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11.Income Autopilot II

TESTING THE MUSE

Many of these theories have been killed off only when some decisive experiment exposed their incorrectness…. Thus the yeoman work in any science … is done by the experimentalist, who must keep the theoreticians honest.

—MICHIO KAKU, theoretical physicist and cocreator of String Field Theory, Hyperspace

Fewer than 5% of the 195,000 books published each year sell more than 5,000 copies. Teams of publishers and editors with decades of combined experience fail more times than not. The founder of Border’s Books lost $375 million of investor funding with WebVan,39 a nationwide grocery delivery service. The problem? No one wanted it.

The moral is that intuition and experience are poor predictors of which products and businesses will be profitable. Focus groups are equally misleading. Ask ten people if they would buy your product. Then tell those who said “yes” that you have ten units in your car and ask them to buy. The initial positive responses, given by people who want to be liked and aim to please, become polite refusals as soon as real money is at stake.

To get an accurate indicator of commercial viability, don’t ask people if they would buy—ask them to buy. The response to the second is the only one that matters. The approach of the NR reflects this.

Step Three: Micro-Test Your Products

Micro-testing involves using inexpensive advertisements to test consumer response to a product prior to manufacturing.40

In the pre-Internet era, this was done using small classified ads in newspapers or magazines that led prospects to call a prerecorded sales message. Prospects would leave their contact information, and based on the number of callers or response to a follow-up sales letter, the product would be abandoned or manufactured.

In the Internet era, there are better tools that are both cheaper and faster. We’ll test the product ideas from the last chapter on Google Adwords—the largest and most sophisticated Pay-Per-Click (PPC) engine—in five days for $500 or less. PPC here refers to the highlighted search results that are listed above and to the right of normal search results on Google. Advertisers pay to have these ads displayed when people search for a certain term related to the advertisers’ product, such as “cognitive supplement,” and are charged a small fee from $.05 to over $1 each time someone clicks through to their site. For a good introduction to Google Adwords and PPC, visit www.google.com/onlinebusiness. For expanded examples of the following PPC strategies, visit www.fourhourblog.com and search “PPC.” The basic test process consists of three parts, each of which is covered in this chapter.

Best: Look at the competition and create a more-compelling offer on a basic one-to-three-page website (one to three hours).

Test: Test the offer using short Google Adwords advertising campaigns (three hours to set up and five days of passive observation).

Divest or Invest: Cut losses with losers and manufacture the winner(s) for sales rollout.

Let’s use two people, Sherwood and Johanna, and their two product ideas—French sailor shirts and a how-to yoga DVD for rock climbers—as case studies of what the testing steps look like and how you can do the same.

Sherwood bought a striped sailing shirt in France while traveling last summer, and upon returning to NYC has been continually approached by 20–30-year-old males on the street who want to know where to get their own. Sensing an opportunity, he requests back issues of NYC-based weekly magazines aimed at this demographic and calls the manufacturer in France for pricing. He learns that he can purchase shirts at a wholesale price of $20 that sell for $100 retail. He adds $5 per shirt to account for shipping to the U.S. and arrives at a per-shirt cost of $25. It’s not quite our ideal markup (4x vs. 8–10x), but he wants to test the product regardless.

Johanna is a yoga instructor who has noticed her growing client base of rock climbers. She is also a rock climber and is considering creating a yoga instructional DVD tailored to that sport, which would include a 20-page spiral-bound manual and be priced at $80. She predicts that production of a low-budget first edition of the DVD would cost nothing more than a borrowed digital camera and a friend’s iMac for simple editing. She can burn small quantities of this first-edition DVD—no menus, just straight footage and titles—on the laptop and create labels with freeware from www.download.com. She has contacted a duplication house and learned that more-professional DVDs will cost $3–5 apiece to duplicate in small quantities (minimum of 250), including cases.

Now that they have ideas and estimates of start-up costs, what next?

Besting the Competition

First and foremost, each product must pass a competitive litmus test. How can Sherwood and Johanna beat the competition and offer a superior product or guarantee?

  1. Sherwood and Johanna Google the top terms each would use to try and find their respective products. To come up with related terms and derivative terms, both use search term suggestion tools.

Google Adwords Keyword Tool (http://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal) Enter the potential search terms to find search volume and alternative terms with more search traffic. Click on the “Approx Avg Search Volume” column to sort results from most to least searched.

SEOBook Keyword Tool, SEO for Firefox Extension (http://tools.seobook.com/) This is an outstanding resource page with searches powered by Wordtracker (www.wordtracker.com).

Both then visit the three websites that consistently appear in top search and PPC positions. How can Sherwood and Johanna differentiate themselves?

Use more credibility indicators? (media, academia, associations, and testimonials)

Create a better guarantee?

Offer better selection?41

Free or faster shipping?

Sherwood notices that the shirts are often hard to find on the competitive sites, all of which feature dozens of products, and the shirts are either made in the U.S. (inauthentic) or shipped from France (customers must wait two to four weeks). Johanna cannot find a “yoga for rock climbing” DVD, so she is starting from a blank slate.

  1. Sherwood and Johanna now need to create a one-page (300–600 words) testimonial-rich advertisement that emphasizes their differentiators and product benefits using text and either personal photos or stock photos from stock photo websites. Both have spent two weeks collecting advertisements that have prompted them to make purchases or that have caught their attention in print or online—these will serve as models.42 Johanna asks her clients for testimonials and Sherwood lets his friends try on the shirts to get several for his page. Sherwood also asks the manufacturer for photos and advertising samples.

See www.pxmethod.com for a good example of how I have created a test page using testimonials from seminar attendees. Please note that it’s just a template for readers and not a live sales page. Free how-to seminars as recommended in the Expert Builder are ideal for identifying popular selling points and securing testimonials.

Testing the Advertisement

Sherwood and Johanna now need to test actual customer response to their advertisements. Sherwood first tests his concept with a 72-hour eBay auction that includes his advertising text. He sets the “reserve” (the lowest price he’ll accept) for one shirt at $50 and cancels the auction last minute to avoid legal issues since he doesn’t have product to ship. He has received bids up to $75 and decides to move to the next phase of testing. Johanna doesn’t feel comfortable with the apparent deception and skips this preliminary testing.

Sherwood’s cost: <$5.

Both register domain names for their soon-to-be one-page sites using the cheap domain registrar www.domainsinseconds.com. Sherwood chooses www.shirtsfromfrance.com and Johanna chooses www.yogaclimber.com. For additional domain names, Johanna uses www.domainsinseconds.com.

Cost to both: <$20.

Sherwood uses www.weebly.com to create his one-page site advertisement and then creates two additional pages using the form builder www.wufoo.com. If someone clicks on the “purchase” button at the bottom of the first page, it takes them to a second page with pricing, shipping and handling,43 and basic contact fields to fill out (including e-mail and phone). If the visitor presses “continue with order,” it takes them to a page that states, “Unfortunately, we are currently on back order but will contact you as soon as we have product in stock. Thank you for your patience.” This structure allows him to test the first-page ad and his pricing separately. If someone gets to the last page, it is considered an order.

Johanna is not comfortable with “dry testing,” as Sherwood’s approach is known, even though it is legal if the billing data isn’t captured. She instead uses the same two services to create a single webpage with the content of her one-page ad and an e-mail sign-up for a free “top 10 tips” list for using yoga for rock climbing. She will consider 60% of the sign-ups as hypothetical orders.

Cost to both: <$0.

Both set up simple Google Adwords campaigns with 50–100 search terms to simultaneously test headlines while driving traffic to their pages. Their daily budget limits are set at $50 per day. (At this segue into PPC testing, I recommend you first visit www.adwords/google.com/onlinebusiness and then follow along by creating your own account, which should take about 10 minutes. It would be a waste of rain forests to use ten pages to explain terms that can be understood at a glance online.) Sherwood and Johanna decide on the best search terms by using the search term suggestion tools mentioned earlier. Both aim for specific terms when possible (“french sailor shirts” vs. “french shirts;” “yoga for sports” vs. “yoga”) for higher conversion rates (the percentage of visitors that purchase) and lower cost-per-click (CPC). They aim also for second through fourth positioning, but no more than $.20 CPC.

Sherwood will use Google’s free analytical tools to track “orders” and page abandonment rates—what percentage of visitors leave the site from which pages. Johanna will use www.wufoo.com to track e-mail sign-ups on this small testing scale.44 Cost to both: $0.

Both Johanna and Sherwood design Adwords ads that focus on their differentiators. Each Google Adwords ad consists of a headline and then two lines of description, neither of which can exceed 35 characters. In Sherwood’s case, he creates five groups of 10 search terms each. The following are two of his ads.

SAILOR SHIRTS FROM FRANCE

Johanna creates the same five groups of 10 terms each and tests a number of ads, including these:

Notice that these ads can be used to test not just headlines but guarantees, product names, and domain names. It’s as simple as creating several ads, rotated automatically by Google, that are identical except for the one variable to be tested. How do you think I determined the best title for this book?

Both Sherwood and Johanna disable the feature on Google that serves only the best-performing ad. This is necessary to later compare the click-through rates from each and combine the best elements (headline, domain name, and body text) into a final ad.

Last but not least, ensure that the ads don’t trick prospects into visiting the site. The product offer should be clear. Our goal is qualified traffic, so we do not want to offer something “free” or otherwise attract window shoppers or the curious who are unlikely to buy.

Cost to both: $50 or less per day x 5 days = $250.45

Investing or Divesting

Five days later, it’s time to tally the results.

What can we consider a “good” click-through and conversion rate? This is where the math can be deceiving. If we’re selling a $10,000 abominable snowman suit with an 80% profit margin, we obviously need a much lower conversion rate than someone who is selling a $50 DVD with a 70% profit margin. For sophisticated tools and free spreadsheets that do all sorts of calculations for you, visit the reader-only resources at www.fourhourblog.com.

Johanna and Sherwood decide to keep it simple at this stage: How much did they spend on PPC ads and how much did they “sell”?

Johanna has done well. The traffic wasn’t enough to make the test stand up to statistical scrutiny, but she spent about $200 on PPC and got 14 sign-ups for a free 10-tip report. If she assumes 60% would purchase, that means 8.4 people x $75 profit per DVD = $630 in hypothetical total profit. This is also not taking into account the potential lifetime value of each customer.

The results of her small test are no guarantee of future success, but the indications are positive enough that she decides to set up a Yahoo Store for $99 per month and a small per-transaction fee. Her credit isn’t excellent, so she will opt to use www.paypal.com to accept credit cards online instead of approaching her bank for a merchant account.46 She e-mails the 10-tip report to those who signed up and asks for their feedback and recommendations for content on the DVD. Ten days later, she has a first attempt at the DVD ready to ship and her store is online. Her sales to the original sign-ups cover costs of production and she is soon selling a respectable 10 DVDs per week ($750 profit) via Google Adwords. She plans to test advertising in niche magazines and blogs and now needs to create an automation architecture to remove herself from the equation.

Sherwood didn’t fare as well but still sees potential. He spent $150 on PPC and “sold” three shirts for a hypothetical $225 in profit. He had more than enough traffic, but the bulk of visitors left the site on the pricing page. Rather than drop pricing, he decides to test a “2x money-back guarantee” on the pricing page, which will enable customers to get a $200 refund if the $100 shirts aren’t the “most comfortable they’ve ever owned.” He retests and “sells” seven shirts for $525 in profit. Based on these results, he sets up a merchant account through his bank and Authorize.net to process credit cards, orders a dozen shirts from France, and sells them all over the following ten days. This gives him enough profit to buy a small display ad at 50% off (asking for a “first-time advertiser discount” and then citing a competing magazine to get another 20% off) in a local weekly art magazine, in which he calls the shirt “Jackson Pollock Shirts.” He orders two dozen more shirts with net-30 payment terms and puts a toll-free number47 in the print ad that forwards to his cell phone. He does this instead of using a website for two reasons: (1) He wants to determine the most common questions for his FAQ online, and (2) he wants to test an offer of $100 for one shirt ($75 in profit) or “buy two, get one free” ($200 - $75 = $125 profit).

He sells all 24 shirts in the first five days the magazine runs, most through the special offer. Success. He redesigns the print ad, putting answers to common questions in the text to cut down on calls for information, and decides to negotiate a longer-term ad agreement with the magazine. He sends his sales rep a check for four issues at 30% of their published rates. He calls to confirm that they received his check via FedEx and, with check in hand and deadlines looming, they don’t refuse.

Sherwood wants to go to Berlin during a two-week break from his job, which he is now considering quitting. How can he roll out his success and escape his own company? He needs to build the architecture and get his mobile M.B.A.

That’s where the next chapter comes in.

New Rich Revisited: How Doug Did It

Remember Doug from ProSoundEffects.com? How did he test the idea and go from $0 to $10,000 per month in the process? He followed these steps.

  1. Market Selection

He chose music and television producers as his market because he is a musician himself and has used these products.

  1. Product Brainstorm

He chose the most popular products available for resale from the largest manufacturers of sound libraries and arranged a wholesale purchase and drop-ship agreement with them. Many of these libraries cost well above $300 (up to $7,500), and this is precisely why he needs to answer more customer-service questions than someone with a lower-priced product of $50–200.

  1. Micro-Testing

He auctioned the products on eBay to test demand (and the highest possible pricing) before purchasing inventory. He ordered product only when people placed orders from him, and product shipped immediately from the manufacturers’ warehouses. Based on this demand confirmed on eBay, Doug created a Yahoo Store with these products and began testing Google Adwords and other PPC search engines.

  1. Rollout and Automation

Following this testing, and upon generating sufficient cash flow, Doug began experimenting with print advertising in trade magazines. Simultaneously, he streamlined and outsourced operations to reduce his time requirements from two hours per day to two hours per week.

COMFORT CHALLENGE

Rejecting First Offers and Walking Away (3 Days)

Before performing this exercise, if possible, read the bonus chapter “How to Get $700,000 of Advertising for $10,000” on our companion site, and then set aside two hours on a consecutive Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

On Saturday and Sunday, go to a farmers’ market or other outdoor event where goods are sold. If this isn’t possible, go to small independent retailers (not chains or mass retail).

Set a budget of $100 for your negotiating tuition and look for items to purchase that total at least $150. Your job is to get the sellers down to a total of $100 or less for the lot. It is better to practice on many cheap items rather than a few big items. Be sure to reply to their first offer with, “What type of discount can you offer?” to let them negotiate against themselves. Negotiate near closing time, choose your objective price, bracket, and make a firm offer with cash in hand for that amount.48 Practice walking away if your objective price isn’t met. On Monday, call two magazines (expect the first to be awkward) and use the script on the companion site to negotiate, minus the last firm offer. Get them as low as possible and then call them back later to indicate that your proposal was refused by upper management or otherwise vetoed.

This is the negotiating equivalent of paper trading.49 Get used to refusing offers and countering in person and—most importantly—on the phone.

TOOLS AND TRICKS

Sample Muse Test Page

The PX Method (www.pxmethod.com)

This sales template was used to determine the viability of a speed-reading product, which tested successfully. Notice how testimonials, credibility indicators, and risk-reversal guarantees are used, as well as how the pricing is put on a separate page so it can be isolated as a testing variable. Use this as a reference—it is a simple and effective model that can be copied. Please do not input your credit card information, as it is just a mock-up for teaching purposes.

Fast and Simple Website Creation for Non-Techies (and Techies)

Weebly (www.weebly.com)

Weebly, which the BBC labeled “a must,” allowed me to create www.timothyferriss.com in less than two hours and have it appear on the front page of Google for “timothy ferriss” searches within 48 hours. It is, like WordPress.com below, designed to be very SEO-friendly (search-engine optimization) without any knowledge or action on your part. No HTML or Internet expertise is required.

WordPress.com (www.wordpress.com)

I used WordPress.com to set up www.litliberation.org from a coffee shop in Bratislava, Slovakia, when a U.S.-based designer flaked out and left me scrambling. It took me less than three hours to learn how to use it and build the site. The site, an experimental educational fundraiser, ended up raising 200%+ more than Stephen Colbert in the same period of time. I also use their free open-sourced version of WordPress (www.wordpress.org, which requires separate hosting) to manage everything for my top-1,000 blog at www.fourhourblog.com. This offers greater customization but requires more management and technical know-how.

Both Weebly and WordPress.com host your site for you, so additional hosting setup isn’t required.

If you choose to use www.wordpress.org (not.com) for greater customizability, I suggest using a hosting service with one-click WordPress installation like www.bluehost.com. The Shopp plug-in (http://shopplugin.net/) or Market Theme plug-in (http://www.markettheme.com/) can then be used to add e-commerce capabilities. Shopify.com (discussed later) is another good all-in-one alternative.

Create Forms in Seconds for Testing Checkout with or Without Payment

Wufoo (www.wufoo.com)

Wufoo does not offer a full-featured shopping cart, but it provides the cleanest, easiest-to-use forms on the web. Create a checkout page that connects to PayPal and you can (1) link to this checkout page from your site on Weebly, WordPress.com, or elsewhere, or (2) drop the code into your own website and have it hosted there. Wufoo is appropriate for testing and selling single products, as people can’t add multiple items to a shopping cart or otherwise customize the order à la Amazon. For those additional options, which are often desirable after successful testing, you will want to use an “end-to-end site solutions” listed later in these resources.

Cost-Effective Trademark Filing and Company Formation (LLC, C-Corp, etc.)

Though I also have a C-Corporation (often used to issue common and preferred stock to investors), created through the second option below, LLCs and S-Corps are generally favored by small businesses. Consult your accountant to determine the best entity form.

LegalZoom (www.legalzoom.com)

Company formation, trademarks, and nearly all legal documents. I know one founder who used this service to incorporate his tech start-up, which is now worth more than $200 million.

Corporate Creations (www.corporatecreations.com)

Domestic and overseas company formation.

Services for Selling Downloadable Products (e-books, videos, audio, etc., in descending order of reader preference)

E-Junkie (www.e-junkie.com)

Lulu (www.lulu.com)

Lulu will also do print-on-demand and other forms of manufacture and fulfillment. Like Lightning Source (www.lightningsource.com), it offers distribution through Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, and other major outlets.

CreateSpace (www.createspace.com)

A subsidiary of Amazon.com that offers inventory-free, physical distribution of books, CD and DVDs on Demand, as well as video downloads through Amazon Video On Demand(tm).

Clickbank (www.clickbank.com)

Provides integrated access to affiliates willing to sell your product for a percentage of sales.

Introduction to Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising and Testing

Google Adwords (www.google.com/adwords)

Market Sizing and Keyword Suggestion Tools

Brainstorm additional PPC search terms and determine the number of people who are searching for them.

Google Adwords Keyword Tool (http://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal)

Enter the potential search terms to find search volume and alternative terms with more search traffic. Click on the “Approx Avg Search Volume” column to sort results from most to least searched.

SEOBook Keyword Tool, SEO for Firefox Extension (http://tools.seobook.com/)

Outstanding resource page with searches powered by Wordtracker (www.wordtracker.com).

Low-Cost Domain Registration

Domains in Seconds (www.domainsinseconds.com) I have registered more than 100 domains through this service.

Joker (www.joker.com)

GoDaddy (www.godaddy.com)

Inexpensive but Dependable Hosting Services

Shared hosting solutions, where your site is hosted alongside other sites on a single server, are so cheap that I recommend using two providers, one as a primary and one as a backup. Put your site pages on each host and sign up with www.no-ip.com, which can redirect traffic (DNS) to the backup in five minutes instead of the usual 24 to 48 hours.

1and1 (www.1and1.com)

BlueHost (www.bluehost.com)

RackSpace (www.rackspace.com; known for dedicated and managed servers)

Hosting.com (www.hosting.com; known for dedicated and managed servers)

Royalty-Free Photos and Materials

iStockphoto (www.istockphoto.com)

iStockphoto is the Internet’s original member-generated image and design site, which has more than 4 million photographs, vector illustrations, videos, audio tracks, and Flash files available for use.

Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com)

This is where the pros go. Stock photos and film of anything for a price. I pay $150–400 for most images I use in national print campaigns and the quality is outstanding.

E-mail Sign-up Tracking and Scheduled Autoresponders

Both of these programs can be used to embed e-mail address sign-up forms on your site.

AWeber (www.aweber.com)

MailChimp (www.mailchimp.com)

End-to-End Site Solutions with Payment Processing

Shopify (www.shopify.com)

This is a reader favorite that, in addition to beautiful design, offers full SEO (search-engine optimization), drag-and-drop use, statistics, and product fulfillment through one of their certified partners such as Fulfillment by Amazon.com. Clients range from small-business owners to Tesla Motors. Unlike with Yahoo and eBay, however, you will need to set up a payment-processing service to accept payments from customers. (See below—PayPal is the easiest to integrate.) Yahoo! Store (http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/ecommerce) (866–781–9246)

This is what Doug of Pro Sound Effects used. As little as $40 a month with 1.5% per transaction.

eBay Store (http://pages.ebay.com/storefronts/start.html)

From $15–500 per month, plus eBay fees.

Simple Payment Processing for Testing Pages, from Least to Most Involved

PayPal Cart (www.paypal.com; see “merchant”)

Accept credit card payments in minutes. No monthly fees, 1.9–2.9% of each transaction (called “discount rate”) and $0.30 per transaction.

Google Checkout (http://checkout.google.com/sell)

Get $10 in free processing for each $1 spent on AdWords; 2% and $0.20 per transaction thereafter. Requires that customers have a Google ID, and is thus most useful as a supplement to one of the aforementioned payment solutions. Be sure to link your Checkout account to your AdWords account to receive credit. Important note: free transaction processing for nonprofits.

Authorize.net (www.authorize.net)

The Authorize.Net Payment Gateway can help you accept credit card and electronic check payments quickly and affordably. More than 230,000 merchants trust Authorize.net to manage their transactions, help prevent fraud, and grow their business. The fees per transaction are lower than PayPal or Google Checkout, but setup will require a merchant account, covered in the next chapter, and other time-consuming applications. I suggest setting up Authorize.net only after a product has tested successfully through one of the other two options above.

Software for Understanding Web Traffic (Web Analytics)

How are people finding, browsing, and leaving your site? How many prospective customers are being delivered by each PPC ad, and which pages are most popular? These programs tell you all this and more. Google is free for most low-volume sites—and better than a lot of paid software-and the others cost $30 and upward per month.

Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics)

CrazyEgg (www.crazyegg.com)

I use CrazyEgg to see exactly where people are clicking most and least on homepages and landing pages. It is particularly helpful for repositioning the most important links or buttons to help prompt visitors to take specific next actions. Don’t guess what’s working or not—measure it.

Clicktracks (www.clicktracks.com)

WebTrends (www.webtrends.com)

A/B Testing Software

Testing is, as you know, the name of the game, but testing all the variables can be confusing. How do you know which combination of headlines, text, and images on your homepage results in the most sales? Instead of using one version for a bit, then alternating, which is time-consuming, use software that serves up different versions to prospects at random, then does the math for you.

Google Website Optimizer (WO) (http://www.google.com/websiteoptimizer)

This is a free tool that, like Google Analytics, is better than most paid services. I used Google WO to test three potential homepages for www.dailyburn.com and increased sign-ups 19%, then again by more than 16%.

Offermatica (www.offermatica.com)

Vertster.com (www.vertster.com)

Optimost (www.optimost.com)

Low-Cost Toll-free Numbers

TollFreeMAX (www.tollfreemax.com) (877–888–8MAX) and Kall8 (www.kall8.com)

TollFreeMAX and Kall8 both allow you to set up toll-free numbers in 2–5 minutes. Calls can then be forwarded to any other numbers, and voicemail and statistics can be managed online or via e-mail.

Checking Competitive Site Traffic

Want to see how much traffic your competition is getting and who is linking to them?

Compete (www.compete.com)

Quantcast (www.quantcast.com)

Alexa (www.alexa.com)

Freelance Designers and Programmers

99Designs (www.99designs.com) and Crowdspring (www.crowdspring.com)

I used 99Designs to get an excellent logo for www.litliberation.org in 24 hours for less than $150. I submitted the concept, more than 50 designers worldwide uploaded their best attempts, which I could browse, and I chose the best after suggesting a few improvements. From Crowdspring’s site: “Name your price, name your deadline, see entries within hours and be done in just days. The average project gets a whopping 68 entries. 25 entries or your money back.” eLance (www.elance.com) (877–435–2623)

Craigslist (www.craigslist.org)

LIFESTYLE DESIGN IN ACTION

I’m a U.S. citizen and it was impossible for my friends and relatives to track me down by phone. Enter Skype In. It’s not new but allows you to lease a fixed U.S. (or other country) phone number which then forwards to your Skype account. About $60/year. Within Skype you can then set up call forwarding to ring you at your local number. You pay the rate as if you were calling from the United States to wherever you are. I’ve used this in about 40 countries and it works like a treat. The call quality is usually great and the convenience is amazing. http://www.skype.com/allfeatures/onlinenumber/. A caveat is to always, ALWAYS get a local SIM card for your unlocked GSM phone. Roaming is for amateurs. A local SIM also gets you GPRS, Edge, or 3G. Sometimes even free Wifi. Cheers, —TY KROLL Basically I try to keep all of my tools online so that if my laptop gets stolen, I can buy a new one and have everything up and running within 24 hours. Here are a few of the tools I use on a regular basis: RememberTheMilk.com has been really crucial to me keeping on top of my daily tasks.

Freshbooks.com for online invoicing

Highrise (http://www.highrisehq.com/) for online CRM

Dropbox (getdropbox.com) for easy file sharing/automatic backup of critical files while on the road

TrueCrypt (truecrypt.org) for keeping your laptop data secure while on the road. [Tim comment: This can also be used with a USB flash drive, and another cool feature—it provides two levels of “plausible deniability” (hidden volumes, etc.) if someone forces you to reveal the password.] PBwiki.com-Wiki site that helps me keep on top of the notes and ideas that I collect as I go through life.

FogBugz on Demand: http://www.fogcreek.com/FogBUGZ/IntrotoOnDemand.html. It’s a “bug tracker” aimed at software development companies, but I use it every day for both personal and business tasks. It’s almost like a VA, as you can route your mail through it and it will help you sort it and keep track of it. It has great features to track e-mails, and there’s a free version for two users (me + VA!). —RB CARTER A really useful service is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. With a small investment in time or money, a business that requires hundreds of people doing small bits of defined work becomes possible for extraordinarily low work-per-unit costs. Examples include the search for Steve Fosset (literally thousands of people looked at satellite photos that would have overwhelmed SAR agencies) and a trouble-ticket business that utilizes qualified labor all over the world (see Amazon.com/webservices). I am not an owner nor do I have any stake in Amazon—but I have used their services and some are trans forming when it comes to muse creation. Cheers, —J MARYMEE FAST TO MARKET

The fastest way to market with a product idea is: Registera.com. Get hosting from dathorn.com [a cheap reseller account, like www.domainsinseconds.com]. With two clicks set up a wordpress blog. Apply a theme to it. Add your content and a buy now button. The buy now button links to an enter e-mail address, phone number, etc., page. The user then clicks a continue to PayPal button. This automatically e-mails me their details, but then shows the user a message stating that the link to PayPal is currently not working. I use this to determine how many sales I would have achieved. I use Google ads to drive traffic … I calculate theoretical ROI (ideally using Google analytics). If after a week or two I can see a positive ROI that’s worth my effort I create or outsource the creation of the product (emag, PDF, whatever). I set it all up with a working link to PayPal, and then retrospectively send a message to the users who already tried to buy. Normally within hours I’ve got all my money back, and the cash starts to roll. An example is the DIY public relations pack at www.mybusinesspr.com.au. Great work of the 4HWW … looking forward to the next edition. Regards, MATT SCHMIDT

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