10 Easy Ways to
Validate your Ideas
for Cheap or Free

“I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else. ” ― Pablo Picasso

I remember I read something along the lines of “a good idea it’s like dating a model, you won’t know what to do with her ”. I tried my best to search for the source I think it was in one of Paul Graham essays.

I can come up ok ideas, some are bad, some are embarrasing but I never discard an idea. The truth is that the only way to have good ideas is to have a lot of bad ones.

Everything seems dumb or impossible until someone does it. I give away my ideas, throw them into the world, set them free. At the playground a child might start crying and the only one who will react to that is the mother of the child, no other mom will even turn around.

When ideas are set free they can evolve and like a child you can identify them easily since you gave birth to them. Don’t get too attached the best ideas are the ones to come.

Lately I have been testing ideas and trying to find ways to discover what works and what doesn't. Instead of spending a lot of time and money on something that will only frustrate me, I preffer to spend extra time validating them because a good idea will grow like a wildfire.

Below I list my most used methods, one solution does not fit all. If I get a traction on an idea I select a different method to continue the testing and validate the outcome.

  1. Customer Interviews (Free)
    I have an obnoxious nephew that I love because it reminds me of myself. She questions everything and hardly one answer satisfies her. We should be the same way, the success of your idea is directly proportional to the number of awkward questions you’re willing to ask. Craft some questions and listen, this is free and easy who doesn’t like to talk about themselves?
  2. Blog Post ($5)
    Part of setting ideas free is not being selfish to share them. Writing a blog post and sharing it on social media can let us test reactions and interest level. Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail started as an article, grew into a blog which later he turned into a book. Go to Starbucks buy yourself a cup of coffee and write the blog post, share it on medium and don’t take a charger with you it will make you write faster.
  3. Landing Pages (Free)
    Remember when you discover Santa Claus didn't existed? Landing pages are a little like that, you make a page describing the bells and whistles of your product but at the end the product doesnt exist… yet. This is a way to get others excited about your idea and see if thats enough for you to work with. Share your page and learn from how many signups you get.
  4. Facebook Page ($5)
    Recently I thought there was a market to sell mini drones in my hometown, I setup a Facebook Page posted a video and boosted the post for $1. It grew from 0 to 200 likes in 2 days, I thought it was not enough after a couple of days it grew by itself from 200 to 3000 likes. I posted more pictures, boosted the posts and then started to take orders.
  5. Google Ads ($10)
    Ads are the machine gun of idea validation, you load as many ads as you like within a budget to and audience. After that you wait and evaluate the damage, this can be done in 2 stages to re-validate the most successful ads of the first stage.
  6. Explainer Video (Free)
    A good way to get an idea out of your system is to explain it to someone else, or maybe a couple hundred people at once. An explainer video will make you craft your idea at its core so its easy to understand. Drew Houston creator of Dropbox used this method and you can see the video here. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to work with video, use Powerpoint or Keynote and export it into video.
  7. Pre-order Page (Free)
    Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made this famous, showcase a potential idea and explain to the audience what you’re selling. If they like it you’ll get pre-orders and they get billed when you ship. No product or wallet will be harm during the validation of this idea.
  8. Prototype ($25)
    There are times when a product needs to be touched, for those cases I let myself go wild at Office Depot and buy some goodies to craft my project. After my masterpiece is ready I can show it around and get feedback. This is where I spend the most because Office Depot it’s like Disney to me but you can also build digital prototypes.
  9. Customer Requests (Free)
    Basecamp the maker of the project management tool, doesn’t keep a log of feature request. Instead they pay attention of repetitive ideas because those are the ones that differentiate the must haves versus the good to haves. A good idea will emerge in a pattern or in several request.
  10. Presentation (Free)
    If you’re not scare of getting tomatoes thrown at you, you can validate if your idea attracts an audience and what are their thoughts. Find a co-working space and pitch them your presentation (it can be free) this way you will not have to spend any money and use their current user base.

Most ideas can be validated for cheap or for free, what is not cheap is procrastination, because it can take your dreams away from you and we only have one life so that is one expensive price to pay. Instead get up and build something people want.

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