How to Quickly Start Your Business with Rapid Prototyping
- Hosted July 20, 2020
- By Evan Thomas
Launching a business can become a complicated task. You have to meticulously plan out every detail from idea to production, marketing, billing, and even customer service.
We all know that careful planning is crucial to your success in business…or is it?
Actually, all that planning may be hurting you.
Attempting to perfect every detail of your business could be ruining your chances of the very thing you are trying to accomplish: get paying clients.
I fell into this trap myself. Before I started my business as a freelance writer, I thought I had to: - Be an undeniable expert in my field - Read every business book that exists - Have a stellar website, decked out with lots of cool-looking stuff - Build an immaculate sales funnel
No matter how hard I worked to get my new business off the ground, I always found new tasks for my to-do list or things that needed improvement. Inevitably, this pushed off my “launch date” to an always-distant future. If you wait until that perfect idea comes or until you have that perfect product, you could be waiting your entire life.
But you don’t have to fall into that trap—there is an easier, faster, and more effective way to start your business, and it’s called rapid prototyping.
If you are struggling to launch, rapid prototyping is your answer
Rapid prototyping isn’t a new idea; it’s used often in the arts, manufacturing, and design fields.
Essentially the idea is this: instead of spending large amounts of time, money, and other resources perfecting your web page or product before you officially launch, just make a quick prototype and put yourself out there.
I first read about rapid prototyping in a post by Ed Gandia, a very successful freelance writer. As Ed puts it, rapid prototyping offers the “better way to business success.”
The goal is to launch in a few hours or days.
You don’t need a perfect product before you can open your business.
Imagine how a beautiful luxury car is designed—it starts as a sketch on a piece of paper, then the design team creates a rough clay or computer model prototype, first as a 2D model and then eventually 3D. The fine-tuned luxury details that we see on the showroom floor at the dealership come about only after multiple rounds of refining, optimizing, meetings, and lots of focus group sessions.
When starting a business keep your initial focus on making things simple and fast. Make a “clay model” for your business—you can perfect and change it after you open.
It sounds obvious, but so many aspiring business owners fall into a never-ending, fear-induced cycle of planning, learning, and chasing perfection. It can take a long time to snap out of the cycle, put themselves out there, open up shop, and find clients.
How to launch your business in 4 simple steps
- Design a simple prototype and make a simple website
- Pick a launch date
- Find your first client
- Test, refine, and repeat
These steps aren’t set in stone. You can adjust them to fit your needs, or mix up the order a bit. There are many paths to success and if it doesn’t work out like you want, you can make improvements on the go.
1. Make a simple prototype
What’s a prototype?
In this context, it’s a rough draft version of the components that your business needs to get started. It could be a product, a website, an idea, a logo, or even a process.
If you are opening a restaurant or a food truck, your prototype could be a simple 5-entrée menu. If your goal is to be a freelance financial coach, create a simple webpage with a few guides that answer some of the most common financial questions. If you are debating which niche to enter as a writer, just pick one and expand later. If you are stuck on your logo design, ditch the logo or simply use the business’s initials. For the vast majority of new businesses, the logo (or lack thereof) isn’t going to affect you.
Remember, the goal is to make it simple and fast.
2. Pick a launch date
Can you create your prototype in an hour? A day? 2 days? A week? If you put all of your focus on making a simple (even if barely functional) prototype, many businesses and freelance operations could launch in under a week.
So set a deadline, stick to it, and launch your business.
Spoiler alert: When your launch day arrives, your plan isn’t going to be perfect no matter how much you try. And that’s totally fine. It takes time to build a successful business.
Find your first client
You probably already have a rough idea of how to get customers.
But what if you spent months working on your business just to find out that no one wants to buy what you are selling?
You can avoid that pain when you use rapid prototyping. After you launch (which, remember, you can do within a week or so), you will quickly get an idea of whether or not a market exists for your business. This will allow you to either scrap the idea entirely or refine your offer while increasing your customer base.
Paying clients are the best way to test and validate your idea or service. If you launch quickly and start building relationships with these clients, they will guide you as you continue to build and improve your business.
Test, refine, and repeat (and don’t be afraid to fail)
While it sounds cliché, “failing” can often be a good thing—a learning experience that will open the doors to future success.
There are countless stories of success coming from failures. Dave Ramsey enjoyed initial real estate success but had to go through bankruptcy to get to where he is today. Jeff Bezos has openly shared many of his failures that eventually led him to insane amounts of success.
In fact, you shouldn’t even use the word “failure” for your business. Instead, embrace the process and view every step as a potential lesson to be learned. Keep an open mind, and be ready to adapt to meet new opportunities. For example, Avon, Wrigley, Colgate, and Xerox are all very well known companies. But none of them started selling the products and services that they currently do. It took 67 years before Colgate started making toothpaste because they started as a soap and candle manufacturer.
Less-famous failures that became success stories
Sure, you’ve probably heard stories of famous entrepreneurs who didn’t succeed right away. But what about normal people?
I have a friend that had several failed entrepreneurial attempts with dropshipping and a writing career. She was barely putting food on the table. But after a few years of steady effort and several tweaks to her business process, she now earns a high six-figure income through writing and online courses. It took her years to reach that point, but she didn’t lose hope after her initial setbacks. Instead, she constantly made adjustments to her business after each lesson learned.
Another entrepreneur I know, Will, decided to open a tour company on the east coast, with no prior experience in the tour or travel industry.
For a while, he spent a lot of time reading books that ultimately didn’t help him at all with his business. Will finally decided to change tactics and quickly built a simple business webpage in just a couple of days and got to work finding customers.
Within a week, he was open for business. He wasn’t even certified in his city as a tour guide at the time, but he started receiving more and more bookings. As his business grew, he found ways to overcome challenges like being asked to give a tour at sites he knew little about. Will also volunteered with other tour companies in town to learn more about historical details.
Over time, he improved his website and marketing and also became an expert (certified, of course!) on multiple sites in his home city. Within two years, he was ranked #1 on Tripadvisor.
Will used rapid prototyping to quickly launch and get his business out in public. As he earned more and more customers he, became an expert within his niche
Had Will waited to open his business until he had the perfect website or was the undisputed, certified tour expert of the city, he probably would have never gotten started or he would have become very overwhelmed in the process.
Rapid prototyping is essentially just getting started
So there you have it: a simple, powerful tool to help you get off to a running start with your business.
The goal is to not agonize over small details and unnecessarily invest valuable resources like time and money.(Of course, it also goes without saying that you can’t be negligent. Don’t bypass required licenses, permits, safety or insurance measures just in the name of producing a rapid prototype.)
Just make a bare bones prototype, something functional. Keep things simple—just find a way to let customers know who you are and what you are offering.
Pick a launch date in the very near future—what about tomorrow?
Start looking for clients and begin marketing yourself. This is one of the best ways for you to test your service or product. Keep marketing simple at first—there is no need to spend large sums of money to find customers.
Embrace change and be willing to learn and adapt your business. If things don't go as you planned, make some changes and try again. Every entrepreneur will face failure at some point. But successful business owners learn from their mistakes instead of quitting.
Keep it simple, make it fast, and enjoy the process!
Back to Blog