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

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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?

http://www.dsmma.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.

Posted on: March 4, 2011.

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

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

  1. Great!!! This stuff has actually been on my mind lately, and this is just the jolt I need to get my butt in gear!

    I’m interested in knowing how many false starts people make, if any? I have a number of ideas, but have a hard time determining which one to move forward on first… Any suggestions?

    Like

    • Check out Eric Ries’ lean startup and customer development ideas. It’s very close to the muse testing phase of 4HWW.

      You can basically test an idea with less than $50 if you are willing to do most of the work manually. Adwords/paid traffic as recommended by Tim, is a more expensive but more automated alternative.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d love to see more on how people are actually testing the viability of these muses before pushing ahead. Is the Adwords method in the 4HWW still valid?

    Like

    • AdWords is always valid. In fact a lot of internet marketers promote this method for use when developing a product. I’m pretty sure is not the way Google intended the product, but it still works.

      Mind you that Tim used AdWords to check which title converts best. While developing a product you need a website that ‘sells’ the product and you use AdWords to get quick, albeit paid, traffic.

      Like

      • That’s what I’m hearing a lot. When I use adwords to look up search volume for the obvious keyphrases on these muses though (eg mixed martial arts bag,mma bag,music teacher software – all broadmatched) Google tells me that they get basically zero clicks a day. Only emergency kits really turned up anything at all.

        So, we know these muses are successful and yet Adwords seems to say that there’s zero demand. This leaves me wondering how they actually did test that suggested better results than adwords.

        Like

    • They still are. But the effect can vary depending on your target market and how painful their need is. I’ve realized that when I am researching online it’s just so much easier for me to ignore the ads these years. But when I’m really in need of something and the organic results don’t present a solution, I’ll naturally look at and click through the ads.

      A good alternative is Facebook ads which can be very targeted. This along with their freshness makes them quite hard to ignore. I remember a single friend who came back home empty-handed on a Saturday night, fired up his facebook and the first thing he saw was an ad that asked: “28 and still single?” He cursed out loud but clicked on it out of frustration!

      @Monkiii: Could it be because of the SEO/organic results? If I were a frustrated music teacher and searching for solutions, I would search for music teacher software today and would be more naturally inclined to click on the very first organic (non-ad) search result: http://bit.ly/edARML

      Like

  3. Ahh so stoked. Love the muse case studies. These are the most helpful of your articles young mister Ferris.
    I’ve noticed that you are really into your bags? You review them quite often.
    Anywho…

    Cheerio.

    Like

  4. Love to read about these case studies! Very inspirational for me. I would be interested in more specific info about web hosting and/or finding good manufactures in the future. Two things I’m currently struggling with.

    I’m working towards building my own shopping cart site and would be interested if anyone has advice or experience with a web host. Possibly with a bias towards Ruby on Rails.

    By The Way, I had ordered a T-shirt from Datsusara (Hemp of course). Now one of my favorite shirts to wear.

    Like

    • However we do need for some super talented person to develope a program to track our 4HB and 4HWW progress. There are not any good sites or programs that I have found!

      Like

    • Totally agree with Bob here. Really would have thought you might have asked how many hours they worked to receive said revenue.

      Like

  5. Great piece on MusicTeachHelper.com. Brandon not only has a great niche, but his programming and design skills appear sharp. Very nice video. Bravo!

    We have a similar project we are ginning up in the home improvement market for architects, interior designers and landscape professionals. Very motivational post Tim. Thank you! (I needed this🙂

    Like

  6. How about some case studies of unsuccessful enterprises? These can be as educational as the successful ones. Perhaps even we could end up crowd sourcing help? Sound like an idea for a new website?

    keep them coming Tim

    Like

  7. Wow, Tim! Thanks for the spotlight! I’m honored. I guess I can count this as my first big “PR Win”.🙂

    A couple commenters have said they want profit numbers. I spend about $10-12k/month to run Music Teacher’s Helper these days, so the rest is profit. And I work about 5 hours per week.

    I should also clarify that while I have used oDesk for a lot of things, including design, the person who designed the latest version of the Music Teacher’s Helper site is my friend, Jeff Whitehead (his company is FridgeWorks). He just started a portable pizza oven business, though, so I’m not sure how much design he’s doing these days.

    Like

    • I checked out the Music Teacher’s Helper site. It is awesome! I’ve been a music teacher for years and love the ease of use and thought-out features. I build registration systems as a hobby and find the system so well thought out. I’ve already recommended your Studio Helper site to a friend who runs an arts center. She loved it and is getting ready to use it. Thanks!

      Like

    • Brandon –

      Great website and service!! What was your programming experience when you started your business? Did you have a heavy background/education in computer programming?

      Sometimes I think about tools or software to help people, but then I kind of shut the idea down b/c I have literally no programming background.

      Cheers,
      Nate

      Like

    • @Brandon Pearce – 10-12k/month? that seems really high. can you share the break down on that? i.e. hosting, support staff, etc.

      Like

    • @Brandon Pearce
      Thanks for sharing some of the details about how your business is currently running and what you were able to outsource.

      Like

  8. These case studies continue to inspire me even with some of my own setbacks, but hey I’m failing quickly.
    In the spirit of following your ideas, I’ll be participating in an awesome athletic team event coming up this fall – Booze included. I’d like to see if you’d join our team. You have my email so you can get in touch with me. I’ll get your assistant or anyone else all the info.

    Like

      • I third that.

        Although, some people might refrain from sharing their stories if they HAVE to mention their profit. I suggest that Tim includes that as optional and perhaps ask for a range instead of exact figures.

        Like

      • Sounds like a good idea. I never did understand why the amount of money one makes has to be some sort of ultra-classified secret…lol. While it may not be smart to show a complete stranger your bank statement, I don’t see the harm in someone giving a rough estimate of what their profits actually are.

        Like

  9. Very cool post! I love the point about not assuming you know your target market, until you actually see the numbers that prove your assumptions.

    And I agree – profit numbers would be much more interesting than gross revenue.

    Keep ’em coming!

    Like

  10. Great Inspiration… Neet to so how you can break into a market with a single product, something simple like gear bag. If that works out and you start to make a name for yourself the door is now wide open for exspansion. The opportunities out there are endless.

    Like

  11. Happy to report that my muse is getting there…slow and steady wins the race.

    I finally found you Ferris, just what I needed for that last 10 miles of a marathon

    Like

  12. Hey Tim, thanks for these case studies. Can you ask them next time how much time per month or week it takes to maintain such business once it is built?

    Like

  13. Rad.

    Ya know.. I run into this dilemma a bit every now and then, just like the person from readysetgokits.com, and that is do I try to find the best possible way to either outsource or find someone extremely precise in a certain area (such as SEO, for example), or do I learn everything myself, appreciate the knowledge, failure, and calibration.

    I’ve found it both more rewarding, and permanent (I get to keep the knowledge), to learn things on my own.

    Review: This is incredible. All of these people are awesome. Tim, you’re like an enhancement to evolution, and because your work spreads out all over the world, you’re creating other “smart people.”

    It’s nice to see people trying things, having a long term perspective and waiting it out until they reach even a bit of success. That’s super helpful for me and I’m sure others who are working on big things.

    I think what’s extremely important about muses, or any kind of creative project is the positive feedback loop. The reinforcement that “wow, I actually own a business now,” because of your recent sales. Great stuff! That reinforced the online model and told your brain, “yes, this works.” That’s super powerful.

    Great products, I may even pick up a readysetgokit.. I love that kind of stuff. Tim, thanks for providing an environment for people to go and be around, and learn from, other like minded, creative people.

    Ryan

    P.S. Super informative and filled with golden nugget lessons.

    Like

    • Good point Ryan.

      I would go with neither way. Neither total outsourcing or total learning is a good path to take IMHO. I’ve heard some outsourcing experts that you’ll need to know the BASICS of almost everything you outsource. Learning everything such as learning programming if you’re non-tech, has a low ROI.

      Like

  14. Always love to read the muse case studies. Other questions I would have answered include:

    How did you test the idea before manufacturing it? And how money was invested before you saw a return?

    For someone like me with little capital, cheap testing is key. Any ideas out there aside from google adwords campaigns and faux landing pages?

    Great work as always Tim!

    Like

  15. These look like great businesses, one thing that is missing from the interviews is asking how much time these business’s are taking up. I though to be described as a muse it should be something that can be maintained with minimum hours and makes enough money to support other activities. It sounds like most of these businesses are full time jobs, with the exception of Music Teachers Helper where Brandon has commented he only works 5 hours a week.

    If the other businesses are run on mimimal hours I am also curious what the founders are doing with the spare time and why they made the decision to do other things rather than trying working more hours on it and making it something bigger.

    Like

  16. by far my favorite posts are the muse case studies.

    When testing the muse, how do you know what’s too niche and what is too broad. It’s hard for me to decipher google trends, ie is 150 a good number in local monthly searches? Or is it ridiculously low? I don’t know what to compare it to really.

    Like

  17. Nice to see Datsusara featured, thanks for that. I’m sending people over here too although I find it amusing how many times people ask me if I have heard of the Four Hour Work Week not realizing it’s principals helped us get started.

    Thanks to Tim and all of you for of the support.

    Oh and as for profit statements I’ll admit it’s far under the gross but for now it’s enough that we keep expanding and I can pay my expenses living in nice parts of California (the later being the bulk of costs🙂

    Good luck to you all, may your muse be kind.

    Like

    • These are great cases studies. Thanks Tim! Perfectly timed to keep the motivation alive!

      To Chris, I really dig the bag you developed. I’m not a MMA fighter, but I can appreciate the usefulness of your product. I have a few questions regarding your venture and would love any feedback you can give:

      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?

      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?

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

      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?

      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?

      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?

      While my “muse” isn’t in bags, I am interested in developing a new line of school supplies based on some ideas that have been rummaging around in my head for a while and I think that your feedback would be very helpful to anyone wanting to bring product to market, regardless of industry. Thanks again for any answers you can provide. Your story, as well as the other case studies are very inspiring to me!

      Like

  18. Great article, was a little shock how long these businesses took to generate good revenue. The 4HWW endorsed setting up a muse which could be generate significant revenue and automated after only a few months, is this still the case?

    Like

  19. Holy cr*p, some of these ideas are great – even better than the first volume – I love the first two ideas – and the music helpers is genius, too. Good to know that 5 years, 3 years even, is a really do-able timeline.

    Like

  20. These case study posts, while energizing to read about others taking initiative, could be made more helpful by being a little more detailed in their answers.

    And, importantly, where be the info-product muses? Info products where emphasised in the 4HWW, and other than the “A* student” info-product you video reviewed, there’s been nothing else. C’mon Tim, get them up on here! =)

    Like

  21. I really love that bag – and the focus of the marketing. Great graphics and really nice product… maybe I should become an Ultimate Fighter?

    Really inspiring case study. Thanks guys!

    Like

  22. My brother and I are creating our muse. We should have started earlier. I’ve had two aha moments, my first at a Renegade Training Certification Seminar with John Davies and I realized how much I knew and could offer others on “Fitness” and “Health” issues. My second while reading 4HB and thinking, gee, I know a lot of this and have a lot I could add.

    Like

    • A simple Google search on the terms “accounting definition revenue” yields….

      Usually the following business transactions cause earning of revenue and their recognition in accounting:

      * Sale of goods
      * Provision of services
      * Permission granted to others to use the assets of the business (leasing, renting, etc)
      * Selling of assets other than goods (sale of machinery)

      The main features of revenue are the following:

      * It arises from the trading activities of a business
      * It creates inflow of funds to the business
      * It is measured in terms of money
      * It is always related to a particular accounting period
      * It is a result of a series revenue generating activities
      * Capital is the source of revenue

      Like

  23. Tim, that post is what makes your book and blog different from all the air sandwiches (= other business books) out there. I think the owner of the Ready Set Go Kits would agree: “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.”

    Like

  24. Fantastic ideas! I’m in the midst of launching a martial-arts based fitness site and program. This is quite encouraging. I like the the part on the first muse that talks about the crisis point of their life. I’m at the same point right now. Anything to encourage me to keep going and not go back to a corporate job helps right now! Just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you don’t dread doing it.

    Like

  25. These case studies are great. Congratulations to these people for creating their muse! It sounds like a good niche is the way to go. Thanks Tim for sharing this inspiring info!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Wow, the Music Teachers Helper site is CLUTCH for a friend of mine who teaches private piano lessons. Great idea!

    Tim, in a totally unrelated thought, I’m very curious to know what your thoughts are/will be on the movie Limitless (http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/limitless/) that’s coming out on March 18th. Watching the trailer reminds me of the neural-enhancing bonus chapters in the 4HB.

    Your book, this movie, and Inception have my brain doing crazy and creative things.🙂

    – Josh

    Like

  27. Does Tim have any thoughts in his busy mind on spirituality?

    This would be a nice change of pace from his usual posts. After all, you can’t take it with you…

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  28. Hi Tim, if you don’t mind sharing what is your BLOOD TYPE?
    I strictly follow the eating Right for Your Type and your diet and have had much success. I’m a B, am in great shape (working with a trainer) and seem to do really well with lactose-free dairy and dried fruit.

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  29. It’s always inspiring to hear about peoples muses, absolutely one of the most giving things is to hear what people have actually done in real life with regards to business.

    I filled out the form and sent you the story behind my company, I hope you find it as interesting as I’ve found these stories!

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  30. I was feeling overwhelmed & discouraged until I got this muse email and read it. Thanks for the re-motivation. I just hit the breaking point at my 50 hr per week job and quit this week. I have several muses I’m toying with – and will be putting the next two weeks to better use – spending about 6 hrs a day (instead of 10) developing the business, website, and at the same time spending more time with my family. I have enough saved to live for about 6 months – I’m sure I can duplicate my paycheck within 1-2 months based on testing ideas on ebay, craigslist, and other online venues for the last 2 months while still employed. Within 6 months I should be very automated – will update then – and may be one of your ‘case studies’ by the end of the year.

    Thanks for the great book, blog, and emails!

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  31. Love these case studies. The music helper website was especially inspiring. Well done.

    I can’t wait to add my muse to the list. I’m in the middle of creating an audio walking tour of my small town. Would love to pull in $2-3k per month. Launching late May……….!

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  32. I love learning from from all people who had the courage to get out there and make something happen! Inspriring.

    Tim, please keep these coming!

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  33. It’s really reassuring to know that these muses take between 1-5 years to build up, for those of us still in the early stages of executing our ideas and uncertain of “when” we will consistent results. Thanks so much Tim.

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  34. Tim, thanks for another outstanding post, highly inspiring. I wonder if you realise how many people you have motivated and inspired to move forward to a better lifestyle. Thank you so much!

    I am in the process (still early, but you have to start somewhere) of developing my own muse. For the moment I am using the help of a couple of friends in their spare time but soon I’ll be faced with having to make some choices:

    1 – Get an external developer (so pay someone for a work package)
    2 – Get a partner (so share a percentage of the profits – if and when they come!)
    3 – Carry on using friends’ free time

    For example, yesterday I emailed a friend of a friend who is a talented programmer to ask for some help and of course he wanted to know if I am offering a permanent position (far from that at the moment), some freelance job or it’s a private project (more like the latter for the time being). For the time being there is no money in the project whatsoever, we still need to make a prototype to make sure we can make this work, but of course it is fair to pay a fee for his professional services if he requires so.

    My question is more in the line of what to do in the case of friends that take part in the development from the beginning out of personal interest. If this muse ever comes to work out I would like everyone to be treated fairly.

    I would love to hear from people who have gone through this process how you set up some sort of agreement with whoever you bring on-board in such a project, so that from the beginning misunderstandings are avoided and everyone gets what they deserve and are happy in the end.

    Many thanks.

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  35. Regarding the hemp bags and alibaba.com in general, how do you make sure they are genuine manufacturers and not just middlemen? When you do a search for “hemp backpack” there, just look at the beige one, identical product, same photo, offered by 4 different “manufacturers”. How do you protect against that? An earlier muse case study reported visiting China in person or hiring an agent there to check the manufacturer out in person. Does anyone have experience on how to do that (where to find such an agent, are they reliable, costs?)

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  36. Good post. Actual case studies are always great content.
    But, is it just myself who think something important is missing from these case studies?
    I mean there seems to be a huge missing gap between having a great idea and being a success. That is the part that I think most entrepreneurs are interested in.

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  37. Tim,
    I hope this reaches you. I read 4HWW back in October/ November and got to work on my Muse. I was laid off in December and poured myself into full-time entrepreneurship as a result. Sincere thanks for your support and insight (via book). You helped me avoid countless time wasters and solidify several sound decisions in the process of developing my company. The site/ product launched this week. I’d love to send you a set of my cards as a thanks – knowing you’re a language geek like me🙂 (and dancer, traveler, life-long learner, etc.) THANK YOU!

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  38. Very impressed with these entrepreneurs. Interested in knowing more about the seo they do and how it help. I agree in starting my business the biggest waste of time and resources was partnering with someone else who did not have the same focus as me.

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  39. Okay everyone, I am reading all of this and I cannot figure out how to apply to myself. I am a chiropractor and just want to see my business increase without resorting to scare tactics or gimmicks like many of the competing chiropractors do. I have been reading the 4 hour work week, but I am just having some difficultly figuring out how to apply it. Any help from you bright minded, business minded people out there would be appreciated. Thanks.

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    • What happened to good old marketing and networking?

      What are you doing to let the world know your business exists? Are you doing any advertising, giving seminars, attending networking groups, attending/giving free clinics, volunteering, etc?

      With the weather warming up, are there outdoor events where large numbers of people congregate where you can volunteer and/or sponsor: farmer’s markets, jog-a-thons, chili cook-offs, running events, etc?

      Do you offer massage services? If so, bring your therapist(s) along with their table or better yet, a portable chair massages, and offer free massages.

      Craft a special deal, put it on an attractive marketing piece (Vistaprint is reasonable priced for 8.5″ x 5.5″ postcards) and make sure that everybody that passes by gets a copy.

      Can you create and mail a 1,000 postcards every 2 weeks for 6 months in your office’s zip code? You can print them on your own printer, so your costs would be paper, ink, and postage.

      Most people think that the technical things – the idea, the product, or the service – are the key to success in business. It isn’t. It’s the sales and marketing. If nobody knows you exist, then you won’t have any customers. In turn you’ll have no revenue, no profit, and eventually you’ll have to shut down.

      The SBA says 50% of businesses close by the end of the 1st year, and almost all by the end of 4 years. The say that it is almost always due to lack of cash from being undercapitalized. I reject that conclusion. The businesses fail from lack of cash because they have no customers. And they have no customers because they engage in almost no marketing.

      There’s a reason why Microsoft, IBM, Home Depot, Lowes, and all the other “big companies” are big – they were once small companies that marketed themselves relentlessly. The marketing was probably the biggest non-payroll component of their budgets in the beginning. But it was viewed as an investment in the business, not an expense to be minimized.

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  40. Amazing the impact the “4 Hour Work Week” has had. While the country is going through miserable economic times, the bright spot is that we all have the opportunity, with the required time and effort, to learn a solid internet based business model that will lead to a very attractive lifestyle.

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  41. I just started the Earn1k class over at Ramit Sethi’s blog. I’m hoping to get a taste of starting a business there until I can figure out something to create my first Muse.

    I’m really excited and these three Muses really inspire me!😀

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  42. Hi Tim,

    It may be worthwhile to run a complimentary set of articles about muses that did not succeed. Oftentimes we learn more from failure than success…

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  43. Does anybody have the contact info for reputable and responsive contract manufacturers for nutritional products, emphasis on the reputable and responsive part?

    I’m also looking for direct contacts, and not the sales people who insert themselves into the middle of the transaction and mark up the price quotes..

    Thanks!

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  44. Again great tips for all of us, who are still looking for their muses.

    I am still in progress of searching my muse and the main obstacle, which I think myself and many people face is the “just f*king do it” attitude…. all instructions are in the book, many of us have analyzed things, probably selected a few ideas (better or worse) and are almost ready to start…. just the KICK is needed…

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    • My suggestion: reframe it as a “learning project”. This way, you won’t mind spending 100 bucks on adwords and site design to test your idea. Similar to what Tim did with angel investing (refer to his Real-World MBA posts)

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  45. Tim: I just read The 4-Hour Body. I have an idea that maybe you might be interested in. I am 72 years old, in good health and want to live a long and healthy life. Many of the ideas in your book are for younger people. How about a program for older people, say 50+? Such a program could also benefit you personally as it wil show you what happens when an older person follows your advice. I am willing to be the person who trys out the program activities (at least some of them!) I also have a doctoral degree in health education so I have a good knowledge base to work with.

    If you think this idea might work contact me by email and we can go from there. I live near Stanford on the Peninsula so it could be easy to meet.

    John Martin.

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  46. Tim,
    These are always the best posts. I’ve noticed that when I meet people in business for themselves I have begun to interview them about it. The response is universally positive (business owners like talking about their businesses). It’s very interesting stuff.
    These posts are also a great example of just how many different businesses opportunities there are.

    I’d like to see more about how people got their first sale though. That should be a question.

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  47. Tim you’ve gotta keep these posts coming. Nothing can replace experience! Hearing from people that have done exactly what I want to do (automated income) is so extremely valuable to me. I read 4HWW about two years ago and got really tied up with surviving through getting laid off and then managing some investments I have made. Now I am back in the game researching everything you have put on your site regarding this topic. Every single case study is so very helpful. You said you wrote your books as a service – well thanks for that service!! I had been struggling with a bunch of other crap I tried network marketing, etc. and I wanted passive income without the cheesiness. When I read 4HWW I said out loud “this guy gets me. He gets it!” Thanks again man. I will keep you posted as I restart this process. Also enjoying the 4HB too. So much to enjoy and do, so little time!

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  48. Very cool to see these. And the survival kit one in particular as it was an idea I entertained. I just today sat down and figured out my muse is currently generating an avg profit of $500 a month with bad (i.e. nonexistent marketing). I see a lot of upside for my current plan and am already thinking 2-3 plans ahead. Thanks for the help and congrats folks!

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  49. Hi all,

    It’s Amy, owner of Ready Set Go Kits – thanks for all of your great comments and some of you have been emailing with ideas and questions, thanks for your interest!

    To follow up on some of the questions in the comment stream:

    1. How much time do I spend per week? I designed my business to be a true muse so if I don’t want to or don’t have the time then I don’t spend any time on my business. If I am feeling inspired I work to change the website, add new content, send out direct mail, etc. I’m in graduate school and honestly that takes up most of my time. The more time I put into my business though, the better the sales.
    2. Testing your muse: Tim recommends testing via Adwords which I didn’t actually do. If you searched “emergency kits” you’ll see that there are a lot of competing sellers so I figured that someone was buying. The term “emergency kits” gets well over 2,000 searches per month as did a few different related search terms so I just decided to go for it. If I knew what I knew now, I would have asked my manufacturers how much they were selling each year so I could get a better idea of the limit of my market. The market is there for my product, but smaller than I had anticipated to split between me and my competition.
    3. Profit: I make about 20% off each sale – which I then throw into testing out new marketing ideas. If I also knew what I know now, I would have picked a product with a better profit margin so I could have a really effective affiliate sales program – there just isn’t enough profit to offer a compelling program.
    4. Launching your business with the help of PR – I’m happy to say that I have received some great PR – Tim Ferriss of course, but actually last week I was on Martha Stewart’s site. PR gives you tremendous upsurges in traffic, but in my case at least, no sales. I wouldn’t hold on tight to the dream of PR to solve your problems, instead focus on getting your product to come up on search or reaching out to your target market in whatever way is the model for your business. To whoever mentioned it in the comments – yes, it really is all about the marketing – at least for my business.

    Good luck everyone – and just do it – start small and pull the expectation off your muse to be a success. If you’re feeling stuck, view your first muse as a test and tell yourself the second muse will be your real business. There is so much valuable learning that occurs when you start your first muse. Get started and don’t be afraid to fail.

    Thanks Tim for featuring my business!
    Amy

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  50. I am reading the appropriate parts of the book and will be starting the diet on Monday, March 14th. My question is is it ok to change your cheat day by 1 day occassionally, like if you schedule for Sunday, but need it Saturday, will it hurt the diet or cause a problem losing weight.

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  51. I agree with the user who suggested you add some of the failed attempts. I don’t think it would hinder your sucess since you’ve done a phenomenal job showing us the great possibilities. But then again I’m not the millionaire marketing master!
    At the very least, a blog post about the common f-ups of the failures you’ve learned about would be helpful. Thanks for all you’ve done Tim.

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  52. My question is about outsourcing at the beginning – I have a great idea for a web based product/service that requires web design/development…two skills I don’t have. I’ve looked at eLance and oDesk and see there are lots of people on there, but how to I get started working with someone with out them “stealing” my idea and executing it on their own? Do you have them sign a NDA with a non-compete clause? Any insight would be very helpful.

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    • An NDA would work. Also, I recommend “splurging” on a good lawyer – preferably a patent attorney (for trademarking, copyrighting). The fees will add up quickly, but it is well worth it to cover your investment and avoid potentially costly mistakes. My lawyer saved me from a potential nightmare with a contracted person who hadn’t planned to hold up his part of the signed contract. He also helped with packaging wording that would hold up in court, etc. Lawyers lend legitimacy to your project and can resolve issues faster – which gives you more time to focus on your muse.

      I have used both Elance and word-of-mouth for design/web development recommendations. I intentionally outsourced from the beginning too. Always ask for a portfolio and choose based on quality of work, not cost. Cheap work costs more in the long term.

      Lastly – it’s not too likely someone in a completely different field will steal your idea. I takes a considerable amount of dedication to see a muse come to fruition. If someone tries, they’ll have to catch up to you. But I understand, I kept my project a secret for a while because I was worried about surprise competition with better funding.

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  53. These are great case studies. I would love to hear how much people end up investing in their muses to get them started as it sounds like some seem to have stronger means to self fund.

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  54. Hey Tim,

    I notice that you have had a few of these posts that refer back to your teaching in the 4HWW. I started my business following your rules and words and am doing great. I would love to share what I did and all the info associated. Let me know if you’d like to hear more.🙂

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  55. @Nate – I started programming when I was 12, and was just finishing up my degree in computer science when I started MTH. Although, frankly, I learned very little useful programming skills in school – I think you’re better off learning it on your own, if you’re interested. I was also working full-time as a programmer for a small company during the first few years of the business. If you don’t have any programming background, and don’t want to learn, you’re probably going to have to outsource that. But it doesn’t have to be super pricey. I don’t recommend bringing on a programming “partner”.

    @Todd – Yes, I could run the company for less. But then it either wouldn’t grow as much, or I’d have to do more work. My main expenses include two full-time programmers, a customer support team, bloggers, seo help, hosting/servers, and marketing (which could be as high as you want).

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      • DynastyDC: I can’t speak for Brandon, but my guess is that bringing on a partner for their tech skills costs more (in both dollars and in control) than hiring or contracting for the same skills.

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      • @DynastyDC – Programming is something you can outsource. Why pay a programmer x% of your company forever, when you can pay someone $x when you need work done? And how will you guarantee they’ll put in the time and effort necessary to get the job done in the startup phrase, when they’re not getting paid much? And what if they want to take your company in a different direction than you had envisioned?

        I recommend avoiding partnerships overall – the risks outweigh the benefits and it’s rare to have one work out well. If you do decide to do a partnership, be sure to get a contract written up first outlining what happens if there’s a “breakup”, and make sure you’re happy with it.

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      • @DynastyDC

        The reason why you don’t bring anybody on as a “partner” can be summed up in one word:

        Ownership!

        To quote Felix Dennis, ownership isn’t the most important thing.
        It’s the only thing!

        You don’t “partner” to realize your ideas and vision.
        You hire (outsource) others to help you realize your ideas and vision.

        By partnering, you give up absolute control – control of the company, control of the idea(s) and their implementation, control of the vision, control of the strategy, etc.

        It’s no longer “your” company, but “our” company.

        Things will change, for better or worse…

        Change is probably good, but it;s better if you own as much as possible.

        With 100% ownership, you can be open-minded, cooperative, and receptive to changs and new ideas, but you’re still the ultimate decision maker.

        There can be many assistants in the kitchen, but only one executive chef.

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  56. I used the principles in the four hour work week to create my muse business, I now make something like $40,000 a week and work 4 hours a week, I am not telling you about my product because I do not want any competition.

    rule 1 …. keep shtum🙂

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    • Care to share how you do initial testing whether new markets are worth putting in the effort to test further? If I tried making even a basic website with sales copy and setting up adwords campaigns to get traffic for even just the top 1% of my ideas I’d need another 72 hours in the day, every day… and I *know* how to do both these things quickly already!

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  57. hey TIM great books.I have a question about the tabat training ,you say 14 sets instead of 8 is 14 the way to go.im not looking for mistakes in your book.just want to know if its a typo.i do high sets at times so i do 10 or 12 sets love it and love your books.please dont take this as me being a dick.cool thanks mark

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  58. These guys have the right idea in that picking one great idea in a small niche and going for it. I think a lot of people fail because they don’t do the necessary research before diving into something.

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  59. Question: The 4 Hour Body, recommends cottage cheese and also cream for coffee instead of milk, and your explanation was because they do not contain whey. But you also referred to protein shake use. It seems like all the protein powders contain whey, What’s up with Whey? Have you found a non-whey protein supplement.

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    • There are loads of non whey protein powders. Personally I love Sun Warrior (I’m not connected to them in any way), but there are so many out there it’s ridiculous.

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  60. Hey Tim,

    Great book, hey man, what do you think about Navy beans? I’m pretty much eating Pinto beans on Mondays, Lima beans on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and wondering if I can fit Navy beans in on Thursdays and Fridays? Also, is it cool if I eat salsa?

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  61. Awefully inspiring !!!

    I have myself just had the guts to get out and start my own muse. Partly, thanks to Tim’s book! I have marked so many pages and am re-reading it constantly😉 My muse is called tokyorag and is all about Japan-inspired contemporary fashion accessories. Welcome to check it out🙂

    @ Tim: You as frequent traveller could need the passport holder😉 Let me know and I send you one.

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