One of the reasons that I originally was interested in becoming a software engineer was to try my hand at becoming an entrepreneur.
I had hopes of starting with a day-job and spending my evenings and weekends creating a software product or service that would yield me passive income and buy me my own freedom from the 9-5 grind. It's not that I don't want to work. I actually love working and really enjoy my job. Even with millions in the bank I would keep working as a software engineer.
I just wanted to have that freedom if I ever didn't want to work and the security if I ever lost my job or ability to work.
If that sounds like you, keep reading.
Given that 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, and 70% fail in the first decade, I am right on schedule. I honestly still don't have a thriving profitable small business.
Failing has been an incredible journey and I encourage everyone to try it. I have learned a ton about software engineering, various languages, frameworks, tools, DevOps, product design, and more. While I haven't turned a profit with any of my projects yet, it's hard to really say I have failed after gaining so much experience.
So while I am admitting to not be a successful business person yet, I still think it's worth taking the advice I have in this article. Mostly because the advice comes from some great entrepreneurs that I admire.
I recently listened to an episode of My First Million where Sam Parr talks with Rob Walling.
He mentioned his Stair Step Approach to starting a business. This changed how I think about new side projects and possible businesses that I try starting.
tldr; of Rob's Stair Step Approach article is that you should start small. It's best to start with something like a video course, e-book, or just publishing a plugin onto another platform.
Starting small in this manner has no or little monetary investment upfront. These projects can be small and might not be lucrative at first, but they tend to be easier to build, faster to start, and thus the lower overhead will allow you to create more of these products/services. Overtime these can add up and eventually buy you back your time.
I think this is a compelling approach because the opposite would be to try to start a large full-blown SaaS product from scratch... which can be very expensive and time-consuming to ever get to the point where the market can even validate it. When it does come time for validation, it's possible the market won't like it after all that hard work, time and money invested!
As a software engineer, marketing is terrifying to me. For other engineers, solo-founders, and technical entrepreneurs without a marketing background, publishing a plugin is a great business because the marketing is already done for you. Users are already using the platform (Chrome, Wordpress, Shopify, etc.) and when they search the platform's marketplace your product will be in the search results. There is no need to go out to do paid advertising or what ever else marketers do. (I have no idea).
Therefore, publishing plugins onto an existing platform is a great option for starting your first online business.
I had trouble finding a good list of where a software engineer, solo-founder, or entrepreneur can publish these plugins.
Here are some platforms to give you an idea of where you can publish a plugin, add-on, or extension and start your first business.
- Chrome (or other browsers that have extensions)
- Wordpress (A huge majority of the web uses Wordpress)
- Amazon Web Services
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are tons of others. I put the first few that I like at the top and will add more later. Contact me if you have a few that you want to add to this list too. I would be glad to add them.
Go build and publish those plugins and start your business!