Thoughts on Start Small, Stay Small by Rob Walling

Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup is a sort of playbook for starting a small business online. The book is written for software developers who want to bridge the gap between creating software and being an entrepreneur.

The book is absolutely packed with actionable information. Rob states at the start of the book that there is hardly any filler in this book and he means it! I’ve been going back and referencing sections day after day. I like how the book is effectively written as a guide on exactly what steps to take to start a small business online which makes me feel empowered to succeed in business after reading it.

The most helpful chapter for me is chapter 2 which is aptly named “Why Niches Are the Name of the Game.” Rob really hammers into you that, by far, the most important part of a business is choosing the right market and ensuring there is a group of people willing to pay for it. This seems obvious, but as a software developer who loves creating things, I often get caught in the trap of building something that I find useful or interesting without doing any research into the market.

Rob writes:

Market comes first, marketing second, aesthetic third, and functionality a distant fourth

He then goes on to explain that since market is so important, it is also important to choose a market that is big enough to be profitable yet small enough to be competitive as a small business. For a variety of reasons, niche markets are easier to break into as a small business. Owning a niche market may produce $5,000 - $20,000 in sales per month which for a single person can be great but negligible for a larger company.

The surprising thing about this book is that it’s still so applicable even though it’s 7 or 8 years old now. The only downside to this is that since there are so many online tools that Rob recommends, many of the websites and tools listed are no longer running. Some of the most important tools used in his guide are a handful SEO keyword difficulty tools and Google search volume tools that are mostly defunct. After doing some research, I found some super helpful tools to test SEO keyword difficulty and search volume called KWFinder and SERPChecker. These are paid products but they also offer a limited number of free uses per day which was enough to get me going.

MBA types may not find this book useful, but I definitely recommend that software developers who are interested in starting a business read this book.


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