Make Money While You Sleep with a Muse Business

What is a muse business idea? Advice from an entrepreneur.

How to Make Money Online With a 'Muse Business' Idea
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With the proliferation of today's side hustle culture and the popularity of books that profess the importance of diversifying your income, many are exploring passive online money-making opportunities. Here, we take a look at muse business ideas. 

What is a Muse Business Idea?

A muse money-making opportunity is one that is inexpensive to set up yet generates passive income while you kite-board, eat a bowl of cereal, or watch TV. It sounds too good to be true, but it is one of the most talked about elements of Tim Ferriss's most popular New York Times Bestselling book, The Four Hour Workweek.

How does a muse business actually work for the people who start them? We reached out to a successful entrepreneur to find out more.

Jesse Phillips, a co-founder of the calendar company NeuYear, explains a muse business as, "An automated business that gives you your target monthly income number, so you can do what you want." Phillips was inspired by Ferriss's book and started a company that delivers well-designed calendars to help people track and achieve their goals over the course of a year. This had turned into a muse business over the years.

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

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

How Do You Successfully Create a Muse Business?

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

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

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

The trick to this is identifying where people are spending their money. For example, many successful projects on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding platform, have been related to coffee. Solid coffee ideas will get way overfunded on that platform. Perhaps you can come up with a coffee idea? Also, iPhone accessories have been well funded. Do you have an idea for an iPhone accessory that will solve a real problem?

2. Test before launching

Too many people quit their job and start a restaurant. They struggle for three years and then go bankrupt. You HAVE to create a prototype, test with real users, and see if people will really buy your product before you invest a ton of money and time. That's what true business idea validation is, and without it, you are more than likely going to fail in the long run. Validation is why I love Kickstarter - it helps you to see if people out there are willing to buy your product. Another way to validate your product is to survey people.

Find people that buy similar products and ask them if they would buy yours. Put-up a simple web page and see how many people sign-up. This is not easy to do. The hardest part is being honest with yourself.

3. Be willing to pivot

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

4. Take the leap

Too many people have a great idea yet never do anything about it. Make goals, start working toward them, figure out your minimum viable product and get going. Don't try to invent the next iPad, either! Start with something small and simple yet with good margins and an existing market (this is not easy to find, but it's out there). A muse business idea needs to grow naturally beginning with your own community of friends, family, and other connections that could be potential customers for your product—if they are supportive and actually pay you for your idea, you are onto something.

5. Design is important

Many entrepreneurs skimp on design when they are starting out. I ran into the founder of About.me at SXSW one year and he said: "Design is not the most important thing. It's the only thing." We are humans and, rightly or wrongly, we judge books by their cover. Therefore, make your design awesome. (sleek, modern, and minimal is usually easy to do, takes less time, and looks great!) Design is a huge asset.