My idea is an app that connects retailers with independent contractors to stock shelves, promote products, mystery shop or check store displays. I do not have the money to build an app or saas that streamlines the backend and automates everything yet. What non scalable things can I do to still run the idea to validate demand for it? How do I run it and check on freelancers doing a good job?
Great idea. From my experience, you could start with a business canvas. More important than the business canvas itself is your reflection process while answering the questions. Then you might have a better understanding of the retailers and contractors you aim to bring together with your product. Now it's time for getting creative: I had excellent experiences with short surveys (3-7 min max.) – your "future customers" are always willing to provide information – every time I do this, I get positively surprised how much I learn. Good tools are SurveyMonkey or easyfeedback. Always include a free text field for your questions in addition to the multiple-choice options you provide as "best guesses." That lets your customer adding ideas you did not think of at all. Now you could use kickstarter or crowdfunding for getting money. Finding good freelancers is the challenge. Personally, I rely on references from my personal or LinkedIn network. I hope that helps, good luck and keep going!