Book Review: Rework

I think I first read Rework in 2013 when I was a student, teaching myself how to make websites and mobile apps. This book blew my mind back then. I suddenly felt like running an online business doesn’t need to be bureaucratic and “corporate”, like traditional businesses. It gave me the courage to pursue the path where I can self-fund myself, start my own small company, stay small and do everything myself. Things seemed so simple and clear and inspired me to make something great. It showed me that there’s a better way to build a company.

After almost 7 years later, I decided to read Rework again to remind myself of some ideas that inspired me in 2013.

I recommend this book to startup founders, business owners and even small indie makers. It might make you rethink your approach to work and building your business.

One of my goals for 2020 is to read one book per month and write ten takeaways from the book to motivate you to read it too. Rework is #1 out of a series of 12.

My Top 10 Takeaways from Rework

1. Everyone can be a starter

The term entrepreneur is outdated and sounds like a members-only club from the past. Nowadays, there’s a new group of people who just make something great, something they love doing, and then make money from it. They don’t necessarily consider themselves as entrepreneurs.

You don’t need an MBA, a certificate, or a fancy suit to do it. You just need an idea, learn the necessary skills (e.g. YouTube tutorials, books, online courses, etc.), confidence and motivation.

Speaking of motivation, you should set the right mindset that works for you. For example, if you see that other people can’t find customers, can’t market or can't make their product profitable, it has nothing to do with you. Other people’s problems are their problems. It doesn’t mean that you can’t succeed.

2. Build a business, not a startup

Startup founders are often focused more on growth instead of building a healthy, sustainable and profitable business. They burn their investors' money, hire lots of people and think about an exit strategy (getting acquired by a bigger company).

Most service businesses, like software companies, designers and photographers don’t need investors, you can start by just self-funding yourself.

Taking money from investors brings its own set of problems: giving up part of your company, doing what your investors want instead of your customers, it’s addictive and distracting.

If you don’t have a path to profit, then it’s not a business, it’s a hobby.

3. Embrace your constraints

It’s funny that small businesses dream about being bigger and big businesses want to be smaller and more agile. The smaller you are, the faster you are. You’re incredibly flexible and can adapt much more quickly than corporations can.

When you are small, you can’t do everything you want. Instead, focus on the stuff that won’t change. New trends and hot technologies change all the time and go out of fashion fairly quickly. You should invest in timeless things that are always in demand, like affordable prices, great customer support, simplicity and practicality.

4. Build momentum

When you accomplish something and move to the next thing and then to the next thing, you build momentum. It helps with motivation because you feel like you’ve got into the habit of actually getting something done, accomplishing small victories, and generating a steady stream of good news that you can share with your customers.

Long-term projects should be split into two-week victories that generate enthusiasm for you.

5. It’s hard to copy you

Business owners tend to be cautious about sharing how they do something. They think that these secrets are an advantage over their competitors.

However, you should be sharing your knowledge and experience, and don’t be scared of copycats.

For example, many famous chefs show their techniques and recipes. They publish cookbooks, blog posts and share everything on TV shows. A recipe is much easier to copy than a business. Yet, they don’t seem to be afraid of their competitors stealing from them. That’s because they know that the problem with copying is lack of understanding. Without understanding, you can’t grow.

The original creator puts a ton of effort into his original product. But most of the work is hidden. A copycat doesn’t understand why something works the way it works or why it looks that way. There’s no foundation to make future decisions on.

A copycat never leads, always follows the original creator. Don’t really bother thinking about them. Focus on your story and vision instead.

In addition, if you put yourself and your vision into the product, like how you present it, support it, explain it, then it’s not possible for others to copy this unique thing about you in your product.

6. Stick to your vision

You should become comfortable saying “no” by default to a lot of things. Your customers will suggest you to add features or change something. If you say “yes” to all of these requests, you may end up with a complicated product that stops appealing to new people.

People love simple and clean apps & services to solve their problems. Remember, there are always more people who don’t use your product than people who do.

So, stick to your vision and don’t write down every feature request from your customers. They will keep reminding you and that’s how you know what’s important.

7. Grow your audience

Business owners often face the difficulties of getting press coverage and people’s attention. Instead of buying ads, try investing your time into building an audience. The advantage is that the audience comes back to listen to what you have to say.

One way to build an audience is to teach people something. You will earn their loyalty, respect and become an expert in the field.

Big companies have big budgets to buy ads during sport events and they are obsessed with secrecy, so teaching people is something they don’t do.

As an indie maker or small business, this is your advantage over big companies. You can afford to teach others and build an audience that way.

Another way of growing an audience is to show people how your business works behind the scenes. People are genuinely curious about the little secrets and how things are made. They will also start appreciating your work more as they see how much effort you put in. That explains why there are so many TV shows about fishing or truck driving. When presented right, even these boring jobs can be fascinating to watch.

Don’t worry too much about being imperfect. People love genuine and authentic stories. It’s like real flowers vs plastic flowers that never change. People will see a human being behind the product instead of a faceless company.

Start building your audience today. Create a community of people who are interested in what you do and listen to what you have to say.

8. Hire when it starts hurting your business

Before hiring someone to do a job, try learning and doing it yourself first. It seems counterproductive, but the knowledge you gain will pay off later. As a business owner, you should understand all aspects of your product. It will also help you hire a better employee later because you will know the nature of the work.

The right time to hire someone is when there’s more work than you can handle, when quality starts dropping, and when it affects your performance.

9. Great customer support changes everything

Answer inquires from your customers very fast. People usually write to you when there’s an issue with something. Respond to them quickly and help to fix the problem. Let them know that you are listening.

If you don’t know something, let them know that you are on it and will do some research first, before getting back to them.

Keep in mind that negative feedback is much louder than positive. You’ll most likely receive only negative messages, while the majority of your customers are happy with your product. They usually contact you when they have an issue, not when everything is working great.

Talk to customers the way you would to friends.

10. Work smarter, not harder

Some people like bragging about working unhealthy numbers of hours, how little sleep they had last night, and how tired they are.

Not getting enough sleep time is a bad idea. It reduces your creativity, you become stubborn, lose motivation to work, and get irritated quickly.

You can buy Rework on Amazon.

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