I gave a talk at Hustle Con yesterday on idea validation. Here are my slides: https://www.indiehackers.com/hustlecon.
They might be a little meaningless without the video of my talk itself, so here's a brief outline:
- If you're starting a business, it's 100% fine if your initial mission is a "selfish" one: to have the creative freedom to build what you want, from wherever you want, on a schedule that feels comfortable to you, alongside the people you like being around, so you can be happy.
- Your idea is just as important as execution. In fact, it's better to focus on that, because it's easier to improve. You probably can't become a 10x better executor, but you can have a 1000x better idea.
- Idea validation is for more than just eliminating ideas. Done right, it will help you tweak and improve your idea, or even come up with a new idea from scratch.
- The most important thing to understand is that a business idea is about more than just a product. You also need to consider your market, distribution channels, and business model if you want your idea to be any good. Simply thinking about all four parts in advance will dramatically improve your changes of success.
- Spend an hour or two before you start anything just examining yourself. Not only will this help prevent you from building a business you hate running, but it may enable to to build a business that perfectly suits your personality, your skillset, and your goals.
- Validate the market part of your business idea first. The essence of product-market fit is building a product that perfectly suits your market, and you can't do that if you build your product first without really understanding your market.
- When validating your market, the most important question is "who" they are. You should be specific here. And don't worry about getting it wrong initially. You'll need to be flexible about going back to revisit this and potentially changing the market you target.
- When validating your channels, keep in mind that every channel is competitive. For example, there are people who post YouTube videos, do SEOs, write newsletters, tweet, etc. all day long. And the people who frequent those channels are there to consume the best content, not the worst. Therefore if you're going to do a good job in a channel, you'll need to hone in and focus on it so you can do a good job. Don't spread your attention across 10 different channels and do a crappy job in all of them.
- Working on your product is significantly more effective once you're armed with a lot of knowledge about your market and channels.
- Solve a boring, tried-and-true problem that people have proven they'll pay for, but then build a unique product.
- Seriously, stop copying other people's products. If anything, you want to do the exact opposite: look at what everyone else is doing, then do the opposite, explicitly so your product will stand out and be memorable. Indie Hackers is blue for a reason.
- However, your product decisions should be primarily driven by the needs and idiosyncrasies of the people in your market, as well as the idiosyncrasies of the primary channel you're using to reach these people. Literally make a list of the ways your can tailor your product to do this.
- Validation is about more than guessing at answers to questions. Start that way, sure, but eventually you need to graduate to dipping your toe in the water. For the market, you'll eventually need to talk to users and/or do research. For your channels, you'll need to run channel tests. For your product, you'll need to build an MVP. For your business model, you'll need to try selling.
- It's embarrassing to release an MVP after you've told all your friends and colleagues that you have a lofty business idea. But it's important to suck it up and start small anyway. Pieter Levels started with a spreadsheet before building Nomad List. Joel Hooks started with a ZIP file of videos he found on YouTube before building egghead. Wes Bos sends educational tweets before building courses. Indie Hackers started off as just a blog.
- Just because you're a fledgling indie hacker doesn't mean you need to charge less than established competitors. It's counterintuitive, but the exact opposite is true: indie hackers, small mom-and-pop shops, etc. can't afford not to charge more than the big competitors. They have economies of scale that let them sell cheaply. You need to compete on customer service, or by niching down, etc., and then charge high prices.
- Also counterintuitive: Customers don't pay more because you put in a ton of work. They pay more because you're solving a more valuable problem. If you spend a month building a decent solution to a $1000 problem, customers will pay you $1000. If you spend a year building an amazing solution to a $5 problem, customers will pay you $5. So your business model is mostly determined by the market you choose and the problem you solve, not by the quality of your product.
I'll post the video once it's up!