Engineering a “Muse” – Volume 3: Case Studies of Successful Cash-Flow Businesses

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).

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 them.

In this installment, I’ll showcase three diverse muses, including lessons learned, what worked, and what didn’t. Income ranges from $2,500 – $25,000 per month…

”Datsusara MMA” by Christopher Odell

Describe your muse in 1-3 sentences

Datsusara MMA makes hemp bags and apparel for martial artists.

 

What is the website for your muse?

https://www.dsgear.com/

How much revenue is your muse currently generating per month (on average)?

$5,000 – $10,000 per month

 

To get to this monthly revenue number, how long did it take after the idea struck?

Three years.

 

How did you decide on this muse?

I was at a crisis point in my life when I realized I needed to do something I truly loved instead of what I was merely skilled at doing.

I thought deeply on things that I loved. One was Mixed Martial Arts, and another was hemp products. That’s when it clicked. I realized that making a high quality hemp bag for MMA enthusiasts would fill a gap in the market.

What ideas did you consider but reject, and why?

I thought of starting a small MMA fight promotion but decided it would be more trouble than I wanted to deal with.

What were some of the main tipping points (if any) or “A-ha!” moments? How did they come about?

It all started to sink in when we got our first prototype. Being able to see and touch the actual product really changes everything. It helped me realize that you truly could make your dreams appear by simply shifting your time and energy into the right places.

What resources or tools did you find most helpful when you were getting started?

A message board called Sherdog.net was our biggest source of early sales. This was due to a few gear review postings by our first customers (friends at my gym).

Having a decent looking website with good product descriptions and photos was critical, as well.

What were your biggest mistakes, or biggest wastes of time/money?

Sending out free gear bags to pro fighters cost us thousands in revenue and was a huge waste, except for the one and only response we got. That one response was from Eddie Bravo, who is well known in the MMA scene and gave us our first pro endorsement. We should have targeted more carefully, because we knew that Eddie loved hemp products and MMA already.

What have been your key marketing and/or manufacturing lessons learned?

In manufacturing, we learned to never rush a product out when you think you are “close enough,” assuming the odds and ends will be taken care of on the final product run. Since we were not 100% specific on what we wanted, our manufacturer cut some corners and cost us quite a bit of money in product exchanges.

But we did learn that if you treat your customers with care, they will stick with you and sometimes become even more loyal despite your mistakes.

If you used a manufacturer, how did you find them? What are your suggestions for first-timers?

I used Alibaba.com to find manufacturers. It was fairly easy but also a bit terrifying since you don’t always know who or what you are really dealing with.

We looked for manufacturers that had experience with hemp and military gear (we wanted these bags to be very strong). We reached out to several companies, judged them by how good their responses were, then chose a few to make our first prototype. After that, we made our final decision based on quality of the prototype and ease of obtaining it.

Any key PR wins? Media, well-known users, or company partnerships, etc.? How did they happen?

Our Facebook fan page probably generates more interest then any other source at this point and it’s growing fast. We also love that it’s free 🙂

The endorsement from the sample we sent to Eddie Bravo was very useful, as was the mention by Tim Ferriss on Twitter about the sample we sent him.

We were also approached by many distributors that had simply heard of our gear and wanted to get on board. We picked one from each country that would have an exclusive for our gear. We chose the companies that had a good reputation and the best exposure. This has helped us generate over 60% of our sales, but it does impact our revenue negatively since they purchase at a wholesale price.

Where did you register your domain (URL)?

http://www.poehosting.com

Where did you decide to host your domain?

http://mediatemple.net

If you used a web designer, where did you find them?

I had a friend design the site (paid gig).

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have shopped around more for a better importer, as our current importer charges half what we paid the first and does twice the work.

I also would have started the Facebook fan page right away.

What’s next?!

We may be expanding soon to other markets outside of MMA if we get some solid financial backing.

We hope to make hemp bags and apparel for all lifestyles while maintaining our quality of goods and customer service.

”Ready Set Go Kits” by Amy Sandoz

Describe your muse in 1-3 sentences

I help schools and families prepare for emergencies by offering ready-made emergency kits and free disaster planning information.

What is the website for your muse?

http://www.readysetgokits.com

Ready Set Go Kits

How much revenue is your muse currently generating per month (on average)?

$2,500 – $5,000 per month

To get to this monthly revenue number, how long did it take after the idea struck?

One year.

How did you decide on this muse?

A friend and I were reading The 4-Hour Workweek at the same time and decided to just go for it. We sat down and listed out all the activities we had ever been involved in throughout our lives, then listed out the products that people in those same activities needed. The next steps were picking the five products that were most interesting to us, researching their markets, and seeing whether there was a drop-shipper available. I’m a long-time volunteer at American Red Cross and knew that people had trouble building an emergency kit. When I found an emergency kit manufacturer, I knew I had found my muse.

What ideas did you consider but reject, and why?

Selling salsa dance shoes and apparel was rejected because of a lack of dropshipper in the U.S., and bobbleheads were similarly rejected because of no desire to try to find a manufacturer overseas.

What were some of the main tipping points (if any) or “A-ha!” moments? How did they come about?

My first big sale to a school district – they found me online and I thought “Wow, I actually own a business now!” It really reinforced the online model for me.

What resources or tools did you find most helpful when you were getting started?

I found the “SEO for Dummies” book super helpful, as well as the technical support staff at CoreCommerce.com (my hosted shopping cart software). It was also easy to get overwhelmed, so all action items were broken down into very small pieces, e.g. “Research names for business” or “Research hosted shopping carts.”

What were your biggest mistakes, or biggest wastes of time/money?

I’ve spent a lot of money on seminars and books promising to get me more sales or to the top of Google search for my keywords… and I’d like to get that money back. Most of that stuff was useless.

I also spent a lot of time trying to do things myself. I’m happy with the knowledge I’ve gained, but I think I would have started making money sooner if I had outsourced more things.

What have been your key marketing and/or manufacturing lessons learned?

You think you know who your target market is, but you really have no idea until you have paying customers. When I started the business, I was convinced that my target market was moms in the 35-55 range. I’m finding now that it’s really more of a 50/50 split between men and women.

If you used a manufacturer, how did you find them? What are your suggestions for first-timers?

I found my manufacturer through an online search and submitted an application to become a reseller. I ordered products from them to see what kind of packaging they came in, how long they took to arrive, and to determine the quality of the kits.

My suggestion for first-timers would be to go out and tour the operation (if you live nearby) and get to know the owner. That way if you have any trouble later, you’ll know where to turn.

Any key PR wins? Media, well-known users, or company partnerships, etc.? How did they happen?

I applied for the Project Rev small business contest through Deluxe Corporation and won! They have been really helpful in getting press coverage and exposure for my business. I also hired a public relations freelancer and we set up a yearly schedule for pitches. I’m happy to report that she has already helped me land four feature print articles and an invitation to appear on a local TV station.

Where did you register your domain (URL)?

http://www.godaddy.com

Where did you decide to host your domain?

http://www.corecommerce.com

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have found a reputable SEO person and hired them early on. That would have saved a lot of time and confusion.

What’s next?!

I’ve just launched a complementary site (www.ReadySetGoKitsDisasterPlan.com) that allows families to download free disaster planning templates that they can fill out and then tuck into their emergency kit. I’m also experimenting with creating videos about disaster preparedness to help raise awareness.

”Music Teachers Helper” by Brandon Pearce

Describe your muse in 1-3 sentences

Online software to help private music teachers manage the business side of their teaching studios.

What is the website for your muse?

http://www.musicteachershelper.com

Music Teachers Helper

How much revenue is your muse currently generating per month (on average)?

More than $25,000 per month

To get to this monthly revenue number, how long did it take after the idea struck?

Five years.

How did you decide on this muse?

I used to teach private piano lessons, and got frustrated having to keep track of how much they owed me. I wrote a simple program to track it, put it online so students could check the amount themselves and pay, and it just took off from there.

It started small, making just $1,000 or so per month after the first couple years, but it continues to grow to this day.

What ideas did you consider but reject, and why?

I thought about making a program to help private teachers of all types (ie. dance, yoga, and karate instructors, etc). I rejected it because I thought it was too broad to make one program that will fit all of these types. However, I did eventually create something for larger studios with multiple teachers (www.studiohelper.com) that serves a broader audience, and it’s also doing well. But it’s more difficult to market to such a broad audience.

What were some of the main tipping points (if any) or “A-ha!” moments? How did they come about?

When my father-in-law lost his high-position job because of downsizing, I realized that there is no such thing as job security when you work for someone else. I became determined to find a way to have money come to me, no matter how much I work or where I live.

What resources or tools did you find most helpful when you were getting started?

When I started, I was doing everything myself – the programming, the design, the marketing, etc. And I knew basically nothing about starting a business. The Internet was helpful for research, but after I read 4HWW, I became a lot more productive. I started outsourcing things, built up enough courage to quit my job, and the business really took off. These days, I’m working about five hours per week, living in Costa Rica (for now), and thoroughly enjoying my life! (Thanks Tim!!!)

What were your biggest mistakes, or biggest wastes of time/money?

My biggest mistakes, financially and emotionally, were when I partnered with individuals and companies who ended up being more of a drain than a help. They were expensive to remove, as well. But those experiences helped me learn to value my time and product, and to be more cautious about who I do business with.

What have been your key marketing and/or manufacturing lessons learned?

With a complex web application, you can’t write it once and be done; you need to continue making enhancements and listen to user feedback in order to have a successful product.

Any key PR wins? Media, well-known users, or company partnerships, etc.? How did they happen?

No, it’s been a steady, slow-growing process, all self-funded and mostly self-promoted.

Where did you register your domain (URL)?

http://www.godaddy.com

Where did you decide to host your domain?

http://www.liquidweb.com

If you used a web designer, where did you find them?

oDesk.com (Although initially, I designed it myself).

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have kept the product simpler, and been more picky about what features to include, rather than adding nearly every feature the customer wanted (necessitating a huge redesign later).

What’s next?!

In this business, I’ll be focusing more on marketing and really getting the word out, and pushing our affiliate program more. I’m not sure if I will start another business soon, but I’m starting to look into real estate, just to diversify my income a little.

I’m also working on a book about what I’ve learned in the process of creating this online business, in the hopes that it will help others who want to do something similar. I plan to spend more time writing music in the months and years ahead, continue to travel, and enjoy my life doing whatever I can to make the world a better place.

###

Parts one and two of this series — another six success stories — can be found here.

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.

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.

 

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 600 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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265 Replies to “Engineering a “Muse” – Volume 3: Case Studies of Successful Cash-Flow Businesses”

  1. Tim, if you could address the ettiquette surrounding initiating joint ventures and perhaps include a few template emails, I know I could substantially benefit from it and I am hoping others could too. Thanks in advance.

  2. I don’t like the articles where Tim outsources his content .

    And I’m a reader who really feels this blog has some good info, as opposed to “contributors” who just post to get clicks

  3. This is a great article. I’m just getting into IM in the mens self improvement niche. I love seeing how my work pays off. No bosses!

  4. Just posting my response to a post here that should cover many of the questions people have been writing about. Please excuse my somewhat hasty and poorly written responses as i am not a fan of expressing myself via the written word and i’m trying to at least keep to a four hour work day heheh

    ‘Sam’ on the blog 4hww:

    […] 1. Design – Did you design the bag yourself or did you have to hire a freelance product designer/company and you just gave them the details of your idea? Did the designer work for a one-time flat fee? How different did the final product turn out compared to when you first thought of the idea?

    I designed it myself mostly but with some input from friends at the gym and my friend that made the photoshop mockup. They all got a free bag for the help 🙂

    2. Was it costly to have a prototype made? You mentioned you assumed the odds and ends would be taken care of on the final product run. Does this mean that no second prototype was made after giving feedback on the first prototype? Would it have been an option to have them make a second prototype before the final production run?

    The prototypes were free except shipping costs but some companies want to charge you for each step, yet still if working in China this isn’t much, perhaps $50 per prototype plus $40 shipping. We made about 3 prototypes before the first full run.

    3. You mentioned you have distributors in other countries now. Does your product ship to them from the manufacturer or from you?

    I try to time it so that my manufacturer ships directly when they are about to ship me a batch anyway. This saves money by not having to pay import shipping and taxes before I send them back out and it saves a bit of carbon as well.

    4. Were you able to easily negotiate a minimum quantity order from the manufacturer? Since you used Alibaba, I’m guessing you worked with a manufacturer in China? Did you visit them or was it easy to stay local and get the product developed through correspondence?

    I have been lucky to find manufacturers that deal with small orders but they charge more per unit for this luxury. I have never been to the manufacturing site for any of my products that are made either here in the US or in China. This sometimes leads to miscommunications and quality issues but I like to think that in the modern age of email, video conferencing etc., that this is old fashioned and a waste of jet fuel. I prefer to stay home with my dog rather then take 15 hour plane flights.

    5. You mentioned you wish you had shopped around for a better importer. This part confuses me a bit. I thought that YOU were the importer. Since you were working with a manufacturer on developing this product, I assumed you placed the order with them to ship the goods to you. Who is this third-party importer you are referring to and where did you find them?

    When you import goods there is a lot of paperwork and processes that you have to understand. You can use services like FedEx but it is very expensive, nearly $5 per pound, but they will get it to your door in about a week. Shipping things by sea is much cheaper coming in around $1 per pound or less, it takes about 6 weeks with this method but to me that’s worth it. With either method you have taxes, customs fees etc.. There is also much to learn about customs codes and other things that must be documented and filed with customs in order to get your shipment released. You can learn the process yourself but it’s much easier and more time effective to have an import company take care of this. My first company was expensive and sloppy. They didn’t file paperwork properly and I still had to pickup the goods at the local port. My new company just gets things done right and gets the good right to my door for less money.

    6. Lastly, it states that it took three years before the idea struck. In those three years, what part of the endeavor took the longest?

    I’d say working on making sure the product was up to spec. as far as quality goes was the hardest and most time consuming part. This is partially because we stuck with a manufacturer for 2 years that just wasn’t quite working but we were afraid to move on.

    I hope this helps and I apologize for the lack of detail but I’m very busy now and I really want to get off my computer to watch the Daily Show 🙂

    -Chris

    1. Chris,

      Thank you SO much for replying to my post. Your feedback is very informative. I understand how busy you must be and at the same time placing value for free time so I really appreciate the time you’ve taken to respond.

      That’s so cool that you were able to design the bag yourself. Not only must you have saved some money on that task, but I’m sure it must feel quite nice to be able to hold a product in your hands that is so much “yours”. I’ve considered designing my own idea, but part of me feels that getting a different perspective on the product from someone with expertise in design could be helpful. This part for me is yet to be determined. Glad to see that it worked out for you.

      Great idea on having your supplier ship to overseas customers when they’re about to ship to you. Just curious, who handles the shipping paperwork for shipments from overseas manufacturer to customers outside the US?

      Thanks for clearing up the question on the importer. I see now that you were referring to the customs broker. Yeah, I definitely have no desire to deal with all that paperwork. I think that would get me off track and lose my focus on the “fun” stuff, like developing product! If its not a problem, and its ok with the forum rules, can you pass on the name of your customs broker? I’ve heard good things about Expeditors International which has been around for a long time and has many office locations. I’m not at the point of having products shipped yet, but it would be nice to have a recommended person on file.

      That’s amazing that you were able to go through the whole ordeal of developing a product without actually visiting the factory. Good to hear that enough could still be conveyed through email, phone and video conference. Do you think development would have been quicker if you did go overseas?

      Thanks again, Chris, for the info you’ve provided and for your story. If you don’t get a chance to reply to my follow up questions, no worries! You’ve been very helpful already.

      Cheers!

      1. I am a designer with a keen eye for detail. I am from London and understand the Western Market, but I am living and working in Hong Kong for one of the regions largest electronic companies, living here allows me access to Shenzhen within 50 minuites, If have been conciously on the look out for a muse, but have not yet found anything appropriate/legal that would provide me with enough profit yet.

        If anyone is looking to manufacture in China we should connect to discuss possibilities of collaborating on the project.

  5. oh and for those of you worried about products being copied by working with overseas manufacturers i want to remind you that it doesn’t matter where you get your things made, they can always be copied to an extent and it’s not a good reason to keep your dreams from being produced.

    keep on mind you are not just the product you make. most innovative companies will always struggle with late comers copying much of their work but you have to just keep moving and making things better. your customers will be loyal if you are good to them and they’ll pay good money to know they supported real deal.

    which reminds me i want to stress that customer care is huge. i treat my customers like my friends even at the cost of great time and money. in turn i now have quite a following of very loyal, enthusiastic, and understanding customers. i once near shed a tear when being compared to Zappos customer care 🙂

    1. Chris,

      Congratulations on your success and thank you for elaborating on your post and experiences.

      Justice

  6. Another amazing post Tim, really enjoying the mini series on Muses! Its not often you get to look @ someone successful and see not only the success but also their failures and really LEARN from their experiences. This makes 9+ broken down and alot more covered in general, really man, thanks for these post, they’re instrumental in keeping focused.

  7. Thanks for the case studies.

    One big piece of info that seems to be missing is startup costs. How much are people spending up front and how long until they get it back?

  8. Maybe I am late to the party, but I would like to see top 3 Muses of the week, or at worst, a month. Nothing like seeing success stories to get the brain ticking.

  9. Brett, JV instructional materials – The best I’ve had recommended to me is Jay Abrahams.

    Google… Jay Abraham Joint Venture Materials

    Hope this helps,

    GB

  10. @Dan O – I had basically no startup costs since I did all the work myself. But it took hundreds of hours of my own blood, sweat, and tears before I was making enough to hire help. Cheap, but hard, and definitely worth it!

  11. Dan,

    It’s mostly your own hours as Brandon said.

    But for me it was about 3k in the first 100 units plus about 1k shipping. The rest was just a simple website setup (maybe 6 hours of work) and around 40 hours of planning/design. The start was much less time consuming then then things are now. At this point I could spend 8+ hours a day because there is always something that you could be doing to improve things, but it’s good to know when to put the computer down and enjoy some r&r.

    If you guys didn’t see Tim’s talk at Samovar about Zen and the Art of Life Management you really should. It’s long but so useful for us self employed types that tend to get obsessed and start tying our self worth to our companies.

    1. Chris,

      First of all, thank you so much for sharing with us! Your real-life information is incredibly helpful.

      1. I am very confused with your start-up costs. You write that it cost you @ $3K for 100 units + @ $1K shipping. You are selling those bags on your site for $99. How were you able to make any profit? It seems as though you’d be losing money.

      2. How long did it take from when you started contacting the manufacturers to having a finished product to sell?

      And about how much time did it take for you to receive your fist prototype?

      Right now I am researching the logistics of 3 muses; two physical products which will require manufacturers and drop shipping and one educational product which I will create on my own. I’m trying to figure out which I can financially take on right now as it seems that start up costs could be rather high (to an unemployed person as myself!). I wish I were a programmer and could create something as Brandon did and recommends….they do seem to be the most profitable and generate repeat/ more secure and long-lasting business with the least amount of financial risk.

  12. Hello everyone. I need some advice on developing my “Muse”. Usually after about a week or two of researching my Muse I become discouraged. I begin the preliminary research and get excited about developing the idea then suddenly I find a very similar product or service. At this point I begin to wonder if my idea is really worth working on if it has already been tried. I’ve done the same with writing books – I write the first page for each chapter then start to get discouraged when I find whole websites devoted to my ideas. Does anyone have any suggestions for maintaining momentum when developing a Muse. Also, Is finding a similar product or service necessarily a bad thing when developing a muse?

  13. I enjoyed reading the stories of these muse generating people it’s motivating to me as I work on my first muse as well. Should be out in a couple of weeks and I am very excited to finish the process more than make money. I think once the process for launching this first muse is done I will know so much more and be in a better position to create and dig into different muse (or is it muses?) that I can then expect to bring more money. Tim your book 4 hour work week played a large part in the direction my muse took. Prior to listening to your book in CD form I had only a vague idea of what I wanted my “muse launch” to be like. Upon finishing the book a couple dozen times I knew exactly what I needed to do and so far have spent a great deal of late nights working on it but have spent only the cost of the website design and have really put some of your tips to use. Thanks so much I look forward to your articles. Party on!

  14. You have to love what you are doing in order to succeed in business and this interview is a great example of that. Good luck to all of you trying to make their idea work!

  15. Bill. I think in that case the question i do you offer something the others don’t? A new perspective, better service, etc. For me if there are more hemp products on the market it may hurt me in competition somewhat but overall it’s a big world and when another enters the market it helps us all by increasing market size and education.

    One thing I promised myself was that my company would never make anything that others already make unless we could improve on some aspect, that’s why we don’t make boxing gloves and such, I can’t make them from hemp or other environmentally friendly materials and I can’t make them better then the competition so they will be more durable and hence waste less, so we don’t make them. But if there is something I can improve or even just serve a new area of the market I’ll do it. Such as making hemp pants, so many offer hemp pants already but our market and style is different as we go beyond appealing to hippies and green people. We actually try to appeal to your average person that just wants strong durable gear, the fact that it’s environmentally friendly too is a bit of a background trick that we don’t highlight.

    So don’t be discouraged so long as you have something different to offer in some way, even if it’s just having better customer service then the next guy.

    1. Hey Chris,

      Thanks for sharing so much here. It’s really appreciated! There seems to be a bit of a theme of people I’ve seen with successful muses just ignoring the testing phase altogether and going on a hunch (eg, see the post by Amy “Ready Set Go Kits” Sandoz above). I’m curious what kind of testing you did before deciding to push ahead with this?

      By the way, it’s also a huge relief to see someone making hemp clothes that aren’t *^%##! yoga wear for a change! Would love to see more images / video of the clothes actually being worn on your site (so you can see how they hang).

  16. I suspect of the three cases cited only musicteachershelper is profitable. Note too the significant time from project inception to generating a meaningful revenue stream. We are talking years here, several years, not months, for a few thousand dollars of revenue, and some of the case examples appear to be very labor intensive. I think for persons wishing to develop a less labor intensive muse an information product or the software as a service (SAAS) model is the way to go. Anything else seems like a full time job to me. Though the muse process was greatly over simplified I think the reality is that it is very challenging and a lot of up front and ongoing work or we would all be millionaires and successful business owners and not ‘9 to 5ers’. Hope I am not pouring cold water on anyones dreams – just injecting a does of reality here.

  17. These articles are great, I just read every reply because the feedback was excellent. I learned so much especially on the physical product side about manufacturing, importing, startup costs (for a basic physical product around 5000, at least I think), etc.

    I am actually in college, really hard to start businesses, because I had like no time being an engineer. But I started one, kinda failed/on its last leg (I’ll write up a report for the forums in a few weeks when I confirm its dead,kinda paranoid about people taking my ideas and all). I have like 5 friends working on it (paid). It’s full scale launch is in two weeks, but due to core problems I think it will fail (I really tried every approach), tons of demand too. I really hope it works, anyway on the forms, or if Tim requests it, lol.

    I’ll probably do a physical product business next. But just to let people know to, even if your business fails, you still learn a lot, technically,emotionally,managerially,etc.

    Just go for it, although try to do a lower cost idea first as you will make lots of mistakes, especially the first time. Another thing, it is a drastic roller coaster ride, the better the idea potential the steeper the emotional peaks and valleys. Some days I was feeling like a god when something was working, the next day I was felt like the world was about to explode. Over time you kinda get used to it, lol, and then it is just like you see a problem you attack it and then move on.

    I will admit seeing how long it took these businesses to stick, I am a bit intimidated. For my first business, I have been only at it for like 6 months, one month partial/test launch, 2 weeks to full scale, but it is kinda a very unique situation. Its gonna go out with a boom, or maybe even start with one.

    Questions:

    Well best of luck to everyone, and by the way to the original writers, What made you determine that your idea was brilliant enough to stick to, even though it wasn’t catching on in the marketplace (at least at first)?/Did you ever think, ok it is time to cut my losses?

    I personally know successful entrepreneurs and a lot of their success came from failing multiple times they know/learned when to jump ship on their bad ideas without wasting too much time.

    Did anyone bother getting a patent or even just a provisional patent?

    Anything I should read in terms of manufacturing and import/export/distribution type books? Because that is the one sector not covered heavily on this blog or 4hrwk wk.

    Thanks best of luck on everyone elses ideas.

    PS-By the way, having a partner can be great but hiring is usually a better option at first cause many people have horrible work ethics when they are in control of when+how they can work, even if they get good grades or happen to work good in the workplace, that is not necessarily how they will act when they are the leader/co founder. I had one dude (hired thankfully), straight A s in a hard major, really loved the idea wanted to invest as a partner, I said no not great timing, so he worked for me a bit. Whenever I needed him he was drunk or high, I mean it is college, but seriously I can’t have my associates incapacitated 24/7 . Had to fire him, nicely of course since he was a friend.

    Anyway, hope it turns out good.

  18. Sam,

    As far as product design I do like designing things myself but right now I am looking into finding a designer that understand military style gear design and manufacturing. I’m not even sure what that job title would be so I am struggling to find someone actually. Designing the PGB was easy, backpacks not so much, in fact we borrowed a few elements from other backpacks to make ours which I’m not thrilled about but it’s ok for now.

    My manufacturer only ships to my overseas distributors but if I get a direct international order I still ship USPS from here for that. BTW FedEx home delivery is the best for inside US shipping over 2 LBS but USPS is by far the cheapest for international orders.

    My customs broker is Morrison Express Co. they rock and if you use them please let them know I sent you.

    If it wasn’t for the plane ride I would like to visit the factory someday mostly because I’d like to see China but I don’t know how much it would really help in speeding up development or quality checking unless I stayed there for months at a time. I suspect the only thing it really does is get your manufacturers to like you more since you get some face time.

    Monkill, thanks for that, I love rebranding hemp so it can be taken away from the hippie roots and appreciated by a broader spectrum of humans. As for testing I basically tested the prototype bags myself for a few months and that was it. I figured if I liked it more like me would also.

    Hope that covers the questions, thanks to all for the kind words, I’m glad to help here all I can.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to reply!

      So you had a full website and prototypes made before doing any online research on whether there was any demand for an MMA bag? When I use Google traffic estimator on phrases like MMA bag and even MMA gear it suggests almost no traffic at all (17 clicks/day globally for the #1 spot on mma gear and zero for mma bag). I’m still trying to figure out if there’s a rough, fast, 80/20 way of deciding whether a market is even worth the time to build a test site with sales copy and an adwords campaign for (I’ve wasted a lot previously with test sites that got zero interest). IE I’m wondering exactly how you “realized that making a high quality hemp bag for MMA enthusiasts would fill a gap in the market.”

      Thanks again!

  19. I have a question regarding researching / choosing your “muse” prior to looking for a distributor/ manufacturer: 4HWW only suggests looking up niche magazines but does not mention checking traffic on google adwords PPC prior to “selecting” and “testing” the muse. Has anyone used google adwords to test keyword traffic as a factor in deciding whether or not there will be demand for your product? I’m curious because my muse has very low keyword traffic and I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. I’ve tried this, but not had much success with it *yet* thus all my testing related questions here! I’m starting to have a hunch that Adwords traffic estimator is stupidly conservative (maybe they assume the average advertiser writes awful copy). I do think this method has promise, but I’d listen to someone who’s gotten it to work rather than someone who hasn’t (yet!) ;P

  20. monkill,

    for me i simply went on the old fashioned idea that if i liked the bag and my gym buddies liked the bag, then there would be others that felt the same. i did use the keyword tool before i started adwords on google but i only spend $20 a month on that since most of our biz is generated through message boards, gear review blogs and direct promotions.

    i think the 4hww ideas are very good and useful for many products but in my case it wasn’t just a matter of what would sell well, it was more a matter of what would make me happy and hopefully enough others to support me doing that thing full time…the rest of our success is a bonus as i see it.

    i’m sure that someday i will be where Tim was with his first biz and part of this will be due to me not following the 4hww suggestions (although just knowing this may keep it from ever becoming as bad as his situation was) so don’t necessarily take my advice as anything very wise, it’s just one way and so far, for me it beats the hell out of my old job 🙂

  21. I agree with Chris. I didn’t do any keyword or Adwords testing or anything when I started my businesses (didn’t even know that stuff existed until later). My rule of thumb is, if there are a handful of people you know who would buy your product, then chances are you’ll be able to find a good number more, with all the billions that exist in the world. You just have to know how to reach them. Google searches aren’t the only way people can learn about your product. You may not get millions of customers, but pretty much anybody can get a few hundred.

    As for avoiding failure, simply don’t give up. You only fail once you’ve quit.

  22. @Chris, Monkiii, Brandon

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this blog. Your writings are helping a LOT of people that aren’t even posting in it but that are following it like crazy (me included).

    Chris, what’s new in the ‘Daily Show’? 😀 – your product really inspired me because, as you well stated, this product it’s just about making money, but doing something you like to do and that is related to your personal life.

    For me, i feel the exact same thing with my muse. There are practically 0 (zero) searches for it, but due to the fact that I know the market for looong time, I know it will sell and I know people will buy it. It’s kinda of a ‘missing link’ in my niche that will certainly be copied.

    That leaves me with a question. On Alibaba, if you have to custom made a product, and try to find a manufacturer yourself you will be losing sooooo many time with back and forth e-mail (it happened to me) just to find out that the manufacturers didn’t understand what you wanted in the first place (although it was pretty explicit that I wanted to modify something they sell to obtain different characteristics they kept trying to sell me their own products :S mind boggling).

    So you are almost obliged to fill a ”buying lead’ or ‘RFQ – Request for Quotation” form where you expose all the ‘in’s and out’s’ of your product, materials, photographies of prototypes, etc so that ‘Alibaba’ can match specific manufacturers from which you will get quotations.

    Although it makes pure sense, I’m terribly afraid that my idea gets copied as soon as the RFQ reaches the asians mail servers. Am I being paranoid? What’s the workaround in this situation? Is it even worth it to patent or register the idea? As Chris told about his gear, “if someone wants to copy your product, they will copy it, they just can’t copy your logo” which I know to be true.

    Thanks again on your thoughts guys.

  23. Ze,

    Wish I had better advice for you but it sounds like your product is more complicated than a bag. I’m sure there must be some way to protect yourself with a non disclosure agreement but enforcing that in China without big legal power might be tough.

  24. Hey Tim, I just want to thank you for the brilliance of the muse paradigm. This thread is a great testament of its effectiveness. I recently released a self-help video series, easily the most fun and gratifying thing I have ever done, and it never would have happened without “The Four Hour Workweek.” The book (and your blog) consistently gave me the business-oriented inspiration needed to see my project through to completion . Thanks again for turning conventional product-designing wisdom on its head, and give me a holla if you want a free copy of the video. Cheers.

  25. Thanks Chris,

    I’ve been heavily searching the web and abusing of the patience of my mobile contacts and I finally got to something.

    For what I’ve learned it’s almost mandatory for you to protect your invention as it will protect it and will automatically grant it like being yours. This means that no one will be able to sell it, import it, wholesale it, etc without your written permission to do so.

    If they do so disregarding your authorization then you may sue them (and your 100% guaranteed to win).

    It may be obvious to most but the truth is I’ve been in forums all over the world and no one seemed to have (or didn’t wanted to share) this bit of information, although being also in the 4hww book :/

  26. Chris,

    First of all, thank you so much for sharing with us! Your real-life information is incredibly helpful.

    1. I am very confused with your start-up costs. You write that it cost you @ $3K for 100 units + @ $1K shipping. You are selling those bags on your site for $99. How were you able to make any profit? It seems as though you’d be losing money.

    2. How long did it take from when you started contacting the manufacturers to having a finished product to sell?

    And about how much time did it take for you to receive your fist prototype?

    Right now I am researching the logistics of 3 muses; two physical products which will require manufacturers and drop shipping and one educational product which I will create on my own. I’m trying to figure out which I can financially take on right now as it seems that start up costs could be rather high (to an unemployed person as myself!). I wish I were a programmer and could create something as Brandon did and recommends….they do seem to be the most profitable and generate repeat/ more secure and long-lasting business with the least amount of financial risk.

    1. @Nicole

      I know it wasn’t directed to me, but just to point it out. If he bought 100 units for $3K + $1K shipping. That equal $4K. If he sells 100 units for $99, that is $9.9K – $4K = $5.9K profit

  27. My apologies to Chris and thank you Jeff W. for clearing that up. I have redefined the saying “there are no stupid questions, only stupid people.” to “stupid people ask stupid questions!” Honestly, I am not dim witted, I clearly am in need of rest and to take a break from my muse creation.

    My head has been spinning trying to get information from manufacturers and determine if they are in fact the true manufacturer or simply the supplier/ and or distributor.

  28. well Jeff helped out with #1 there although I admit that if i had a proper staff and office this might be very little unless we increase the volume of sales drastically. imagine how little we make on our wholesale orders with this setup. but hemp isn’t cheap and i wanted it to be accessible for more than the rich.

    as far as how long i think it was about 6 months, the first prototype came within two weeks and the next two soon after. a few months of testing and we placed our first order.

    1. Thank you for getting back to me Chris.

      I am really losing my mind here on Alibaba because I’m noticing that many of their “manufacturers” are actually B2B suppliers. Globalresources is just as bad. Almost 6 hours of research online today to have found so far only 1 actual manufacturer of the product I want to improve and three resellers. I’ve emailed them each (with my company email- however the website is not yet constructed so I’m hoping that doesn’t count against me for now), with my questions and am really hoping that they will respond to me as I don’t have much choice in who else to contact. My tenacity will conquer! If they don’t write me back…I’ll call and call and call…or rethink my materials! My product will either be plastic or acrylic. We’ll see who responds to me.

      I think it is amazing of you to have a greater good in mind with your pricing. On behalf of all those who would like to see more “eco” friendly products at more affordable prices, I thank you! In the long run, I could charge a small fortune for what I’m trying to develop but the point is so that people like me (current financial status = crappy!) can afford something so cool!

      Keep on inspiring Chris 😀

  29. Nicole,

    I feel your frustrations. I am currently looking for new manufacturers and it’s very hard to tell who actually own the factory and who is just a middleman. Sometimes they have company videos on Alibaba that help where they show you the factory but I suppose even these could be a lie. Just be persistent and you will find something. Also maybe we need to suggest a quality rating and review system for Alibaba, it would really help those of us looking to see testimonials from other real customers.

    As for prices, I’ll keep doing what I can, the trick is maintaining quality of gear and my quality of life…having a proper savings account would be nice someday heheh

    Good luck 🙂

    1. Alex,

      Hmm yes could be interpreted as a dick thing to say but perhaps it’s our fault for not making the marketing clear.For one thing we are using hemp which is not just a marketing twist, it’s a fundamental change.

      We also make other things besides bags and the lineup is growing. We make gear for smart green minded people that also want top notch (military) quality. The idea is that you don’t have to be a hippie to enjoy the great benefits of hemp and you don’t have to be a soldier to appreciate strong, durable gear.

  30. Alex,

    The entire point is to either create or differentiate. I know Chris said earlier that he prefers to design his own but in one instance he was unable to do so. His differentiation is that his product is made of hemp which has various benefits and it is to a new market. One great thing about commerce is that products and ideas can be and should be moved laterally throughout markets. I know it’s a bit of a stretch of an example, but I think it suits my point. The internet was originally a military product and yet someone saw the benefits it would have to the public and brought it to us. That’s business baby! WIFM. (What’s in it for me- the way the customer thinks) Find your market and give them what they need and want whether it’s out there already or you invent it yourself!

    Chris,

    I think putting together a list of manufacturers would be a great idea. Pooling what’s worked and hasn’t worked will be a great resource and time saver for many people who are in the same boat. I don’t however trust Alibaba or Globalsources to include customer reviews as they already have star ratings and gold memberships which really haven’t been totally accurate. In my research, I’ve also found that many companies on these sites are total scams and will email you whatever you want to hear. They could easily post dummie testimonials and I believe they would! Perhaps we can have something for 4HWW only? Maybe as a thread in the forum?

    On another note, I just got this in my groupon today and thought it was an amazing business idea!!! They are not associated with 4HWW but I’d love to hear their case study. It seems like a great example and reminds me of the Ready Set Go Kits. It’s called Spoonful of Comfort Chicken Soup and it sells “Get Well Soon” care packages. What a great idea. It certainly will generate repeat business. One last thought and inspiration to me is Send a Ball. This idea generates repeat business and probably has a fantastic markup as it’s just a cheap plastic ball and weighs next to nothing to ship!

    Thank you again to everyone out there sharing your stories and offering advice and answering questions.

  31. Nicole, good post. Btw I think that have a ball idea was on Shark Tank, I love that show. I’ll see about adding a thread to the 4hww forum about manufacturers. The real problem I keep forgetting is that no one wants you to know who they use.

    Jim, in the apparel and gear biz I have been told you really can’t patent much unless it’s very specific, in fact copying is rampant for this reason. So I’m ignoring it for now other than trademarking my biz name and such. I’m not really worried about someone copying me anyway, i can’t just be like Apple if that happens 🙂

  32. 3 janvier 2011: je m’installe dans un site géographique génial en France dans l’Aveyron pour travailler sans être dérangé, préparer mes futures muses et partir en Voyage en Turquie et Chili dans les 6 mois.

    Pourtant je n’ai acheté la semaine de 4 H qu’hier 26 mars.

    Ce livre correspond à tous points de vue à ma philosophie de vie que je n’ai jamais eu le temps de pouvoir mettre en pratique.

    Merci Tim.

    Dans 6 mois je remets un commentaire.

  33. there is always some time involved but the less the better. as i may have said doing this by comparison to my old job video productions (service job) is so much better. i have to thank Tim for reminding me of how bad service job suck time when i asked him if i should start a fight promotion company or stick with just the gear, he suggested to stay away from the fight promotion which was a very good call.

  34. What gets me wondering… is how does one track the revenue/interest a facebook fan page generates? Is it the law of averages, or is there a precise way to measure it?

  35. Daniel,

    FB has a “view insights” option which allows you to see certain things like interactions per month, demographics by location sex age, etc. But for tracking sales I think you would need more, or simple use coupon codes to know where a user came from.

  36. Heya – has anyone found a really good site / service for doing website mock-ups and wireframes? preferably with a free trial option…

    Cheers

    Tom

  37. It’s interesting to see that the case studies aren’t making millions. In fact, considering the amount of effort and time they’ve put in the ROI is very low.

    Very clever of Tim to target the bored middle aged customer in to beleiving his business model works. They say there’s a sucker born every second and his customers are a testament to that.

  38. RM, that seems a bit rude, have a bad day at your 8 to 5?

    I actually see that my company could be making millions and although I look forward to getting there it isn’t my long term goal. The main idea that I think Tim is promoting is to do something you love and make sure you have enough free time to actually enjoy your life. How you see that as failure is beyond me.

    Tim’s ideas work quite well if you simply take what is useful to you and discard the rest, it’s not a cookie cutter model.

    1. Hate to hijack like this, but do you have any suggestions for getting MMA fighter endorsements? I have different product in a similar niche and would seriously benefit from an endorsement but I can’t afford to send a bottle out to 100 fighters.

  39. Hey RM,

    I believe you should try this test:

    1. Track number of hours overtime you do at work for a few weeks

    2. Divide your annual bonus by annualised result from #1

    This gives you your pay rate for the hours worked over and above your standard hours – is it a lot lower than your pay rate for standard hours?

    The ROI you have to “beat” is only the answer to number 2, not your normal hourly pay rate.

    Or this test (use the same time-scale for pt 1 and 2):

    1. How much money does the company you work for make per employee

    2. Divide that number by the hours you work

    Whats the $ difference between #2 and your pay rate?

    The larger that gap is, the more value you have personally that someone else is getting the $’s for (though, of course, some of that value is derived from the company you work for, and the other people that work there)

    Both of these figures may give you a different grasp on ROI – for instance, if either one or both calculations make you realise that you become alot worse off (in an economic sense) the exact minute you work over 40 hours a week, then it suddenly gets easier to reach positive ROI on that extra time if you spend it doing something that’s better for you in the longer term .

    That something could be a muse, or spending more time with your kids, or getting fitter, or all 3 – I think the point is to be aware of that trade-off, and then make some decisions…

    Just at thought…

  40. Superb case studies, thank you. Question: Why is only revenue shown? Revenue is meaningless, it’s profit that should be the focus.

    Also, Tim, where are the info product examples?

  41. I’d love to get my muse up to those levels. How do you get endorsements from MMA fighters without sending to them blindly though? I agree with Datsusara that it’s no good to send out blindly, but no doubt his Eddie Bravo endorsement helped a ton.

  42. Love the case studies. Need the encouragement.

    In the middle of creating a muse now … lots of work and pain to get it

    off the ground. Will be worth it …

    ever consider doing a post on the top pitfalls in creating the muse?

    It seems most people are still on the sidelines when it comes to

    creating the muse.

  43. Steve,

    I’d say try networking a bit or even somehow reaching the fighters online via twitter fb etc before mailing them anything. also time helps, i have people mailing me now asking for sponsorships and gear. but it’s tough to get to the top level guys. Good luck 🙂

  44. Very interesting post, thanks Tim for the fine examples, and big thanks to Chris for the in-depth followup comments! I’m working on a similar project (high end gear bag) but in a different sport niche. Fascinating to see how Chris was able to get the idea up and running!

  45. I have an idea for a muse, but I’m unsure where to start. Do I start talking to manufacturers to produce the product or do I start talking with wholesalers to see if they would buy the product? This would be for commercial use so I’m assuming they go thru wholesalers, but I haven’t even found that out for sure yet. Also, don’t know about patents and if I should produce it myself or pitch the idea and negotiate a royalty.

    Realize this is very vague and decisions probably need to be made on a case by case basis, but just looking for a little feedback.

    Anyone have any thoughts?

  46. I love this post and seeing everyone niche down. It’s right where I’m stuck. I’m searching for my muse. I’m such an idea person, and I find myself being able to come up with amazing ideas for others but not one that quite works for me. Please keep sharing muse stories!

    Thanks so much!

  47. Thank you so much Tim. These case studies are always inspiring. I keep your book by my bedside and read it regularly as I search for my muse. My difficulty has been in narrowing my choices and taking that first frightening step towards the freedom your book describes.

    Thank you again,

    ~Michael

  48. Tim,

    I really love these case studies. You should write a book or create a newsletter with all these case studies. Much like you refer to the Harvard Case studies in your book.

    I would buy it in a second, and I think thousands of others would as well.

    Mark

  49. Troy, I’d go ahead and get the product made first because no matter who you talk to they want to see it. Unless you think you can get funding just to create it in which case go find your angels first 🙂

  50. I could not stop smiling as I read these golden nuggets, thanks for sharing them Tim, now I will go work on mine, so you can showcase it later on. Thanks for starting the fire, now it is my turn (I really like the 4HWW book and your random episode videos with Kevin Rose)

    Really man, Thanks!!!!!!!

  51. Wow this is awesome. I just recently finished the 4HWW and this is my first time taking a look at the blog. Its cool to see how active it is there.

    Chris, way to go man. Thanks for being around to comment on some key issues I think 90% people in muse creation struggle with.

    I know for me muse creation is probably the most enjoyable as well as the most difficult thing to do sometimes. Its all about getting that ball rolling!

    Good luck everyone and heres to Tim, Cheers!

  52. Thanks Adam. Gratz on finishing the book and joining us here too 🙂

    Hope to hear about your biz someday soon!

  53. very inspirational post. agree w/ some of the other commentrrs that it’d be cool to see 1. profit versus revenue versus ROI/time investment and 2. how much testing went int to determining this was a winning idea.

    really appreciate reading some of the comments from the folks featured in the case study. very valuable information there, i’d say more valuable even than that which is in the case study. both the bags and the kits ideas seemed to forgo testing entirely. i wonder if they just got lucky or if chris is right and if you know that if a couple of people in your immediate circle will buy something then you can certainly find more customers… it is a question of access.

  54. Hello all,

    We just opened up the new Datsusara website so the old links may not work. Check us out at dsgear.com now if you are interested. I’ll try to respond to all of your with emailed in questions soon, I have been busy setting up the store with Shopify 🙂

    -Chris

    1. Hello all,

      First of all, thank you Tim for this really good book I’m really enjoying to read.

      Since several months I want to do something to move out of the 9-5, and live my life differently. At the beginning I was just thinking of working (a lot) but at the time which bet suited me (from 5am to 9am, from 4pm to 9pm, or whatever if I want to). Your vision of the “muse” bring me something else, and I really like this idea of automation (build stuff once and leave it live its own life and generate some cash-flow).

      Working whenever I want is what I was looking for. Working whenever I want and even much less than I had planned is even much better 😉

      I have been a developer (a french one 🙂 ) for 10 years and I have the feeling that my muse might be something link to this developer background (because this is something I know how to do). Since several weeks I’m thinking a lot about my future muse and I’m sure I’ll find something sooner or later 😉

      If someone is interested by my computer skills, I’d be happy to participate and to brainstorm on an idea that could be our muse 😉

      Thanks again for your great vision Tim 😉

      Luc

    2. Hello again Chris,

      So, it’s been a year and I’ve finally come to the point of prototyping my product. While I wait, I’m trying to figure out which merchant site to use and after over an hour chatting with a Shopify representative, who assured me there were no more fees, costs, or services I’d need, I discovered through Volusion that I still need to have a separate credit payment processor. I feel as though I’ve been hosed by salesmen and wanted to ask you- someone who has gone through the trenches, what you use in addition to shopify and if you checked out volusion. Am I correct that you used separate domain registration, web host, shopping cart host (shopify), and credit card payment processor? Are there any other services we need? What if someone’s credit is not so great, could they be denied access to accepting credit cards for their online store? Very very confused w/ all that seems to be needed to sell one product…

  55. I really enjoy your articles on your blog. I decided to unchain myself from the work desk and try and take my fate into my own hands. I would like to start my own business and write a book or two. To that end I started a blog, more to encourage myself and perphaps motivate a person or two. Have a browse sometime when you’re not too busy.

  56. These are great examples, but I would love to see more concrete details especially concerning:

    (1) Profit margins and not just revenues, especially with regards to how long it took to reach that profit and how long it was “in the black.”

    (2) Detailed steps on how to overcome difficulties/obstacles in establishing the “muse”, especially for beginners/novices. IE. if you know nothing about manufacturing/prototyping and wanted to get an idea off the ground, where/who did you turn to, how long did it take, what problems did you face (and how you overcame them), etc. I understand this may take an entire book onto itself, but even a link to a blog post on your own site (http://phoenixabroad.com/how-to-test-4hww-muse-for-16-dollars-per-month/ is a decent example) would be better than nothing.

    Thanks.

  57. Bo Sun,

    I get asked that all the time and if anyone wants to do a Skype interview with me on the subject I’ll be happy to go over it again, but if I have to type one more epic email I’m going to lose it.

    My main advice is that it’s much easier than you think, especially if you have little to lose (one benefit of starting poor).

  58. Been reading your Engineering a Muse series. So good…. I’m in the process of trying to engineer a couple as I’m VERY passionate about untethering myself from the office desk. I’ll let you know how I get on, in the meantime I’d like to repost this article. Please checkout my site as well.

  59. Truly inspirational. I am only through half the book currently and will soon finish and my mind is blown…a bit overwhelmed ( I think I’ll have to read several more times to fully grasp it.)

    I love these case studies. I am hoping that I can duplicate this success…if I can only force myself to do it and get of my lazy ass.

    Thanks again.

    Jae

    1. Ok so I’ve been researching companies to help get my muse off the ground and all I can find are invention companies like Davison and AbsolutelyNew, which from reading around have a high rate of “scam” or “ripoff” reviews. Anyone know of any reputable companies?? All I can find are companies NOT to use.

      Thanks,

      Troy

  60. EXTRA QUESTIONS FOR MUSES

    I have read a lot of the case studies (yet to read the book – it is on order) but there are several questions i think would be pertinent to include:

    1. How many hours per week are you spending on your business

    2. What functions have you outsourced and to whom

    3. How many of your processes are systemized.

    Would also be interested in muses that are not new products, but have been made ‘streamlined’ in their management!

    Thanks

    Matt

  61. Great stuff… very inspiring.

    I’m wondering how you identify manufacturers that are “dropshippers”. Many case studies refer to Ali Baba, is there a way to identify providers that are dropshippers over there? I didn’t find anything, but then again, it ‘s very new to me, I might not be looking in the right place.

    Thanks and keep it coming.

  62. Damn, that music teachers helper is the best case study I’ve seen!

    Awesome product and awesome profitability…

    I am going to do [X]helper.com too

    Good luck 🙂

  63. Good post. Actual case studies are always great content.

    But, is it just myself who think something important is missing from these case studies?

  64. Hi Chris,

    Wondering if you actually had any sewing experience or any knowledge on what type of stitches you selected for your type of product. Basically I would like to know any online resources you used to help you spec out your product.

    I’m a product designer and most of my experiences are in hard products such as metal, plastics and composites. I know the basic components that go into the design of hard products, but I’m very curious about soft goods.

  65. I had no sewing experience other than I knew I like military/tactical gear quality so I went looking to mimic that. I have a technical designer that has schooled me on some of this stuff now but I still wish I could just take a crash course in sewing somewhere.

    But really this shouldn’t be an obstacle, you just need to find the right manufacturer and test their work well to start with.

    1. I would start at the local Jr. High and ask your local Home Economics teacher. They are usually thrilled that somone is interested in their skills. They are teacher by nature and profession.

  66. Thanks Steven, good idea 🙂

    I now have a little treat or torture for you all to enjoy…. I get asked so many of the same questions related to this post so I finally decided to start making FAQ videos on how Datsusara started and how it runs now. The first 2 parts can be seen here…

    part 1

    part 2

    these cover the following questions…

    TEST MARKETING

    Did you have an accurate rendering of your product or just a “rough draft” while you were test marketing?

    Do you test market every new product you introduce?

    Do you actually “mock sell” them like Tim suggests?

    Do you worry about someone in cyberland stealing your ideas?

    Did you use a shopify website to build your test site?

    Did you only use google ad words to test market? I thought about dropping a line in the sherdog message boards to test demand but I think it would make it harder to get measurable results.

    MANUFACTURING

    How did you select your manufacturer?

    Did you visit the manufacturing facility you selected?

    Did you sell “pre-orders” prior to setting up your first production run?

    How did you decide how much to order on your first run?

    Was it a large up front expense?

    FULFILLMENT

    How did you select your fulfillment company?

    At this point do you handle customer service issues?

    LIFESTYLE

    Has the lifestyle change been as substantial as you would have hoped?

    Are you able to spend the majority of your time doing the things you enjoy now?

    —–

    I hope you all find this useful 🙂

  67. I love these muse examples and the structure that they’ve been published in. They’ve inspired me to create a website where I hope to document many more similar stories. If you liked these I’m sure you’ll get something out of the site so feel free to check it out (by clicking my name to the left).

    Thanks again Tim

  68. Hi there,

    I’m in the process of producing the above site – which is based on something I can’t get on the Internet.

    And here’s the first point I want to make – If you are stuck in finding a muse just think of an improvement to an existing service or product.

    The second is getting it to market. This is where most of the problems seem to arise.

    So I’m thinking of getting a workshop together in September 2012 because I think a like minded group could help one another out as well as give inspiration.

    As I’m based in the United Kingdom I was thinking of basing it in Europe on the island of Menorca (Spain) in the Mediterranean.

    Any takers out there (I’ve checked the follow up comments via e-mail?

    Cheers

    Nick

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  70. Ill get back to you later today on this, I know it’s crazy but I have all the answers you need. Short version.. Shopify is excellent and paired with Stripe it’s a simple combo that works well.

    1. Who’s better than you? Nobody! Thanks Chris! Watching your videos right now. I really think Ferris should be paying you for all the time you dedicate to helping out.

  71. Thanks Nicole! As for Tim it is I that owe him but…I’d be happy if he’d have a cup of tea with me here in Felton (redwood heaven).

    I’m not sure what happened to your longer post but first let me say feel free to call me if this post doesn’t answer all of your questions…

    Here is what you need…

    Shopify. I did compare them and overall I thought they had the best system and I like the people I have dealt with there.

    Stripe. I have done 3 different merch accounts so far. Paypal Pro was good and had decent rates but if you have questionable credit (long story but I had this problem as well) they can hold funds for up to 1 month! Not cool. Then I tried a few old fashioned mech accounts which were a huge pain in the ass and even though the rates seem lower on the surface, by the time you deal withh all the fees (especially for international payments) it’s even more than my new favorite, Stripe. Stripe charges 2.9 +30c per transaction but it’s a simple flat rate even for international and it’s very easy to see exactly what you are paying. Their approval process and setup is extremely easy and integrates well with Shopify. They hold funds for 1 week but so did my other old school merch accounts.

    For hosting, I registered my domain via godaddy after finding a very good coupon which made their rates competitive (search for that). Then I use googles apps for free email services with my domain name. This took some time to setup but it’s fairly clearly documented and once you get it going it’s great because you don’t need to pay for a separate web host just for email at your domain.

    Hope that helps 🙂

    1. Thanks for such thorough information Chris. I am surprised about Paypal because one of the things I liked about them was that they say right online that the payments are released into your account immediately and there is no credit application. That’s false advertisement! Do you no longer accept paypal? Also, I was told that if you register your domain with shopify, since they are the site host whether you register with them or not, they give you email accounts. I would like to urge anyone reading these posts, to ask your questions, get the answers in writing, then get another representative to ask again for verification. I’ve run into some very illusive sales reps at a few of these sites. Every time I ask the representative if there are any other fees or charges I need to know about in order to be up and running, they assure me there are not…then I find out one site requires you pay for bandwidth, another requires you pay for SSL certificates and the list goes on. Heck, I thought it was a simple as setting up with Shopify and had you, Chris, not told me, I never would have known I needed a separate payment gateway. Buyer beware! Here it is, right on the Paypal site: “There’s no credit application, …”

  72. I cleared this up with Nicole on the phone today but just to make sure… Paypal only does a credit check with “Paypal Pro” which is used when you want the option to keep people on your site, in your checkout system (like Shopify) and let Paypal do the background processing, they do not credit check for standard payments.

    … i should make more videos for you guys 🙂

  73. To a moderator… any chance we can update my sites web address to “dsgear.com” instead of “dsmma.com” i appreciate the referrals here but i don’t want to keep that old domain just for that 🙂

  74. Hi all, would you like to help us get a Tim Ferriss inspired company on “Shark Tank”? If so please help us out as we just submitted at the open casting call but need to get to the next round. Thanks!

    A call to action!

    Twitter:

    Send a tweet like this ” @Minz15 I want to see Datsusara hemp gear on @SharkTankABC ” add anything else you feel would help, age, sex, if you have kids, etc.

    Facebook:

    Post on the Shark Tank ABC page saying something like ” I want to see Datsusara hemp gear on Shark Tank ” add anything else you feel would help or customize completely.

    Email:

    Email SharkTankCasting@yahoo.com by clicking the link. Say something just like above ” I want to see Datsusara hemp gear on Shark Tank ” or come up with your own message.

  75. Thanks all for the social media help on the above post. We didn’t make it through but we sure got the message out.

    Now back to our regularly scheduled thread…

  76. Tim,

    Thanks for posting these muse case studies posts as they contain some of the most valuable and inspirational material on the internet for entrepreneurs. I thought it would be a great idea to continue finding great stories like the ones you have featured here as a way to keep motivating people to always keep learning and pushing for success.

    I am looking to collect case studies of successful “muse” businesses to feature in a free newsletter and help inspire people to do it themselves, just as Tim Ferris has done.

    Reading case studies of real life examples is one of the best ways to learn the process of creating an online business. So if anyone has a muse they are working on or have already launched and want to be featured in my free newsletter and help thousands of people empower their lives, please click on my name and fill out the form!

    Cheers,

    Sid Mylavarapu

  77. Amazing to see the income some of these sites make, very inspiring! I love the 4HWW and have been obsessed with the idea ever since so it’s great to see some examples.

  78. Hi, after reading this amazing article i am also happy to share

    my know-how here with friends.

  79. Great post! interesting case study for “muse”. I am very much interested to do case studies.Thanks, Tim.

  80. My understanding of ‘muses’ are businesses that require little effort to sustain a income. Most of these guys seem to be doing this full time. And the ones who claim to be only 4 hours a week I seriously doubt, even with outsourcing. There is a continual never ending effort to improve marketing or the product.

    Regardless, I’m still working on my own online business in hope to replicate these results.

    1. True it’s rarely a 4 Hour Work Week for me, I tend to shoot for the 4 Hour Work Day but that’s only because I don’t follow all of Tim’s advice for time managing and I still like talking to customers so I haven’t hired anyone for that yet.

      At times I might have a very busy week, especially when designing a new product. On the other hand thanks to Shopify as my ecommerce store and Fulfillrite as my order fulfillment center, I can now have week where I go on vacation and hardly need to do more than 30 minutes a day if I want to only cover basics.

      It’s a good life but you do have to make sure you don’t get caught up like the Rat on cocaine pellet scenario from the book, it’s easy to do if you don’t catch yourself.

  81. Sure thing Sow. Funny thing actually in relation, I’m in the hospital right now getting ready for our daughter to arrive, and luckily the biz is running itself except for about 15 minutes of high priority issues that I had to deal with the last few days, so right now it does feel like the Four Hour Work Week and I’m so glad I don’t have a regular job or even a company that would not allow me this time.

    1. oh and one more note, that is at our new income level which is much higher than when this article came out, we grossed 48.5k in the last month, and the average is around 40k.