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Should I build small product first


#1

I am full stack developer and getting started to launch a product. I don’t have any audience though.

There is a famous advice on the internet by many entrepreneurs.

https://justinjackson.ca/freedom/



All say to start online business with a small product first, before starting a big SaaS business. Do you think it is really true? What worked for you?

I have a SaaS business idea, should I directly work on that and build business? or
Should I first learn the business by launching small products and then launch bigger SaaS products?

Thanks.


#2

It would be easy to start working on a SaaS product without having talked to a single customer first. (I’ve done that, didn’t end well.) Instead, try to think of the problem you want to solve in software and ask yourself: is there a book or a course or a service that you could offer that would solve a similar problem or part of the same one that you could have up and running in the next few weeks? That would allow you to build a list, talk to customers, see what pain they’re really feeling, and get a sense for whether or not your SaaS idea has a real market.


#3

Thanks for the great answer.

It makes lot of sense. Actually I can write blog posts, book and course as well about the problem I am solving. Normally this is about building a loyal and deep connections to generate long term clients/customers. I am targeting freelancers and independent developers.

Should I start writing about the topic on a blog? Maybe after that I write a book/course and then if everything goes well should I can launch a SaaS app?


#4

That sounds like a smart way to move forward. Good luck!


#5

I, too, did a SaaS product without fully getting customers onboard with a solvable pain point that others were not fixing…Don’t do that. I’m $50K poorer and a bit wiser for the move, but I don’t recommend that path to others.

Launch a small product first. If you’ve never done that, you’ll learn tons (I certainly did). After that, you can consider your next moves. But becoming an expert, building an audience and establishing your expertise in an area are critical to making the “big move” to SaaS. A jump straight to that will likely not end well.


#6

@naquiuddin,
I think it is better not to waste time on small projects. Can you simplify your (big) SaaS project and release the simplest version in 1-2 months to receive early feedback? Or just describe it on your website pretending that you have a working version and customer needs to request a demo from you - I would do that


#7

Starting (and getting no customers) is easy, no matter if it is a small or big one – zero customers take the same efforts.

I assume hence that you’re asking: should someone try to start a minimally profitable small product first?

I believe, yes:

It is much easier to cover $5 hosting costs of a small tool on a DigitalOcean server than that of a multi-VM system deployed on Amazon that also takes a hired support team.

And the cost of mistakes that you’re going to make are proportionally smaller too.

When you’ve learned the ropes, you can aim at something bigger.

I wouldn’t. Developers always believe they can code everything themselves, and hence do not buy (even tho they will never have time).


#8

I spent 5 years working on a SaaS business and never made more than $450 a month. It sucked.

Later, I started blogging at AngularOnRails.com, built a small audience, then sold a book. In less than two months since releasing the book I’ve earned over $2500, with less stress and effort than the SaaS business.

If I could send a message back to my 2008 self, I’d tell myself to do an info product first.


#9

Counterpoint: I started developing a Saas app for the Shopify ecosystem 21 months ago and it’s now profitable. Over 800 Shopify stores have the app in active use. I have 1 full time employee getting a Western salary (made him co-owner also) and I am full time on a ramen salary.

I am a mediocre developer at best. Just more willing to work until 6am and then show up for work at 9am the next day. (Luckily I had a remote job and no commute.)

For my current business there simply wasn’t a way I could see to do an infoproduct first for the app I had in mind. Plus, I saw a need in the market based on app reviews left by Shopify stores for my competition.

For another business idea - that I may still pursue after I have a full team in place for my current business - an infoproduct as early marketing effort makes more sense.

So my advice:

  • Never change customer audience between infoproduct and Saas
  • Only do infoproduct first if it’s easiest way to market. Think for yourself.

Edit: Whether you do Saas or infoproduct, always do your research. The infoproduct is not the “talking to the customer” part. The “researching the customer by what they are saying online about their needs or your potential competitors” part should come before any product, whether it is infoproduct or Saas.


#10

With all due respect to your revenue, that comes across as a case in point – a Shopify app is a small application, not a Twitter competitor or something.

I’m not sure at what point the conversation turned to infoproducts, but I believe the OP had only small software products in mind (not that I read minds…).


#11

I think the advice turned to infoproducts as it’s what people are being taught now in those bootstrap-your-business courses.

Fair enough if you consider all Shopify apps to be small projects.


#12

It turned to infoproducts in the message right above pjc’s rebuttal - see Jasons message


#13

Build it quick, build it light, be flexible and hustle. Everyone has an opinion on what works but it’s different for everyone based on experience, effort and idea. In the words of a famous shoe company ‘just do it’


#14

I think your first step should be to read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

That will (or should) completely shift your focus, how you evaluate an idea, etc. It is the most effective way to build a real product that will earn you actual $$. There are other ways to do it, but likely they’ll lead to more waste and more lost time.

The general summary is - try to sell your product before you even start building anything. If it’s not a problem that people are willing to pay for, then it doesn’t need built. From there continually add automation to facilitate more scale, more customers and more revenue. Testing different features that you roll out to ensure that each does indeed lead to measurable outcomes.


#15

You can launch a bigger product without having a relevant following, but it’s exponentially easier to do if you’ve already shown a track record of producing things and helped people to the point that they’re interested in what you create.

I can’t advise enough to start with an info product, digital good, or blog in a related industry to what you want to create in order to build an audience. If you’re not sure what you want to do yet, just start writing and sharing knowledge. Create free resources to help people, but do something. And hopefully at some point, those projects are even contributing a little extra cashflow to fund the bigger plans.

Ideally, you can start well in advance of your plans to create your bigger product, but even if you can’t, planning even a year in advance can really help. If you’re passionate about a topic and create a combination of smaller free resources that save people time and have that lead up to larger paid products. Then, ideally, you’re building an email list the whole time. This is the key part. People need a way to follow the future work.

The other key is to make sure that all the writing, free and paid products should focus on solving someone’s pain. If you create everything with a focus on helping people and giving them great value, it will all come back.

There’s a lot of products that started this way and had some benefit from the initial products. Again, it doesn’t have to be done this way, but it helps.

  • Product hunt started as a simple email newsletter. As it gained a larger following, it became clear that it could be bigger, and it was easy for them to take the next step.
  • Freckle was started by a couple that had been blogging and contributing to popular open source libraries. It wasn’t everything to the launch, but it helped.
  • I launched my own app after about 8 years of blogging and speaking at conferences. I gave away free resources here and there and built a very modest following. Then I started blogging about ideas with no plans of building an application. But that modest following turned into a lot of people who we were really interested and encouraging in what I was doing.

Even though having a following helps you get it off the ground, that’s all it will do. It’s like a jumpstart, but it’s unlikely to skyrocket to enough revenue to cover your salary. Chances are it’s still going to be a 2-4 year cycle to grow the business, and that’s where many give up.

There’s really countless ways to start, but starting with small products and letting those snowball into bigger and bigger products is definitely one of the proven ways to make it a little easier on yourself.


#16

Hey @naquiuddin thanks for including my post at the top. :wink:

One helpful exercise: don’t start by thinking about what type of product you’d like to build, but rather ask yourself:

  1. What type of person would I like to serve?
  2. What are they struggling with currently?
  3. How can I help them right now?

This is the advice I got from Derek Sivers years ago.

He ended up making this video about it:

If you want to be useful, you can always start now with 1% of what’s in your grand vision.

For a customer, a product is just a means to an end.

It doesn’t need to be SaaS, an app, or hardware: it just needs to solve their problem.

Good luck! :raised_hands:


#17

@jasonswett
Hey jasonswett question for you if i may .
it looks like im in the same situation like you .
i have information web site : http://www.gamedevcraft.com/
that teach game development .
the info is unique as i teach networking and cross platform development
i have the “free” info product that i give for registrting my mailing list
im getting 300-400 hits aday , and have 100+ members in the list .
can you share please how did you monotized your site ?

p.s
to test the water i placed “BUY” banner to see how many are clicking and i must say it have very poor results
Thanks !


#18

I only have a sec right now but if you send me an email at jason@benfranklinlabs.com I can give a more thorough response when I have time.

I pre-sold a book (pre-sold 7 copies), then I released the real thing two months later. Then, later, I added video. I’ve earned about $2700 in about two months, mostly from the book.


#19

Thanks !
I send you email


#20

Both of my currently bootstrapped projects were things I built for myself first and then built a company around them.

https://linkpeek.com
https://www.remarkbox.com

That said I have about 20 “failed” projects under my belt. You trade time for the school of “hard knocks”. You will learn a LOT. I think, if you have a personal itch that you want to scratch, go for.

Build an MVP prototype and start using it. be the change you want to see in the world.

reference: http://russell.ballestrini.net/linkpeek-com-webpage-to-image-was-a-by-product/