Denis Shatalin

5 Steps to Test a Startup Idea with $0

This year, I spent 10 months building useless products and eventually tested four of them. In this article, I want to share my takeaways and save you a year's worth of time working on useless products.
I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of beginning to build a product for those with a tech background. However, in three to four months, when you complete the product, the result could be nobody wanting to buy or use it.
This is why you should not be afraid to validate your product even before putting any effort into creating it. Below are 5 simple steps to help you test a startup idea with $0.


Step 1: Create a Landing Page


I recommend using Notion to create your landing page. Later on, you can turn your notion page into a website using the Potion tool.
Include all relevant information about your product on your landing page, e.g., the product name and details. You should also include screenshots of your product.
One strategy to get the screenshots is to copy the interface of competitors. For example, If you want to launch a product that has to do with analytics, find a similar tool, take the screenshots needed and change names where necessary.
Another strategy is to draw the interface. You can do this using tools like Figma, Canva. I used Canva as it took the least time. However, if you are new to all these tools, I suggest using Figma as it allows you to, later on, pass the layouts straight to the engineers.


Step 2: Include a Data Collection Form


Below the landing page, insert the following statement: "Answer these five questions to get this product for $5." Link this statement to an already created Typeform or Google Survey. Your form should collect the following data from respondents:
●      Email
●      Occupation
●      Reason for interest in the product
●      The problem they expect the product to solve
You can include statements to encourage respondents to reach out to you. For example, let us chat for 20 minutes to understand your needs better and provide the best solution. The goal is to convert as many respondents as possible to calls. This way, you gain as much knowledge as possible about their situation and their need for your product.


Step 3: Connect your Payment Provider


Connecting to a payment provider without having an existing business is usually a challenge. However, you can use Gumroad or Flurly to get payments before setting up your business. These two sites will not ask you to validate your business or request documents.


Step 4: Collect Feedback


Share the link to your product landing page on Facebook groups, Subreddits, and Slack channels. Or any other social media platform where you think your customers are present. For example, if you are making a product for cyclists, share it with a cyclist club. If your tool is for creators, share it with groups for creators.
GummySearch and the Hive Index are helpful tools when searching for communities to share your link and receive feedback. Share your links in these communities by making a brief post highlighting what your product is about and asking people for their views on it. For example, I've just made a product for freelancers to find jobs easily. Check it out and let me know what you think?
Keep a record of the performance of the landing page links sent to different groups, platforms, and communities. The numbers will enable you to figure out which groups/ communities acted on your links the most and the platforms where your target audience is found.
Note: Some groups ban people for self-promotion. In such cases, present your product as a consumer. For example, "Hi guys, I've just come across this product. Has any one of you used it before? What do you think about it?"


Step 5: Make Sales


You will need to have more than one call with potential buyers to convert them to actual sales. When a client decides to buy your product, let them know that it is yet to hit the market, but they can pre-order. You can charge them either the full amount or a discounted pre-order price. However, I suggest charging the full price to have better validation for your product.

After repeatedly following the above steps, you will sooner or later come to the point where people are willing to buy the product you create. However, if this does not become the case, you should not be surprised. You just tried selling your product for the first time. It took me four tries to figure out the product people are willing to pay for.