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The Secrets of a Successful Muse Business

Real-World Advice from an Entrepreneur

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The Secrets of a Successful Muse Business
Photo courtesy of NeuYear

A business that's inexpensive to set up and yet generates cash passively while you kite-board, eat a bowl of cereal or watch TV?

It sounds too good to be true, but it is one of the most talked about elements of Tim Ferriss's book, The Four Hour Workweek. Read our interview with Tim here.

But how do "muse" businesses actually work? We reached out to a successful entrepreneur to find out more.

What is a "muse" business?

Jesse Phillips, a co-founder of the calendar company NeuYear, explains a "muse" business as such: "an automated business that gives you your target monthly income number, so you can do what you want." Phillips was very inspired by Ferriss's book in starting a company to deliver well-designed calendars to help people track and achieve their goals over the course of a year.

"We started NeuYear to help people achieve their dreams," he explained. "One of the best ways to focus your effort toward achieving your dreams is to plan and pursue goals. This doesn't have to be a crazy big or detailed thing, it's as simple as thinking about the steps to achieve something, and making deadlines for each step." In crafting a large, design-focused calendar, he and his cohorts aimed to make that process as simple as possible.

He further explains: "A muse is not sexy. A muse is not about pursuing your passion. A muse is about finding a niche where you can make money. Easily. With as little work as possible. The emphasis is on good margin, low effort, which will typically not be sexy/interesting/fulfilling your passions."

How do you successfully create a "muse" business?

After successfully creating a profitable business that was recently featured on the design site Fab.com, here are Jesse's tips on mastering the "muse" business:

1. Create something that people actually want, not just something you want.

If you have a good idea and only 100 people in the world want it, you're not going to make money selling it to them (unless they pay $100,000 for it -- but that's not a "muse" business). This means you have to do lots of research to find an opportunity in the market.

A trick to this is finding what people are spending money on. There have been an awful lot of successful projects on Kickstarter related to coffee. Solid coffee ideas will get way overfunded on that platform. Perhaps you can come-up with a coffee idea? Also iPhone accessories have been well funded. Do you have an idea for an iPhone accessory that will solve a real problem?

More on research

2. Test before launching!

Too many people quit their job and start a restaurant! They struggle for 3 years and then go bankrupt. You HAVE to create a prototype, test with real users, and see if people will really buy your product, before you invest a ton of money and time. This is why I love Kickstarter - it helps you to see if people out there are willing to buy your product. But you can do it easier than that, just go survey people. Find people that buy similar products and ask them if they'd buy yours. Put-up an easy web page with LaunchRock or something and see how many sign-up. This is not easy to do. The hardest part is being honest with yourself.

3. Be willing to pivot!

No one knows the future. It's impossible to create the perfect product that meets customer needs perfectly without testing. Therefore, once you launch and realize some other aspect is more desired by the customer, you need to be willing to shift. It's arrogant and foolish to try to force your will on the market, you have to shift with your growing knowledge of your market.

More on market research

4. START!

Too many people (myself included), have a great idea, but never do anything about it. Make goals, start working toward them, figure-out your minimum viable product and get going. Don't try to invent the next iPad, either! Start with something small and simple, yet with good margins and an existing market (this is not easy to find, but it's out there).

5. Design is important.

A lot of entrepreneurs skimp on design when they are starting out. I ran into the founder of About.me at SXSW one year and he said: "Design is not the most important thing. It's the *only* thing." This is so. freaking. true. We are humans. We judge books by their cover. We can't help it, it's how our brains work. Therefore, make your design awesome. (sleek & modern & minimal is usually easy to do, takes less time and looks great!) Design is a huge asset.

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