it right.

    would love to hear more about market research and competitive analysis prior to product development on the next post.

    Thanks a million Tim and again Great Post.

    Like

    • Don’t waste money paying someone to do market research! Do it yourself. Get the relevant phone(s) and start browsing for apps. Check the “most-downloaded” lists and read all the app review sites. You’ll learn more than you would from any market research firm.

      Separate point: Your main problem is going to be app discovery – how customers will find your app in a crowded market-place. So either spend your time and money making the app so amazing that every user will tell his friends about it, or else figure out how to market it in a new way. Otherwise, you’ve got a tough row to hoe.

      Like

  2. The ideas are AMAZING, and there’s lots of place for GROWTH for all of these ideas.

    Joint ventures would be the quickest way to create large distribution channels without any expenses (AKA, getting the product into stores/clubs etc..)

    Like

  3. Tim you should get back to writing these kinds of posts. You have some entertaining material, but I would assume that most of us want to know how to build a Muse and live the 4HWW Lifestyle.

    This is where the core of the following is, so I hope to see more beneficial posts.

    All the best!

    Like

  4. Awesome post! I have been trying to learn more about internet marketing. It has been taking sometime, but I am finally making at least a little bit of money from my affiliate sales. It is exciting because now I know it works and I just have to keep doing it. This was a great inspirational post. Thanks again Tim!

    Like

  5. Thanks Tim.
    Seriously, this is an awesome post.
    I think muse creation is probably one of the toughest aspects of the 4HWW to implement for most people and it’s awesome (and inspiring) to have these real life examples to check out.
    Very rad.
    Look forward to seeing many more of these. I love seeing what people have done and how they’ve done it.
    Thanks again.

    Like

  6. Excellent post, thank you Tim! This is exactly the kind of more concrete information I need and love!

    I have a few questions for all of you who are already on the road with your physical products:

    I am currently trying to get the manufacturing of my muse going and boy is it difficult. Just like the case studies above I have tried Alibaba but so far I have not found any one I can trust. Does any one have any advice for how to sift through the bad suppliers? And can any one help out with some concrete advice on payment and not getting scammed? I wish I could just fly out and check the suppliers myself but with kids and work it is simply not possible. And as far as getting someone to source for me, that still leaves the payment and trust issues…

    In order not to get scammed, I double check all information a supplier gives me and I then ask for references (if we seem to be getting somewhere ie) but they all seem to balk at that. No one is willing to give references – is it just me who thinks that is perfectly normal to ask for references? I mean if I am going to pay app. 20 000 USD for a first order I want to do everything I can to make sure a supplier is legitimate.

    As far as payment terms – all suppliers want LC. I understand that it is better for them but LC is a pain, at least with my bank, and it doesn’t really protect me. Does any one have any advice regarding payment? No supplier I have contacted accepts Escrow for example.

    For all of you who have taken the step from final sample to production – do you ship from the supplier direct to your fulfillment service? Or do you use an inspection service (and if so are they reliable and worth the money?) Or do you ship to yourself and check the products yourself before shipping to the fulfillment service?

    As for shipping – do you handle it all yourself or do you hire a broker? Or do you use the major shippers like Fedex, even though they are more expensive? Are their services worth it?

    Final question – does anyone use Amazon – web shop and fulfillment? Or do you have other ‘one stop shops’ to recommend?

    I would love your input – and of course I will be more than happy to share my experiences so far if anyone has any questions!

    Like

    • Johanna,
      I find my new suppliers/factories in China and Indonesia with the help of sourcing agents who I trust. In China, the sourcing company is owned by an American (Midwesterner) and his Chinese wife. They are great. They get paid through a percentage of the orders I place with the factory. I have worked directly with factories, but avoiding the delays and problems due to the language and cultural misunderstandings are well worth the fee. In Indonesia, I found a sourcing company owned by a British expat. In both cases, it works well for me because I communicate with local people who speak my language and understand my business culture and methods but also understand how to do business with the local companies.

      I have not gotten scammed by any suppliers and it is not as big a problem as you think it is sitting in a US home office worrying about unknown people in some other part of the world.

      Payment terms:
      in China, all my suppliers require some down payment at the time of the order/when they start producing the product (typically 50%, can go down to 30% after a longer business relationship has been established and the factory has a track record for me, that I do pay up – remember, they are concerned about getting their money as you are concerned about getting scammed) and the remainder payment when they ship. I.e, there is a small risk for me in that I have fully paid for the order before it is allowed on the ship to me. I can pay the sourcing agents to fly to the factory and do an inspection – it’s a calculation you make based on actual cost and risk – and the inspection is part of the Indonesian agent’s fee (which is also significantly higher % of the order than that of the Chinese agents). I’ve never been asked for an LC but that may be because I am able and willing to pay the 50% up front.

      I ship from the supplier to the fulfillment house. Then I have the fulfillment company send me a random sample of each item. That is way cheaper than having the shipment routed to me. (I actually work with two different fulfillment companies. One of them is so fantastic and engaged with my product lines, and know the products so well that I trust them completely to inspect the merchandise and identify any issues and alert me. They do as good a job at checking as I would.)

      I use on the of large international freight forwarding companies who is also a customs broker for shipping. It’s the same principal as outsourcing anything else – they are the experts on moving freight, filing the customs forms etc and I am not. Whether you use FedEx or a freight forwarded depends on the urgency of the shipment to you and the volume/weight. Ocean/shipping is of course vastly cheaper to get the goods than air/FedEx (FedEx is not your only option for air shipments.) Unless you have a product that is extremely time-sensitive, either because there is only one selling season for it (Easter Eggs, for ex) or it is perishable, or it is super light weight and low volume, it is much much much cheaper to ship by ocean. No matter where you are in the business, just getting it off the ground or already making a good monthly income, you need to keep down your expenses and only spend as much as it takes for essentials. Ocean shipping adds one – three weeks to the delivery, but saves thousands $.

      Amazon is a very expensive fulfillment option, i.e, fulfilling through them will take a big chunk out of your profit. Look for a fulfillment house (they are all pretty much one-stop-shops) either close to the harbor where your goods will likely be delivered (for ex, Los Angeles/Long Beach for most shipments from Asia) or close to where you are so you can easily drive there and inspect your merchandise. Cost out the difference in delivery costs from the harbor… the delivery costs from the harbor inland can add a substantial amount to your cost and may not be worth it if instead you can just have samples sent to you.) Check out several different fulfillment companies, each will have a different fee structure. You will pay them by a) the actual amount of warehousing space used and b) for all functions related to your order fulfillment. There will be a difference in how extensive the services of each fulfillment company are. For ex, some will offer including invoices with the shipment (if you sell wholesale to stores, that is important), some may receive payment checks for you and deposit in your bank, and some will even offer Accounts Receivable services (i.e, calling your (store) customers when their payments are overdue. Each of these services costs you money, of course, but also relieves you of the administrative hassles and time sink. I hope this helps, good luck!

      Like

  7. Tim,

    The eBook is a great example. I cranked one out in 2 months (from thought to publication). Things like outsourcing to low cost providers (eBook Cover, website), freeware (Calibre) and Paypal (fees only with sales) make it an easy low upfront cost route for a non-techie.

    By the way, I even give you a shout out in the book!

    Thanks,

    Vergil Den

    Like

    • Vergil, I cranked out an ebook in 3 months this summer…and just got the website set up, using Clickbank to handle sales. But I’ve got an important question…

      How did you first start getting traction and making sales online? I’m trying to get over this critical hurdle, and it’d be very cool to hear how you made it work.

      Awesome post, Tim (as usual).

      ~Paul

      Like

      • In the process now as well.

        1. Marketing: Guerilla techniques (blog commenting at sites where my audience frequents, reach out to thought leaders on the subject to get endorsement, etc) and Targeted Marketing (Facebook ads per TF method)

        2. PAYR Model (pay after you read). Introductory offer to get people to read my book. Some readers have paid but its more about reducing barriers to actually reading the book (more on PAYR on my Facebook page).

        3. Book Reviewers: There are people that review books for free. A few are in the process of reviewing mine. Hoping for a good review.

        4.Post on ebook Library: It’s free and it drives traffic and offers an easy way to allow for readers to rate book

        5. eBook community on LinkeIn: Lots of really good info from people that have been through it.

        Best of luck Paul,

        Vergil Den

        Like

  8. Tim,

    Glad to see a return to how to. I hadn’t given up on the blog but all of the “this is what other people are doing to have fun” while I’m banging my head on a wall was getting old. Thank you so much for this. I am mid start up on a somewhat different type of product (although one of the case studies in the book was in the same industry ) hope to be over the 1000 dollar mark in six to eight weeks. Please keep up the how to posts as the marketing and finding advisors etc is exactly what I need

    Thanks again for all the inspiration

    Like

  9. Tim,

    I’ve created several service-based business and am transitioning to a product-based business. I’d like to model the muse as precisely as possible. It makes sense in every way.

    Reading and watching, I noticed that NONE OF THESE PRODUCTS/BUSINESSES FIT THE CRITERIA YOU DESCRIBE IN 4HWW 100%.

    I KNOW that you didn’t put these criteria in for no reason. You seem like a pretty methodical guy. In my research, I’ve come to understand again and again that the guidelines work – and why they work – which is why I’m trying to “stick to the book” as closely as possible.

    What can you say about this? Specifically, why is NAILING the model exactly so uncommon? What is the value in exact imitation? What is the value in modifying the model? Are there dangers in modifying the model???

    Thanks for the post. Brilliant. Look forward to more. And, of course, to reading the 4HB!

    Pura vida (from Playa Grande, Costa Rica),

    Nathan Meffert

    Like

      • He might be referring to the $50-$200 criteria 😀 I think the ear peace is only $12.95. This is a hard rule to follow and most of these cases are just below that mark if not much lower.

        Like

      • Thanks for the response, Tim and Morgan!

        For starters, I love all of these products. And, I’m really excited about this post and conversation! Also, these are not criticisms. Just observations that led to questions.

        Here’s what I mean by “not fitting the criteria exactly”:

        Everyday Genius Institute

        Is their business success dependent upon creation of more than one product? Or constant innovation?

        Entropy Energy Drink

        It’s under $50.00. And the marketing copy isn’t directed at a niche. Based on this, I’m wondering how important is finding and selling to a VERY specific niche?

        Snowboard Insole

        I’ve investigated this market. Snowboarders were definitely not ONLY reachable by one or two small magazines that cost less than $5000 to advertise in. For instance, “Snowboarder”, which fits the number of readers criteria easily costs $10,500 to advertise in, and while I know and respect the power of negotiation, it still speaks to the priceyness of reaching this market, right?

        Drum Making Kit

        Under $50.00

        EarPeace

        WAAAAY under $50.00

        So, what do you think – how much can a business/product vary from your formula and still hit the criteria for scalability, automation, and location independence? Has your criteria changed? How?

        Looking forward to more!

        Nathan

        Like

  10. Tim,

    As many seem to be doing, I am trying to find my muse but having trouble. I have scoured your forums but haven’t found the key to my muse yet.

    I have recently been thinking very negatively about the possibility of finding a suitable, practical, realistic muse that works. I love your ideas but have questioned whether an average Joe like me could create a product that would generate more than a few dollars of income. I want to do a digital product but really wonder if I can actually make serious money to change my lifestyle.

    It seems a daunting task but this post gives me a hope (although I sure don’t have the money to travel to China with an interpreter like some people:)

    I also would join in to say we need more posts like this for us average people who need help through our times of questioning.

    Perfect timing. I have been inspired to persevere. Thanks!

    Like

  11. This is an outstanding post, thanks a lot Tim. I have been working on a muse for the last year, started off with an ecommerce store and a business strategy playing and teaching platform. Looking to read more soon. 🙂

    Like

  12. Tim,

    Another very interesting article; really enjoying the content boom lately!

    As a side-but-none-the-less-important note: I just received a UPS notice for the advance copies of the new book! Very exciting!

    Cheers,

    -Chris

    Like

  13. Hi Tim,

    Are we talking about generating $1000/month in revenues or profits? I launched my muse a couple of months ago to test market. It generates 2k/month revenue, but costs about 30% more in adwords cost so far.

    Now that the market is proven, next step is to figure out more and cheaper traffic sources.

    Best,

    Ritesh from your neck of woods (SF bay area)

    Like

  14. LOVE this post!! The details included in the case studies are extremely helpful and always inspiring to hear from other successful people. More More More please.

    Tim, 4HWW changed my life, I cant thank you enough. While I had already started my business, 4HWW has helped me get more freedom from my business and I will be spending most of December and January on a road trip to southern California for my first mini-retirement.

    I recommend 4HWW to everyone who asks me “how did you do it?” (…leave a well paying job for more freedom…). The funny thing is not many make the changes necessary to make it happen. In some cases, it is not the lack of finding a muse but finding the courage to take the leap.

    Like

    • Nice, Michelle! Be sure to stop in Santa Barbara for a day, if you can. It’s a really cute town. San Diego is, of course, always gorgeous. Last but not least, if you have time, drive up Rt. 1 on the coast to San Francisco!

      Have a blast 🙂

      Tim

      Like

  15. Tim-

    These are the kinds of posts that I constantly hope for on the site. I believe that people come to your blog because they like you and hope to find further inspiration and information to push them over the edge to the NR lifestyle. The decision is easy for some, but my hunch is that most have lived a certain way for so long that there is a huge amount of emotional/psychological baggage that holds them back. These types of post give them something sort of tangible to point or hold on to to keep them striving for it. I know they have for me.

    I got the book, which basically changed everything for me about the way I looked at the world and my life, back when it first came out. It took me the last few years to finally do my first mini-retirement to Panama (stellar, omfg the world didn’t collapse because I packed up the family and left for a month, aha moments over and over and over…Just incredible.). It took me until earlier this year to really commit to muse production in earnest. All of this, I believe, was because I had so many years of something else being pounded into my head. In short, the truth seemed obvious while reading the book (over and over), but getting oneself to take the “actions” proves hard on some weird, deep levels.

    All of the content you produce is entertaining and informative. These tend to be the ones, I think, that really knock it out of the park for usefulness and motivation.

    Well Played Sir,

    Paul

    Like

  16. Tim,

    This is so helpful and inspirational. Excellent questions that really help with understanding how they did it. The more you can post the better 🙂

    Hopefully I’ll get off my duff and get one of my many ideas in the market soon!

    Cheers,
    Rich

    Like

  17. Awesome, Awesome Stuff….!
    I love to hear success stories..Especially the meaty – how we did it stories.
    I am currently chasing my tail, going from one idea/test to the next.
    I know how to drive paid traffic… fairly cheap and targeted traffic… I just can’t get any traction with affiliate, adsense, cpa… sigh.

    I know I need to focus and execute…but I get distracted by the first shiny object that passes by….

    Help?!

    Like

  18. Excellent post, I agree – I love reading the muse case studies, they are inspirational and I love learning about new ideas and resources.

    I’m hoping to launch my muse before I graduate in May of 2011. Otherwise I might actually have to use my degree and become a lawyer, and that would be a tragedy.

    I agree with those wanting to know more about “how long” – in fact it’d be interesting to hear something about the “life cycle” of a muse from the birth of an idea to fruition. I like the Q&A format; I think a timeline format might also be useful.

    I’d also love to hear more about ideas for protecting intellectual property/patents/etc. – I know navigating the patent process is exceptionally daunting, and I have a lot of questions about when exactly it becomes necessary, what’s involved, what you have to have ready, costs to anticipate, etc.

    Like

  19. Tim,

    I love this kind of post. Please do more. Personally I would like to see a single post focus on a single muse and have them spread out a bit (better for me to focus on one at a time, and I think it would help retention).

    In addition I would like to see some other information:
    1. Profit. Revenues are great, but profit is key for a muse.
    2. Hours per week. Again the great characteristic of a muse is it doesn’t take over your life. Some of these business sound quite complex. Are they really easy it maintain?
    3. More about problems and how they were overcome.

    Many Thanks!
    Robert

    Like

  20. Tim,
    LOVE this topic and the answers that are answered by these “Muse” creators. It is very helpful in not only information gathering but motivation as well! I have felt stuck in a “Muse” wonderland for some time now and almost lost hope…I am so glad to see this post to kick my ass back into gear and look forward to learning others experiences. One of the best ways to learn other than your own…

    Like

  21. I launched my own web design business(a tough business to get into with all the competition). I think we bring something different to the table as we donate 10% to charity and have a great referral program. I owe the idea to Mr. Ferriss for getting my butt in gear and to TAKE ACTION!

    Like

  22. Finally 🙂 Been waiting for a post like this for a while, Tim. Thanks for starting this thread!

    Are you also going to share some nuts and bolts on how you’ve engineered BrainQuicken?

    Like

  23. Tim,

    As the others… it is underestimated what you have done for soooo many people, including myself. I grabbed your book from the checkout counter about 3 months ago and read every single word more than once.. keep it next to me at the computer and go over the steps…. everyone should know, this is not a fix it all quick solution… but more of a tool that needs to be followed with patience and most of all, persistence! My head is so full of ideas that I am keeping a dairy of all the ideas.. some seem silly, but look around you,, lots of silly ideas have turned into silly healthy bank accounts!
    I have not made a penny yet from this endeavor, but I find myself working harder than ever and thinking more, and enjoying it more than when I had a brick and mortar business than went belly up with the economy:construction… thanks again… I will find my muse or muses and I share then the outcome..

    Like

  24. I’m sure many will agree that we’d want to see more of these case studies! I have read the 4HWW few months ago and I’ve been looking for a muse that I can afford to put up but still unsuccessful. I want to hear more of these success stories for inspiration and motivation.

    Like

  25. Tim,

    Love the post, very motivational to see that it is not just a book but a real how to manual seeing these stories is motivating. Having said that these products look like there was some R&D or serious research involved. Did you ask what the Muse testing cost was for these case studies as well as initial investment. I love the post and it really gets me going, but I want to be realistic about what I can do on a shoestring budget. None of these look very shoestring to me, still great though.

    Like

  26. Hey Tim,

    Got a notice in my inbox for this one at 7:26 this morning. So I guess the email sub glitch is gone. Thanks! (Enduring my first media fast–arrggghhh!–so I’m counting this as an email response. See you on the flipside.)

    Like

  27. These businesses are great, how were they funded? What was the startup investment for these little muse businesses. It would be great to read, I borrowed X,xxx.xx to fund the first prototype phase, and then blah. Or I got a loan, etc. To get to 5 to 10k, when did this happen, did it take 1 month or a year, etc. Many first time “muse” business makers may not take the first step without knowing that some of these small businesses did not take to much capital to get going.

    Like

  28. I’d like to see more recommendations of freelancers and marketing firms that can help people who are developing muses (http://www.socialoomph.com was a great example).

    Another thing I am interested in are operational details like fulfilling, patents, setting up online shops, etc…

    Like

      • Hey Tim Maxey,
        so you can code? My partner and I have a couple of muses we are working on. We have business education and experience, we have secured VC funding before (even though we prefer the self funded route for our new ventures) and we are great at concepts and getting things done. But…we do not code. Do you want to talk?

        Like

  29. Great post Tim! Yes, I would love to see other muse success stories! It turns into a great forum where people who are launching their first muses can learn from each other! I actually wrote down some new tips from the in-depth information you were able to get by the targeted questions. PLEASE keep em coming!

    Like

  30. Tim,

    I found this post very helpful and would certainly like more posts about successful case studies of 4HWW businesses. My only advice would be to keep doing what you’re doing. I truly enjoy your blog for the wide range of topics (ie. business case studies, travel, inspiring stories involving Brazilian supermodels and miscellaneous posts such as the recent, fascinating post on Bill Clinton.) So don’t get TOO narrow with your choice of topics and keep up the great work!

    Like

  31. Hello Tim!

    I am a reader from Brazil. Is there any other successful case in Brazil, with the exception of Nexus Surf? I ask that because: it´s not so easy to start a company in Brazil; and our currency is not a strong one.
    I work in a company that sells laboratory products, and it is a job that nowadays I don´t like (to say the least!). I read the book more than a year ago, but I haven´t started any real business, although I have some ideas. My wife has started reading the book, and she also has some ideas (in a more advanced stage than mine!). What I did until now was to create a website to offer scientific translations, to Brazilian students who need to publish their papers in international magazines. It is not the ideal muse, since it´s a service and not a product, but in two months it “generated” about $1,000, with only $50 in Google Adwords and a $25 website! And that only in my free hours…
    I am saving some money (we have a three-month boy), but next year I´ll make the big move and start my real business (and so will my wife). Maybe soon you´ll hear again from us!
    Your book was (and is) a huge inspiration to me (I re-read some parts almost every week), although I am still very slow to make the big move…
    Thanks again!

    Like

  32. Tim,

    This is very, very helpful and timely.

    I’d be interested, too, in hearing the process people went through to settle on their muse.

    I know you’re a big proponent of testing and retesting to optimize. Have people taken this route — tested several muses and worked with the best, etc.?

    Even though I haven’t been able to find my muse, I find your posts inspiring. And after implementing the Paleo Diet, I’ve managed to lose 25 lbs., gain energy and haven’t been hungry a bit!

    Thank you!

    Like

  33. Just knowing that there are so many muses out there, is there even room for me? Thats my question!
    I am worried that I am too late with even thinking about starting a muse. To see so many great ideas put into action is inspiring on the one hand but also intimidating to me. I understand that you (Tim) give everyone the same information and where people take it from there depends on their commitment. I would like to see myself putting action behind thoughts. Is it too late?

    Like

    • Carl-Phillipp – it’s never too late! Go for it! Remember that with the whole world as your potential market (electronically) there’s market available for every niche imaginable! Think of the difference between a small town and a New York City for example – a small town might be able to support a grocery and a department store, but an NYC can support specialty brick and mortar stores that sell only one thing (buttons, for instance) just because the size of the market is so much larger. Good luck!

      Like

      • Tim,

        I think Steve is referring that the video you posted is out of sync at times. It goes ok to the half of it, and then goes out of sync.

        Btw, could you add the links to the muses you featured on the video? I’m particularly interested in the “Genius” subscription set, and would love to do more research.

        Thanks for being no less than awesome!

        Like

  34. My muse is writing bodybuilding books and training articles for muscle mags. When I first decided to be a writer in my spare time, success to me in the beginning was just completing an article and getting it on the internet. Then eventually it was to get paid for an article. Then it was to publish a book and make passive income from my passion. Then it was to market the book through my articles and blog.

    Each time I published an article, I leveraged it for a greater opportunity. Editors of high traffic sites noticed my articles on low traffic sites and contacted me to write for them. Then I leveraged my online articles to become a writer for print magazines that pay well.

    It’s given me a nice side income, a little extra cash every month for trips and nice dinners with the wife.

    Like

  35. Tim,

    As always, a great post.

    I started my first income producing website 18 months ago after reading your book. While it may not be your average muse; it’s producing 1.5-2k a month of totally passive income with virtually no advertising or overhead costs. My plan is to quit my current six-figure job in the next four months and do a RTW trip for a year or two, working on pushing the business to the next level while keeping it completely hands-free. The goal is 10k a month while remaining location independent and away from the rat race. Two years ago I never would have imagined this was possible, but I now know that I can do this. Let me emphasize that again.. I KNOW I can do this. That’s a pretty heady feeling!

    Thanks again for everything you do. You’re changing people’s lives with this message.

    -Justin

    Like

  36. WOW! This is perfect and exactly what I need. I’m working on starting my first muse right now… well it’s more of idea yet but still I could use a little help beyond your book. So definitely more of these posts! This one is super long so I haven’t gotten through all of it yet. I’m excited though, thanks for tossing this up.

    Like

  37. Does convincing my boss to let me work from home, moving from the middle of Idaho to California, Automating my job to decrease work time from 40 hours to 4 per week, and getting a raise count as a muse?

    The best part? I’m closer than ever to my 1.5 year old daughter!

    Like

  38. This Blog Is All Inspirational!

    Tim! WTF man! You the Bomb! Dig!?

    I mean Jeeze, It’s like Wow! I mean Come on!

    Really I love All that you do as to plant the seeds of liberation and freedom and joy amongst your fellow earthlings.

    Good Job, Man!

    Azstrel

    Like

  39. Would be great to have more specifics

    can anyone give examples for services that provide PR Leads in Germany which are not extremely expensive ?

    as the examples in the post:

    PRLeads and HARO

    Like

  40. Extremely good post! Inspirational for so many, as obvious from the comments.

    However, some of the most important aspects of these muses are not addressed. Newbies need to be aware of them, else their muse can be a very expensive flop rather than the entry to a better lifestyle.

    In my experience (2 concurrent businesses selling several (tangible) product lines) these are:

    1) Cash is king! Cash flow and managing cash flow must be a high priority. You can be profitable yet running out of money and having to close the business after having poured a lot of money into it.
    2) Profit is the number that counts, not revenue. A business may be bringing in $50 k per month in revenue, while costing $48 k/month in expenses and cost of goods. Or $52K…

    BTW, 4HWW was the key to getting me to the more relaxed lifestyle I needed. Running my businesses was taking up all my time, 24/7, even though I outsourced much of it such as the warehousing and fulfillment. Once I realized I was holding on to doing many aspects of the business that I could outsource, too, my quality of life has shot way up. And right now that is especially valuable: though my businesses are in the US, I am writing this from Europe where I am able to spend quality time with a very, very sick family member. I could never have taken that time even a year ago…. thanks Tim!

    Like

    • Hey Andrea,

      I’m looking to connect with entrepreneur’s who have successfully gone from a service business (aka job disguised as a business) to a muse/lifestyle business.

      I saw your comment, which really resonated with me. I also checked out your website. I would love to spend 10 minutes with you on the phone to hear your process for creating your muse first-hand.

      I’m really looking to build a muse, and looking for guidance from entrepreneur’s who have successfully made the jump.

      Any guidance you can lend would be greatly appreciated.

      You can email me at gkandersoninc at gmail.com

      Look forward to connecting with you.

      Peace,

      Gabriel

      Like

  41. Hi Tim,

    I’m approx 11 months into the start up of my muse. Mines an on-line (software) application for Physiotherapists, Chiro’s and Osteopaths.

    As it’s a ‘digital product’ the running costs are very very low. Personally for me the investment was very much on the front end. I managed to reduce the upfront costs by negotiating a profit share with the developer, who built it.

    I have to say not everything has gone smoothly and there is still much work to do. However long term this is very easy to maintain and very very high margin ‘product’.

    With respect to the case studies I’d love to have more detail on the profits (rather then their turnover), the time investment and other ‘difficulties’ they’ve had to overcome to get there muse up and running.

    Give me till the end of next year and I’ll have mine profitable to the tune of $1000 – $2000 per month.

    As always, you’re a true master at educating us here on your blog.

    Thanks.

    Alex

    Like

  42. Hi Tim,

    really great post! Think it outlined muse creation great, and it’s good to see some real examples. May we hope that the next book is more muse focused..?

    One question: do you have any thoughts on the time aspect? As in, are physical products or intangible/e-products easier to get going quickly? Also, is any of them more long-term sustainable?

    Like

  43. These are the kinds of articles that are priceless. Very motivating to see that other people are getting the info from the book and applying.

    I just started reading the book…I already have a muse. Not it is just a matter of time until I am featured on This blog as well.

    Rob

    Like

  44. Thank You! Love these examples,…had put this on the back-burner for awhile but with my product arriving in the next week I am very happy to be able to hang out here and be inspired by these as I prepare for the next steps! (And maybe get featured in the next 6 months as I succeed!) Especially like the highlight of the huge variety of muses from virtual to tangible etc. It is so awesome to see how many people have put this into practice! You are truly inspiring people AND they are succeeding. Just awesome.

    Like

  45. I’ve just come up with my muse. This will make you laugh Tim.

    It’s 1:10am here in Japan. I’ve woken up with my heart racing out of my chest because of the pumping of my neighbours dance music on the wall in the apartment downstairs.

    After looking through his door’s spy hole, I finally convince him I mean no harm and he opens it on the latch, “What do you want?”

    “I’ve been raped!” says I, wearing just my underwear. His face was priceless. And I quickly corrected my mistaken Japanese.

    “Sh*t!! I’ve just done a Tim Ferriss.” (RE: Tim’s same mistake with his host family years ago.)

    My muse? T-shirts for the foreign community here saying, “Okosu, don’t Okasu people.”

    Like

  46. Great post! I’ve built my muse into a sustainable business, but still working to expand it to support me full-time. I meet so many people who would love to leave the rat-race, but few know where to start. Your advice is a great launching point, I just wish I had found it earlier.

    Like

  47. An especially great post. Seeing all of these start-ups is very motivating. Any time frame on when you expect to roll out a follow up post with the new submissions?

    I imagine it’s a great feeling seeing all of these readers with their own muse’s/improved lifestyles

    Like

  48. Tim, these are great examples of muses. I think one thing that I’ve always had problems with is (1) figuring out what kind of product people want or need and then (2) figuring out how to “get people in the door” – the marketing tactics.

    If you could address each of these in detail, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thanks.

    Like

  49. Great Post, would love to see more like this!

    I started working on my first muse in September and it is a great learning experience. My problem is similar to what some other commenters have said: I need a good adviser and have had problems with my programmers that I found through VA website.

    A post on how to find a good website designer/programmer seems to be something that would do very well as this has become a problem for many people. I’m at the point where I’m willing to give equity just to have someone good to work with.

    Thanks for the great post! Keep it coming!

    Jeremy

    Like

  50. Hi all,

    The most of the muses I’ve heard about via 4HWW are planned to serve that huge demand presented by the USA. How is it possible to implement a muse in such a small market like Hungary? Only 10 million people live here in Hungary… 🙂 Shipping costs and other taxes are too high to deliver a piece of a product to the States for example.
    Or is it a good idea to produce for the EU and develop a website in english?
    Or only digital products are worth to deal with?

    Thanks for your pieces of advice!

    Regards,
    Akos

    Like

  51. Hi Tim,

    I’m a Ph.D. student, who was bored and unhappy with my dissertation project and life in general, until recently, until my encounter with your 4HWW book!

    Ever since, I’ve eliminated many of junk activities, stopped pretending to be busy without contributing to anything, and oiled and streamlined my work process. Now I’m much happier and productive ever.

    So I got tell you, many of your 4HWW concepts works for academics, too! (At least for some open-minded geeks like me, willing to try something outside academia.) I believe we can use many of the concepts you mention in this post for producing information products (like journal articles) and doing research.

    Many thanks for all the inspirations and intellectual stimulations you bring to us,

    Masato

    Like

  52. I would like to see more posts like this. It would be nice to see how they implemented the 4 hour work week and profits/revenue if possible.

    Like

  53. Please add more questions about time scales; more information on how long it took to get from x to y e.g. how many weeks from: concept to prototype; production of units to sales. Including what could have been improved to make the process more efficient, and thus quicker.

    As a side note: Tim, you always remind me of Wenthworth Miller: both of you went to Princeton, have the typical lowbrow, deep set eye look and articulate your thoughts well. Has anybody else ever said this to you Tim?

    Like

  54. Yes, please continue with more of these posts. The success stories are hugely helpful. Sometimes I want to ring your neck for showing me the possibilities and making me believe it is all possible. But I realize that it was me who chose to follow internet marketing down the rabbit hole and try to learn everything. I have a bad habit of consuming information for its own sake and not acting.
    Muse creation has been very difficult for me. I’ve had a-ha moments and did nothing or talked my self out of a good idea and I’ve followed some bad ones too. I’m getting clearer and closer and more profitable, but I don’t have a success story to tell yet. I will though…

    Like

  55. This post could not have come at a better time.

    Personally, I am going through some ‘troubled’ times and this post is truly inspirational.

    As some of the other comments alluded to, it would be nice to see a tad more detail in following areas:
    – Start up costs
    – how long they tested for and if they used the PPC method for testing, if so, what some of the details they found ex. CPC, % conversions other metrics

    I think many of the readers are in the constant scurry stage where we are looking to try to find a product mark it up 10x and try to convert it to sales, and could use some advice from people who have already done it.

    I have already tried two separate muses and used the PPC adwords testing method described in the 4HWW, but have not been able to successfully launch either because the #s never made sense in the end.

    With that said, the book is still by my side, I am again re-reading it, and am determined to continue to strive for what a muse could mean for me.

    My one call of action to the readers – To the FORUM!

    Thanks again Tim.

    Like

  56. I just want to say that I love you Tim. Just the perfect thing for me to read today. Truly inspired me to go after something I previously thought not doable at my age.

    Thank you for all your wisdom.

    Like

  57. Tim –

    Though I visit the site often and enjoy many of your posts, it’s posts like these – the muse case studies – that I really look for. Hearing about other people succeeding with what I am working toward is HUGELY inspiring and informative. More! More! More! 🙂

    Thanks!

    Like

  58. Awesome Tim!
    Do I feel a regular “Muse Monday” blog post coming on?
    That would be a great way to start off the week. You could do a short video or just the written Q & A. Please consider doing it regularly!

    Also, where’s the advance book copy love for this Mompreneur who wanted you to tweak your book jacket? 🙂

    You rock,
    Electra

    Like

  59. Thank you Tim for featuring Entropy on the video portion. (I love the blog, but I don’t usually comment, first time).

    To answer some questions that people asked here, I can offer my experience with Entropy:

    @Haitham, Stability: can’t say yet, we’ve only hit the market for 2 months, so nothing is stable in the financial/sales department yet.

    @gianni, Funding: Entropy was all self-funded. It was more costly than what Tim usually advises, but the rationale at the time for me was that if it’s too cheap to do it, the barriers to entry are too small. Turns out this is not true, even costly things can be done easily because there are easy ways of getting money to do it if the margins are there.

    @isabelle, @mac, Time-to-market: It took about 9 months for the whole process from concept to market. Most of the time was just waiting for the various pieces to fall in place though.

    Thanks Tim, keep up the good work!

    Like

  60. Standing on munichs airport with tons of snow and no derparture permission. But having a great time with your post, thank you so much Tim…

    Like

  61. I know that Tim is super mega giga ultra busy (read – unreachable :)) but maybe someone else could just give me some advices for beginning of online business. I have web page called Blanket for Two dot com. I used till now only adwords. My idea was to make super easy web page, and only after first deal – to actuality improve web page and advertising… After one week – no sales… 🙂

    The person who will give the best idea – will get one Blanket for free after few first sold blankets! 🙂

    Like

  62. Thank you, Tim! This post has me picking up the ball where I’d dropped it. 🙂

    I could use some specifics on low-cost packaging design and production, in my case along the lines of the Genius Series. Who did the design, the production specs, and who produced it? What was the process? and what did each cost?

    Like

    • Hi Barbara – I am the Founder and CEO of the Everyday Genius Institute and I just saw your question and thought I might be able to offer some insights.

      From concept of the company to the release of our first product took me about 9 months. I now now have 4 products in the series with more on the way. I did a LOT of the work myself. I found freelancers to do what I couldn’t.

      I should start by saying that branding, design and aesthetics were very important to me, so I spent a lot of time thinking about the right look for the company and the product line. I found my video team, graphic designer and illustrator all through Craigslist. I paid $75 for the ads and found some really awesome people. I am a huge fan of Craigslist. I’m not such a big fan of eLance, but that’s just me.

      Finding the right people to carry out my vision took some effort. I actually hired and fired 3 graphic designers until I found the perfect guy on Craigslist. But once I found the right guy, he helped me come up with the logo, product cover design and overall packaging look that I really fell in love with. This graphic designer worked full time for West Elm and did some freelancing on the side for me. He did a ton of work for just a few thousand dollars. My illustrator (who now does all of the graphic illustrations in the books) lives in the UK and does amazing work for cheap. He illustrated the entire A+ Student book for $1,000, which was a bargain given how much he did. I hired a photographer who did all of the cover photos for about $400 each. And for one of the covers I paid for an image from a high end stock photography site for about $350. My video team has been with me from the beginning. These two brothers freelance for about $350/day each and together we have made all of our DVDs. Making the videos has been the most expensive part because editing takes days and days. And we paid for a lot of stock photography to include in the videos. They are very high quality productions that look far more expensive than they cost. But I did all of the producing, directing and script writing myself (I taught myself how on this project because I couldn’t afford to hire it out).

      I wrote all of the Strategy Blueprints that come with the products (these are 35-45 page books that come with each product). That part was really hard but I couldn’t possibly find anyone else to do it. As for copywriting, it’s been my experience that finding a good copywriter to say what you want is really hard (or really expensive), so I decided to learn how to do it myself. I deconstructed one of the best copywriters in the business, Cory Fossum, and learned his copywriting strategy. Then we actually created a whole product based on his copywriting strategy, which, IMHO, is a must have for anyone who has to write their own web or product copy (it’s called Think like a Genius Marketing Copywriter).

      I found an amazing printing company in San Francisco, Essence Printing, who worked with me on the finer points of the packaging, DVD pocket design, paper weight, etc. As Tim mentions in his book, the set up cost is the biggest expense in printing. The first 500 copies are really expensive, then they get a lot cheaper per unit after that. Everything we did was all custom, which added to the cost. But if you picked standard packaging options, you could do it cheaper.

      I should mention that we have been talking with many big box stores about distribution. OfficeMax is considering carrying our Think like a Genius Straight A+ Student product, but they have very strict packaging requirements, which means we will likely have to redesign the whole package to fit on their shelves if they pick up our product line.

      I’d be happy to share more on the process I went through to create this product line if you or anyone else reading this post would like. Maybe Tim will do a full featured case study and I can share more details than fit here. I hope this helps.

      My best piece of advice: spend the time finding the right people who ‘get’ your vision. Do some small test projects with freelancers before signing up for a full project that will cost you thousands. Expect to ‘waste’ some money but make it your goal to keep this ‘waste’ to a minimum and just know it’s part of the overall cost of making a product. I know many entrepreneurs who have spent thousands on companies to help them design their packaging and they never got what they wanted. Freelancers are far cheaper than firms, but it also means more work on your end to find them and coordinate everyone. Also, do all of your own copywriting at first. Then hire someone to smooth it out if you have to.

      I used many principles in the 4HWW to design the backend fulfillment process. I wanted to create a product line that would be relevant now and long into the future and have a good chance of getting big retail distribution. It’s been a very busy year getting it all going. My goal wasn’t to create a single ‘muse’, but a company that had many ‘muse’ components and was something I really loved to do. In 2011 my goal is to release more products, all while earning automated income to keep it all going. And I really, really love what I get to do everyday so it doesn’t feel like work.

      Like

      • Taryn, this is fantastic! It really helps a lot with my current project – I went through this the expensive “normal” way in the early ’90s and really didn’t want to go that route again… Thank you so much for taking the time to reply – and with so much detail! I really appreciate it and I’m sure so many of us will benefit from it.

        Like

      • This reply is for Taryn Voget

        Taryn,

        Thank you so much for taking the time to share that priceless knowledge with us! Not sure if you’ll see this post since it has been a few months but the information you listed is very valuable and greatly appreciated.

        I took a look at your website and your products seem amazing. I feel like I want to get them all!

        I also love the look, the design and the who concept. Great job.

        I am kinda following a similar path. I am in the very early stages but this gives me a lot of inspiration. My focus is towards academic test prep and I think I have a great handle on the content but I am still researching the presentation methods. I will be the presenter of the content but I have been vacillating between doing an “explain-it-on-the-board” type video or doing something more interactive with animations and screen captures etc. My main focus is math.

        Any resources/books that talks about video editing, creating how-to videos, simple animations for videos, etc. will be very useful. Feel free to let me know if you can think of any.

        I agree that Craigslist is a good resource. I made a post looking for a partner who has video experience and I got tons of responses but most of it were people trying to make a quick buck. I am wondering now if I should do the video editing, and finalize the video product myself. It will be a learning experience.

        Good luck with your products and keep up the great work!

        Moneer

        Like

  63. LOVE this topic and the answers that are answered by these “Muse” creators. It is very helpful in not only information gathering but motivation as well! I have felt stuck in a “Muse” wonderland for some time now and almost lost hope…I am so glad to see this post to kick my ass back into gear and look forward to learning others experiences. One of the best ways to learn other than your own…

    Like

  64. Thanks so much! Now I know where to get snowboard boot insoles and awesome ear plugs! Yeah, the girly stuff didn’t appeal to me as much, but please post more of these. Everything is truly inspirational 🙂

    S

    Like

  65. Great case studies! Always inspiring.

    Maybe consider adding approx hours per week spent a. getting their muse up and running and b. maintaining once going. We all know it is hard work to get these off the ground, so an indication of how much hard work would be interesting.

    Great work guys!

    Like

  66. Excellent post.

    I would definitely love to see more. Something like this on a regular basis would be great!

    Looking forward to the new book. PreOder: DONE

    Like

  67. Excellent post–very inspirational.

    Only EarPeace had an affiliate link! Get some entrepreneurs who are fans of Tim (and who isn’t?) working for you guys!

    Thanks.

    Like

  68. Hi Tim,
    Thank you for this incredibly helpful post. In a future round of case studies, I’d be interested in hearing how people tested their products. For some reason that’s where I’m stuck the most.
    Thanks,
    Michael

    Like

  69. Great post. This reminds me of the the profiled businesses from Entrepreneur Magazine, but with VERY helpful nuts-and-bolts details.

    Can’t wait for The Four Hour Body! I might have to cryogenically freeze myself until December 14th. 🙂

    Cheers,
    -JDP

    Like

  70. Tim,

    I was wondering if you have come across anything that might be specific to someone that owns a franchise. I know a lot of what you talk about can be used towards a franchise but I was just curious if you have found anything through the years that is franchise specific. Things like how to make your franchise stand out from your competitors as well as other franchise locations and anything along lines of how to draw in new business. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Like

  71. Hey 4HWW community,

    First of all this was a killer post! Exactly what I’ve been looking for. I really enjoyed reading the comments on this post, and all the others and thought I’d reach out to the community – since there seems to be sooooo many smart people on here.

    I’m really, super, super close to automating my current business as much as possible. I have a great partner who I trust, who is exceptional at handling the day-to-day – and I should have all my operations outsourced by first quarter of next year. I love my business, but it’s stopped being fun and exciting for me – even though I’m good at it. I’m now looking to really create a life, and use my muse to fund it.

    My question has to do with creating my muse. I’ve gone through the 4HWW forums, read 4HWW several times (no kidding at least 5 times now) and I’m absolutely obsessed with figuring this out.

    I spend the daytime putting the systems in place to get my existing business outsourced, and then alah Gary Vaynerchuk style, I do damage in the evening hours trying to research and think of my muse, and come up with ideas. Just jotting down anything that comes to mind.

    I just can’t seem to get a muse figured out. I’ve looked at all my past, and present associations, clubs, etc. I’ve made a list of all the things that I’m good at and what I like to do. I’ve gone to just about every book store in town to look at magazines and have spent literally hundreds of hours looking in the back of them to find products. I’ve googled just about every idea/niche I can think of to find product/muse ideas. This has become a total obsession for me… I just haven’t cracked the code yet.

    I’m a pretty smart guy, with a ton of passion – I gotta believe I can figure this out.

    Any suggestions, feedback, help, etc. would be greatly appreciated. If you’ve created your muse, I would love to hear from you – buy you a cup of coffee (if you’re in so-cal :)) or just hop on the phone, and am totally willing to get schooled on how you did it, and listen to any suggestions you have.

    Please leave me a comment if you have a suggestion. When I get an idea I really run with it… just need the idea now, and nothings really clicked yet. Maybe I just need another set of eyeballs.

    Thanks in advance – and likewise, if there’s anything I can do to support you/the community… hit me up :).

    Peace,

    Gabriel

    Like

  72. Summer Jasmines Math

    Product Price: $118
    Keywords:
    touch up shoes: $1.22
    designer flip flops: $1.53
    touch up bridal shoes: $1.31
    touch ups bridal shoes: $1.57
    Avg: $1.41 (Not a weighted avg based on traffic)

    If the COGS = $30

    Here’s the math:
    Daily CPC Budget: $282 (Cost to get 200 visitors, so at least one person buys)
    Website conversion: .05%
    One sales: $118
    Net: – 194 (282+30)-118
    = -194

    Even if the conversion is bumped up to 1% the site still looks like it doesnt pass the test.

    It looks like the testing math as provided in the book doesnt quite work here. I guess this is why Jasmine has lowered the Google ad budget – hoping for other traffic sources, word of mouth – idk?

    Did I miss something?

    This is why every time I try to run a test – I end up paying for 600 clicks at $1.50 and only get 2 actual purchases.

    Am I missing something – i know it doesnt take into effect brand-building, repeat purchases, or word of mouth, but isnt this the right way to test?

    Need some help from the community here.
    Will also look for help on this in the forum.

    The Reactor

    Like

  73. I have a question for those of you who already have successful cash flow businesses established.

    How would your business function if you were unable to be there to run it?

    I ask this question because it seems that almost all businesses involve the owner(s) to be involved in the business in order for it to run successfully. To me, it would be difficult to set up a business and have it on auto-pilot without worrying about how things will operate.

    I know that most people are honest, but it only takes one person to ruin a small enterprise. I see monetary theft and intellectual property theft as two of the biggest concerns with running a business. It seems that it would be exceedingly difficult for a small cash flow business owner to rebuild after a large sum of money was stolen or the blueprints for the main product were duplicated and sold for cheap. There just seems that there is no safety net to prevent a catastrophic event from taking place.

    How are safety nets built into your business?

    If you have had an unfortunate event happen, were you able to recover?

    If you were not able to recover, were you liable for huge expenses?

    I would definitely like for people to come forth with stories on how to deal with the end of a business.

    Like

  74. As always, this was exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks for pulling it together, Tim.

    And, if I may summarize, imperfect action is always better than sitting on our asses stalling. Sometimes, it seems, it’s easier to tolerate than change.

    Here’s to growth!

    Like

  75. My brother has done well to create cash streams in WV, PA and OH by installing portable ATMs. [RFS ATMs] They pay themselves off in 4-6 months, or less. Then $2 per transaction from then on.

    If one is in a good foot traffic area, with nearby access to a power source and phone line, this passive income comes in very handy. It’s been recession proof too.

    For one customer this Black Friday, $70,000 was withdrawn. That’s a lot of extra cash. (I just wish I lived a block away by Main St, I’d run cords out to one. If it’s insured-no worries.)

    Like

  76. Thank you for the wonderful post. And congratulations to the individuals featured. You guys are awesome.

    It is great to hear about these success stories and there is so much to learn from them. I really enjoy reading posts like this. But when I’m finished reading, sometimes it feels like I haven’t gotten the important real nitty-gritty stuff out of the case study. (It could be just me) Don’t get me wrong. Of course I would love to read more posts about success cases in detail as they are very inspirational. (More about successful online services, please) But I would also like to hear from/of people with muses that didn’t work out and yet to achieve success. Because most people are in that category and will remain there until muse experimentation bears fruit. I think there is much to discuss about that category.

    I also noticed there aren’t many posts on the topic ‘failure’. The post “Harnessing Entrepreneurial Manic-Depression” was only one I remember that remotely dealt with the topic. (I loved the ‘transition curve’ graph) Actual ‘failure’ (not success fondly looking back on the tough times) is the common denominator in both muse creation and entrepreneurship in general. Such examples as bankruptcy, loss of capital, lack of clients and customers, come to mind. It feels like a missed opportunity not to discuss such a common subject. I think it would be a nice balance, along with the success stories and principles, to have a series of in-depth posts regarding to the subject “failure” in the future.

    By the way, I saw your “official trailer” for the 4 hour body on YouTube. Pretty cool. I’m surprised you did not post it on your blog yet, because it is bound to cause quite a buzz. (cool effects. mad scientist/athlete kind of vibe) The only thing I would like to comment is that there are only men appearing in the trailer. It kind of gives the impression that the “4 hour body” is just for men which I know is not the case. I suggest adding some female footage so that you don’t neglect your female fan base.

    Like

    • Yes, this is exactly what I want to hear about.

      Failure is important to me. I do not desire for people to fail, but the stories are sometimes more interesting than the success stories. Plus, most people who eventually become successful have a great deal of failed ventures that they sometimes do not share.

      Failure is not the end of the world.

      Like

  77. Another great post! Still trying to see how I can apply these concepts to a crazy idea my wife and I came up with. A Million Dollar Experience and corresponding blog. Any suggestions would be welcome!

    Like