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

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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.

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

  1. wow! This is an outstanding post, and perfect timing. I have been working on a muse for the last year, started off with an ecommerce store which is going well and now going into info products including teaching others how to build an ecommerce store. Thx for the great post again!

    Like

    • Vinay… I am interested in learning more about what you did with the ecommerce option. I have been struggling trying to decide which route to take, who to use as the e-platform, sourcing products, etc.. I have run into so many companies offering these solutions, but they all seem pretty sketchy thanks.

      Like

      • I had the same problem, but I am a programmer, so I started my own with nopTM.com, not making a lot of money but a great product…

        My issue is, I want to sell something myself, great post, been trying to figure out something myself to sell, anyone want to “hook” up, I can help on the technology side of things, over 16 yrs as a programmer…

        Like

      • Hey Gabriel,

        I actually started my ecommerce store with Tim’s Shopify competition. So I use Shopify to run my ecommerce store.

        I have actually made a Free 7 Day Video Course on how to set up a Shopify store from scratch and get traffic to start selling products. I also talk about sourcing products etc…

        You can check it out here: http://www.eshopwiz.com

        There are other options besides Shopify, there are very cheap options like a WordPress, with a free ecommerce plugin and PayPal as the payment processor.

        It really depends on the number of products you are selling and how complex you are planning to make your whole store.

        The great thing about someone like Shopify, is you can literally have your store up and running in a few days but it is highly scalable if you want to grow down the line. Where as wordpress is not, and you will probably have to hire a programmer to move your store over.

        Feel free to contact me at vinay [at] eshopwiz.com if you have any more questions. Id be happy to share my journey.

        Cheers

        Like

      • Agreed, for all future muse stories. Part of the beauty of the whole ‘behind the curtain thing’ is seeing what’s really going on, which is one of the reasons why Tim rocks. 80% margins on $3,000 a month passive is awesome, 10% margins on $3,000 a month doesn’t do much for the lifestyle.

        Like

    • First of all, thank you Tim for inspiring me with 4HWW and thank you for adding on with all the great material you publish on your blog. After reading 4HWW and watching a friend go through the process of creating a muse, I have started on my own journey into joining the NR.

      Vinay – I see you commented first on this post in 2010. Have you come upon any additional resources since then that have helped you out? Here is a list of what has helped me so far as I work on my own muse:

      Patent Attorney Search. – Used this database put together by USPTO to find my patent attorney, who is helping me to file a provisional patent on my new product idea that I will be buying wholesale from China.

      Import from China. Good step by step guide on how to import from China that has helped me so far in getting product samples and saving a decent bit on commissions when compared to quotes I received from import agencies.

      Graphic Guides. Useful tutorials I have used for designing the logos and packaging for my new product idea.

      I look forward to your response!

      Like

  2. Great post!!! These are why I read here. But a confession…… I am self-employed, and have been for 15 years. I like what I do….. so the muse is a back burner for me. But it is fun stuff to read!

    Like

  3. The video addition at the top of the post was a fun addition to this great post! Looking forward to more of these sorts of posts, the muse is an elusive creature… :)

    Like

  4. Something particularly interesting about these case studies is they all involve a physical product which is awesome. Obviously there are lots of people making money with virtual products, but is great to see people taking a smarter, faster, cheaper approach with physical products.

    Tim – If any of your case studies would be a good fit for my show (like when we had Craig from DODOcase on, let me know.

    Like

    • Agreed David! It seems like there’s no shortage of folks promoting digital products (and how to make/market/sell them), but a vast shortage of physical products being promoted out there.

      By the way, I enjoyed your interview with Tim a few weeks ago. I was kicking myself because I watched it on my flight OUT of St. Louis and it wasn’t until the end that I realized that’s where you’re located. I would’ve loved to hang out even if for a few minutes. Keep up the motivation and the “no fluff”!
      :)

      Like

    • Tim – very timely topic in regards to my creating a muse. Mine is in its idea development stages. The muse I am thinking of is website based.

      David – Could you elaborate on the difference in costs between virtual products versus physical products?

      I saw your interview with Tim as well. Great concept!

      Like

  5. Great Post Tim. I would like to see a lot more like this and I think the next best thing would be to do a case study on a business from start to finish. From brain storming to having the first sale. It would take a lot of work/time but I think a lot of people would benefit from it and be happy to watch how you would go about it from start to finish.

    Like

  6. Hey Tim,

    Thanks a lot for this article, and the previous ones you’ve written on “muses”.

    I’m a personal trainer by trade and have my own business. I started a blog just under a year ago with two goals in mind: a. develop an online following, and b. sell an ebook with a set of programs and meal plans online.

    What I didn’t expect was the number of new clients I’d get, both online and offline, because of my blog. I’ve easily doubled my client list since starting the site – pretty much accidentally.

    The ebook/program is complete, and due out this week, so that step is now coming into the equation.

    It helps a lot to hear what has worked for others, and what hasn’t, but also to hear where people get their ideas and inspiration.

    Thanks for the great article,

    – Chad

    Like

  7. Excellent read Tim. And its got me thinking. I have a 2 products I was going to pitch for licensing but am now considering only licensing one of them and making the other one a niche product of my own.

    Like

  8. Tim,

    Currently I have a great muse, subscription base (online) that makes around 5K – 6K per month. I have no expertise in this industry but had a partner (50/50) that had the pulse of the industry. I recently bought him out.

    I’m considering partnering with a new industry leader how wants to take the co in a new direction (larger online presence, more touch points, potential advertisers). Should we do a equal split, should I re-evaluate my potenial partnership or should I go it alone; slow growth?

    Open to your thoughts.

    Cheers!

    Like

    • Same, big fan. I think feeling it out really has a lot to do with it, but can’t be scared . . . gotta go for it if you feel it! Hopefully more of these come soon. The best part of this is the hope it provides, all in all it comes down to you and (think Nike), just doing it.

      Like

  9. VERY helpful and very interesting. It’s so important to hear real world examples. Found it extra fascinating that all of these case studies are physical products, and basically new inventions. Curious how much money actually came out of pocket before any income was realized, what was timeline from start to first sale, time from first sale to initial investment returned, and was this the first business they started.

    My favorite part was that case study #1 said if they had it to do over again they’d spend more money on PR, and case study #2 said if they had it to do over again they wouldn’t hire a PR. Excellent reminder that one size does not fit all, the trick is awareness, adaptability, and action.

    Like

  10. Does anyone have any resources or recommendations for where/how to find good advisors? Tim, I think a post that explains how to find a good advisor would be valuable.

    Thanks!

    John

    Like

      • Yes, please! Based on your post and on the comments here, more info on advisors and on finding better website designers with a marketing knowledge would help a great deal! (That just so happens to be what I’m really in need of on my team not, too…)

        Like

      • Hey Tim, I’d be very interested in email or other conversation concerning offering my services as a web programmer for % in your readers muses. Or something like that… That could be my muse…

        Like

      • Yes this would definitely be helpful to know how to find the advisers. is there a site to network with possible advisers that have certain expertise.

        Also how to find and contact the conversion experts in which to draw the wire frames.

        However, this is a great post for anyone at any stage in the muse construction process.

        Like

  11. Inspirational is kinda an understatement. I’ve already started implementing the auto-responders and my inbox has become a very good sight to look at (when I do). Started a restaurant (while making a 3 week climbing holiday to Greece), and slowly getting into outsourcing some of my daily activities…. Kudo’s Tim – Kudo’s from down under!

    I like justifying some of my actions using your theories :-)

    I can’t wait to write about this change in lifestyle.

    Like

      • Hi Tim,
        This is my very first Blog response…. How cool!
        Just had to comment on this fantastic post.
        Yes, it is a spectacular idea and will help people like me no end. Your book inspired me to walk away from my Franchise and set off looking for ‘the holy grail’ of the 4-hour work week.
        (If anyone else has this bright idea – DO NOT DO IT!
        Do what Tim says in his book and do it in stages!!)
        Tim, your authenticity and ‘heart’ and passion inspires me to keep truckin’ in the medium of the Internet – where there are many ‘bright shiny objects’. (Speaking politely!!)
        You provide a ‘lighthouse’ that I come back to and re-focus myself.
        Bless your wee cotton socks! (an Australian expression!)
        Cheryl

        Like

  12. Wow Tim, what a timely post!

    I’ve just ordered my first (small) batch of physical product for my muse business and am waiting for it to arrive. I’m glad I read the advice about PR firms and advisors!

    First question is this: Where can one look to find an advisor? I’m also wondering if location matters. I’m from Rochester, NY. I’ve heard you mention before how your location in SF is advantageous for you as an advisor because that’s a great geographic location for startups, VCs, and advisors.

    Second question is for Tim and maybe more for the readers with muses: What types of legal structures are folks using for their muse businesses? It’s dizzying to read up on some legal terminology and it’s one of the roadblocks that I’ve been experiencing, leading only to frustration and “analysis paralysis”.

    Tim – Thanks again brother. I am a HUGE fan of these types of posts. Sometimes seeing other people who are doing it is motivation enough to continue on and to come up with new ideas.

    Cheers!

    – Josh

    Like

    • Thanks, Josh, and congrats! A few quick thoughts:

      – Please speak with an accountant, but I started with an LLC. It depends greatly on how many people are involved, and if you have investors. I was alone and funded it all myself.

      – Look up the “Entrepreneur’s Organization” and “SCORE” for a first stab at advisors. I’ve sent an email to EarPeace to try and get more information about how they found their advisors.

      Good luck!

      All the best,

      Tim

      Like

      • Josh,

        I am an accountant and agree with Tim. From the limited information given, an LLC is a good way to go because it gives legal protection and provides tax benefits (taxed as partner instead of being double taxed as corp).

        I would advise you and anyone else to make sure you structure it properly when you set it up because that is where the legal protection comes from. If you have partners this is even more important. You may want to get an attorney to help with this so that you are sure you are covered.

        Good luck!

        Jeremy

        Like

  13. All of these involve physical products.

    So my question: are digital products doomed to fail? Are we not at a point where digital products can generate a viable passive income stream?

    Just curious. If anyone has had success with digital products, I’d love to hear about it.

    Like

    • @ Chris,

      Digital products are never going to be money-making ventures for people who are not computer geniuses. It is better for most people to focus on products that other people can see and touch. Peope feel connected to products that they can interact with. Outside of Facebook, Twitter, and smartphones, people are not really that interested in technology. Technology usually just becomes too complicated and expensive in the end.

      All of the talk of the digital revolution is a lie and it will stay that way for a long time. The problem with digital is that it requires people to:

      A) Have a suitable power source
      B) Be able to read and write
      C) Have access to a computer
      D) Be able to use a computer

      Most of the world is incapable of at least one of those things, thereby making the transition to all things digital a pipe dream for science fiction nerds. The future is far, far away my friend.

      Like

      • I agree with some of this, but creating and selling an e-book, for example, doesn’t need to rocket science. The guys I know making seven figures a year don’t know how to code.

        Just another perspective,

        Tim

        Like

      • @Yadgyu. digital revolution will come, read kevin kellys new book to get some insight and research dataI.

        Also E-Books dont have to look like Ebooks to get people to really connect with them, i’ve created one in the last two months that can be definately published at a normal publishing house or via books on demand.

        And as Tim said, its no rocket science it’s just getting your ass on the chair and create something great ( that solves a problem)

        Thanks for that post.

        I’ve discussed this same post today with my professor in the FH (german media/Tech/management) school and he said it’s awesome and pointed out that the main reason why people always think they cannot do this or that ist that the don’t know how, or even worse, the don’t see enough other “normal everyday like you and me” people succed with low overhead small businesses.

        psyched for the book, do you have something additionally on sleep hacking in your book Tim would be great ?

        Gruß marcel

        Like

      • @Yadgyu

        Why cant you just outsource all the technical stuff? That’s what 1/4 of Tim’s book is all about…

        Plus you don’t need the whole world as your market.

        0.01% of the US market is waay more than enough to run a successful lifestyle business.

        Like

  14. Hey Tim,
    The devil (or deed if you prefer) is in the details. How does one go from concept to touring factories in China? Or how about the initial design prototype (and costs)? I’d like to hear more about these kinds of things as well – it connects the improbable to entirely possible.

    Great book, looking for forward to the new one shortly!

    Like

    • It’s the bug that goes aroung called Excusitis Vulgaris. It stops us from doing anything we’d dream about. I’ve been on medication for months now!
      Good luck
      Daniel

      Like

      • There seems to be a major outbreak of this bug in my family… hereditary???

        Been suffering myself for many years now, and finally facing what it takes to medicate effectively.

        The biggest resistance surrounding me is those who fear change. Myself included, I find comfort to be… well, comforting ;)

        After struggling for 3 years with a workload-heavy, but income-poor business, I’ve finally let go of, now is the time to accept failure, and admit that the egoic nature of busy-ness doesn’t generate success, just stress.

        Now if only I can convince my culturally pessimistic Australian family to believe that Tim Ferriss knows what he is talking about – or perhaps I just have to take a leap of faith and show them :)

        Thank you Tim for your inspiration, and to those who back up his theories and give the rest of us the kick we need to follow.

        Like

  15. This is what I/we love about Tim Ferriss: he’s one of the few who actually shines the light on “the nitty gritty details behind the curtain showing you how it’s done” – the nuts-&-bolts, the actionable information, not the usual useless fluff & hype & “go get ‘em” pep talks. Keep doing your thing Tim. Your mark on the world is made & will long be remembered by all those you’ve inspired.

    Like

  16. Nice.

    I needed this.

    My muse is averaging between 1 and 2 K and I was getting tired of it cos it was short of my dreamline of 4K.

    Good to get some inspiration to keep on keeping on.

    Tack Tim.

    Like

  17. Love this post Tim – thanks so much for the motivation and keeping us all pumped up about building muses. All your posts are fun and great to read, and I’m glad you are still including posts like this that are more about what you started with in writing the 4 Hour Workweek, in terms of business. It’s terrific that you are helping and encouraging and inspiring people to strive for freedom. And deeper than that, getting them/me/us to believe that the type of freedom you’ve achieved is even possible in the first place.

    Like

  18. Hi Tim,

    Great post and very inspirational; I know that your big push has always been to create a product based business. Unfortunately as I’ve been thinking up ideas for muses I always run into the problem of a service model versus a real product based business. Most of my experience has been within the world of the service model and as a result my ideas seem to stream in that direction. Do you have any case studies where people have taken what would traditionally be considered a service based business and turned it into a product based one (I’m not looking for an info products business because for me that niche is too saturated).

    Cheers,

    Like

  19. Excellent post! Yes, please post more Muse case-studies (I just submitted mine). What I really like is the revenue bracket that you have included. Many times I see a product online and wonder if they really make money from it. These case-studies are a great way to see that yes, it is possible to make money from all kinds of different concepts. Great way to keep motivated!

    Like

    • Me too! It’s great to see some real numbers, as it shows it’d be worth doing, when usually I assume it’s not. It seems we shouldn’t need the reinforcement anymore, but it still always occurs to me that “the numbers must be too small” when I see some if this really niche stuff online. So encouraging!

      Like

  20. Yes please post more on muses! Case studies and illustrations give hope and credibility to the possibility of successfully doing it. Thank you this blog (and the book) are great.

    Like

  21. Yes! More case studies please. Very helpful as I am in the middle of 4HWW.

    I also want to know what an “advising conversion expert” is and how to find one.

    Thanks for this, Tim!

    Like

  22. Love this type of post just because of the positivity! Yes, we can all read about several case studies in the book, but to continue to see people following through with the ideas is pretty cool. Sounds like all of these muses (? that doesn’t look right) are successful because the entrepreneur picked something that was a problem for them and ran with it. Not sure how many times I’ve read or heard people say that you should focus on the problems you encounter and then find a profitable way to fix those problems for others like you.

    Like

  23. Great information Tim. I would welcome more case studies posts like this. How did the product creators from the videos send you their stuff? I thought you were an elusive ninja about being found.

    Like

  24. Tim,

    Great post. 4HWW has turned my life in a more focused and exciting direction. This year at work, I put in fewer hours, got promoted, and delivered more high impact deliverables. Outside of my 9-5, I am building an information business providing personal finance / lifestyle information to young professionals.

    One refrain I hear from you and other folks is using vacations to relax and clear your mind for strategic thinking. I’ve taken a month of vacation this year, and it’s definitely paid off in clearer thinking.

    Can you recommend places to go for meditation, quiet, and yoga? Ideally, I want to try Buddhist temple. Would love to hear suggestions from other readers as well!

    Thanks,
    Yvette

    Like

    • Hi Yvette,

      I can suggest wine country in California (not for the wine) like St. Helena, or perhaps Monterey and areas like Esalen. Not exactly Buddhist, but great for recharging.

      Hope you find your spot :)

      Tim

      Like

  25. Thank you for inspiring so many people!

    I checked up http://www.khanacademy.org yesterday after seeing you tweet about it (made you sound like a bird there).

    I hope you realize the impact of your suggestions and how much you can help generous non-profits like Khan Academy just by suggesting it to people.
    Maybe you can dedicate an entire blog post about sites and people like Sal of Khan to get them more traction? I for one am even more motivated after seeing Sal’s work with Khan through you. It’s awesome to be motivated by seeing how you can help other people with a muse (and other works) and not just by money.

    Thanks again. Great job, Tim!

    Like

  26. I love the initial idea – ear piece. But most of what I love is how simple it is to come up with something that solves a problem! There are so many annoyances and things that don’t work well in every day life, it just takes paying attention and a desire to fix it.

    Like

  27. Tim, any chance you are considering creating a (well moderatedpay per use) forum for muse developers? Seth Godin has a great one (invitation only) on Ning called “The Triiibe” but it doesn’t cover the muse niche. You have such a great following of high-functioning minds and people willing to share experience, it would be great to have a community. We could really use the support.

    Like

  28. Tim – thanks for featuring our Think like a Genius series on this blog post! I was inspired to design many parts of the Everyday Genius Institute based on the blueprint you lay out in your book. So, thank you. One day it would be fun to model out some of your strategies of genius.

    Also, I really enjoyed reading the other case studies in this post. I especially appreciated the comments about the mistakes the entrepreneurs made and what they would do differently. I related to many of them, especially the comments about ordering too much product too early on in the product development life cycle. My simple advice to any entrepreneur: iterate versions 1.0 & 2.0 at the lowest possible cost. Early feedback from real customers will give you insights you never even considered in your initial design.

    Like

  29. Hi Tim,

    Great post, as always. I love how you actually tell the back story to how your case studies get started in all kinds of amazing businesses. There’s a lot of fluff out there (guilty as charged) and your blog is an inspiration.

    I couldn’t agree more on the value of a skilled advisor… someone who’s been there, done that. I’ve had luck seeking out retired entrepreneurs and asking them for coffee. The trick is finding someone with a background in the same business — not always easy. But if you do find that person, it’s worth a million.

    Thanks again Tim. Great post.

    Like

  30. Tim,

    Great post! I find the posts on Muse generation so valuable.

    Have you ever thought of having a book come out with just case studies?

    I know I’d buy it.

    Mark

    Like

    • I know this post is old, but I would buy a book with just case studies as well. Every time I read this stuff it sparks ideas for me. Finding a muse that I am confident enough in to start my business has been the hardest part of starting, as I don’t want to make the wrong decision. More case studies would definitely be a huge help!

      Like

    • ahaha damn Tim and his pipe dreams of automated income :P

      This is why I decided to venture into digital products. While I do run an ecommerce store too, the only way I managed to automate (most of it) was to give half of it away.

      I think to Automate it completely, Tim stylez, it needs to be at a decent level first. Like at least 10k per month.

      As you may recall from his book, Tim worked very hard to get his business up to the level it was at, and I think that is the only way. Nothing comes without hard work…

      Like

      • 100% right!!! – it takes lots of work to get started doing research, find your niche or muse, get it going, make decisions as to what, who and where, make money, get the bugs out, and make more money.. and then, you can think about automating… thinking about automating from the start will lead you in the wrong path.. keep it in your radar, however…

        Like

  31. Hey Tim,
    3 years ago or so I was working as a lifeguard/ Raft Guide for $7 an hour, so I really don’t want to jeorpardize my business in any way by sharing the wrong thing. Otherwise, I would totally volunteer to be a case study.

    I e-mailed amy with a little bit about my company and a question earlier today, and would totally be up for the 2% advisor thing you do if you are still interested in doing that kind of thing next year. It’s basically a muse, so I figure you’d have alot to say and you’re basically the one person I’d trust to tell that much about my business too.

    I also referred Alan from Languagetent.Com to you, He’s my High School Wrestling Coach and a great guy with an awesome idea.

    Like

  32. Thank you for great post. I have been reading your book with passion, yet I was having some trouble finding the muse to create the revenue that I need. I am fairly young dude (24), and this post gave me lots of motivation. I am still having problems of finding the right muse for my future business and one of the main thing is doubt and confusion of prioritizing what needs to be done first. Should I find muse first? or should I set the business entity first (like LLC)?

    Please help.

    Sincerely
    Subin

    PS. I will be opening up my wordpress blog that will showcase the human experiment from your new book 4 hour body!! Can’t wait for it!

    Like

  33. Sorry…another question, I am bilangual speaking English and Korean. Do you know a website that provides both of those languages? My VA could not find one…

    Like

  34. Tim, a great post with great timing. I have a few ideas but I keep making excuses due to school and other things. I look forward to future posts. I have a rather big idea but have little-no idea how to go about it.

    Like

  35. Great article. There were some real pearls of wisdom in there I’m going to incorporate. So yes this was very useful :) And I would love to read more such posts.

    My muses are a little more volatile. I delegated management of my savings to a group of hand picked day traders. We’ve since had great success testing and finding investors and am setting up the business structure for the business. Our end goal is to not just to meet our TMI but to best our entire net liability (roughly half million dollars) then raise money to purchase a L38 Albotros Fighter Jet Trainer . Seriously lol It’s pretty exciting…

    I also have three additional muses right now, nothing as glorious as in your post but showing promise. All generate passive income (information products) so far. On a good month I’ll make around $100 on them. But I’ve been learning how to promote them better and delegate more so I’m starting to see much more movement.

    It’s exciting stuff… All for the most part kick started by your book :)

    Like

  36. Tim, what an inspirational post! Your book changed my life, and case studies like these highlight how you have helped to change the lives of others (and the world in the process.

    My muse has been to provide advice and acquired knowledge to business owners and entrepreneurs, and one major thing that I’ve learned is that nobody makes it by sitting around or dreaming.
    The rewards of life are given to those that action and are not afraid to take risks, just like the people above!

    Together, we can all make a difference. And a lot of it is thanks to you, Tim!

    Like

  37. Interesting that they’re all physical products. Did you choose physical products on purpose over something digital only?

    I’ve pretty much been exclusively thinking about digital products/services, so a case study on something digital would be cool (eBook, continuity program, membership site, etc.)

    Another cool one to hear about would be positioning yourself as an expert and doing seminars and the like. Perhaps not exactly a 4HWW, but my dream “job” is to fly around the world doing personal development and tai chi seminars. Essentially getting paid to do what I love, hang out with cool people and travel. :D

    Like

    • @ Miltownkid and Haitham Alhumsi

      I love your points. I too have been focusing on digital products/ solutions. My current idea is web based (not launched).

      The more players involved, the greater the liability in the system. I see the goal as creating the simplest, leanest automated machine.

      Like

  38. Interesting to see that these are all physical goods based muses… which is different than the direction I took. Still these products have as much innovation.

    EarPeace has DEFINITE traction in the market, I grew up in the rave scene and DJ’d in my younger years, I have partial hearing loss in my left ear from all the fun and games back then… and yes those glowing hyper-yellow ear pieces designed for construction work and job sites destroy the music experience…

    @Tim, hoping to make this list sometime mid 2011… though my revenues are not up to $1000/mo yet I am right now covering my direct expenses from revenue so my burn rate is virtually 0 and in the process of hiring my first V. Assistant …

    I would have asked how long it took from concept to stability?

    My process has been slow with many lessons learned (launched my first product about 18 months to date)… I think people reading this should know how long it takes to go from an ‘A-ha’ to a stable business and what can be done to shorten that period …

    Like

  39. Great post, Tim, extremely high value as usual.

    Would love to hear an in-depth from the Guerrilla Drum Making guys like one of the examples in your post today.

    Any plans for that happening Tim at some stage?

    Like

      • Tim,

        I am so glad you took down one of your recent Muse Case Studies about Guerilla Drum Making. I found him so hypocritical that he was bashing traditional sales copywriting (long sales letter, direct response, specifically) and how he didn’t listen to any of the “so called experts”, yet when I visited the website to see how he was selling, he implemented most of the principles of a long sales letter, including bolding, benefits, wya-out guarantee, credibility, etc. It pissed me off so much that I searched your blog for references to Guerilla Drum Making just to have my voice heard!

        On a brighter note, excellent guest post by Hugh MacLeod. Nothing like smart, focused, planned hard work to get you where you want to go.

        Like

      • Hi Ruben- The post you’re referring to was accidentally published by me (Tim’s assistant). I didn’t notice it was still in draft mode, and accidentally hit ‘Publish.’ Sorry for the confusion!
        – Charlie

        Like

      • Thanks for the info Charlie. I hope my rant could provide for an opportunity for copy editing. Either that or you may have an article ripe for lots of commenting and good discussion. I would prefer to see some editing, but then again, it’s Tim’s blog, not ours, right!

        By the way, it’s one thing to say that old school doesn’t work, and another to state that for his particular market, testing proved that his current format generated higher conversions than an old school salesletter (and the fact that the long salesletter/landing page is frowned upon by Almighty Google).

        Principles are principles are principles, regardless of how you package them for your particular market.

        Like

  40. Best post in ages!

    On the verge of leaving the old day job and plunging head first into a muse.

    Along the 4hww path I managed to secure $500k of government funding with some friends to deliver workshops to small business owners for the last 6-8 months which has been the perfect testing ground for various concepts..at the same time getting paid to do it! (I stumbled into this, law of attraction at work I guess)

    For a lot of 4hwwers we have so many (untested) assumptions about the potential of different markets etc…over the past 6 months what I’ve seen has opened my eyes, so many $$$ in so many ridiculous niches to be made out there that doesnt necessarily have to be a digital product.

    Also made me realise that the gains that can be made through networking and business contacts in the real world usually far outweighs what can be gained through online marketing and online networking alone.

    Like

  41. Great post! Thanks Tim. Finding a muse has been the most difficult step for me. I am working on my first product now, after finally having an a-ha moment on Friday.

    I LOVE the EarPeace. So simple, so functional and fulfilling such a need. I am going to order some before my next trip back to Vietnam. It’s so loud there that everyone has industrial deafness. So when the traffic noise dies away you’re hit with the sound of everyone YELLING at each other.

    Like

  42. EarPeace is such a great idea. I registered a domain for airplane hearing protection but never did anything with it – I am definitely going to buy some of these to support a fellow entrepreneur :)

    Like

  43. Thsi is a great post Tim! I love case studies, esspecially the ones about business and how people have used the 4HWW to free themselves – Keep them coming!!!

    Thanks again

    Like

  44. Great Post!

    It’s been a year since I first read the 4HWW which inspired me to make big changes within myself and the universe around me.

    I’ve been spreading the good word about the 4HWW like wild fire. I just can’t wait for the 4HB (going to buy a bunch of copies and give them away as gifts to friends and family).

    Since first finishing the book, i’ve spent thousands of hours all over the web, trying to come up with a simple MUSE model that would earn me at least $1 of automated internet income with the least amount of effort.

    I never did find that MUSE model, but I did get lucky in my quest in the most unconventional way.

    I recently joined teams with one of my extremely wealthy and successful relatives who owns an International Online Pharmacy Business. He is teaching me the ropes of the online pharmacy world allowing me to recreate his business model here in Canada.

    I plan on sharing all the information I have learned in a simplistic digestible readable.

    I’m going to be providing all the key information on how we handled the following:

    -Building a $10,000 website for free using outsourced work and family networking.

    -Convincing rich old school Canadian Dr’s and Pharmacy Owners to partner up with us.

    -Traveled the world trying to find bank accounts that would deal with our business.

    And much more!

    I really hope that I can give back to everyone as much as I have been given by Tim.

    I speak on the behalf of everyone here when I say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the value you add to the world!

    Like Batman, you are one my biggest role models and heroes of the modern day!

    I’d like to leave this comment with a quick MUSE idea I just came up with while writing the post.

    Great Muse Idea of the minute:

    Muse Hunter – A website that focuses on the collective collaboration of various pre-existing MUSE model examples. For everyone that was as motivated and lost as I was.

    Cheers,

    Leo Tabibzadegan

    Like

    • @leo – you should check out the 30 day challenge, http://www.challenge.co (albeit longer than 30 days now)

      It’s free training on niche testing & online marketing and really good quality stuff.
      In a former life I acquired an online retail store for nothing from $100k rev-$1mil/PA and then $1mil-$6.5mil over two years and now do consulting on various ecom projects…30 day challenge is my default goto handball resource for ppl who want to improve/build an online retail presence but can’t afford to pay me for consulting

      Unfortunately when I built my online retail business I fell into the trap of bigger is better and in the quest to grow ridiculously quickly for no apparent purpose the venture ran out of cash and had to be liquidated. I was 24 when I took it over and managing millions in cashflow, imports, stock & taxes is no easy feat even for a seasoned business owner. Thought it was fun at 25/26 years old waking up to another 80k-$100k in the bank account after the weekend’s merchant transactions had processed on Tuesday, at the time it was like magic!

      One of the reasons why 4hww struck a cord with me was resetting the assumption that businesses need to be constantly growing and getting bigger to be successful and considered successful vs serving the needs of the business owner. The dreamlining and actually working out what you want in life was such an ah-ha moment for me to the point where I strongly believe some of this stuff should be taught in school instead of the school->college->work for works sake lifestyle that is programmed into everyone

      anyway…enough ranting!

      Like

  45. Hi Tim,

    We are the company that is launching Summer Jasmines (Alissa Kraisosky, featured above into Japan).Alissa gave me a copy of your first book (CD version) and I look forward to reading the next. I prowl the USA from coast to coast looking for innovative, patented/patent pending or proprietary USA-made products for our firm to import into Japan. If a USA product is a hit in Japan, it is typically a huge hit. (The market culture there is very fond of cutting edge USA-made, innovative products.) However, introducing a finished product to Japan is quite a vast venture for entpreneurs, as you know. We do the marketing, the translation of materials/labels, Japanese websites, photography (if needed), and we import the products and get the product into widespread distribution in Japan (retail stores, on-line stores/mail order, infomercials and direct sales by us) at no charge except we ask for a few samples and a conditonal exclusive option for our efforts. It would cost a USA firm hundreds of thousands of dollars to do what we do for the rights to import a cool product. Believe it or not finding a USA company that has the finesse and flexibility to cater to the Japanese market is amazingly difficult. Most USA firms are typically slovenly, unresponsive, and ignorant about Japanese consumers or exporting in general. Consider the Osaka prefecture alone has a GDP higher than the entire country of Canada! The best firms that we have introduced into Japan are exactly like the companies you feature: entrepreneurial, surgical strike-oriented. Any featured firms are free to contact us so we can evaluate their product for our product hungry markets in Japan. Work effectively.!

    Like

    • Hi Michael,
      Are you based in California or in Osaka? I just checked out your company site, as a fellow 4HWW fan, it would be good to talk.

      Andy.

      Like

  46. Very inspiring to see some in-depth success stories here. My muse is far from where it needs to be to make the kind of impact in the world and return enough value to me to do the things I want to do, but I’m definitely making progress.

    Like

  47. Hi Tim

    Great post, really inspiring.
    Is it common or rare to diversify your muse into indirect revenue like speaking?
    Or does it tend to come from a much more coordinated multimedia campaign so to speak?

    George

    Like

  48. Hi all,

    @Tim: Thanks for this post. I’ve been struggling to set up a muse for 1.5 years and so far it’s not working yet. Adsense is bringing in $250 per month, tops. Info products aren’t selling yet. I know a muse is possible but after 20 flunked sites it’s not always easy to keep faith in my ability to create a muse…

    Looking forward to the new book!

    Cheers,
    Michiel

    Like

  49. Hi Tim,

    Great post as always. I picked up your book when I was in Australia and have been trying to come up with a good muse idea ever since.

    My question would be if they whole muse model works for people who don’t live in developed countries with all the support infastructure to back them up, especially for non informational products.

    I’d also like to find out what the average start-up capital for a sucessful muse is in your experience (given the product cost and margins laid out in the book).

    I’m sure like many of your readers in Asia, South America and Africa (the T4HWW has traveled far) I’d really be interested in seeing a case study of a sucessful muse from sombody working outside the Western world.

    Keep up the good work!

    Like

    • Yes what is your take?
      I came from the world of affiliate marketing and know a lot about it…the good and the sleazy.
      Do you know the biggest PPC marketers think you’re some sort of demi-god?
      I’m serious.

      Like

  50. Excellent. Question: Do you see writing a business plan as beneficial to muse creation? Or let the product evolve by itself and let the PR, operational, financial strategies flow as you go?

    Like

  51. Tim, this post is absolute GOLD! The reason people keep coming back is your amazing free content that supports you paid books. A model that keeps on giving.

    You could easily be charging for this stuff. I would greatly appreciate a much deeper dive into these successful muses and revealing the nitty gritty details to help the rest of us get from “0-60″ as quickly as possible.

    Thank you so much for creating this community and making it a better place.

    Never a better time to be an entrepreneur.

    Jordan

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  52. Great post Tim…. Ive been researching digital products for the last couple of months and reading this post made me realise why not provide both! When it comes to buying give your clients the option,,,, digital is cheaper so hear is a discount but if you like folders and CDs you pay the premium,,, i think it will be an “alternative close” that may increase conversion rates…. just a thought…. looking forward to 4HB Tim cheers
    ps, if you picked up on the grammar im writing outside in the dark with a glass of wine,,,,, lovely lol

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  53. Tim: I see your activity and quaility of posts have gone up lately. You’ve been saving the good stuff for the 4HB promotion. I wander what you may have stacked there, that will be even better than that? :)

    Btw. how is 4HB promotion going? Will you be posting info on how to promote a book one more time, with more expirience?

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    • @Michal – completely agree! For awhile there it looked like Tim had outsourced everything and then decided to nix the oversight piece, (stickers?!? wtf! My 5yr old daughter likes stickers but she doesn’t read 4hww). Anyway, Tim – thanks for ratcheting the quality back up! Great stuff!

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  54. Hey Tim,
    Thanks for this post. Please post more of these! Any amount of details are welcome, but these are the kind of inspiring posts I enjoy to keep pushing through boundaries and mental blocks. I was rereading your book while home over Thanksgiving break this past week, and it forced me to get back on the product creation bus. The only downside right now is just perhaps being spread too thin. But yeah, please put up some more of these. The cold remedy post was one of my favorites! (also, my sister met Maneesh Sethi in a tango class, several months after I showed her the video of him here…small world)!

    Brett

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  55. Great post, very inspiring, and very intimidating as well. People are incredibly smart. I am still working on the bravery to start a muse. Right now my project consumes time and ideas and does not create income, it creates fun though for me.
    I enjoy reading your blog and thanks for putting your work out there!

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  56. I think one of the problems Alissa had, as do many other businesses, is hiring a DESIGNER to create a website that would convert. That’s not what a designer does, converting is more of a marketing thing, design — that’s the artistic function.

    Most designers don’t know anything about marketing, they just makes things pretty.

    The marketing aspect of a website requires a strategy — understanding who your customer is and addressing what problem you will solve for them. Once you’ve figured out what your content needs to be, then your designer can make it look good.

    Just my 2¢… (from a rare web marketer who does both strategy and design)

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  57. Illuminating article and video Tim, thanks. These are cool muses and products.

    I’m curious about the production costs. What’s the net take-home $$$ after production, distribution and marketing costs for these?

    More articles like this would be grand. Thanks.

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  58. Tim, I’ve been waiting for more posts like this!

    I love the specific help on creating a product and automating the selling process.

    Could you follow up with some more ideas about how to find your niche? I couldn’t figure out what to do with http://www.WritersMarket.com and looking at niche magazines only gets you so far.

    One more question: My muse is basically a specific subject’s curriculum for home schoolers, involving books and video. I want to keep production cost down, but how can I produce high quality video and books without dropping serious dough?

    Thanks so much, and I can’t wait to get my muse rolling.

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  59. Just did a deal with a tv exec to get our muse on tv, i am going to be sooooooooooooooooooooooo rich

    thanks for all the tips in your awesome book

    YOUR THE MAN !

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  60. Thank you Tim Ferris!

    My ‘muse business’ generates about $700/mo right now, and my goal is to scale it to $10k/mo in 2011. The best part is that it’s passive and completely hands-off.

    I can’t thank you enough for the inspiration I got from 4hww – it’s the only book I re-read on a regular basis.

    This post rocked – loved seeing the case studies.

    Best of luck with 4 Hour Body!

    – Devin

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  61. Tim, I can’t stop thinking about how great of a service this post is to all of the readers (including me).

    While I don’t necessarily believe that the best way to learn about entrepreneurship (or muse creation) is by mimicking other people (not the purpose of your post), I think that seeing real world examples of credible products and ideas is so motivating.

    I was so glad to see examples of tangible products because there seems to be a sub-culture of people selling informational products that I would never buy. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it has made me a little cynical about the whole process at times. But seeing these examples of products, of which I can easily see the value, has cured any hint of skepticism or cynicism on my part.

    If it would be at all helpful, I would love to volunteer some of my time to helping profile further muses. I know you probably have enough help with personal assistants working on your team so it may not be of value but it would be an incredible experience and awesome opportunity to give a little back to say the least.

    Either way, thanks for the inspiration!

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  62. Hi Tim! Amazing post as always…
    but (there’s always a “but” :p)… for me it’s illuminating and frustrating at the same time…
    I live in Italy, where everything seems to be dulled by bureaucracy, logistic difficulties and so on…
    I read your book, I (we) tried to follow your tips, but something here seems to stall everything…
    well… we’re trying doing our best, I can’t wait for the day our muse will be the “4hww: italian case-study” :)

    Ciao dall’Italia!
    Davide.

    p.s.
    sorry for my horrible english :p

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  63. Thank you so much, needed the inspiration today, I think I’ve been worrying too much on “what” to sell as a muse after reading your book. Still trying to figure out what. Did some thing that failed, but I keep going.

    I have the tech side, hell I can program about anything, but when it comes to niches or products, I’m duhhhhhhhh….

    Anyone wanna help, we can maybe help each other?

    Thank s again Tim, needed this post!

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  64. Hi Tim,

    First and foremost, thank you very much for this post. I originally read the 4HWW in 2007 and have been trying to create a muse since then. This pursuit has brought me deep into the world or internet marketing, but sadly, not much as materialized.

    This blog post has came at the perfect time as for the past month or so I have been contemplating giving up on my 4HWW pursuit and going back to school again to get a “better” 9-5. This has re-inspired me. :)

    This post has made me realize that I’ve gotten too caught up in the marketing side of things and less on the overall muse/business picture. Please continue to post more like this with the nitty-gritty details of how real people have made it work.

    Thanks again,
    Robert

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  65. Excellent post, Tim. Showcasing success stories with targeted questions and concise answers is perfect for quickly getting new ideas and inspiration without getting bogged down in the details. (If a person is going to work for only four hours a week, they can’t spend three of those hours reading business blogs, right?) This post is particularly inspiring.

    I live in Mexico and have inherited a successful web-programming biz with US clients which seems to be recession-proof. I’m making enough money to have a very comfortable life here, I’m able to pay my contractors more than they would receive from a Mexican firm, and my clients are happy to receive quality programming and service for less than they could afford with a US firm. So I should be happy, right?

    Good news: I AM happy….and I feel very lucky. Thanksgiving was a day filled with lots of gratitude. But I know it’s fleeting. I didn’t choose this business — I assumed it after a family tragedy because there was nobody else to take the reins and keep it from cratering…I did the responsible thing, and I have no regrets.

    Still, there’s a small voice in the back of my mind that keeps reminding me that this is not my passion (I’m an artist and made my living from my paintings in the past) and I’m tied to a 40-ish hour work-week, stuck in an office with my programmers and the telephone that connects me to my clients (whereas I thrive on daily interactions with lots of people, travel and, more importantly, living in new places). So I need to make dramatic changes or this new life will quickly turn into a rut, because it’s not feeding me.

    Your posts remind me that I need to follow my bliss, something I’ve done in the past with great success and have temporarily set aside. Thanks, Tim, for the swift kick in the butt.

    @haitham Great suggestion to include a “Concept-to-stability” timeframe.

    ……….Curtis……….

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  66. Can we hire tim to be a consultant, I have no idea what I am doing but am on the road to riches without even trying since I read ‘the four hour work week’.

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  67. Excellent post.

    I think case studies like these are the most powerful in affecting action in us! We are social creatures and having an environment (such as this blog for those who don’t have personal business contacts) of people succeeding in implementing the 4HWW advice is invaluable. Keep them coming!

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  68. Great post, I’d love to see more examples of muses and perhaps even a video which goes into the idea and creation process of muses in a bit more detail than the 4HWW. I find many of your posts fascinating but these studies are definitely what I’m looking for.

    Thanks Tim!!

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