The Zig/Zag Technique to finding an online business idea

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Think about the average guy approaching the average woman at a bar. What does he say?

  • “Hi…do you come here a lot?”
  • “Hi, my name’s John…”
  • “Hi…what are you drinking?”

These seem like normal things to say, right?

The problem is they’re NO DIFFERENT THAN THE 5,000 GUYS WHO’VE SAID THE SAME THING!

When you’re the same as everyone else, you might as well not exist. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, a woman, a life coach, a stylist, an analytics guru, or a language tutor. Whether you’re trying to get a date or start an online business, if you’re the same as everyone, you’re doomed.

No matter how beautiful your website is. No matter how exceptional your guarantee is. No matter how much you care.

This is where the concept of ZIGGING and ZAGGING comes in.

Where others zig, you zag.

When done correctly, you instantly stand out, selecting the right audience, while the wrong audience fades away.

Let me show you a zig/zag example. Remember when I used to write exclusively about “personal finance” on my site?

EVERYONE ZIGS: Keep a budget! Say no to lattes! Cut back on everything and save until you’re 60.

RAMIT ZAGS: Um, no. None of you so-called experts understand human psychology. Focus on the Big Wins, automate your money (because nobody really wants to be a financial expert), and earn enough to spend, guilt-free, on whatever you want. And tell jokes about twins, my mom, etc.

Do you see what happened?

A ton of frugalistas hated me and wrote about how I was entitled, privileged, and an asshole. Most of their blogs are gone now.

But the people who mattered stuck around. These are the people who said, “Hey, wait a minute. That makes sense. I don’t want to live like a pauper. I want to go out with my friends and buy a round of drinks. I’m willing to put in the work — but show me what to do!”

A movement was born. And a highly profitable business, too.

YOU CAN DO THE SAME. When they zig, you zag.

Why I’m sharing the “Zig/Zag” concept with you now

Have you noticed how excited people are to finally hear me talking about creating an online business? I could open Zero to Launch tomorrow and a ton of people would join.

But I’m in the enviable position of not needing to make a quick buck — which means I can take my time showing you the nuances of how powerful an online business can be before I ever open a premium course.

Put another way, you don’t just need more information. THE INFORMATION IS OUT THERE! So why haven’t you already started a successful online business? Today, I’m going to make you APPLY it.

Today, I’m going to show you just ONE part of this zig/zag process.

Think back to the last time you saw an expert trying to sell something online– maybe it was a personal trainer, or a life coach, or even a productivity app. Do you notice how 99% of these websites are EXACTLY THE SAME?

These me-too promise to help you find “your inner self” or to “lose that stubborn weight.” Easy, fast, secure! And yet you’re wondering…how are you any different than the 5,000 other options out there?

Here’s the first step to differentiating yourself: Deeply understand the language of your market.

Notice how I never talk about “compound-interest charts” or “amortization schedules” or even “keeping a budget”? BECAUSE NOBODY CARES!

When you can understand people’s real language, you can connect authentically, instead of marketing AT them. It’s the difference between being a salesman and being a true trusted advisor.

Today’s exercise: Mastering your market’s language

Last week, I asked you to do a blue-sky brainstorm of 3 ideas you would love to create an online business around. You came up with some amazing ideas.

Now, I’d like you to go one step further and gently “test” your idea. (By the way, don’t worry if your idea is half-formed, or if you don’t even have an idea for your online business. I’ll show you how to do this, step by step, in the Zero to Launch course.)

An idea in a vacuum is delusion. But when you test it against the market, your idea may slowly reveal itself to be a PROFITABLE IDEA.

Here’s what I want you to do (20 minutes):

  1. Find 1 person — JUST ONE! — who might be interested in your idea. You can do this via email or in person. If you’re not sure, ask ANYONE remotely close to the idea, even your parents. We’re not aiming for perfection right now, just people.
  2. “Test” for language using this script: “I’m thinking of starting some kind of website around [YOUR IDEA]. When you talk to your friends about it, what do you say? What’s the biggest problem around [YOUR IDEA]?”
  3. Write down the exact language they use. Did they really say, “I want a solution that’s easy, fast, and secure”? No, they did not. WRITE DOWN WHAT THEY ACTUALLY SAY. “I hate how these jeans look on me” is a terrific response. “Every day I wake up, I just dread going to work” is another.

Share your results in the comments below.

Remember, your post should contain…

- Original idea:

- Revised idea (based on what you learned):

- What you THOUGHT they would say:

- What they ACTUALLY said:

- What SURPRISED you about this exercise?

99% of people who want to start an online business don’t even take this step. But Zero to Launch students know that if they put the work in ahead of time, their business is “virtually guaranteed” to work — and you can make 10x+ what others do.

*  *  *  *  *

P.S. Do you realize this entire post is zagging while everyone else zigs?

Zig/Zag #1: So many other people will simply shove information down your throat like a filthy Hometown Buffet meal. You don’t need more information — you need to apply it. Even taking 20 minutes sets you apart from the wantrepreneurs who talk about starting a business over and over…and never actually do anything.

Zig/Zag #2: Incidentally, last week, I had thousands and thousands of comments. People are literally emailing me, “Take my money!” And I could. But instead of maximizing short-term profit, I’m walking you through the nuances of online business over three weeks of free material. Do you see why? Short term, I lose out on profits. But long term, I’m actually showing you how to create an online business — how to find an idea, how to package it, price it, and market it — so you see that it’s possible if you follow a step-by-step system.

Zig/Zag #3: I gave a free presentation on never-before-revealed mistakes I made in creating my online business. Who else do you know who does this? Now, you can join my Zero to Launch private list — free — for case studies and your spot on the waitlist.)

Don’t Forget — Complete today’s exercise and share your results in the comments below. I’ll be reviewing all of the responses.

UPDATE – New Zero to Launch course reviews!

Check this out, several Zero to Launch beta students have posted detailed reviews of the Zero to Launch course on their own blogs. You can hear all about their experiences — including pros and cons, and who the course is right for — in their own words. I’ll keep updating this list as more reviews come out:

Want to learn more about Zero to Launch and get instant access to more case studies? Just join the Zero to Launch waitlist (takes 20 seconds).

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136 Comments

 
  1. - Original idea:
    Type II Titan (Recently found out I was diabetic and I’ve been regulating my blood glucose WITHOUT needles/insulin.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    Still the same idea, but WAY more insights based on what they said.

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    ‘The biggest hassle is pricking my finger everyday’, or ‘I don’t want to watch what I eat’

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    ‘I just want to have a body that isn’t trying to kill me.’

    ‘Also, I feel kind of futile about controlling it sometimes, because I’ll do everything right and end up low or high anyway sometimes’

    ‘I’m pissed that non diabetics just don’t get it. This disease is all- consuming and takes up every single second of every day. It never f’n goes away.’

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    The words they actually used were far from the sterile, top of mind things that I expected. Pricking your finger is NOTHING if you’re actually worried about death. Feeling like you’re constantly fighting a losing battle is more powerful and emotional than ‘wanting to eat whatever’. Having these actual words and thoughts will help me build a better offering and marketing materials. Thanks Ramit.

    • Awesome insight for such a modest amount of work. Well done.

      To everyone else: See how a small amount of customer research can radically change the way you market your idea to customers?

    • Absolutely Ramit! I’ve haven’t had the full fledged conversation yet with someone… I’ve tried, but finally I’ve finally got someone scheduled. I’ve learned so much already… To name a few- One, I should ask about them and especially if it’s a good time for them to talk, consider them and catch them in a good mood if you can. Two, I’m uncomfortable discussing my idea with strangers. And THREE!! This is major. I’ve realized I hear people ALL THE TIME complain about the exact problem I’d like to help them solve. <<< Sounds a bit crazy to realize the value I can contribute with little effort. Not to mention if I teach them, they will SAVE money, and gain peace of mind. I'm tempted to post what I've already got prepared. But I have feeling you're no fan of an unfinished product…

  2. I’ve started 3 online businesses in the last 3 years. The first was incredibly generic and sadly made me around $8 an hour.

    But since I’ve been reading Ramit’s blog since 2008 I quickly realised my mistake. So i zagged with a higher value offer, targeted a better market using their language and I immediately started earning around $20 an hour.

    And for my third business I decided to sell something people desperately need and literally used their exact language to do it. In fact I created 100+ page files of this language for my marketing and I’m almost making $80 an hour with it now.

    Powerful stuff indeed and Ramit gets huge respect from me for teaching this stuff so well. Let me know if you want a testimonial Ramit.

  3. Original Idea: Stop Cheating on Paleo

    Revised Idea: Focus on Paleo principles. Change language so I don’t exclude people who still want to improve their eating habits without feeling limited in food choices. Turn guidelines into tiers based on experience with Paleo. L1 – never tried eliminating grains and dairy L2 – tried before and want to get back on track

    What I thought they would say:
    That’s great! I know so many people who would throw money at you. Perhaps I’m in a vacuum because I talk to clients all day who complain about staying consistent with Paleo.

    What they said:
    - I want to eat in a way that is healthy and realistic.
    - When I tell people I do Paleo they say, ‘what’s Paleo?’ and I usually say no grains no dairy.
    - Once you do it for awhile you realize how much better you feel. I had pizza this weekend and after I was like “ack!”
    - Cooking is hard at first. I’m used to flying by the seat of my pants and when I started Paleo I was like ‘heck! I don’t know what we can eat!’ Now I can just throw things together and look at a cookbook for fun recipes.
    - I don’t know anyone else at [name of crossfit gym] that is doing strict Paleo, maybe gluten free but even [coach] doesn’t eat that strict

    What surprised me:
    - I’m still shocked at how many people have not heard of Paleo.
    - Recognized how ridiculous I sound when I tell people, “Paleo is about eliminating foods that cause inflammation.” [Insert glazed over face here].
    - Changing eating habits takes months

    Side note: I signed up for E1k and I’m using your information to categorize my customers needs and tweak my personal training services. I’ve categorized my services into 3 buckets and I start testing on existing customers tomorrow. I’m excited to have a concrete plan to not only deliver more value but how to approach asking for more money for my services without “asking.” The course is fantastic so far!

    • If you had a class that told me how to eat paleo and helped me setup meals each week (literally like gave me a list of stuff to buy at the grocery store), I’d pay for that.

      Weekly Google Hangouts.

      I bought Whole30 (the book), but I haven’t executed on it.

    • Brandon, thanks for your thoughts. Unfortunately, there is alot of legal gray area surrounding nutrition… and I admit, I’m struggling to wrap my head around it. A Paleo class/group that keeps people accountable will be a good starting place.

    • I’m going through these ZtL prompts while doing E1K too!
      It’s dovetailing rather nicely for me :)
      Also – I’m a “want to be healthier” but not “want to be full-paleo” girl – if you gave me a super-easy, super-basic recipe/meal guide on eating paleo a few times a week at a low barrier cost, that would get me and probably people like me in the door. If that’s a demographic you’re ever interested in courting, that is :)

    • Margaret, the E1K class = mind blown… not sure why I was dragging ass starting a business. Thanks for the info! At a lower cost, I’m not sure how much support I would be able to provide since that involves more time on my end so people would need some semblance of motivation and autonomy. In my experience, clients I’ve tried to transition to Paleo need alot of structure and accountability… but maybe the steps I provide are falling short.

    • Diandra, have you thought about segmenting by WHY people want to follow a Paleo diet? I’m someone who would have absolutely zero interest in following a strict Paleo diet if I didn’t have a medical reason. As it is, I have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and have to follow a FODMAP-elimination diet (hopefully switching to just low-FODMAP eventually). Although I’m not quite in your target demographic since Paleo alone wouldn’t cut it for me, I’m SURE that others could relate to the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on while trying to adapt to all of my new rules.

      I normally eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and now have to eat limited quantities/types of both, plus no gluten, no honey, no lactose–and I did not choose this!! I have felt socially isolated, desperate, hungry, obsessive, confused about what I can eat, embarrassed about about explaining my restrictions at restaurants, stressed that I will eat the wrong things, rebellious, and most of all, mentally exhausted from thinking about it so much. Social settings can be awful and if I forget to bring enough food to work, there are few restaurants around that can accommodate my dietary needs (if I can manage to explain them). Cheating has its own repercussions, of course.

      Other people with food restrictions have told me that they relate to a lot of this. I just met a woman whose husband started following a very strict Paleo diet for medical reasons and we commiserated about how hard it can be. (He is well over six feet tall and 150lbs.)

      Anyway, my point is that your marketing materials would be completely different for people who have to make a change versus people who want to or sort of want to. There is so much emotion for you to tap into, depending on the demographic(s) you target.

  4. My parents are getting older and needing more health care, prescriptions and GOOD coverage. Asking a couple of friends, they mostly just take whatever their former company offered or got a “Friend” to help them figure it out. I really thought they would say it was important enough for them to do the research and get the right coverage but they actually said it was confusing and expensive. I sense a fear about their actually getting older and needing more medical care and a refusal to really pay attention. These folks have some money because they worked all of their lives and surely their families would want/need help figuring all this out. I know there are businesses out there that do this already but they are BIG and not personable and this is too delicate to leave to a “storefront”.

  5. Ramit,

    I’ve been following you for about two years now. I’ve enjoyed and employed the materials, motivation and perspective. I have kept my day job, but am now also earning $100/hr doing consulting on the side (up from $30/hr). This “zig/zag” is exactly what I needed to be thinking about in terms of “what’s next” and how to create value, because it is making me NOT think about how to make money so much as to focus on how to have fun figuring out how to solve a problem. Thank you!

  6. Original Idea:

    “Built to Last: How to Survive (And Eventually Get Out Of) Your Long Distance Relationship”

    After I had wrote that, I had the thought that people might not want to “survive” their LD relationship or “get out of it, i.e. move in together”. I knew the language was off.

    Revised idea: “Built to Last: How to Make Your Long Distance Relationship Work”

    Before I talked to 4 people about this idea, I thought about what people might really want and made an assumption: That they simply wanted their relationship to be healthy and to WORK.

    What people actually said:

    -one of the biggest concerns was having a system for checking in and maintaining the relationship
    -how to deal with having a relationship via technology…i.e.–is my bf/gf “real” whether they’re an hour, or 3,000 miles away?
    -how to deal with spending a lot of time apart…how to continue to get to know this person if you’re not with them all the time

    What surprised me:

    I had thought of this in a different way originally, but people trying to be sure the person they’re dating is “real”–that’s a language insight I could have never nailed down on my own because I hadn’t seen it that way.

  7. - Original idea: How to use energy manipulation to get what you want.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): Everyday uses for sexual energy.

    - What you THOUGHT they would say: I want to learn how to make energy balls and fields.

    - What they ACTUALLY said: “Basics. Directing it with intent. Healing minor physical ailments. Manipulation. Fighting. Defense… I’m most interested in your technique for sexual applications and using sexual energy and such. YOUR unique twist.”

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?: That my test subject immediately thought it wouldn’t gain much of an audience. Which is completely understandable — and why I wouldn’t want to do this at all.

    I feel like I don’t belong here at all. I want to be build a business around my t-shirt designs, and get to the point where everything is automated between the printing/fulfillment company and the stores and website that sells the shirts. I just don’t know how t-shirts can help people… Or at least, I don’t know how to put it in words that won’t sound like a crock of shit.

    • I would love to learn about energy manipulation! However, it isn’t important enough for me to pay for the knowledge.

      You could try selling your designs through cafepress.com …. not nearly as profitable as doing it all on your own I guess but at least it would get you started and you wouldn’t have to invest in inventory right off the bat.

    • So, you want to build your t-shirt business but you feel like it’s selfish because it doesn’t help anyone? Why not build a model like Tom’s Shoes – where when a t-shirt is bought you donate another one to a person in need? Or make some of the profits go towards a charity organization?

      Sounds like you know what you want to do – why waste time testing something you don’t?

    • Are you sure your subject really was in your target audience? If they think not many people would be interested, and they weren’t intensely interested themselves, then you might not have found your audience yet. Maybe you had someone who prefers to self-teach, or doesn’t want to spend enough money on learning that it would cover a class?

    • Adana,
      I belong to another business community where a young lady has the same idea of promoting T-shirts that ‘help’ people. Look up Micaela Passeri and her ‘I Love Who I Am’ T-shirts. Great ideas, great designs. Hope it helps.

  8. Original idea: Success in Golf through stories

    Revised idea: Email marketing for golf course instructors (they have no clue)

    Thought they would say that they wanted to hear tips from more known golf pros and businessmen.

    They actually said they wanted help getting traction and helping their teaching business grow.

    I was surprised at how simple but deep his response was. His business needs revenue not tips. It’s hard hearing what a customer wants and canning/tweaking what you were going to offer to what they need.

  9. - Original idea:
    A blog based on real estate and deciding between owning/renting after recent personal success.

    – Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    More of a coaching service where you actually run the numbers with someone and walk them through the whole process.

    – What you THOUGHT they would say:

    I want to save lots of money, make the right decision, and not be freaking broke in the future because I made a horrible mistake with real estate.

    - What they ACTUALLY said:

    “I just want to move out. I don’t want to throw money away on rent. My parents said I should buy.” Just the usual verbiage when it comes to real estate.

    – What SURPRISED you about this exercise?

    We will just accept information as fact without reviewing it objectively.

    You also can’t convince someone that they have a problem. Many of my friends are dying to buy a place as if it’s a new pair of jeans.

    • Martin, I would love to learn about real estate and deciding between owning/renting. I am currently a real estate agent and fairly young, 21. I would like to hear about your personal success in real estate. Let me know.

  10. - Original idea: A course with just 20 young professionals (22-30), where I will help them on a small group basis understand financial planning and plan their future, but I will also help them on a 1to1 basis.

    Revised idea (based on what I learned): I was told, “Yes there is a need for this, but I’d explore the real nature of the need.” And then, as I explored further, I was told, “Tell me what tools to use and how to develop habits” < — similar to what you did Ramit, but just on a much smaller, personal level. Gotta start somewhere, and I want to develop a unique niche.

    What I thought they'd say: That they'd want to learn the industry (difference of commission-based, fee-based, and fee-only).

    What they actually said: They want to trust me and just know what to do. "Go to Napfa.org, read Ramit's books, here's what to look for on your 401(k), save 10%+ of your salary, automatically, use triggers in your bank accounts, etc)."

    What surprised me: How people perceive value. I thought people would really want to know about how financial planning worked….and how there is so little education out there. They just wanna know how it can help them immediately and how to implement it.

    • Ramit, I have had three of my friends tell me they would pay for a class (revised). Your book is great, but there are other great resources out there, too.

      I worked at Vanguard with high-net worth clients for almost 2 years, and I am one step away from being a CFP(R) and I know all sorts of calculators to use to help people know how much to save. Also, I am still licensed (Series 7 & 63).

      I would help them automate their finances using modern technology and not get overwhelmed with their investment options.

      Also, on FB, from a good friend, I just heard, “I get (x) every month and I have no idea what to do with it.” That’s a huge opportunity.

      For young professionals, this is important, especially because they are weighing investing with paying off debt, etc.

      20 people would pay $50 for 4 classes to help them throughout the month. And there’s my $1,000/mo on the side I am looking for, plus I get to get back into the literature on investing, which I miss since leaving VGI.

      Thanks, Ramit!

  11. Original idea: Create a “How to play golf and lower strokes”

    Revised idea (based on what you learned): eBook: “How to learn to play the game of golf without changing your swing”

    What you THOUGHT they would say: “I want one, that’s a great idea”

    What they ACTUALLY said: “Oh my god, If you were going to a charity golf tournament. That would be so helpful so someone doesn’t embarrass themselves on the course.”
    “When I was playing golf on my vacation, the caddy told me to think of hitting it in a hula hoop, and I was like Ohhhhh, that make so much sense. Before that I was hitting it straight at the hole.”

    What SURPRISED you about this exercise? I didn’t think they would be so honest about “what they actually wanted,” or “how they would use it”

    • I have to decline golf invitations in business because I’m so bad. These are potentially high value opportunities. I would pay a lot for a course that could help be learn which set of clubs to buy, and shows me how to practice like in my backyard. Teach me to golf in my backyard. Haven’t golfed in a decade and no way am I taking the time to go to a course or driving range.

  12. Ramit,
    I accept today’s challenge. I have twoonline mini- businesses. Each of them are doing poorly because I am not doing my homework. Your blog entries hit the nail on the head!.

    Business Idea 1: Elegant yet MiniARTS Rustic Cast Stone Signs for Home
    Business Need: My grandparents live in a neighborhood with no signage. At night, it is practically impossible to find their home. Good forbid if there is a need for a 911 ambulance call or fire incident; good luck finding the place.
    Comments from one friend: But, there is so much competition. How will you zig/zag to separate yourself from the pack?

    Business Idea 2: Ionic Silver SilverHealthy solutions for health and beauty. This is a natural Antibiotic you can use as needed. No side effects. Multiple uses. Heck, I use this myself daily. Research shows we, myself included, have a tendency to take antibiotics to treat symptoms. We humans are creating bacteria resistance to the point we risk a freaking Pandemic Solution: Ionic Silver to the rescue.
    Business need: In the morning, I clean my eyelids with this solution. It stops itching immediately. After breakfast, I use the silver solution in my Waterpik to make sure my gums get maximum benefit of this mouth friendly, non-harsh, tasteless, clear solution. At lunch time, my wife prepares a salad. She sprays the fresh garden vegetables with the ionic silver solution. This leads to a nice healthy salad without any stomach, digestive, GI issues afterwards many relatives of mine suffer from pre-cut salads from the store. For dinner, I defrost Perdue chicken tenders. I spray the tenders with the SilverHealthy solution. That takes care of the nasty salmonella ( please google it; salmonella at home is a real issue). Late that evening, my son tells me FiFi, our beloved cat, has an inflamed eye. It is too late at night for an emergency vet call. I put one or two drops of ionic silver. FiFi recovers nicely by next morning. The next day, I am in charge of washing FiFi’s water bowl. Upon washing the bowl, I realize there is slime (biofilm, to be exact) covering the inside of the bowl. Upon washing the bowl and refilling it with fresh water, I drop a teaspoon of ionic silver. Surprise, no more slimy bowl; a happier, healthier Fifi :-)
    Comments from my friend: “Again, there is so much competition out there. You have a “me too” product.”

    As you can see, the issue is we have a highly competitive world out there. Our idea has to stand out. Comments/suggestions. By the way, if my post feels like spam let me know. I need all the help I can get.

  13. Original idea: Make a book & dvd with my guitar teaching system.

    Revised idea: Serialize my teaching approach with a subscription-based daily email. Tiny sequential guitar lessons delivered daily to your inbox.

    I ran a test with this already. I signed up about 40 friends and gave them the first 30 days for free, then asked for their feedback. Got some raves and some areas that needed attention. Revised parts of it. Been writing two posts/week for a while now to improve my writing.

    Told some parents of students and they were eager to sign up.

  14. This was a fun little experiment Ramit!

    My idea – I picked creating a web app or calendar that helped people stay in touch on a regular basis.

    I asked – What is the biggest problem with staying in touch w others ( fam, friends, co-workers, or biz contacts)?

    What I expected – That they were too busy and often putting it off or just plain old forgetful.

    The responses were:
    1. I feel like I don’t fit in with others so I don’t feel compelled to stay in touch.
    2. I think God is keeping me separate from others so that I can lean on Him.
    3. I tell others I want to connect offline but they still text or contact me via Social Media.
    4. I don’t care much about connecting with most of my family. For everyone else, I use email and social media just fine.

    While insightful, I’m not sure know what to make of this kind of feedback, it certainly was not what I was expecting.

    • Sounds like people are connected with the people they want to be connected to in life. Also, #2 made me laugh out loud- hard. It reminded me of a story about a past relationship when a girlfriend in high school told me “God told me to break up with you.” The next week she wanted to get back together because she had “passed the test.” I was over it.

  15. My Initial idea: How my family started and sustained a small Mexican Food restaurant that earns over 150k per year.

    What I thought they would say: “TOo many Mexican Food Joints already.” or “People would just go online for free info rather than pay you”

    Co-worker response: It sounds like a cool Idea. I wanted to open a Danish restaurant but had no idea where to start and soon gave up. I needed to know where to handle all the permits and health and saftey bull crap and just was in the dark with all the info.

    COns: He said you would be limiting your reading audience if you only marketed it as “Mexican Food Restaurant”.

    Revised Idea: Probably sell the fact that this country is becoming a “Foodie” Nation and people are starting to pay good money for good freekin food experience. So market it like, “Become the next hot spot in your town”.

  16. - Original idea: Create resources for 23-36 year olds in office jobs who want to start managing up and transforming their work places without being on the management team.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): Create resources with tactics for approaching your boss, guiding principles for workplace managing up, and links to the kind of data you can use to back up your suggestions to management (studies, recent articles, reports on buzz-word books, etc.)

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    “My boss is awful, he doesn’t have any idea what he’s doing and he doesn’t respect me. He doesn’t get his work done, and doesn’t respect anyone’s time! UGH!”

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    “Most of my friends have bosses like mine – that don’t appreciate their employees.”
    “Sometimes my only suggestion is to get out. ”
    “I tried to approach my boss… it lead to me being personally insulted. I knew then I wasn’t valued.”
    “The biggest problem is the idea that trying to fix certain things is seen as just being “entitled” or greedy or lazy- since everyone else works in a cubicle and wakes up early, me wanting something different must be childish.”
    “Sometimes these situations are hopeless– the biggest problem is finding a way to quit without going broke”
    “My boss is the main problem. I honestly feel that without them, I would enjoy my job a lot more.”

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    I’d thought I’d hear about frustration and irritation and disrespect, but I learned that more than that my survey respondents felt isolated and ridiculed/judged/insulted. That’s awful! I can help them more by providing back up resources for them to support them as they go after what they want than by focusing on tactics alone.

    • Online course titled ‘My Boss is an Asshole: Being Heard in Corporate America.’ I hear the same complaints you listed from my clients all the time. Would you include any information on how employees can figure out “Whats in it for Me” for their boss?

  17. - Original idea:
    To make an online feedback system for my campus’s Dining Hall. I noticed a general lack of anything regarding feedback collection, so I thought about designing a mobile phone application that allows students to take pictures and write comments.

    - Revised idea:
    Before I even start making the app, I need 3rd party validation, so I set up a note-card collection bin where students could leave their feedback on the dinning hall. I made one test card so that the students would know to leave the cards in the bin. Sure enough, after a few days comment cards started piling up, and the dining hall staff even collected the cards and acted on the suggestions(!)

    - What I thought would happen:
    I didn’t think the management would check the feedback box, as it wasn’t set up by any of the staff. I thought the whole setup would be taken down after at most, 3 days.

    - What surprised me about this exercise:
    If you secretly set up systems that are easy to use, then people will act as if they have always been there. I could have wasted a ton of time developing a phone app that nobody would have downloaded, but with a few hours work, I accomplished the same goal: A feedback system that was easy to use and accessible to the whole campus.

    • This is an interesting behavior indeed! Thinking about it, if I saw a “general comment” box I would automatically assume it was set up by a superior or someone with power- Even if I were the lunch workers. I would just assume no one told us about the change in policy. Very neat project!

      I don’t know how that translates into a business, but certainly it sounds like a study you would read about in a Daniel Pink or Malcolm Gladwell book.

  18. Original Idea: Learn-at-your-own-pace Business Writing Courses

    Revised Idea: Practical Business Writing Courses for Professionals

    What I THOUGHT They Would Say:
    “There are already sites that offer this.”
    “I don’t need to know how to write for my job.”

    What they ACTUALLY Said:
    “Absolutely a great idea. You are very talented and clearly know what you are doing and many people have no clue how to do it.”
    “I hate that my writing comes off as so unprofessional, especially as a manager.”

    What Surprised Me About this Exercise:
    While I thought the market was pretty much saturated for products like this, I think I learned that my professional experience and approach would set me apart from others offering similar items. Also, I figured those who were already working in professional fields wouldn’t feel like they needed this type of service, but it seems as though they do think about how their writing affects their image, even if it’s not consciously. Definitely changes the way I’d market the product and to whom I’d do the marketing.

    • Great idea. One of my respondents suggested a similar one (my propsal is an interactive graded (easy-to-super tough) punctuation and usage course for journalists with 1-2 years’ experience in India).

  19. Original idea:
    How to needlefelt a 3-dimensional sculpture from a 2-dimensional design (tutorials only)

    Revised idea:
    Tutorials + service to make the sculpture as well

    What I thought people would say:
    I thought that responses would be along the lines of asking how much wool a project would take, what safety measures were necessary in order to not stab themselves, types of wool. I also thought that people would be really excited to learn how to think about and translate their own ideas into their own projects.

    What they actually said:
    - “for me, it’s simply non-interest. i’d much rather pay someone for something cute than spend the man hours on it when i have many other things i should be doing”

    - “I would like someone doing the thinking for me”

    - “well, since I had an art background the 3d translation wasn’t so difficult, it was really getting it to be as tight as possible and not to stab myself. how to create things like curling shapes: ears etc were difficult, like tiny flat things to attach later were hard to get tight enough”

    What surprised me:
    - No one cares about the material or amount of material needed at all (this one is big because I obsess about this personally a lot – made me realize how far into my own head I was)
    - People need basic techniques explained clearly and tailored to their interests and needs more than 3D translation (this means that all the tutorials on youtube and the internet are missing vital information about this, or aren’t presenting it in a manner that makes it clearer)
    - People would rather pay someone to get it done than attempt to do it themselves because of time constraints (this shouldn’t have surprised me but it still did because again, so deep in my own head)

    An excellent exercise in getting into other people’s heads, definitely an eye opener for me.

  20. I ran my idea by one of my current tutoring clients.

    Original idea:
    Accelerated AP courses for high school students who want college credit without having to go to class

    Revised idea:
    Same thing but possibly less emphasis on “accelerated”

    What I thought they would say:
    I thought students would talk about how slow and boring class is, and how they’d much rather just get the credit without having to go through a year-long slog of lectures.

    What they actually said:
    “It’s good because you can move at a different pace. You don’t have to wait for everyone to understand a concept before moving on to something else.”
    “It will make college less stressful when trying to get all your credits needed for a certain major.”
    “good preparation for how you would have to study for college”

    Downside:
    “People are already stressed from school and homework and taking an independent class is a big commitment. It can be done, but it won’t always be fun.”

    What surprised me:
    I expected students would primarily be focused on the immediate goal of just getting through high school and getting into college, but this student is already looking forward towards preparation for what college will be like, and what will make college life easier. It’s also surprising how willing people are to give you feedback on an idea they have no real stake in.

    • I like this idea. As you said, it’s interesting to see the honest feedback from those who don’t necessarily have a stake in the project. I love how much insight you were able to get from just asking a few simple questions to current clients.

  21. Original Idea: how to develop a coincident indicator for derivatives markets (mainly forex),see how it can be traded speculatively for profit, and how to teach other people to do the same or do it for them.

    Revised idea: It takes a lot of automation in order to make the indicator make the real-time calculations. It takes a 100% mechanical system just to trade consistently, let along profitably. It also requires large capital, because it is easier to eat when you can make 10% of 1 million vs even 100% of $1,000.

    After developing the indicator, I setup a squeeze page on my site until I got a full site going (still needs to be built). I did get some attention for the indicator and would reply back personally to each subscription confirmation email asking How did you find out about the indicator, where are you from, how much are you willing to trade with, etc. I assumed that people

    I found out that some people were willing to get on board, but did not have enough capital. Some did have the capital, but did not want to take the risk. Some wanted something for nothing. The majority were skeptical, because while they acknowledged the indicator/approach appeared unique, they were hesitant about being scammed (especially those who have been “burnt a few times already”)

    What surprised me the most was that:
    - I tended to get the most signups/attention when my account was ‘winning’. Not many people wanted to at least examine losing periods. I suspect this is how a lot of scams are perpetuated (fake accounts, disclosing only good looking accts, etc). In reality, you have to be completely honest about both winning and losing periods and look at the longer haul and how the system fits to the longer haul.
    - I found out that I was awfully busy actually trading the markets (and backtesting), So I often wondering how so many vendors have the time to sell (unless they aren’t really trading live themselves…..hmmmm). Lots of blind leading the blind here.
    - I was spending a disproportionate amount of time explaining how my system works to people who had no real interest on wanting to trade or risk money.
    - That backtesting properly can shave years off of risking live funds to experiment different strategies.
    - Some people find you via word of mouth with performance. It’s good to build up a track record. Even a losing account can still give you experience and lessons as to how markets work.
    - Larger clients are unlikely to re-fund you if you blow an account. Big temptation to overtrade when you first start out, especially when you are small and want to “double-up” quickly.
    - I needed more video to properly explain how the system works. While I was able to gain a couple of clients off of my explanations, I found that the video (and a website that explains pros/cons accurately) would do most of the pre-selling. Seems like a lot of people are more nervous about black boxes (and the negative press the banks are getting doesn’t help either).

    Often times I do wonder if it would have been easier to scam people. The honest approach is taking much longer than I realized to make it to the big leagues. Despite all of the stuff I have going on, I’m almost there.

  22. Hey Ramit, and fellow readers-

    I already have an online business, but I’m looking to solidify the foundation and tune it up into 6 figures and beyond, so I’m taking part in this because I find it uber useful, like most of what I find on this blog.

    My original idea for this exercise was to create a new course, workshop, or website on radical self transformation.

    Here’s how I worded my idea to get some feedback:

    “Help me out. I’m thinking of making some new workshops about self transformation. When you talk to your friends about it, what do you say? What’s the biggest problem around transforming your life?”

    Note: I’m experimenting with different wording at the core of the business to attract specific clients and repel others. Self Transformation is one that I’ve been experimenting with lately.

    I thought people might say that it seems too difficult, or that real transformation in their lives is too confusing, or that they’re too lazy to take action.

    Here’s what the three people I talked to said:

    “The motivation to do it, after all it’s my fate and cannot be changed.”

    and

    “Fear. Fear of letting go of familiar habits, fear of success – at times it seems to good to be true.”

    and

    “Motivation and self discipline.”

    Revised Idea: A workshop/course/site based on motivation to overcome fear and to let go of familiar habits.

    What surprised me about this exercise is the ease with which I can communicate with people to understand the actual language they use, and to understand what it is they really want, rather than what I think they should want.

    This is great, because I know how to help people get motivated, but I haven’t been including those words in my marketing, so this is great already.

    Best,

    -Garrett

    • Addition to my last post, as even more people have responded now to the question:

      I’m surprised at how willing people are to express themselves about the topic, and also how I got most responses from people I didn’t expect to be in my target market, and now I can see exactly how my marketing materials have failed to attract these people on the levels they want, and also exactly how I can make changes to improve them.

      Thanks Ramit. Awesome as usual.

  23. - Original idea:
    Training your dog to get you a beer
    (Well, technically my original idea was training your small dog to listen to you…but that wasn’t specific enough and was boring!)

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    Training your dog to get you your craft beef

    (Same idea, but more precise targeting to craft beer
    consumers.) I had thought that it would be a good
    idea to target home-brewers since they seem to appreciate
    the novelty of beer overall, but I learned that most
    have a tap…so that would have been a bust!

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    “I don’t know the first thing about training dogs.”
    “This is too hard to do.”

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    “My dog is too dumb to ever do that.”
    “They could potentially cut their mouths on the
    top of the bottle.”
    “I don’t want my dog to be able to open the fridge.”

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    I wouldn’t have to have a scantily clad model to perform
    all of the training in the video tutorials. It’s the last thing on pet owners minds. They are much more concerned with the welfare of their dog and managing their dogs undesirable behaviors.

    What surprises me the most, is that the first thing my brain does (STILL), is immediately jump to ways to market an idea that I haven’t even tested or chosen a target market for. It’s such a waste of time and energy, yet I have to make a conscious decision (and repeatedly remind myself) to stop doing it. Thank you for reminding me and keeping me on track, Ramit!!

    • I think you are on to something here but too narrow. Dog training is super hard to most people and if you can teach people how to teach their dogs how to get a beer I am assuming you can teach them how to teach their dogs basic training. I would assume this would be a good market. Something like:
      “”Good dog” starts with “Good owner”: Ill teach you how to be that “guy””

  24. I’ve been considering perhaps starting a blog about all the experience I have helping others particularly through disease, dealing w/ doctors, hospitals, & death, and also sell some of my photo cards on it which could pertain to these situations, and other items people need for personal healing work. But, then I thought this is mixing too many items together.
    My revised idea is still the same, but perhaps expand it so there’s room for a discussion board and list good websites/resources.
    What I thought they would say is, `It’s too morbid, nobody wants to listen too or talk about these kinds of things, nor do I have any real credentials behind my name in this arena.
    What the person I asked actually said was, ` love the idea of selling photo cards, and helpful items, ritual items, art, and even greeting cards. There are other people who have gifts such as yours, who have turned blogs, art, and writing into books, relaxation courses, online sessions, and life coaching events. ‘
    What surprised me about this is that she said she’s been waiting for me to do something along these lines and that people are looking for this kind of information on the internet. Then she proceeded to give me examples of sites to look at.

  25. I am thinking about doing a class but haven’t completely figured it out yet but after reading the posts here I have gathered a little more.

    Idea: Course to help you avoid the quarter life crisis using your current skills to fulfill your life and your pockets!

  26. (…woops, accidentally posted this on yesterday’s post at first…)
    Wow, there are a lot fewer comments on this post than the one where you come up with ideas! :-)

    This simple exercise was a really big eye-opener, and it’s only with one data-point: my wife.

    Original idea
    How to Earn Top Grades in School

    Revised idea(s)
    I combined programming (the other idea I had, How to Program) with this idea to become more specific.
    *A++: C++ practice tests to ace your first programming test
    * Bubble Sort: An Algorithm for Getting Programming Job Offers

    What I Thought Would Be Said:
    Don’t want to feel stupid, don’t want to fail, don’t want to pay extra money to do a class over, better scholarships

    What They Actually Said:
    My wife is a nursing student, so these answers pertain to nursing. Basically, earning top grades is way too generic. No one ever wants something as generic as earning better grades. They want answers to specific questions or study guides for major tests. For her, things like “anatomy review”, “nursing intervention”, “exam study guide”, “NCLEX test questions”, “job postings”, and the like would be very valuable. Nursing students pay for NCLEX study books all the time. In addition, she mentioned a social media site for academia, which I thought was interesting.

    What Surprised You About this Exercise?
    My idea was way too generic. I thought fear of failure would be pretty popular. I was wrong. People want specific help, not a general “HELP ME WAAAA I’M GONNA FAIL!!!!!” People don’t talk about improving grades as much as they do “study guides” or “reviews”. In addition, ways to get job offers after college or high school is probably a good focus area.

    • For most adults going back to school, it’s simply about completion of the degree and not so much about the grade you get. At least, for me, that’s how I think. There are classes that I HAVE to take and hate them, so my effort is simply enough to get by. I couldn’t care less about my GPA as long as its passing. The classes I do care about, I naturally get better grades simply because they interest me enough. I just don’t see, for myself, much use in a 3.5 GPA as opposed to a 2.9 GPA.

    • Tim,

      I think your updated ideas are on the right track. A couple of insights that might be helpful.

      1. In my experience so far, if you can focus narrowly in one subject area that students commonly experience pain over (think Organic Chemistry, Calculus, etc.), you can pretty quickly become the go-to resource for a small market if you develop the most effective techniques.

      Maybe there’s a corollary for programming? What’s the programming weed-out course they use in college?

      2. Surprising but true – most students only peripherally think about grades. There are select few who are overly fixated on getting straight A’s but they are definitely the minority. You may find more success framing your offer around what psychological comfort you can provide or what you can help towards in their future (e.g. High School – will I get into college?, College – will I get a job?).

      Hope this helps!

  27. I emailed my list and got these responses regarding diet and fitness solutions thus far:

    “My biggest dieting problem is incorporating habits and variety.
    I can stay eat the same thing every day for awhile, but then develop food intolerances.
    If I incorporate variety, it’s harder to stay as healthy.”

    And this insight too-

    “the diet needs to be simple without 100 separate emails or thing you can add on like supplements. It all needs to be in 1 place, coherent and track-able. To be honest your style of writing and presentation of your thoughts is pretty poor, i’m finding it very difficult to extract any value from this, most of the time when i get to the bottom of your email i’m well that was a waste of time. You need to formula your thoughts and plant the hook when you have people, i’m 1 useless email away from unsubscribing “.

    I’m sure you get stuff like this….I take the criticism into review.

    • WOW! That is some deeply honest stuff! Sounds like you need to be honest with yourself and really take this into consideration. This person is flat out telling you why your program doesn’t work. You should read Derek Sivers – his blog is all about small posts but always to the point and very rewarding to read! Listen to this honesty and apply it – don’t take it into “review.”

    • Of course. Just not sure if he is the customer I want

  28. Original idea: Develop a website that helps you build outfits based on your current wardrobe, style and occasion.

    Revised idea: Develop a website/app/consulting service that helps you build original outfits with elements from your current wardrobe AND suggest key items to add/buy. Available as an automated service or with a “real stylist” 24/7 available.

    What I thought they would say: I would hate to upload all my clothing items to a database. I can do that myself by trial and error. There are apps that record outfits and outfit inspiration.

    What they actually said:” I often find myself without any idea on what to wear and end up wearing the same over and over.” “It would be like a Genius playlist but for my clothing!” “Would it work with a fixed color scheme?”

    What surprised me: The amount of ideas GUYS actually had for this! I thought it would be aimed at girls but men seem to love the idea!

    • Guys are much more willing to be told what to wear than I imagine women would be. I think women, for the most part, enjoy the pride that comes with a nicely displayed outfit. It’s almost like an art for my gf. Whereas for me, I’m constantly just looking for pinterest or my gf to basically tell me “this works” or “that doesn’t work.” I just want to look good. Other guys aren’t going to tell me about my “ensemble” or that “I love those jeans on you.” The reward isn’t there for guys like it is for women. We want to look good but not put a lot of effort in looking good.

    • Oh man, I’d be interested in this and I’m not a guy. I’d put in the initial effort if it were easy to use. It actually does sound like an ideal service for guys, though.

      The problem I have with a lot of online tools is that they show outfit pieces with no model, or the model is a size 0 and looks photoshopped. I would want to see what someone shaped like me would look like in different styles.

  29. About 2 years ago, I decided I needed some graph paper but didn’t want to buy it at the store, so I created a PDF with it and printed out lots of copies. It worked great and a few weeks later, on a whim, I decided to try selling that PDF online.

    I made about $100 from it over the last 2 years net of expenses. It’s nothing, but keep in mind I only invested about 1 hour creating it, and managing customers is very simple (send them the PDF and charge them.)

    Maybe it’s a barrier but I’ve initially thought the idea of scaling up making thousands of dollars a month from graph paper a bit absurd.. but since you’ve gone from 4.95 to 12,000, it may not be as far fetched and I’d like to keep an open mind..

    • Have you asked people questions? If you were to ask me – my response would be that there are already quite a few websites that offer these PDFs for free. Why would I pay for that?

  30. Initial Idea: Guiding parents in setting up a college fund.
    - What you THOUGHT they would say: I don’t know where to start. I don’t know where to put the money.
    - What they ACTUALLY said: How do I prioritize this with all the other expenses? What’s the catch? I know I should do this but I can’t with my current situation.
    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise? The inverted bell curve: respondents immediately asked about the “catch” in the business OR were willing to give their insights; not many who thought about the catch AND gave their insights.. Also, a minority expressed regret/guilt for not starting sooner.

  31. - Original idea: How to build ridiculously easy-to-maintain Excel financial models that will make your boss thinks you’re a genius!

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): Same basic idea – but need to be much more niche/focused on a specific group subset.

    - What you THOUGHT they would say: Want to make easy-to-maintain Excel models, want to impress their boss.

    - What they ACTUALLY said: Struggle to work with data in different formats / want to be able to use macro because they heard it’s useful in building reports.

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise? From speaking to 3 colleagues who frequently ask me for Excel help, they have very different Excel skill level and have very different needs. I will have to focus on a much more niche sub-segment – even “accountants” is too broad a group.

  32. - Original Idea: Web page design service, you give us the basic inspiration and we design and code everything for you

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): Web page CODING service only, you give us the specifics of the layout and look and we just crunch out the code

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    “I don’t know how to make the website I want”
    “I have the basic idea in my head but I want it to look good”
    “I don’t know anything about being creative or design, so I want someone to do that for me”

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    “My professionally designed website looks fantastic, but it’s not what I originally imagined.”
    “I wish I just knew how to code because I know exactly what I want it to look like in my head, but I don’t know how to make it a reality.”
    “All the web design services that have good results seem to expensive, I just want code.”

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    I’m honestly still so surprised by this response that I’m doubting it actually represents the market consensus. I assumed that most people aren’t that creative with visual design because if they were they would have done it, but it seems like those who have websites are more creative than I thought. They have these grand ideas for what they want their site or product to look like online, but they lack the technical coding knowledge to make it happen. When they hire freelance designers the designer inserts their own creative motive on the client and something is lost in translation. I’m thinking I could hone in on this niche and just pump out code for clients that already know exactly the look they want.

    • I think this actually represents the market well. I know developer/coder friends whose biggest complaint is clients who say “I’ll know it when I see it.” They seem to lack the ability to properly convey what it is they “see” in their heads to the developer/coder and I would imagine this causes quite the frustration for both parties. Not to mention the time it wastes for the coder/developer. Perhaps a way to bridge that gap would be worth looking into as a niche.

  33. - Original idea: “How to age like fine wine” – helping high functioning older 20s-30 year old men who have career and other areas of life down and still want to formulate better habits and learn about the latest medical advances and research to help them with long term health and happiness gains.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): How to destroy unhealthy cravings you’ve been fighting for years and outlive your whole family

    - What you THOUGHT they would say: I need a holistic plan for moving forward with my life as I’m getting older, I want to know how to feel better and stronger instead of weaker as I get into my later 30s and beyond

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    “I’m not sure what you’re asking, like what are specific things we’re concerned about or what is holding us back from being healthy?
    holding back would just be like craving unhealthy foods and not being active enough and then health concerns would be heart disease since it runs in the family. i think that one depends on what problems they see for them as far as genetics.”

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    The original topic was too general to even be understood and therefore intriguing enough to buy into.

    People fear what they have seen directly in their own experience, ie statistically Heart disease may be the number one killer of women but they are also most scared of breast disease (1 in 4 women in the United States die from heart disease, while 1 in 30 die from breast cancer. – See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/heart-disease/c/7291/18967/heart-women/#sthash.A19dI1yt.dpuf) Have to address people’s fears to get them listening and then educate them after the fact on a more holistic health plan.

    People are also afraid of themselves. They know they should stop someting (ie smoking) but feel helpless to make the right choices. Psychology always plays a big role in behavior, especially our health based decisions.

  34. […] The Zig/Zag Technique to finding an online business idea | I Will Teach You To Be Rich […]

  35. Original idea: An interactive course for journalists with 1-2 years’ experience in India’s English papers that will cover punctuation and 100 common usage errors.

    Revised idea: Expand the course to all journalists since even veterans make some of those mistakes because no one has told them all these years. An online quiz based on the person’s skill level, from easy to super hard.

    What I thought they’d say: That all this stuff is available on the internet.

    What they actually said:
    Respondent 1: There are free apps available which do so already, I use them, just to keep things fresh before work. But I think this should work, at a nominal price. Something which actually explains the rule while quizzing you on it. I feel most people don’t understand why they punctuate. They punctuate out of memory, without comprehending the rule.

    Respondent 2: That’s a great idea.
    Some common mistakes I notice are (lists five of them).

    Respondent 3: Sounds like an interesting idea to me. It would be good to make it an interactive website. How about a blog rather?
    I’d also suggest a website for non-journalists that will teach people how to write for newspapers.

    Respondent 4: Initially, I never knew I even made those errors because they were never pointed out to me. Even post mortems discussed just hits and misses. Grammar errors were often ignored. I was naturally proud of my stories. My friend helped me send it to a language lab in a university where he was studying. When I got back the edited version I was stunned at the number of mistakes I had made.

    What surprised me: 1.That they did not improve even though there are hundreds of usage and punctuation sites and free tutorials/quizzes online. 2. That one person was willing to pay for a course if it was a ‘nominal amount’.

  36. My idea is less than half-formed, but I’ll give it a try:

    - Original idea: Show people how can take advantage of the technology published on the web to build prototypes (for business ideas, or just fun), only with few basics ideas.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): Show people the existence of free technology they might want to use.

    - What you THOUGHT they would say: Well, as said, almost everything is on internet for free, so why anybody will pay me?. Also about the lack of interest in learning something which seems difficult

    - What they ACTUALLY said: Some people don’t know anything at all about what they can do with a computer

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise? I was expecting something related on why it is difficult, or why people is not interested. I’m surrounded with technology and people who understands it(more and less). But I forgot about people who know nothing at all. It can be really helpful to show them some ‘hacks’ to improve their life, productivity…

    Note: Just to clarify, I’m not talking about show people how to make a free blog, I’m talking about using ‘Ctrl+C’ and ‘Ctrl+V’ to copy/paste for example.

  37. Original Idea: Teach guitar without teaching all the details of keys and scales

    Revised Idea: Still the same.

    What I thought they would say: They do not want to learn the keys, scales and tones and all the music theory behind guitar.

    What they actually said: They said they want to know how to play guitar but feel like they have to know the music theory behind guitar playing. It was different because they did not say they did not want to learn it, but the idea of music theory scares them from even starting.

    What Surprised me about the exercise is the insight people are willing to give you. Especially when you talk about a pain point of theirs. When people do not like things or hate things, they are quick to tell you all about it. I was surprised that they did not say they did not want to learn music theory. It taught me that people think it is complicated so maybe there is a way to teach it differently or more simple.

    Under the zig-zag approach most people start with scales then move to notes and chords and then finally a song. What if I did something radically different and did it backwards? Once people can feel like they can play a song maybe they will be more likely to learn music theory. I will have to test that assumption more.

    “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” –Mark Twain

    • One of the reasons I never played guitar is because it always hurt my fingers to play. I also never fully grasped the difference between a chord and a note on a guitar. I have a musical background (I played saxophone for 7 years in school) and yet those two things are enough to keep me from learning. I always put it off as “someday I’ll get some lessons and learn a few songs.” In the book “The First 20 Hours” he talks about learning the same way you seem to be supporting it. He learned a few notes/chords first and then immediately began to learn songs. If you haven’t already, you should check it out!

  38. - Original idea: Becoming a Personal Trainer/Behaviors Coach

    – Revised idea (based on what you learned): Seems as though, making this even more personal or investing in a support system is the way to go to help both of these people out better. I revised my idea through ideas that I began to have about problems/issues that I hadn’t considered before.

    – What you THOUGHT they would say: I assume any time losing weight or hiring a personal trainer comes into play the first two answers will always be 1) not enough Money 2) not enough Time. So, to me it’s always the third answer that is more intriguing.

    – What they ACTUALLY said: First person – “we didn’t really click personality-wise”. She also said that her and her husband worked out separately because he was “way better at it” than she is. I found this interesting. Second person – “I always considered getting a personal trainer as something that rich people do. Even though, I know personal trainers and my friends have personal trainers.” He also said “most of what I do comes from what I learned in school and sports and what I’m able to read about on the internet. A lot of times my girlfriend just goes by what I tell her.” There seemed to be a lot of shame in his answers because he ultimately knew he should be doing something and yet would constantly make the choice not to do it.

    – What SURPRISED you about this exercise? These were friends of mine, so not completely, but to a degree the amount of honesty in their answers. Also, after seeing the answers it seems obvious now, but it is surprising that neither of them really were on the same level as their spouse/gf and I wonder how much that plays a part in their level of fitness. It also surprised me how just taking a few minutes to ask friends questions like these can open up your mind to other ideas. I instantly started thinking of ideas that I think would make a career as a personal trainer better. I wrote them down in my notepad on my phone. It just got me thinking about certain things and allowed for those problems to solve themselves throughout the day in my brain.

  39. Hi Ramith and everyone:

    - My original idea: Creating a course on getting liberated yourself from the past to create the life you want. It is based on my upcoming book “Meeting Freedom”.

    - Revised idea: Still the same :)

    - What I thought they would say: Letting go of being stuck in the past and the need to feel significant and express my voice freely.

    - What she actually said: I want to be happy and not live in my past or worry about it at all. wish to be a NEW person where I can take that lesson learned and make things better for me.

    My biggest problem around finding my freedom is not accepting myself.

    I would compare myself to others or simply stay stuck on previous experiences that have happened to me and spend my time and energy on trying to figure out how to fix them (live in my past) when in fact there is really nothing I can do but rather let it all go.

    I’ve created blocks around happiness and that is essentially what has prevented me from reaching my freedom and living in the present moment

    - What surprised me about this exercise:
    I’ve done this exercise before to write my sales copy and I feel it makes things SO much easier when I speak my clients language. But what I loved about this is really understanding how each person defines freedom in their own way. Mine was about expressing my voice, hers was about self acceptance.

    The root for both is the same: significance and love but the language used was different.

  40. - Original idea:
    Website Dinner for 4 with two being Fido & Kitty – database of recipes for all members of the family
    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): Be more specific in who the customer should be
    - What you THOUGHT they would say: Good idea you could expand it in this way…
    - What they ACTUALLY said: “People are Lazy! Scoop, Scoop, Kibbles in a bowl – This might become the tag line if I can find recipes that follow this action. Like Ground meat for tacos – once cooked before adding seasoning scoop scoop for Fido’s dish.
    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise? People’s experiences tend to provide negative feedback to new ideas.

  41. - Original idea:
    Losing weight / eating healthy ebook/guide

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    The original idea still seems to be okay, but I would perhaps make it an actual plan. What to eat. Do this now. Then do this. Then do this.

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    Staying motivated. Finding time.

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    Persistence. Then followed by planning and knowing what to do (eat)
    “I think for me it’s replacing bad foods/drinks with “good.” That’s probably the biggest for me.” (substituting, what to eat)
    “Will power! Commitment! Motivation! I have such a weird work/sleep schedule I don’t know when the best time to eat is and what I should be eating at what times. When most people are eating breakfast I’m just getting off work and going to bed.” (persistence, motivation, timing, what to eat)
    “Snack food and food that is bad is so addicting! You do good for awhile and then slack off a bit and once you slack off it is hard to get back on track again.” (what to eat, persistence)
    “I’m up for any healthy snack ideas.” (what to eat)
    “I don’t do that bad til I sit down with the hubs to watch tv.” (habits)
    “Getting started and then Staying at it when you hit a slump” (motivation, persistence)

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    I received some great feedback. Despite all the noise and information out there about health and nutrition, people STILL don’t know or feel like they don’t know what to do.

  42. I was thinking of an online test prep website for teachers. It would include videos, flashcards, and quizzes. I talked to a few teachers and others and they thought it was an awesome idea.

    Some issues they said were: Marketing, how will you ensure that teachers will know about the site? Time; it takes a lot of time to develop this material.

    I don’t know what I thought they would say, but everyone I talked to were impressed with what I presented, and thought that it was totally doable.

  43. Another idea: A “smart” wallet that detects and records the fingerprints of everyone who touches it. It uses a GPS to even pinpoint the location where the wallet has been touched by someone else. (You register your own fingerprint with it so it’ll disregard that, and maybe even require your fingerprints to open.) The data of fingerprints collected by the wallet can be used to Crowdsource the places where people are most likely to be pickpocketed and/or if it’s the same thief. Then a map could be built with “hot zones” of pickpocketers to warn tourists.

    Others’ objections:

    - It’s not very useful in the US since pickpocketing isn’t a major issue here (although not completely nonexistent either.)

    - It’s inconvenient to deal with if you friends touch your wallet for some reason.

    - The electronics in the wallet may make it too bulky and inconvenient to carry around.

    - The thief could wear gloves and bypass the fingerprint detection.

  44. - Original idea:
    The best way to get Good grades yet spend less time on books for Students studying Professional Courses (mainly Engineering and Management) in Private Colleges / Institutes in India.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    Both generalized and Personalized counseling on nailing down good jobs and to stay motivated and also get good grades (a mixture of my 1st and 2nd idea) and some more. They lose motivation and that hampers study and everything.

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    ‘Cool, Could you teach me get good grades without missing out on life’

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    ‘Cool! But, why should I pay a hefty sum for such a course and how the heck do I know that it works.’

    ‘Also, I feel a lack of motivation after I am in engineering/ management for these 2 years. We have no job or future to look forward to. Why the heck do I need to study.
    Rather show us some scope to get a job or at least stay motivated enough.’

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    The words they actually used were far from what I presumed their Pain point was. They are more focused on the job market and the low denomination of the pay-package offered by most recruiting companies. This is also the primary reason behind the reducing strength of the Professional Institutes barring the few Government run or Govt sponsored or some Private A grade institutes.

    Having these actual words and thoughts will help me build a better offering and marketing materials.

    I am not yet sure if I got them right or if I can begin working on this area. I need to narrow down my area and understand their pain points better.

    Thanks Ramit.

  45. - Original idea: Creating a statistics course for psychology researchers.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): Offer ways that will allow a higher response rate to experiments.

    – What you THOUGHT they would say: To complicated to teach online, need an expert etc.

    – What they ACTUALLY said: They wanted someone to do it for them, didn’t really care about learning to do the stats. Poor response rate was a pain point, wanted to know the best ways to set themselves up to have the most people respond as possible.

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise? The idea I had in mind wasn’t actually a pain point, they simply didn’t care. It would have been a waste of time to create the original idea.

  46. - Original idea:
    Course teaching people how to drive targeted traffic to their website from reddit

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    Same idea, but with radically different positioning

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    I want highly targeted traffic to my site

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    1. I’m not as familiar with reddit as I’d like to be
    2. I’m in the process of starting a blog, so I’d like to learn the tricks on reddit that would help me build my audience and email subscribers.
    3. I’ve used reddit before to validate ideas and build a subscriber list before and had little to no success.
    4. I want to know how to craft posts and get high response rates
    5. I recognize how valuable reddit is and I don’t want to be a dip shit when I post
    6. I have a physical product idea and a website idea that I would like to validate through reddit
    7. My primary customer segment fits nicely with reddit. I hope it’s something I can watch, rematch, digest and implement. I want to perfect leveraging reddit – no gaps.
    8. I’m looking to learn how to find more opportunities for freelancing and promoting my products/services I would want a step-by-step guide.

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    That my customers don’t really want “targeted traffic” they just want to build their blog, business, or quickly validate a new business idea.

  47. - Original idea: Build a business dojo that teaches how to build businesses based on incorporating concepts from Aikido

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):

    Getting students (clients/customers/etc) will be the focus. Building a community seems like the fastest way to find out what people want. Build a community so that they can tell you what product to build

    My opinion on this is that people probably think they aren’t creative enough to build a product and get stuck solving the wrong problem first. It seems like the first problem is identifying a market that you can relate to and help that group of people.

    - What you THOUGHT they would say: you want to do what?

    - What they ACTUALLY said: Below is the transcript of text messages back and forth:

    Me – Hi (name protected), wanted to run an idea by you to get feedback. I have an idea to build a business dojo where people can learn how to build an online business. Much of the lessons would be based on my experience in martial arts. What are your thoughts on that

    Her – Wow! Sounds pretty cool. I didn’t know u knew martial arts.

    Me – Yep, I’m actually starting to teach out west if you know anyone interested :-)

    Her – Awesome! Ok build an online business you mean making a website or getting traffic on your site???

    Me – Well, actually building from scratch so it would be both getting a website and traffic

    Her – Nice, I think I know of a few people who would be interested in this including myself. What contact information should I use to give people?

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise? This was enormously effective and helped me get in tune with what specific actions are needed and what order they are needed in.

  48. - Original idea: CV Checklist – A website to help people avoid the basic mistakes of job applications and use the information they do have to give them the best chance of getting short-listed for a job interview.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): It’s about confidence and support. Writing an application can seem terrifying if it’s something you’re not comfortable with, but the feeling of getting past that barrier and getting it done is positive. Having the support of someone who you know is completely on your side and going to help you do the best application possible can make it seem less daunting.

    I’m now going to make a list of more people I know have recently applied to jobs so I can get some more feedback and test how I could base it around building confidence and providing support (within the context of an online course)

    - What you THOUGHT they would say: They wanted to know the steps to take to put together a great application that would get them shortlisted for an interview.

    - What they ACTUALLY said: I spoke to someone who hasn’t applied for a job or updated their CV for years. They put an application in yesterday for a job and are waiting to hear if they got an interview. Some of the things they said…
    “I’m not entirely sure about the job”
    “I couldn’t miss the opportunity” / “I’d be kicking myself” / “I have to take this opportunity while it’s here”
    “I haven’t applied for a job in a long time and had to research a whole new way of applying”
    “Maybe I’m not really up to it” / “Can I do it?” (asking themselves)
    “Applying for jobs has almost been a phobia”
    “Writing the CV has been therapeutic and hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be”
    “It was easier knowing I could do what I liked and you would sort it out for me” (I proofed her application, offered feedback and did some editing of her final version)
    “It was just about getting it down on paper” / “I realised I needed to just get it down and worry about accuracy later” / “I had a little panic that I’ve not got the right dates”

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    Although I still think the core idea of providing guidance on putting together an application that kicks butt is something valuable – the way I wrap it up needs to change. The reason people ask for help is because applying for a job can be scary, they don’t feel confident about their own abilities and they need support. They don’t just ask because they have confidence in the advice they’re going to get, but also because they feel it’s ‘safe’ to ask for honest feedback – they trust that the advice will be honest and coming from someone who is in their corner and wants them to succeed.

  49. I do not have a website or product, so I’m following along with the instructions. My goal is to develop information products related to Stress Management.
    I asked 5 people from my office: 1) their biggest frustration around stress, 2) the effects of stress in their lives, 3) Solutions they’ve tried, 4) Imagine a life without stress.
    I got answers from 3 (had toremind 2 of them), and I will try to adjust the answers to your format bellow.

    - Original idea: People get frustrated because of stress

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    People get stressed because of frustrations.

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    Stress is an issue and I would like to prevent stress by x, y, z.

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    Stress is a BYPRODUCT and it affects my health, work and relationships (I got answers from 3 married women). Solutions I’ve tried haven’t worked too well (meditation, exercise).

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    My misunderstanding on the way people may perceive a problem I’d like to offer help with. I may see
    and acknowledge the problem, but my understanding was not “complete” or even accurate.

  50. -Original Idea: Teach People How to Cook Healthy Mexican Food to impress their friends.

    -Revised Idea: Sick of Eating Take Out, want a home cooked meal that is healthy, but don’t want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen—I’ll teach you how.

    -Originally Thought: I thought they would say cooking for health is the most important reason why they would want to learn how to cook.

    - What They Actually Said: People seem to want as painless, super quick way to make a healthy meal. Health is secondary to speed of making the healthy meal.

    -Cooking in would not save enough money to not justify eating out. Even a $100 saved a month is not a strong enough motivator to deal with the entire process of cooking–find a recipe, shopping for groceries, cooking, cleaning up.

  51. - Original idea: How to Cook Low-Sugar, Low-Carb Mexican Food (basically, diabetes-friendly). I thought this would be an e-course.
    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): A video course on the same topic that starts from square one–not just “here are the recipes” but “here are the basic gadgets you need.”
    - What you THOUGHT they would say: I thought they would want easy recipes without hard-to-find ingredients. This was partially true, but not the whole story…
    - What they ACTUALLY said: menu ideas, easy recipes that don’t require fancy equipment, basic kitchen gadget list, simple lingo, and recipes that don’t leave you wondering “how the eff to do something”
    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise? That people would want tons of step-by-step photos or videos. As someone who cooks a lot, I find those things annoying and skip straight to the recipe. But for beginners, they want to see HOW to do everything to make sure they’re doing it right.

  52. - Original idea:

    Tired of looking in your closet and finding nothing to wear? Refresh your existing wardrobe without buying anything new.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):

    Too busy to go shopping? Wardrobe refresh: 6 quick and easy steps to reinvent the clothes already in your closet.

    - What I THOUGHT they would say:
    Great! I don’t want to spend money on new clothes, so I’d love to be able to refresh what I already own.

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    I could definitely use help, but not sure if I would pay for a course/material on it. If I got a ton of value from a course/material that didn’t have a super high cost, it might be worth it. Also, I might be able to find some ideas on Pinterest for this type of thing (or another similar site).

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    I wasn’t thinking about the fact that this information probably already exists somewhere, so it’s all about how I package it and who I target. I would need to target busy people who are likely to outsource some things (and who don’t have time to look on Pinterest etc. all day), but also people who are more eco-conscious or not into fast fashion and trends. People who have some money to spend, but don’t necessarily want to spend it on new clothing. This might turn out to be a contradictory target audience, so I’d have to do more research to see if there is truly a market for this idea.

  53. I don’t exactly have tons of great business ideas, so I just fell back on my interest in Paleo eating so I could do the exercise.
    - Original idea:
    Help people make easy and healthy home cooked Paleo food.
    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    Same, but with detailed shopping lists and simple instructions.
    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    I don’t have time to cook food, which I would have interpreted as ‘I’m not interested in doing it.’
    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    “I have a hard time knowing what to keep in my fridge, and when I thaw stuff out it ends up going bad before I cook it.”
    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    That people are literally telling you how to create a product by solving their problems. One of those obvious things I just never really considered.
    I’m not exactly shy, but it was more difficult than I anticipated getting random strangers at the grocery store to answer my questions.

  54. • Original idea
    o Create an Arduino course for 4th to 5th grade teachers who want to incorporate technology into their classrooms but have no clue how.
    • Revised idea
    o Create Arduino courses for 4th through 6th grade teachers who want to incorporate technology into their core material but have no clue how.
    • What you THOUGHT they would say
    o Don’t even know what choices there are and don’t know how to teach technology.
    • What they ACTUALLY said
    o Not a lot of resources for teachers interested in integrating technology in their curriculum. Biggest obstacle would be cost and creating very explicit directions on how to teach the lessons. Buying the parts in one lump sum would alleviate the ordering process. Sorting parts into projects with a variety of costing options. Lesson plans would need to be simple and clear enough for teachers with no background knowledge. Videos and pictures would be very helpful. Integrate the subjects we have to teach in the core.
    • What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    o The biggest insight I gained is that of integrating the projects into their core subject material. Also, she had no hesitation whatsoever that this would be a good idea for teachers in her shoes.

  55. Original Idea:
    - Create a short (4-5 session) course on exam prep for High School Seniors and College Students

    Revised Idea:
    - A work smarter, not harder approach to exam prep and also including a session on exam technique (how to pinpoint where the money-marks are)

    What I thought they would say:
    - I need help managing study time
    - I need to learn how to focus whilst studying

    What they actually said:
    - I need help managing time during exams – which questions to tackle first etc
    - identifying key words in exam questions
    - We need help to make studying for exams a positive habit

    What surprised me:
    - In particular the habit. This was a high school senior (a matric in South Africa) who has identified a mental barrier that they know it is possible to overcome with the right techniques.

    I’m pretty keen to get going on this, I’m going to gather more data on what students want this afternoon, and next term implement a test-run of the course face-to-face with the matric year in my school.

  56. Original idea:
    a step by step guide to make side income more than main income

    Revised idea:
    compilation of testimonies from people that achieved the goal

    What you THOUGHT they would say:
    i don’t know where to start

    What they ACTUALLY said:
    pyramid scheme. mentorship. does it really work? can i earn a living right away / can it really replace my main source of income?

    What SURPRISED you about this exercise?:
    how natural it was to formulate a tentative solution to my friend’s response. my internal dialogue was, “oh, you think this way? humm… maybe if you saw proof that [thing that you're skeptical about] is working it’ll be valuable and you’d pay for that.”

  57. “When you’re the same as everyone else, you might as well not exist.”

    All I can say is “The truth hurts!” whether you like it or not. Very sad thing to say.

  58. — Original idea:

    I have been thinking of starting some kind of a website around two works of art I am producing. The two works of art are a YA (young adult) narrative poetry book and an Afro Hip-hop EP. The function of the website will be to:

    i) be some sort of trusted online resource for young adults of the Nigerian/African diaspora in various circumstances and stages of development; and
    ii) offer courses to NGOs that work with young adults who seek ways to better reach and serve such young adults.

    — Revised idea (based on what you learned):

    The idea remains the same but my friend suggested “the second part (the ngo course) needs something u can pass as merit…i.e. what makes you qualified to carry the course”

    — What you THOUGHT they would say:

    I had no expectations honestly. I just followed your instructions.

    — What they ACTUALLY said:

    N/A

    — What SURPRISED you about this exercise?

    Coming up with an idea.
    A few days ago, I had no idea; I just knew what I felt passionate about.
    Today, after meditating on the zig-zag technique, I actually have a valuable idea that can set me apart from most artists in my field.
    It is going to take some real time and effort. But I sense it will pay off this time.

    Thanks for what you have shared thus far.

  59. - Original idea:

    Website for women to meet new female friends

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):

    May not be what is wanted/scrap the idea.

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:

    Yes, I have real problems meeting female friends. Please sign me up.

    - What they ACTUALLY said:

    “I would never do this through a website. You have to see the person, you can’t feel it through a website. I would do this through a hobby and meet girlfriends that way e.g. dancing, Spanish lessons. This is how I met my female friends here and what I would do if I went to a new country. Also, you can’t beat Meetup.com for actual events to meet new people”.

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?

    Although this was just one girl’s opinion it was completely the opposite of what I expected and if replicated could mean it would not succeed. Good to know this ahead of time.

  60. […] The Zig/Zag Technique to finding an online business idea | I Will … http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/The Zig/Zag Technique to finding an online business idea. March 17th, 2014 – 1 Comment. Think about the average guy approaching the average woman at a bar. What does he say? “Hi…do you come here a lot?” “Hi, my name's John… […]

  61. - Original idea: College Admissions Consulting – helping students prepare for admissions, including essay edits and devising a step-by-step plan
    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): Maximizing your college experience (most parents feel like the first 2 years are so exploratory, and students don’t know what they really want to get out of their classes, or what they want to do after)

    - What you THOUGHT they would say: I wanted parents to say that they need help with guiding their kid through the application process and making sure they go in the best school

    - What they ACTUALLY said:They encourage their kid to think about what they want to do after school and take relevant classes. It came from 2-3 parents that the issue is timely (my question is timely) for them, but what they have top of mind is how to help their kids make the best of the school experience (outline paths for them to follow in school)

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?: Getting into college was one challenge I wanted to address, but it seems that the need is likely being met already by people who would say the same things I would. There isn’t a lot of information on maximizing time in college, and I can really see myself becoming a go-to-expert in that area.

  62. ORIGINAL IDEA – a course in theme park design, from “blue sky” to conceptual design for American art students.

    REVISED IDEA – a course in applied imaginative problem solving for young Chinese architectural students.

    WHAT I THOUGHT THEY WOULD SAY – “It takes SO LONG to get good at this stuff.”

    WHAT THEY ACTUALLY SAID – “I think the skill that requires the most to become a entertainment designer is the drawing skill and imagination. Both those people spent a lot of time in practicing drawing during their career life. Drawing is something time-consuming People complain about having no time to draw when they are under working pressure. Encouraging people continue drawing is a chanllege task .

    Additionally, regarding imagination, In china, people are not familiar with “entertainment design”. Chinese parents turn to train their kids in a more traditional way – drawing the cast statues and still objects required by drawing class. Young kids couldnt get support from their parents when they start dodeling other stuff like how they interpret the world from a kid point of view. This parents’ behavior is definitely limit the development of little kids’ imagination and the result is Chinese people usually lack of imagination. The reality is sad.”

    WHAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT THIS EXERCISE – how quickly I was able to hone in on A) a target audience and B) what that target audience needed.

  63. Original Idea: Customer Service Training (I need a better title, I know this)

    Revised Idea: Not sure at this point

    What I thought I would hear: A LOT of stories of how awful the state of service is and how desperate businesses are to find a solution.

    What I actually heard: Basically crickets, the only real responses I got were family who would support me looking for Big Foot if that’s what I wanted to do!

    What suprised me: Honestly, the lack of interest. I’m confident that I have an idea that the world desperately needs. My thinking at this point is that I need to find a way to package the idea to draw out the audience.

  64. - Original idea:
    Teach web development by recording myself creating a website. Would package the whole thing and sell it.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    Basically the same, but the project size can be doubled.

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    Do like everyone else is doing and record a project with 5min videos that together be a 3h project.

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    Do a big project and dive deep. Do a 15min to 30min videos and a 10h project. Explain every inch of it.

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    That the “market” is wrong. The two people that I talked about don’t care about small project and the accomplishment feeling. All they want is to know and feel the power to create a real website! To really learn and acknowledge that they can do it.

  65. Original Idea:
    Begin sharing various lifestyle and relationship concepts I’ve discovered with guys who follow me for dating advice.

    Revised Idea:
    More specific, yet in multiple directions – how to “keep” a girlfriend; how to have a happier marriage; how to have a healthy lifestyle

    What I thought they would say:
    “Yeah lifestyle advice would be cool” or “I just want dating/pickup advice”

    What they actually said:

    “Healthy lifestyle=healthy relationships”

    “Yeah maybe start by branching out. Also, maybe something like How To Keep A Girlfriend… Not much alternate advice out there on the topic other than traditional Mars and Venus etc generation”

    “Lifestyle advice is awesome, but also discussing what makes for a happy marriage might be helpful as well. Except, it couldn’t be the stereotypical stuff but from demonstrative proof.”

    What surprised me about the exercise:

    Relationship/marriage advice. I thought that there was so much out there about that, but it seems that some guys want it from the POV of a dating expert, who has walked their path already to success.

  66. Differentiate or die. Well said.

  67. Original Idea: Brain Break: An app to help you study

    Revised Idea: Brain Break: An app to help your kids study

    What you THOUGHT they would say: “I love that, I need to study more” “why has no one thought of this before”

    What they ACTUALLY said: “I would probably just use it once and then ignore it”; “What for?”; “I would use something like that for my kids”

    What SURPRISED you about this exercise?

    That they told me exactly what they wanted. Everyone asked was like that is a kinda cool idea, but that was it. Then one person suggested they would use it for their kids so I tweaked the product and ZAG! Everyone I asked was in, it turns out people aren’t looking for how they can study better, they are looking for how to get their kids out of their smart phones. Brain Break can do that!

  68. Original Idea: Online art tutorials for children and a private group online to share it and get feedback.

    Revised Idea: Online videos of different age levels. teaching art basics, using a variety of materials.
    Create a materials list, but also offer a way to purchase the items.

    What I thought they would say: “I am afraid to have my child go online to learn with others.”

    What they actually said,
    “Starting a website” < from my techie guru son
    "I would have a child as young as 5 take a class like that. I would supervise them."
    It was suggested to package the supplies in such a way that grandparents and others can buy it as a gift with the class included.
    Start teaching private one-to-one, or small group lessons this summer, and video that.

    What surprised me: That people have gotten over the fear of having their children online.
    Children over the age of 9 are quite capable with managing tablet functions, and uploading photos.
    They also love to communicate via text – but a google hangout might be fun to create an art show.

  69. My idea is to create a blog and products geared toward helping people move to a new city or country. I did this challenge by e-mailing a few friends with questions, some who have moved a lot and a few who are contemplating their first big move. A lot of their answers are within my predictions (good confirmation for me) but one surprise was almost everyone voiced fears about not knowing anyone in the new place. This is not a fear I ever shared so it was off my radar, yet it’s clear from the responses that it’s a biggie and should definitely be a big part of any product I create. I look forward to conducting more experiments like this one. Thank you Ramit!

  70. […] 4. The Zig/Zag Technique to Finding An Online Business Idea […]

  71. - ORIGINAL IDEA:
    Financial planning and strategies specifically aimed at the needs of young people newly entering their (first) career and/or family life, especially for those who don’t have a financially-capable parent or mentor in their life.

    - REVISED IDEA
    Same idea, but very different tactics. I was right about people in this age group hurting financially, but I was wrong about what they’re ready for. I was planning to start with how to invest, how to pay taxes, how to buy a home, etc, but it sounds like the immediate need is much more basic – managing and escaping debt, avoiding new debt, and preparation for emergencies, along with a need for higher earning.

    - WHAT I THOUGH THEY’D SAY:
    I feel like I’ll never get out of debt. How are we ever supposed to be able to retire? I don’t even know where to start when it comes to investing! I don’t have enough money to save any. Also general complaints about the future of social security, the job market, and student loans.

    - WHAT THEY ACTUALLY SAID:
    “I [want/need] a different job. I’m sick of these unexpected payments cropping up.”

    “My biggest problem is getting/changing jobs and reaching a better pay grade. I want to move but I can’t b/c it would stretch my budget too much.”

    “My biggest barriers to investing or saving are paying down credit cards, student loans, car and insurance payments, and medical costs.”

    “I honestly wouldn’t know how to handle it if an emergency came up.”

    “It’s hard to get out of living paycheck to paycheck and to stop wasting my money on useless crap.”

    - WHAT SURPRISED ME:
    It looks like people in this age group have written off things like savings and retirement almost entirely until they have other things under control, like a decent job and debt. When planning for the future, savings, and investments were discussed at all, it was as an afterthought. They need their day-to-day worries taken care of first, before they’ll spend time on the future. The needs were much more immediate than I was expecting.

    Thanks, Ramit! Great exercise! I’m looking forward to more of my surrogate Asian father’s wisdom.

  72. […] The Zig/Zag Technique to finding an online business idea | I Will … http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/But I'm in the enviable position of not needing to make a quick buck — which means I can take my time showing you the nuances of how powerful an online business can be before I ever open a premium course. Put another … […]

  73. When I read your blog title, I was given the eagerness to read your blog because of the word “Zig Zag”. The “zig/zag” technique is very helpful especially about in terms of what should be done next or how to make value. It inspires me to solve problems in a fun way more than making money so much.

  74. The story of chemistry teacher is very inspiring.

    I just started something related to field inspired by U

    Arindam

  75. - Original idea: A platform for artists to sell art

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): A management service for artist

    - What you THOUGHT they would say: I dislike the business part of being an artist but want to learn if I could and it was easy

    - What they ACTUALLY said: I just want to do my art and that’s it.

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?The numbers of artists that want to sell their artwork but don’t want to learn how to either

  76. - Original idea: Servicing 2 categories of businesses in the film and television industry:
    1. For Creators, Producers, Financiers and Distributors – How to have the best experts in entertainment legal and business affairs on retainer worldwide; and
    2. For Specialist Entertainment Attorneys – How to access a worldwide stream of clients.
    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): How to get access to industry legal experts on developing, financing, producing and distributing your motion picture or new media project worldwide and get your project packaged and sold.
    - What you THOUGHT they would say: It’s too big an idea.
    - What they ACTUALLY said: Great idea. See difficulty in marketing the website to filmmakers and getting them to use the services. How do you get specialist attorneys to work with you? How do you tie the attorneys you associate with to your service and avoid circumvention?
    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise? It got me thinking even more and helped me come up with better ideas or modifications to improve on my original idea.

  77. Late to the party, but I just had my idea 2 days ago.

    - Original idea: “Mantra Cards” for women struggling with/recovering from disordered eating habits. These would include positive affirmations and ideas for relearning a relationship with food and exercise.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): I got a lot of very positive feedback. Initially, I thought of actually producing the cards myself but with their insights, I learned I don’t even need to do that- I can simply provide them as a PDF to download & they would be willing to pay for it and print themselves. Also received great feedback on what mantras might be popular for my target market and what aesthetic they would like the cards to have.

    - What you THOUGHT they would say: Mediocre interest or unwillingness to pay (“Pretty decent idea, but I wouldn’t pay for it”). One person did say this, actually, but she wasn’t really my target market age-wise.

    - What they ACTUALLY said: “I LOVE this idea! How much will it cost me?” + “This is so needed. I know of a lot of women who could benefit from this.” + “I would love to purchase these from you and send them to my clients as gifts.” + “This is a great idea, I have been struggling with this lately because [x].” I got several responses that are along the lines of the last quote, which is exciting because it gives me insight into how to use their language to package and sell these babies!

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise? How willing people were to give me insight without really benefitting from it in any particular way, how many women are struggling with this and would be interested in my idea, and honestly, how freaking EASY and FAST it was to learn that there is a willing market who wants to buy my product.

    Time to gather a few deeper insights from some more targeted prospects & start creating! Thanks so much for sharing this info.

  78. I got data points from 19 women who are married or engaged.

    Original Idea:
    Site for wedding venues where you can search by actual price (not just $ or $$$)

    Revised Idea:
    Same, except in addition to budget being a key factor, they really cared about capacity of the venue as well. This was different from my own experience so that surprised me.

    Also, some of the other key factors that I knew, but was overly focused on price: the vibe/feeling, a place that has character, meaning, etc. And many wanted indoor/outdoor spaces.

  79. 1) MY TEST

    Original idea: To help health and wellness practitioners start and grow their own profitable freelance and/or clinics (like how I’ve done before, growing from a small $60 start up to one in the high six figures now).

    The test was done in Singapore, with people already in/thinking of starting their own freelance or clinic business. I decided to email 8 people whom I think may be interested in what I’ve to share (also, it increases the chances of people responding and I’ll have more data)

    2) REVISED IDEA (based on what you learned):

    (Based on 1 email correspondence for now) I found that the owner does have their own challenges (see actual email correspondence below), and I received validation that they are looking for specific solutions to their specific problems such as staffing management and solutions for clients.

    3) WHAT I THOUGHT THEY WOULD SAY

    I thought that they would raise up objections, as after all, having a strong resource for them would mean that it’d create stiffer competition amongst them (including for my own practice)

    However, I anticipated for them to agree that it’s a good idea, as they too, like myself, struggle with a lack of information/resources/products/ideas on how to start and grow their own businesses.

    4) WHAT THEY ACTUALLY SAID

    (Word for word from the email) What do we want to find out? I don’t know other people’s idea, but for myself, are 1.) Clients resource, 2.) Clients service and 3.) Staff managment. People is the number one concern for my own business.

    When you want to get all the health and wellness entrepreneurs together, I think the most challenging thing is, do people really want to share? Because we are looking for the similiar group of clients, means in certain way, we compete with each other. But I know your main idea is to help each other and share the information.

    Maybe we can think about, what is the mutual benefit things all the entrepreneurs look for? Staff management system? or a website that the entrepreneurs and clients can look for the information they want about healthe and wellness? or even a platform like “TED”, all the entrepreneurs would be very interested?

    5) WHAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT THIS EXERCISE

    Hmm, I wasn’t really surprised much about this exercise from the feedback in the email correspondence as I do know that there are many fears/problems/challenges that health and/or wellness practitioners do face, like how I face them still as we grow our practice.

    What’s nice is that there is positive response amid fears that their competition would either not want to participate/share much as they don’t want their competitors to get ahead of them.

    I’m going to focus on the positive response that I know at least one business owner had replied saying where her health/wellness practice problems are, thus validating my idea.

    My concern: as health and wellness clinics are VERY competitive in Singapore, #1 would they come to share their thoughts and knowledge on this resource and #2 would it increase the stiffness of competition amongst themselves and even affect my own practice should this take off too well?

    Or I shouldn’t worry about this as I should plan to take this business idea fully global?

  80. Original Idea- natural makeup line and skincare using edible ingredients
    Revised Idea- natural, vibrant, powder tints used for lips, cheeks, eyes made with fruit, flowers, and herbs
    What you thought they ‘d say- sounds awesome!
    What they actually said- “I love natural lip balms and lotions because I have sensitive skin.” “natural foundation doesn’t have very good coverage” “There’s a lot of competition like Lush and the Body Shop”
    What surprised you- Every suggested big brand of “all-natural” makeup, every time I look at the ingredients, there is something used that is definitely not edible, and no one makes natural makeup in bright, up-to-date trendy colors!

    • Oh, also one person said “I don’t want to have to put my makeup in the fridge, it might pick up smells of other food,” hence why I am now developing a powder form of tints that will last at least six months without refrigeration.

  81. - Original idea:
    Film Quality Animation Tutorials Online that address stumbling blocks at 1/1000th the Cost of Traditional College

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    Animation Tutorials Online focused on the most common sticking points:
    Spine Movement
    Tackling Lipsync
    General understanding of Overlap and Follow Through
    Shooting Reference and getting into Character

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    After contacting 16 students from the #1 animation school in the world I figured they’d make broad statements like ‘ my overall body mechanics skills are lacking’

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    I have trouble animating relaxed arms. Timing a lipsync so it feels natural and controlling the mouth…etc
    Mega specific areas for me to design videos around with exercises on those pain points.

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    How fast the responses came in and exploded into a discussion. It seems learning isnt going so smoothly at the best colleges and they are eager to address whats holding them back. Wasnt so surprised by their areas of difficulty just how easy it was to get specific about it.

    Actually asked and keep note of these questions last month after signing up to Earn1k. With all the hours put in overtime at work – was really looking for a way to teach, have it be effective for students and be automatic. So, ZTL is dead on target. Appreciate you leading us through these methods Ramit.

  82. Original idea:
    Paleo and/or Slow Carb guide to ethnic grocery stores

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    (same idea, but tweaked -marketing to the local foodie population in Raleigh/Durham.)

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    Little enthusiasm: “That’s nice. Cool.”

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    Lots of enthusiasm: “I really like your idea and want to help”, “This is the kind of thing I would love to be part of”, “I am ready to invade ethnic markets and ask lots of questions.” (I never thought people would want to help with this.)

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    I really figured that I would have to go through more trial and error to find an idea that would meet with this level of enthusiasm. And the really useful, actionable feedback I received was surprising.

  83. I sent my 6 (activities) x 5 (props) = 30 minutes of fun! idea to a mom, a CNA, and a caregiving professional. I heard back from the mom and the caregiving professional.

    The mom thought: Sounds good to me…especially on days you can’t be outside, would make for an easy activity.
    Her concern was: Are the 5 props easily stored away or will they break quickly?

    The caregiving professional responded: “love the idea! The biggest problem I see is that caregivers don’t spend a lot of money, but maybe because this is something fun, they’d be more inclined to purchase it. What kind of price point were you thinking?” When I responded I was just in the formulating phase she recommended a Kindle book.

    The thing that surprised me was how quickly I received a response. I think I will run with this approach but feel I need to select one group to target.

  84. Original idea:
    Interviews with DanceSport gurus. Topics about how they got started, their journey to success, how they think about training and competing, etc.

    Action:
    I asked three friends who are ballroom dance competitors, “I’m thinking of starting a website around what you don’t learn in lessons, but that you need to know to get really good at dancing. What are the biggest things you don’t learn in your lessons that you’d love to know from the top professionals?”

    Results:
    I thought they would be interested but I different sets of responses. One was immediately very interested in these kinds of interviews. The second said, “I really get everything I need from my coaches,” but after asking about sports psychology she got excited. Being a fan of Ramit, as well, she said, “Do you mean like RBT for ballroom dancers?” YES!! I am on the right track here. The third gave me ideas for who I could interview based on what their individual specialties, e.g. coaching on how to get along with your dance partner (a big problem in the ballroom world).

    Revised idea:
    Interviews with DanceSport gurus. Topics to focus more on sports psychology, e.g. how to deal with setbacks, how to build a good relationship with your partner, how to manage life around the rigors of dance training, etc.

    Surprises:
    People were actually quite excited about this idea. It was yet another indicator that I do have the ability to envision needs in the markets I know and love best—now to actually bring them to life. This exercise was a huge confidence booster.

    • Nathan, let me PERSONALLY validate your idea – I myself would be a customer – I was Googling for almost exactly what you’re talking about on my phone last night.

  85. […] have a relationship with them, and now it’s time to find out how you can help them. I shared some basic validation scripts earlier. Be sure to check out the impressive results in the […]

  86. HERE’S A ZAG THAT WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH A RIDICULOUSLY PROFITABLE IDEA!

    Don’t start with your own idea! Your idea probably sucks!

    Start instead by:

    1. picking a niche that you are interested in

    2. talking to as many people involved in that niche as you can (many ways of doing this…landing page + ppc, emails, cold calls, your own network, in person)

    3. asking these people about the most painful problems or activities in their day.

    What are their dreams and what’s holding them back?

    What are the most frustrating parts of their day?

    What are the $10, $100, and $1000 per hour activities and what prevents them from spending their time on the $1000 activities?

    These are just some of the questions you can ask people. Be curious, listen. You want to understand what every moment of their day looks like, what their goals are, every aspect of their work flow, where their belief structures come from.

    Record and remember all of the shit people say! You’ll write some badass sales copy from it :)

    Finding a painful problem in common with many people? Great!

    Price anchor them…see how much it’s costing them, how much time it’s wasting, or what a solution would be worth to them. This will let you know how much you can charge.

    Now…think up with a solution to their painful problem! You almost have a business idea!

    But wait…before you ‘ve started any work on the solution…you still have to sell shit!

    Yes, you have to sell an idea before you’ve produced anything!

    Go back to those people you’ve been talking to and get them to pay you cash to get first access to your solution….whether it’s a physical product, info product, or software product.

    No cash for the idea = shitty business idea (or maybe you need to learn how to sell).

    Cash for the idea = validated idea

    Take their money… and then solve their problems.

    In Loving Kindness,

    Buttsoup McGee

  87. I had an idea for a product, so I actually went up to random people at the mall to ask them what features they would like to see (under the cover of “doing a project for school”)

    - Original idea: A different type of diaper bag
    - Revised idea (based on what you learned): I learned that this is a horrible idea.
    - What you THOUGHT they would say: I was asking mothers (or rather, women who had young children with them) I thought all the pain points would be relatively the same. WRONG!
    - What they ACTUALLY said: There were SO many different ideas that they had, some of which I had never considered: having convertible straps so it could be worn as a backpack, designing it so it looked more like a purse, instead of obviously being a diaper bag…
    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise? Oddly enough, I figured people would be really willing to give their opinion, but they weren’t, and probably because I was going up to them, instead of setting up some way for them to come to me.

  88. - Original idea: financial literacy for HS seniors planning to leave home for college (parents are the clients)

    - Revised idea: financial literacy for a much younger audience!

    - What you THOUGHT they would say: this is a great idea because: they don’t teach this stuff in schools, my kid needs to learn this stuff before leaving the nest, it would help my kid keep their student loan debt under control.

    - What they ACTUALLY said: “this should happen younger than the teen years” & “Teens is much too late to be teaching this stuff in my opinion” (i’ve only spoken to two people so far, plan to interview more)

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise? I surprised that parents want financial literacy for younger kids! my next question should be: how young is too young?

  89. […] to start, learned how I went from a $4.95 product to a multi-million-dollar business, done some basic idea testing to see if people like our business ideas, learned how to conquer self-sabotage, and learned about the systems to build an automatic […]

  90. - Original idea:

    Sell specialized studies for a nitch market through a web page

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):

    I could make it a recurrent revenue instead of a just pay per study business model

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:

    I want to earn more contracts, save myself the costs of getting good leats etc.

    - What they ACTUALLY said:

    I want to grow my company, achieve my financial goals and work for the future

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?

    I thought it would be more cold, business oriented, but I realized this are their companies, their dreams and goals, they speak of them as living things and I realized that for them, they are.

    AWESOME excercise!

  91. Three years after my son was born I started a website for women who are trying to start a family over age 40. I write about how I got pregnant at age 45 after being told I couldn’t. (And without consciously trying, lol, we thought that ship had sailed).

    It’s an affiliate site and never made more than a couple of sales. About a year ago I stopped paying for ads and let it sit. But I still get 1 or 2 autoresponder subscribers a day trickling in. (Same number I had when I was running ads).

    They’ve started commenting and asking questions. Almost every one of them thanks me for the positive outlook I offer when doctors have given them little or no hope. Others write asking for medical advice, which I of course can’t give (I’m a dentist, not a fertility doctor!)

    I’m trying to figure out how I might be able to help them as a coach or with an online course. My Chinese Medicine massage therapist (who was part of my personal recipe for getting healthy enough to conceive) tells me that “virtual” training won’t work, that these women won’t conceive without hands on therapy from her. She suggests we get women to form groups in various parts of the world and that together they can pool resources to fly us to them for several days of therapy and coaching.

    That is one potential business model…

    Another gentleman from Manhattan contacted me recently after he and his wife went through several medical procedures to conceive their baby.

    He feels the online venue offers too much scattered information on fertility issues, and wants to build a central hub. It would cover the A to Z’s of infertility treatments, both assisted methods and natural. It would help folks navigate and cut through all the confusion.

    Hmmm…not sure if it hasn’t already been done?

    So, women are saying to me every day, “thanks Dr. Carolyn, you have given me hope again”. “Thanks, I look forward to your emails”. I even had one say, “Thanks for not taking my money in a niche where everyone asks me to pay”!

    Can I help these women without having to fly all over the world? Or maybe that’s a good business model? I want to survey them to see what they really want and need, could use some guidance figuring out what to ask.

    Or, perhaps this is NOT a profitable niche and it’s time to start fresh.

    I believe you can help me figure this out.

  92. Okay, submitted my comment and THEN read the directions. LOL. We all mess up, right?

    So my original idea was to teach women from personal experience and research how to get pregnant at an advanced maternal age (over 40) when doctors are saying they can’t.

    I thought women would be happy to pay for the affiliate products I was offering, like recordings of experts speaking on the subject, pregnancy hypnosis courses, and the like.

    Instead all but a few bypassed those options. Instead they wrote to thank me for giving them hope and for offering a positive outlook in a niche where they mostly encountered negativity from the medical community.

    What surprised me was that these women don’t want to buy products. It seems they are more interested in making a personal connection with me and getting more of my positive encouragement.

    • Carolyn,
      I think you should just model yourself on Ramit. He gives so much….nobody would do that unless they genuinely cared about others. His honesty is refreshing! I could go on and on….and I guess that is his ‘hook’ in a way. So you follow all his great advice, do all your homework and take your idea as far as you possibly can. But you are still stuck and are desperate, so you finally decide that NOW is the time to get that personal help that can only be gotten by buying one of his courses. You both win.
      You obviously want to help women who have given up hope of conceiving. Your own personal story and your heartfelt concern, plus all your resources that you post on your website will be the initial encouragement, and from there, your readers will trust you. It happened to you so there is hope for others. And I would think that some of those readers would be ready to pay your for whatever hands on help you could give them. ( My eldest daughter is turning 37 this year and is literally grieving over not being able to conceive after trying for the last 2+ years….it is so painful to watch her go through this. If there is any hope left for her it would be a Godsend! ) Would you be able to post a link to your website so I can contact you?
      Good luck!

  93. My online idea is to create a ebook on for teaching children about geocaching. I went to the bookstore and asked the attendant if there were any books on it. She looked it up and said there were several books but none for children. Then she asked what was geocaching. I mentioned that it was a modern day treasure hunt using a gps. These cache’s are listed on a website (Geocaching.com) and they are all over the world. Some right in your neighborhood. I’ve taken my god children geocaching and they loved it, but there are no books on how to explain and show young children how to do it.

    She was immediately interested and said she had a 9 year old son and she’s always looking for things to do with him. I said I was going to put together a meet up group to focus on children. She immediately gave me her email address and said let me know when you start it I would like to go.

    I’m finding that women get more excited about this than men. Men just don’t get it. They don’t see the point but women do because most women like puzzles and are more detail oriented and they are more apt to find different things to do with their kids to keep them occupied.

    I’m going to create a children’s book on it first then I can reference it in a book for parents.

  94. A little late on this one:
    Original idea: INFP Career guide (INFP is one of 16 types in the MBTI personality test)
    New idea: How to choose/change a career when you’re an INFP who’s older than 30 and makes more than 100k (I’ll pretty up the title later ;) )

    What I expected them to say:
    I don’t know what I want to do.
    I feel like I’m dying in my current job.
    I can’t decide on a major or future career.
    I don’t care about money, I just want to help people.

    What they said:
    “I rarely talk to them about it if I can help it. Today in fact I tried, and felt awkward and even a bit judged because of where I am in my career”
    “My biggest problem is that I never had a dream career or job. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up (at 57). ”
    “One day I’ll be telling them I want to be a scientist , the other day a psychologist , than a lab expert , cop , writer , actor……. It really depends on my mood and motivation of the day.”

    This showed me that INFPs have trouble with careers at all stages of the game and I potentially have multiple courses that can be created for various stages of their lives.

    It also shows me how much misery is caused by a crappy career choice and how much we toil in the decisions.

    And finally, how embarrassed we become to dream and hope for better as we age and face constant criticism/ridicule for dreaming from our peers. Eventually we stop saying it out loud and ultimately start repressing.

  95. […] Get them to tell you in their own words (yes, ZTL teaches this, […]

  96. - Original idea:
    Teaching fitness classes online & an online weight loss/healthier living programme/course – for long term results.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    +Making the course more personal yet hopefully at the same time reaching more people. Giving people the tools they need which they can apply to their own lives.
    +More focus on changing habits.
    +Perhaps focusing on tiers too; depending on how far someone wants to take the healthy eating, there could be options as to which programme they take part in.
    +Would have to provide something in which people could communicate with me and one another – people want to feel connected with the person they are learning from
    +providing the simplest of recipes with step by step pictures

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    I thought time & cost would be the first thing people would say, that’s if they hadn’t said ‘why would someone choose your product over all the other established weight loss programmes…’

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    +People want balance. Still want to enjoy their lives, have a glass of wine, bit of chocolate etc, but want guidance, knowledge, motivation. +They want things kept simple, they don’t want to count points or feel as though they’re on a diet.
    +They want a good role model but “not someone that pushes information down their throat”
    +Very simple, easy to follow recipes with pictures

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise: Apart from the fact I actually did it,
    I’ve opened myself to more ideas than I would of if I hadn’t done this exercise. I also forgot how important it was that someone connects with their mentor (me!)

  97. First of, I just have to say i’m very excited about Zero to Launch.

    Now, my original idea (asked 5 friends, 4 replied): Freelance website service for people looking for professional, high quality, custom made music or jobs related to music.

    Revised idea:
    Digital/Contemporary Music Freelancing.

    What I thought:
    Sounds good.

    What they actually said:
    Just one of 4 replies:
    ” I would love that idea personally I would definitely use it, ive been at a loss sometimes trying to find musicians… Its a great idea in general cause theres nothing really like that now, the only thing that would be hard to do would get enough people to sign up to make it worth it”

    What surprised me:
    I’ve been wanting to validate an idea for a while now but never actually did the work because “i couldn’t think of anyone to ask” (invisible script?). It really surprised me how fast I came up with people to email after I actually sent the 1st email.

  98. - Original idea:
    Creating a card game that would lead people to challenge their daily relationships, improve their couple, their family or their relatives relations in a fun, entertaining and engaging way. The idea is to heal those group of people.

    - Revised idea (based on what you learned):
    Creating tailored-made card series that would lead people to challenge their daily relationships, improve their couple, their family or their relatives relations in a fun, entertaining and engaging way.
    Develop it for a larger audience (target niches), provide a challenging and high quality content that could fit a higher layer of customers. This would be a present to offer on special occasions, like weddings anniversaries and such. Aim for the game part of the project…

    - What you THOUGHT they would say:
    “Well, yes! That would definitely be helpful in my relationship”. Or
    “I need that!”,

    - What they ACTUALLY said:
    “That’s cool! I mean, to offer something funky for a celebration”
    “Prepare 3 of them for me”
    “How much of the game can I customize?”
    “I’d pay until …€ to have a standard version of the game”
    “Awesome! You could even target … with that game!”

    - What SURPRISED you about this exercise?
    People responses were more enthusiastic than I expected… And I realized that people could actually pay for a game that would generate surprise, fun and creativity on special occasions. That would help me prepare material, content and design for a very different group of customers.
    Thank you for pushing us to act, Ramit!