Tim Ferriss Advice on “Muse Testing” Needs Clarification

In 2007 I read The Four Hour Work Week and fell in love with the concepts.  Tim Ferriss teaches such a strong set of material in this book it’s hard not to completely shift your belief system around the development of passive-income style businesses.

One of the biggest areas people seem to ask questions on is “muse testing”.  For those who have not read the book, a “muse” is a business that generates you passive income.  It can be an info-marketing business (selling e-books, videos, etc), or it can be software, or anything else.

Tim spends a lot of time helping people understand how to test whether a “muse” is worth pursuing.  But his advice is overly simplistic if you ask me.  Say you have an e-book in mind.  You want to know if people will pay for it, right?  Tim’s advice is “Dont’ ask people if they would pay … ask them TO pay”.  It’s totally logical.  Friends will lie to you to prevent from hurting your feelings.  So go straight to the market and test a campaign.  Use adwords to measure click through rate, etc.

But there is a MAJOR problem with this concept.  Who designs your sales page?  If you do it yourself and it looks like total crap, then nobody will stay on your page.  Nobody will fill out your test order form.  You’ll think your product is a failure when it really could be a huge hit if the website wasn’t pathetic.

Here’s a really good partial-post that I pulled off the Four Hour Work Week forum.

My first muse was succesful from day one. I hired someone to build the site, hired someone to do the seo and then hired someone to do the adwords campaign and hired photographers to take the pictures and even hired writers to write the content. The muse has worked beautifully and I am now living the 4HWW in Thailand.

With spare time on my hands I decided to try my hand at other muses and to do evrything myself. After 3 months of hard work on 2 different muses they are complete failures. I am absolutely convinced if i took the same approach (which I am considering) as I did for my first muse then the second two muses would work also. The internet is completely and utterly about trust and credibility.

I will say this now from expwerience of succeeded once and failed twice and having learnt aassive amount along the way…if you are not either an SEO Expert, a Graphic Designer, A Writer, A Photographer or a Web Designer then you do not have the skills needed to build a site that inspires trust and credibility and so you WILL fail (just look at the proportion of “fail” posting to “success” postings.

Do you see how important this information is?  The author here had a successful muse because he outsourced the critical elements properly.  He didn’t put some crap on a website and hope people would buy.

So how can you REALLY test a muse?  It’s actually quite simple!  Find a successful competitor.  If you can find somebody successfully competing in your market then you know the market makes money.  Even if you can’t successfully find somebody in the exact market, look for others in your market who sell products adjacent to your product category.  Use common sense.   If you can’t find anyone making money in your niche, then you may have to do a proper test first.  But if you CAN find people in your niche making money you don’t need to test.  You already know it’s a profitable niche.

There isn’t any point in testing when someone else has already successfully tested.  I’m convinced that Tim Ferriss’ advice was geared towards people who are inventing new product categories, not people who are competing in markets that have already proven to be viable.

If you “test” your muse using your own design and find that your test fails … maybe it’s because you tried to do things that you really can’t do.  Like make websites, graphics, and write sales copy.  That’s why you might want to consider hiring someone else for those tasks.

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