How to create your first product from scratch in 4 months

My online travel deal business, Next Vacay, took me only four months to launch. From scratch.
Plus, I built everything while managing my software consulting business full-time. And, a few weeks before the launch, my grandmother fell and broke her hip. I was able to rush to Arizona and pitch in with her recovery, all while my product continued to be built.

I’m not a machine, and I didn’t skimp on anything to do all of this at once. Instead, I asked for help. Right from the beginning.

Since I was running my consulting business at the same time, I knew I didn’t have the time to do everything myself to start a second online business. So I hired freelancers to assist me.

Outsourcing some of the work has multiple benefits. It means you can build your business and at the same time:

  • Focus your time and energy on your most profitable work
  • Have the flexibility to be there for loved ones if they need you
  • Enjoy the luxury to take time off and travel the world

Today I’m going to show you what you should outsource, how to find the right freelancer(s), and how to guarantee you get the best work you can afford with a budget as low as $300.

Figure out what you need help with

As I learned from Zero to Launch, there are four major steps to creating a successful online business:

  1. Find a profitable idea and understand your target market
  2. Build an audience
  3. Develop your product
  4. Sell your product

To determine where you need help, use this flowchart:

GL_chart Copy

Find top-notch freelancers

Now that you know who you need to hire, it’s time to find that person.

I recommend using your personal network. Your friends and peers have first-hand experience with the freelancers they recommend, and they’ll be honest about whether you should use them, too.

This saves you time compared to using a freelancing website, where you need to try to evaluate freelancers yourself and then sift through multiple bids from them.

Start by reaching out to your friends, and if you can’t find anyone, then turn to LinkedIn. Here’s how I use both:

1. Your personal network
Think of any friends who have an online business, and ask them if they know any freelancers who can help with your particular situation.

Here is an email script you can use to get the ball rolling:

2. LinkedIn

If your friends don’t have recommendations, use LinkedIn to look for freelancers you share connections with. This way you can still get feedback from someone you know, to see if this freelancer would be good for you.

For example, if you’re looking for a copywriter, follow these steps:

  1. Click on “advanced search” (it’s at the right of the search bar, at the top of your homepage)
  2. When this comes up, click on “People” (at the top left)
  3. In the “Relationship” checklists, select “1st connections”
  4. Now in the search box at the top, type “copywriter” and hit search

The results will be copywriters with at least one common connection. Reach out to that connection to ask what they think of the copywriter.
Here’s an email script you can adapt for your needs:

If you don’t get any search results for 1st connections, you can widen your search by selecting the checkbox for “2nd connections.”

Or if you get too many results, then you can narrow your search based on location, industry, or experience.

Once you have a connection who recommends a freelancer, ask them for an introduction.

Choose the perfect one

Now you’ve found some freelancers. Great. The next step is to identify if they’re right for you.

A quick email does the trick. The script I’m going to share with you makes them responsible for solving your problem. You basically tell them, “I need someone to help me XYZ. What do you suggest?”

There are multiple benefits to using this tactic:

  1. You rely on them to provide the solutions. That saves you time in coming up with ideas.
  2. It is easier to evaluate ideas than to generate ideas.
  3. They might have more experience with the challenge you’re facing and come up with innovative solutions that you weren’t aware of.

Here is an email that I sent a potential freelancer for Next Vacay:

A quick email, and I had the perfect freelancer to help me.

Let’s break this down:

1. Subject line
For the email above, I used “Tony told me to talk to you about your publicity services.” It’s an easy formula: You mention your connection (Tony) and what it is you need help with (publicity services).

2. Introduction
Mention the person who referred you, as well as the positive things they said.

3. Present your problem
Now tell them briefly what you need help with. Maybe it’s market research, validating your idea, or getting publicity.

Then tell them why you need help. What challenges do you face? This could be creating a survey to send your target market, ways to validate your idea, or figuring out which websites you want to be featured on (like my example above).

4. Tell them your goal
In a short sentence, explain what your goal is with the project. For example:

  • My goal is to understand my target market’s hopes, fears, and dreams by talking to at least 10 potential customers
  • My goal is to create a description of my product and see if my audience is willing to pay for it
  • My goal is to get Next Vacay featured on a top travel blog

5. Ask for a solution
Finally, ask if they are interested in helping you. Then ask what next steps they suggest, as well as if they have any experience working on this type of project.

Here is a script you can follow:

Once they respond, evaluate their next steps. What you’re looking for is:

  1. Do their next steps solve the challenges I have?
  2. Are the next steps detailed and organized in an efficient manner?
  3. Does the freelancer share any previous experience with the kind of result I want?
  4. Do they have good email writing skills? You’re looking for good grammar, concise emails with clear formatting, and good response times. This is essential, as most of your communication will be via email.
  5. Are their skills right for the current stage of my business?

If every answer is a “yes,” don’t hire them just yet.

Instead, set up a 15-minute Skype call to go over their next steps and tell them what you would do differently. Plus, you can both ask questions or for clarifications.

Make sure to use Skype rather than calling them on the phone. Having face-to-face communication makes it easier for you to see if you’re on the same page.

If everything checks out, select one project out of the next steps and ask them to send a proposal for that project.

Set the price

Always ask the freelancer to quote a price for the project. That puts the pressure on them to quote one low enough to keep you interested.

They will give you either an hourly rate or a project-based fee.

I recommend a project fee. Flesh out a fixed deliverable and a fixed timeline, because you don’t know how long the freelancer will take to complete the task. That makes it difficult to budget for both time and cost and can lead to problems:

  1. The target date of the deliverable can get delayed. This can delay the entire project
  2. If the freelancer takes a lot of hours to complete the work, it could cost more than you had budgeted for

By using a project-based approach, you can ensure that you and your freelancer are on the same page. They will know what is expected of them, when it’s expected, and the expected final result of your engagement.
Here is an email I sent asking for a fee:

I told my market researcher what I needed and let her propose a price.

If they quote an hourly rate, ask them for a project cost and timeline (typically 3-10 hours). This way you’re able to set their expectations well ahead of time.

Check in at 20% done and 60% done

In the early stages of Next Vacay, my team of freelancers and I made a big mistake.

We thought our target market was 26- to 35-year-old males who work remotely. So we started to immerse ourselves in that market.

What I had missed was that my team had not planned to do a competitive market analysis. When I did some research on our competitors, I found out that they also weren’t targeting the right audience, yet they had some success.

Once we realized there was an ignored market who was actually buying the products in this space, we talked to that audience to learn more about them.

And then we built a product geared toward those people: 28- to 40-year-old professional married women who live near regional and international airports.

This error could have cost us a ton of money down the line. We caught it early, but it still cost us weeks and thousands of dollars.

What can you do to avoid such a mistake?
Ask your freelancers to show you where they’re going with an idea early on. This way you can make sure you’re on the same page with both their plan and how they are going to deliver the work (as a document, spreadsheet, graphic design, etc.).

Checking in with my freelancer prevented potential problems.

Do this when the project is about 20% completed and again when it’s about 60% completed. At 20% they’ve done enough work for you to judge if the project is in the right direction. At the same time, it is early enough that a mistake can be fixed without any delays.

At 60% you can see the deliverable take shape. This is a good time to make any last modifications to the project, if necessary.

At both points, you can either ask questions, add more details, or just check off and say “What you are doing is great and I look forward to seeing the result of this!”

What is holding you back from asking for help?

If I had waited to find time to work on Next Vacay all by myself, it would have taken me two more years to build the product.

It took me 18 months to reach 80% with my Coaching product, but I completed my Next Vacay product in just 4 months.

When I was wondering whether I should outsource the work, I was reminded by the words of Jay Abraham: “Don’t punish the market!”

I knew I had a great product that would add a ton of value and let more people travel the world. So instead of sitting on the fence, I asked for help and I launched Next Vacay in four months.

I ended up hiring 15 freelancers for a total of $9,800. I put in 360 hours myself, and I also turned to some friends from GrowthLab’s Accelerator program for help.

My team kept everything going while I was able to focus on my consulting business, be there for my family at a time of need, and even vacation to Barcelona and Tanzania with my wife.

While outsourcing isn’t for everyone, this post gives you the keys to find the area where you need help and ensure you hire the right freelancer for your project. Even one freelancer working on a small project can save you tons of time.

Now, I want to ask you: What’s one small project you could outsource that would cut the time to your next launch by 3-6 weeks?

Tell me in the comments what you need help with and I’ll tell you what kind of freelancer you should look for.

There Are 22 Comments

Join The Conversation


Love the post and high-level strategy on how to hire, vet, and manage freelancers. Do you have any specific examples of things that you outsourced vs. what your key competencies were?

As a fellow ZTL Student trying to build an online business – I’d love for you to dive deeper into your thought process on where you chose to focus most of your time and energy specifically, and what you farmed out.


Hi Chris,

Sure. So I have a computer science degree and am a software engineer by training. If I viewed my time as “free” then I surely could have developed the entire application by myself. However I viewed my time as the most expensive and that meant that I needed to focus on the highest impact tasks to build a successful product & service. That meant that front loading the work and investing my time in deeply understanding the market was the most valuable because ultimately it was up to me to decide what we were going to build. I sketched out the designs and let excellent designers take over, I sketched out the behind the scenes mechanisms on how it would function and let other software developers take over. However it didn’t stop with just technical outsourcing. I knew that a competitive analysis needed to get done, so I determined what data points I needed and then hired a researcher to conduct the work and provide an analysis. All of this work that was running in parallel led us to create a successful business. You can use the ZTL system and work with others to get certain tasks completed faster so that you can stop being the bottleneck. If you ever run into a roadblock or feel frustrated, ask yourself if you are the bottleneck and then find a way to remove yourself or get past that bottleneck.

Hi Naveen, thanks for the post, and congrats! In your post you mention “When I did some research on our competitors, I found out that they also weren’t targeting the right audience.” Beyond looking at websites and advertisements online and guessing at who they were targeting, what specific steps did you take to do this competitive research and find this untapped market?

Hi Brice – There are a variety of tools you can use such as Alexa and SimilarWeb that can get you demographic data. We saw it skew hard to a particular demographic and therefore we completely changed how we went about positioning the product. We also began speaking to our target market and did a beta with them. They ate it up and we knew that we were ready to invest more into making this business happen faster.

Eileen debra

Great post, Naveen! I saw how you leveraged your time really well and gave people concrete ideas on how to do the same.

Can you please share that, of the 360 hours you spent on your business, how exactly was that divided up? Coding? Managing? Planning? I was curious about the how much of your time you spent on what.

Also, could you share the number of hours you think your team put into the work? I’m having a hard time figuring out what I can do and what makes sense to outsource.


Hi Eileen,

I don’t think I have an exact breakdown. I wore several hats including project management, copy review, research review, and polisher.

You should definitely budget to wear many hats but don’t let that stop you. Find ONE thing you could ask for help to accelerate your progress. Share with me here what your idea is and where you are in the process. I can then give you specific advice to accelerate your progress.


Thanks the post Naveen. It looks like you’ve outsourced a lot of the ZTL steps, but where do you draw the line? ie is there part of setting up an online business where you say to yourself “this is a core skill that can’t be outsourced. I need to do this myself and get really good at it”?

For me, market research is something I definitely want to do myself and get good at. But for writing copy I’m on the fence. It’s hard, I’m not very good at it and it’s slowing my progress, so I’m very tempted to outsource it. But on the other hand being able to sit down and write persuasive copy would be so useful, in many areas in my life that maybe I should persevere…

I’m interested in hearing your thought process around deciding which tasks you kept to do your self vs which you outsourced.

Hi Wayne, see Naveen’s first reply to Chris. He does a good job explaining what items he worked on himself and his thought process.

I wounder what Naveen would say about your copy writing question. Using the quote that Naveen used in the article “Don’t punish the market!”, one option Naveen might say is outsource the copy writer so you move things forward and learn from an expert throughout the project. This way you don’t hold up the project and you strengthen your copy skills. Maybe you could ask for a breakdown / thought process of the writing so you can see how they think. Maybe negotiate some one on one “office hours” along with the project. This is just one, but there are probably more.

Good luck with your online business.

Hi Casey,

I agree. The goal is to get out of our own way. I identified where I was getting held up and asked for help.


Hi Wayne –

You can decide how much to outsource or not. I used the ZTL worksheets to craft my team’s deliverables. For example during the research phase, I asked my product developer to proceed using the ZTL system and to answer all of the questions.

We then discussed the findings and came to a conclusion and ran some tests together.

Then, after I knew that I was on to something, I began with an outline of the copy and then got many copywriters involved in developing a story and sales page.

Ultimately you’ll direct your project but how involved you want to be in it is up to you.

You can start with Accelerator’s copy coaching and can then hire copywriters to take your base work to the next level as I did.


Hello! I went on upwork and typed “product developer” but it only shows developers and such. I even tried “information product developer” but nothing came up. Where do you recommend I look for one?


Great post. I’m very interested in working with a product developer. Not to actually develop my product, I would want to do that, but to get some expert advice. I never even considered working with such a person. I actually never thought that a product developer would work on small projects. I figured inventors did their own development. I guess I feel like an inventor of sorts in ZTL. My question is how would you suggest that someone use a product developer?

Hi Tiffany,

If you are getting stuck in the research phase of the ZTL process, then yes, I would ask for help to get unstuck. This can be through Accelerator or via a product developer.

Product developers come in all varieties: Full time, part time, or contractors.

Just because you’ve seen them advertised as full time positions doesn’t mean you can’t find contractors. :-)


Hey Naveen….

Awesome awesome article and congrats on launching yet another successful business!!

I know it’s always stressed to follow and trust the sytem…so my question is:

Is outsourcing a technique to apply AFTER you’ve followed the ZTL process and already completed your first successful business?

Or is this something that should be included while we are going through the ZTL course with our first business idea as well?

Thanks and I look forward to hearing your response!

Hi Ryan,

No, I highly recommend using outsourcing to accelerate the progress of your first business. Most of us have day jobs whether its with an employer or services we perform for our clients. If you have others helping you make progress each day, you will achieve your goals of launching your business faster.


Kyle Chupp

Naveen thank you so so much!! I understand that the creation of this post took dozens and dozens of hours. I know it has already saved me years and years of wasted work, and that means the world.

Outsourcing is a lesson I have learned and implemented before into my current wedding photography business over the last 7 years. After seeing the benefits, I always tell my friends in the industry that no one, not one, is going to care about your business the way that you do. You know, Michael Gerber’s whole ‘getting to work on your business not in your business’ stuff. Over the years I’ve really come to value time the non-renewable resource over money which can easily be replaced. This is one reason an online teaching business model is so attractive to me. Not that idleness is the goal – I’ve got big dreams : )

I’m a current ZTL student full of creative ideas and excitement to build my online business. I’m afraid I was on the cusp of diving head first into the program, fuelled with knowledge and excitement for each step in that flowchart ( and spending way too much time on every step). Specifically I love when you said that you viewed your time as the most expensive thing and that meant that you needed to focus on the high impact tasks. This was the perfect kick in the pants that I needed to remember to
1. focus on my strengths and
2. think about why I wanted to do this in the first place.

Thank you again for putting in the work to publish this article!


Hello! Thanks for your post. It has motivated me to make progress on my idea.

The part I’m stuck on is the following:

I have a business idea but I am not sure of the pain points to address or the target audience to address it for. I also know afterwards, I have to validate that but suck at writing! Who should I contact and should they be familiar with my topic which is growing an online business using wordpress?


Solid content thank you Naveen.

Can you please advise on the best place to get help with the market research and “front-loading”?

I have expertise in the manufacturing sector that I would like to monetize.

You’re the man!

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