Mini experiments are an obvious answer to something many of us spend years wondering – how do I choose which idea to pursue?
If you ask a large number of different creators (business founders, product designers, blog writers, YouTube creators, authors etc.) what their number one tip for those wanting to ‘follow in their footsteps’ the overwhelming answer given is:
Perfection does not exist and therefore waiting for the ‘perfect time’ will simply end up with you waiting until the day you die. If (like me) this is something you are guilty of and procrastination is one of your favourite methods to ‘not achieve’ then this post will likely be of great use to you.
Mini experiments, like Ronseal “does exactly what it says on the tin”: in the fact that you complete a miniature test version of an idea, concept, scheme or resolution that you want to build into something bigger but currently struggle to commit towards.
In this blog post we will be covering the following:
- What is a mini-experiment?
- When do you need a mini-experiment?
- How to plan a mini-experiment
- The benefits of a mini-experiment
- Mini experiments that I have completed
- Ideas for your next mini-experiment
What is a Mini Experiment?
Mini experiments, like Ronseal “does exactly what it says on the tin” in the fact that you complete a miniature test version of an idea, concept, scheme or resolution that you want to build into something bigger but currently struggle to commit towards.
A mini-experiment will be:
- Short duration
- Have no or minimal costs
- Prove whether your concept is feasible
- Prove whether your concept is something you wish to pursue further.
Mini experiments were first brought to my attention by the Rebel Entrepreneur podcast (highly recommend to everyone) but I do not believe they need to be related solely to business ideas and ventures but instead can be a great tool to help you achieve goals throughout your life. Some examples of where a mini-experiment could help before you commit to that which you may later regret are:
- Follow a financial independence lifestyle – Dip your toe in by creating and sticking to a budget for one month. Read more about why budgets are so important here.
- Transition to a nomadic lifestyle – Organise with your workplace to work from home (or secretly abroad) for two weeks and travel to another country to complete your experiment
- Open a restaurant – Rather than jumping straight into a restaurant business cater to smaller crowds at a weekend event using pop-up equipment (tent, BBQ etc.) or hire a food truck
- Moving to full-time ‘van life’ – Instead spent a week with your significant other/friend/alone in a camper and see if you can’t wait to have some ‘alone time’ or a real bed by the end of the week.
- Become a wedding photographer – Instead volunteer to ‘help out’ with an established professional to ensure you enjoy the day/evening and have the skills required whilst footing none of the risks
- Start a YouTube channel – Commit to producing one video a week for 4 weeks alongside your current job/business
- Become vegetarian – Instead, commit to 30 days of eating no meat and then decide if this is a goal you wish to pursue
- Learn to sail – Instead of signing up for lengthy and expensive lessons get somebody (pay if you need to) to take you out on their sailboat to see if it lights you up
I hope that from the above examples you can see that a mini-experiment is like a taster session of the main event and they are designed to either:
- Give you the confidence that you are capable of the task
- Prove a concept, product or ability
- Give you data on whether you enjoyed the experiment before jumping in headfirst
The sole purpose of a mini-experiment is to gain data and therefore it will be a success whether the outcome is positive or negative. This alone makes it so much easier to complete because no outcome is a ‘failure’. An example of when a mini-experiment is a success when the outcome is negative is:
As you can see a mini-experiment can be suitable in so many situations, read on to find out exactly why a mini-experiment could be exactly what you need to inject some passion into your life and give you the confidence to chase a dream.
When do you need a mini-experiment?
Miniature experiments are incredibly versatile and should be used in any of the following situations:
You have an idea but don’t act on it for the following reasons:
- Afraid of failure
- Concerned about a monetary commitment
- Concerned about a time commitment
- Afraid of what others around you will think
- Overwhelm of starting something which seems like a huge task
- An area of your life has become dull, boring and uninspiring
- You want a new challenge
Afraid of Failure – Mini experiments are great for those of us who are stopped in our tracks by the thought and fear of failure. Fear of failure is one of the biggest reasons why we never get started but unfortunately, if you want to be successful then you need to fail along the way.
“If you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes back bone to lead the life you want” – Richard Yates
By implementing the use of a mini-experiment you can reframe ‘failure’ to success by proving to yourself that your idea is not suitable… In the restaurant example shown earlier you will successfully prove to yourself one of the following actions:
- Opening a restaurant is not something that will be profitable or enjoyable for you
- Opening a restaurant is something you will relish, you will have customers who love your food and you are capable of operating in that environment.
If you finish your mini-experiment with either of the above pieces of information then the mini-experiment has been a success and you can progress from that point with confidence.
Concerned about a monetary commitment – A very reasonable, genuine and sensible concern for many who want to attempt something with grandeur is the fact that unless it turns out to be a success it could be a large waste of money.
This is especially prevalent for those who have other dependents (children etc.) and unfortunately causes many of us to give up chasing wants and dreams because of the financial risk to ourselves and those around us.
A mini-experiment reduces these issues hugely because:
- Short-term – no expensive long-term contracts will be entered
- You beg, borrow or rent equipment (please don’t steal) for the short duration of the experiment
- You gain an understanding of the real costs associated if you choose to ‘dive in fully’ in the future
Concerned about a time commitment – In a situation in which you are planning to pursue a business opportunity, you may feel that you do not have enough hours in the day to work both your job and run this new venture. In this case, you may feel that you only have two options:
- Continue working a job that is not your passion and give up on your idea/plan/concept
- Quit your career and work on your new business concept full time
This of course is foolish if you have no data, information or confidence as to whether or not your business will be a success. A mini-experiment can give you all of this if you are willing to sacrifice a week of your holiday or some very busy days for a short period of time… Just don’t give up everything if you have absolutely no clue if your business idea will work.
Afraid of what others around you will think – Unfortunately a very common phenomenon for many of us is that we care far too much about what those around us think. This leads to us not attempting or trying new things because we do not want to look foolish or different amongst friends and colleagues.
Remind yourself that reality is that normal is boring and most people don’t really care what you’re doing.
If you need to use the mini-experiment as your excuse – “I’m just curious what will happen if I…”
Overwhelm of starting what seems like a huge task – Your goal may seem to be so far away from where you are now that you cannot even begin to work out where to start and this is causing overwhelm. Two examples of this and suitable mini-experiments could be:
- Starting a blog (me) – My mini-experiment was to follow create a basic website and write and post my first blog post. This required a monetary commitment of around £10 (website hosting) and several hours of my time. After successful completion of this, I reviewed the time I had spent and found that I had enjoyed the work and learnt new skills… so I continued.
- Commit to a fitness/gym routine and get in shape – Mini experiment could be to read the most popular/recommended/reviewed book on healthy eating and complete 3 half-hour gym sessions within one week.
An area of your life has become dull, boring and uninspiring – Unfortunately, it is pretty common for us to find that areas of our life no longer excite us as they once did. This can be for all sorts of reasons: health, stress work culture, compromise, settling etc. If this is the case then mini-experiments can be used to find a spark:
- Fitness – Perhaps you’re bored of your dull, repetitive gym routine and find yourself skipping more sessions than you go to. If this is the case then your experiment could be signing up for a new class or trying a new exercise. Even better if you can do it with somebody new:
- Mountain biking
- Ab workout class
- Yoga class/video
- 5 a side football
- Family – Maybe you realise that as a family you are no longer having adventures and fun together. For your mini-experiment commit to spending every Sunday for a month together doing something new.
You want a new challenge – For many of us, the idea of a challenge fills us with excitement and gives us a reason to learn and grow. If you need a new challenge in your life then a mini-experiment can be a great way to find one.
- Personal Life:
- Complete the coast-to-coast hiking challenge – Instead, hike and camp for one night in the local area
- Landscaping the garden – Choose one section and give yourself 2 weeks to renovate and improve it
- Finding new customers – Email at least one new potential customer/business every single morning before you start your work day. Before you attempt this get tips on sending cold emails here.
- Grow your social media presence – Commit to one new post each and every day that shows what your business is working on and how it can add value to people’s lives
How to Plan a Mini Experiment
Each mini-experiment planned will be slightly different but they should also follow a similar theme:
Every mini-experiment should be a condensed version of your real goal
Time – You should do your best to recreate the realities of the larger goal/concept but within a smaller time frame. Ideally, your mini-experiment should be completed within 1 – 4 weeks; enough time to get critical information but not too long that it takes over your life and becomes a huge commitment.
Depending on the nature of your experiment you will need to either:
- Take a short amount of time off from work as a holiday (or maybe sickness…)
- Complete in your evenings/free time around your current work commitments
Cost – Do not go into debt to complete your mini-experiment. Period.
Ideally, your mini-experiment should be free but if this is not possible then only small amounts of money (relative to your situation) should be spent completing this. If you need equipment then it is better to borrow or rent rather than buy (unless it can be easily sold afterwards).
As the data gained from your mini-experiment may prove that this idea is not worth pursuing further it makes little sense to have spent large sums to get to that point.
Realistic – The more realistic your mini-experiment is to your planned concept/idea the better as the data and information you gain will be much more accurate.
The perfect situation is being able to replicate exactly what you will be doing long term. Some examples could be:
- Borrowing a cafe’s kitchen (which only operates during breakfast and lunch) and running it as a restaurant for an evening.
- Borrowing an unused office space to set up an escape room for a week
If you are able to find the right people and offer the right deal (split profits, free advertisement etc.) then you may find people are much more willing to help than you had anticipated.
The Benefits of a Mini Experiment
The majority of these benefits have already been covered throughout the rest of the blog but they can be recapped here:
- Makes it easier to just start – Possibly the biggest benefit of a mini-experiment is that it removes many of the excuses you may have for not starting right now.
- You can’t fail – Because a mini-experiment is an exercise designed to gather data the experiment will be a success whether or not the outcome is positive or negative. You either successfully prove a concept or you successfully steer yourself away from what could have been a terrible investment/adventure/outcome.
- You can complete multiple experiments – You may have 4 different business ideas but have never pursued any of them in the last X number of years because you couldn’t bring yourself to commit to just one. In this situation, you could complete a mini-experiment for each one and then use the data and results to choose the best fit.
- There is limited financial risk – By borrowing/ renting equipment and not entering lengthy contracts the financial downside is hugely limited
- There is minimal time risk – By having a determined experiment length you will not sink weeks, months or years into what is ultimately a doomed plan. The sunk cost fallacy is very real in the fact that you will feel obligated to continue because you have already spent so much time working on it already. Having a set end date to review what you have learnt should avoid this
- It can be great fun – An often ignored point is that completing a mini-experiment will likely allow you to test something that you have always desired. If it is successful then it will also likely be a gratifying experience
- You will learn – Regardless of the outcome, you will likely learn large amounts about the subject and yourself which will often be useful in other parts of your life.
Mini experiments that I have completed
Completing more mini-experiments is a course of action that I am seriously trying to improve. In my opinion, there are huge benefits to be had from completing them and very little to no downsides. I believe that some of the most interesting mini experiments that I have completed so far are:
3 Weeks on a backpacking/group tour in SE Asia
As I grew into my 20s I became more and more certain that I wanted to spend time travelling and backpacking new and exciting areas of the world. However, I found it very difficult to commit to taking a large break from my workplace so I could travel alone because at the time it was brand new to me and I didn’t have the confidence I do now.
Instead, I decided to complete a mini-experiment which became my first ever 3-week organised backpacking tour (with a guide etc.) through Thailand. I absolutely loved every moment of the trip and came back knowing from my experiment that this was absolutely something that I wanted to pursue in the future.
If you want to read more about my trip then the following posts should entertain you:
8 Reasons Why you Need to Join a Backpacking Tour
Why SE Asia is #1 For New Backpackers
5 Steps to Planning your First Backpacking Trip
Blog Mini Experiment
My first ever blog post was created on the 9th of June 2021 and this was at the end of a week-long mini-experiment. For around a year I had toyed with the idea of starting my own website and decided on a blog around 6 months before I posted my first article. From deciding to start a blog to posting my first article took that 6 months because it felt overwhelming to create and design an entire blog/website. I only got started once I committed to this mini-experiment.
This mini-experiment was pretty simple… purchase the website domain and post my first article.
Was it pretty? No.
Did I enjoy it? Clearly.
Project Engineer/Management Role
After a number of years at my place of work, I felt like my role was becoming a little stagnant and stale. This was partly because Covid had affected a lot of the enjoyable parts of my job (I would spend time at events, colleges and on trips) and partly because I now want to move to a more nomadic lifestyle. Therefore I wanted to try something new in which I would be learning skills that would help me in my future.
I had always had an interest in project management and through discussions with management and direct leaders, I successfully managed to engineer a 6 month trial period in a new project management role. Although 6 months is very long for a ‘mini experiment’ I was free to return to my old role at any time if I so desired.
Currently, the mini-experiment I am working on is living a vegetarian lifestyle for the first month of 2022. Over the last 2 years, I have been steadily cutting down on my consumption of meat for personal reasons and thought this would be the logical next step.
So far (15 days in) I am on track and surprisingly have not missed meat. I’m genuinely curious as to what my decision at the end of the experiment will be.
Ideas for your next mini-experiment
My hope is that after reading this post you have a desire to complete your first mini-experiment. If so you will likely fall into one of two categories:
- Already know exactly what you want your mini-experiment to be about
- Unsure of have absolutely no idea what to focus on
If you fall into the second category then hopefully my last blog post can help you. In it, we dived into making ‘one bold move’ in 2022 instead of trying and failing to complete New Year resolutions. As part of the exercise, the reader goes through and identifies areas of their life that they believe are ready for a ‘level up’.
From there bold move ideas are generated and developed and the number 1 most exciting idea is chosen and has to be completed in the upcoming year. If you are struggling with ideas complete the exercise in that blog post and base your mini-experiment around the ‘one bold move’ idea that you generate.
Begin to complete mini-experiments in different areas of your life and you will likely be blown away at the speed at which you begin to self-develop, gain confidence and achieve what you never thought you could.
I absolutely love mini-experiments and writing this post is reminding me that I need to attempt more and more.
A quick summary of this post is:
- What is a mini-experiment? – Mini experiments are short-duration, risk-free exercises in which you complete a ‘taster session’ of a larger idea/concept/scheme/resolution that you want to achieve in the future.
- When do you need a mini-experiment? – A mini-experiment is required either when you have an idea but are unable to act on it or you have an area of your life which needs ‘spicing up’.
- How to plan a mini-experiment – When planning your experiment to need to ensure that it is a short duration (1-4 weeks ideally), low cost and as realistic as possible.
- The benefits of a mini-experiment – The real benefits of completing a mini-experiment are that it is far easier to get started, you’re unable to fail (as your goal is to gain information), it allows you to choose between multiple ideas, there are minimal risks, its great fun and you will learn.
- Mini experiments that I have completed – To see some of the mini experiments that I have completed click here
- Ideas for your next mini-experiment – To help you find ideas for your next mini-experiment complete the one bold move exercise
I hope that reading this post has given you the inspiration to begin a mini-experiment relating to something you’ve been dreaming of completing for a long time. If so I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
Thank you, and best of luck experimenting 🙂