So you have an idea for a new business? Great! You have something you think will make other people’s lives better.
Or maybe you are considering going into a new profession. Nice! What should you do next?
Should you spend hundreds of dollars and months of work building a beautiful website? Maybe you should enroll in a graduate program costing thousands of dollars?
Find a way to test your idea first! Experiment. Test the marketplace. Interview others already in the profession you’d like to have.
Create a Minimum Viable Product
Think of a way you can test your ideas before you spend all your time and money on that idea. How can you build a minimum viable product and offer it for sale?
So many times we get caught up in our own ideas, that we forget there are low-cost ways to test our ideas.
I recently tested one of my product ideas with no website and no money. It has become a profitable side hustle that has brought in some extra cash.
Here’s what I did: I made a physical product that was useful for myself, then I began to think that maybe others could use it as well. I started to go down the rabbit hole of imagining a beautiful website with a checkout cart and compelling images. Then I thought to myself: “How can I test this idea before spending a bunch of money on an e-commerce site.”
I decided to shoot a quick YouTube video describing my product and put a link to buy it on PayPal. So simple! And no Etsy or web hosting fees! I didn’t even have the materials yet, I just showcased the one I built for myself. If I got a sale, I’d just order the materials and build it on demand. I let people know that it would take up to 10 days to build. That gave me plenty of time to order the materials in case someone actually bought it.
I posted the video in some Reddit and Discord forums, asking people what they thought. People started asking questions and sales started coming in!
Experimenting with a New Profession
Maybe you don’t have a product idea, but instead, you are dreaming about a new profession. You’d like to quit your job and become a writer, a podcaster, or go back to school to become a doctor, a lawyer, or maybe you think you’d make a great psychotherapist. How about spending some time working in those professions before committing thousands of dollars to school or quitting your day job?
If you want to be a writer, then write! Want to be the next Joe Rogan? Then start podcasting! This seems so obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people think they can skip this step. It has never been easier to test your ideas on the web. Go sign-up for a free WordPress.com blog (affiliate link), a Substack account, or an Anchor Podcast account, and start writing and podcasting! See what people say in the comments. Check out your download numbers. Engage with other writers or podcasters on Twitter. In the entire history of humanity, there has never been a better time to test your creative ideas.
In their book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, brothers and psychologists Chip and Dan Heath call this “ooching“.
Pro tip: You can email authors of books you like. I emailed the above author, Dan Heath, for career advice.
Testing Out a New Profession
There was a time when I thought I’d make a great psychotherapist. But, I went about it the wrong way. I enrolled in graduate school. I started paying money to take classes, learning about therapists and techniques I had already spent much of my own time learning about. I still wasn’t 100% sure if it was a good fit.
While in school, I decided to start interviewing life coaches and psychotherapists about their profession for a new podcast I started. A few didn’t want to come on the podcast, so I invited them out for coffee instead.
A common theme I came across from the interviews was that much of the success of a psychotherapy practice (at least private practice) came down to marketing.
I decided to start learning marketing right away. I spent a few dollars to create a blog featuring the podcast interviews I’d done with coaches and therapists, along with some blog posts about my thoughts on living the good life. I offered a free PDF download called, Using Stoicism to Overcome Adversity, that I created in exchange for emails. I spent $100 dollars on Google ads, advertising myself as a life coach, and ended up getting a few paying clients.
To me, this was a way better education than spending more time and money in school. I learned that this line of work was not for me. At least not at the time. From my podcast interviews, I learned about some of the negative iatrogenic aspects of therapy and I wrote a paper about it. I was also just starting a family and I found that coaching people after I got home from my day job wasn’t conducive to family life. It was sapping the energy that I would rather spend with my wife and kids.
I decided to drop out of psychotherapy school. I’m glad that I learned by experimenting rather than spending two more years in school and thousands of dollars.
What about you? What are some ways that you experiment with your ideas? Let me know in the comments below.