Freedom Business | How to: Initial Efforts & Research

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Here is where I’m most excited. I hope both to learn from readers and fellow entrepreneurs and teach by experience going forward. I’m looking at what I’ve found are the vital first steps in creating income on your own terms. I’ve already chosen my first run at what is going to be my “muse” or “freedom business” or “easily managed online business.” I’ll probably use the term “freedom business” from now on as my girlfriend thinks I’m talking about a woman whenever I say muse. In reality it’s just a specific type of business model.

Anyway, my first effort will be a guidebook on the single question I get asked most working with computers and information technology, “How do I backup?” It’s a generic question, one that actually leads to many questions in response, but I’m going to use that “problem” and create a solution of value to sell.

I’ll dig more into my actual business soon but I want to first define a few things so you can easily slip yourself into my position, after all, you’re not building a backup guidebook…you may not even know what I mean or how I want to approach creating income. I also want a record of how I see things, and what I did to start.

Definitions

Not allowed: Selling someone else’s product (affiliate marketing) without thorough evaluation, pyramid/multi level marketing (ever heard of Monavie?), Google Adwords only marketing (without a product/service you created or know thoroughly), product reviews, filling out surveys, doing trial offers for any type of kickback, playing online games for nickels…or anything of the like. These  ideas have no real meaning or value.

Allowed: Muse/Freedom Businesses: The requirements of a freedom business as I understand them; a business in where you take stock in, or create a product or service that takes initial effort to set up and produce but therein after takes a matter of hours (I’ll say 10 or less, that’s a goal) a week to maintain passive income or sales from. Examples: ebooks, membership sites, digital software or products, audio programs, video programs, books, dvds, information blogs/service oriented websites for advertising sales, etc. Or… selling or advertising a product that you use (affiliate marketing), or have a thourough understanding of and believe in. Example: Greg Rollett’s Business Series. I’ve taken the course, I’ve seen the changes and relationships I’ve built. I know he runs a quality show. Click his link on the right or check his blog out. These ideas create meaning and value.

If you recall from my last post, a freedom business could be the back part of a seemingly service oriented task, such as automating/outsourcing website design (difficult), or the recording of any type of presentation work, such as interviewing several experts and packaging their advice into a resource or book or selling CD’s of your band. Anything can be turned into product, I hope that is plain to see, but some ideas are orders of magnitude easier and more suited for the type of online and easy management we are looking for and I believe are implicitly implied by lifestyle design.

I’ve chosen my first freedom business idea because I’ve first spent some time and money researching if its a problem worth pitching another solution at. That is valued point number 1. We’re in an age where you can cheaply and quickly test AND build assurity as to whether your idea will actually be marketable or profitable. Don’t ever spend large amounts of time on a product that you don’t KNOW will have a good chance at selling.

The key elements of a freedom business after we know it’s worth it are how easily we can package, sell, and manage the idea. They make it a true freedom giving enterprise. Hence why information based products will be focused on and explored here (and %90 of other lifestyle design sites), at least initially.

Selecting/Finding your Future Passive Income Source

Know thyself, Niche thyself. Famous words from Guy Kawasaki (4 min you tube video worth watching). Here’s the easy part, don’t get caught up on it, as I said, anything can be a product. It’s best to take something you are familiar with and get specific. I can demonstrate best with how I’ve captured what will likely end up being my next three muse ideas…why? The sole reasons are that I’ve experienced them and have interest in them. The hard part is how to create a business idea from them, and package it up in a way that can be sold. “What” your freedom business could be, is not something to get paralyzed about.

I was an Intramural Director in college. I thought about what problems I had and discovered there are no online resources for certain aspects of championship prizes. If you know intramurals at all, you might realize what I mean, and considering all the universities there are in America and in the world, it’s a ripe place to test for profitability.

I work as IT support and have built a few websites. I’ve identified that supporting people with their technology is my passion, but how do I make passive income from such a service oriented field? I have several ideas to test here. Automation and outsourcing as covered in the last few weeks of posts, creating resources from my most common requests and issues like what I’m doing with my first freedom business, a backup guide built for the common untechnical man.

I lived in California and took an interest in Parkour. Parkour is freaking cool, but it also challenges the body and falls in line with the natural movement workouts I like. It’s a new form of sport or pastime and its early stars and communities need places to congregate online. If you know anything about web design and scope it out, they are using outdated and clumsy Joomla websites…most notably I can see forming a huge community site built on a Google Maps API, another fun idea ripe for testing, and interviewing and researching profitability.

These are kinda random, some have to do with IT, which is my passion, but making money DOES NOT require the topic to be something you love to do. Do not be confused. A recent friend and intelligent author Sam Carpenter says this.

I think the major roadblock is that most people think they need to “do what they love”, when really there is no connection whatsoever between what one does to earn money and being free.

You should have an interest and not loath the topic you’d like to pursue making money off of, but don’t kill a passion by turning it into a job, that’s not the point, be warned.

Still don’t think it’s that easy to find an idea?: Tim Ferriss’s speed reading freedom business, Pat FlynnMy Wife Quit Her Job, Chris Guillebeau’s Freedom Flying Guide, Darren Rouse of Digital Photography SchoolThe iPhone or Dots gloveHowmuchisastamp.comCorbett Bar’s Gate Jumper …all plausible freedom businesses. If you dig further they all have some cool stories as well. Check out Pat Flynn’s if you are interested.

Find Yours: make a list of every job or event you’ve ever been a part of, ask yourself what issues and problems came up, or would would have helped, list out all your interests. Now connect solutions or ideas that could enhance each issue or interest. Don’t be defeated before you begin. It’s okay to move quickly here, discovering if your idea has any dollar value is next and more important.

Is it worth it? Research.

KNOW THYSELF NICHE THYSELF, THEN RESEARCH

Research really comes down to figuring out if whatever problem/topic you’ve chosen is worth creating a solution for. As I said earlier, there is no reason you can’t do this in todays digital world for free or cheaply. If you are already attempting an online business or freedom business of any sort and have no clue why or if you are going to make sales or be used, now is the time to do some research. How to do this perfectly? Well that’s the science I’m picking apart here and I’m very open to feedback.

A solution could mean a whole new product, or a tired old product you’ve given new light (have you seen these snuggie things? THEY ARE BLANKETS WITH HOLES PEOPLE), or taking a solution someone else has found and enhancing it. (make it better in some way shape or form) How do we find out if our solution is worth putting effort into though? We use various questions and tools (covered in my next post) to measure various measurable metrics before spending $12,000 on….

What to Do First, Preliminary Speed Actions

Summarize: I wrote down the problem I was solving, and my proposed solution in 200 words or less.

Example: The Problem: People don’t back up their data, I get asked a lot how to do this. Solution: Create an easier to use than a door instructions on the best backup solutions for the most common situations.

Look Up: Google your idea, but don’t look to see if it’s already out there, it most likely is (it’s okay), you want to know how it’s displayed and to what audiences, gauge how saturated the idea is. How did they “pitch” the solution? It’s not that important if you mimic a product, it is important if you mimic how someone sells a product. You want to be different. You’re just getting a vibe on your idea here.

Example: Finding and presenting to a niche is important, I’m not just selling a backup guide, it will be a guide my mother can use, and the person who only uses e-mail and facebook can understand. It’s updated for the newest and easiest backup tools. I’m going to try and niche myself to the non-technical yet still online users. I don’t know if it’s a great idea yet (might be horrible, you’ll find out with me), that’s the point of the research. Measure whether an idea is worth digging further into. My simple test. I Googled “backup guide”. You get plenty of results. I Googled “backup guide anyone can use”. You get nothing relevant, could mean something, could mean nothing. I’ve been keeping my eye on general news sites (Google news, Time, WSJ) and technical news sites, (Ars Technica, Lifehacker, Mashable, Slashdot) for anything backup as well.

Mock Up: First, draw a simple mockup of your idea, website, product, ect. Look for issues. The idea should lend itself to selling online, and the next step is create an online mockup of your product. (if you aren’t equipped to develop a one page mock website, checkout google sites, buy iWeb or contact me) If it’s a digital product, (it should be) your mockup will turn into your sales page. You can create do this with service type product by creating a landing page mock. The point is to create something quickly and use a fake “buy now” button or calls to action so in the future we can capture either an e-mail address or the metric of how many times people press that button. It’s not important to actually set up the tools to capture this information yet, we just need something to look at.

Example: My mock up: http://backupinformer.itarsenal.com

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I’ll stop myself there and explain why I think those are the vital first moves. First, summarizing your goal is important because you need to be aware of what “pain” or problem you’re solving at all times…it’s easy to get distracted and lost in your idea and completely neglect what you are actually trying to solve. Pin it to your wall. Second, looking up your business idea is normal and the equivalent of polling your town to see if it needs a 23rd pizza shop, don’t kill a ton of time here, that’s for later…we just want to gauge whether this idea still seems reasonable. Third, creating a mockup will allow you to get a feel for what your idea looks like outside of your brain, and although it still needs some work before you can do some real testing, it gives the idea weight. You’re committed now and momentum has been created. I was inspired to rapidly approach a mockup stage by 37 signals book, Getting Real. Let’s recap.

Total dollars spent: $0, (maybe $100 max if you paid me to build you a quick and dirty mockup.)

Total time spent: If you’re slow as molasses and are working a 9-5, a week.

But, But….

Goal not accomplished! We don’t know if our idea is worth really investing in yet! True, kinda….but we have gained momentum and a reasonable idea of if we should move forward. Next post, we use the information we just gathered and the glorious tools of the interwebs to get real data on if our uncreated product, service, ect. is worth creating!

What do you think?

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