One of the perks of knowing how to code is that it opens up opportunities for independent work, be it in the form of freelancing, or, as many dream of, by creating a product of your own. The latter, however, is a much more difficult enterprise than finding work at somebody else’s company – often more difficult than people going into it prepare themselves for.
Today we will look at the 5 assets, skills or qualities that you absolutely must have if you want to create software and turn it into a business. Some you probably already know, some maybe you don’t, but rest assured that all of them are necessary.
#1 – Capital
Like it or not, a great deal of things worth doing require good old-fashioned bling, and this is obviously no exception. Even if your product is simple enough that you don’t have to buy specialised hardware or technology to build it, you will still have to pay for a number of services that come with creating a business.
Advertising is probably the most significant of these, and an example of the sort of thing that you can’t just do by yourself. Furthermore, if your business grows, you will need to start hiring people – and paying them.
Because code can just be created and hosted on a laptop, then for projects of reasonable scale it is often possible for a salaried software developer to save enough money to start their own thing. Draw out a budget that will cover all of your expected costs – and then save at least double that amount before you get started. Things never go according to plan.
#2 – A Network
It’s not enough to know the market, you need to know the people who make this market work. If you can get a reputable YouTuber to review your product, for example, that could well be worth a lot more than spending money on Google Ads.
So where do you find all of these people? Unfortunately, the best answer is – by failing. Typically, a developer’s first attempt to create their own product will fail, but will also lead them to meet new people in the industry.
Networking tends to be the scariest item on this list for first-timers, and this is the reason why – because it is to a great extent the result of experience. And for those who have no experience yet, start building some: dive into social media, book a place at every accessible live event that is in some way related to your product, and ask your contacts for more contacts. People are out there – go say hello!
#3 – People skills
There are many great things that you can create alone. A great product that sells, however, is unlikely to be one of them. If you want to take your project to the next level, then you will need to deal with other people, starting with investors. You should expect investors to be very vocal when they don’t like something you’re doing with the project – it is after all their money that is at stake.
You will also need to hire people to do all the stuff you can’t do or can’t do well. Even if you only hire a handful of freelancers on a temporary basis, you are still essentially managing a team. You may have one or more co-founders too, and it’s really important that you have a good relationship with them.
Even if you could somehow skip all of the above, at the end of the day you would still have to deal with customers. The more successful you are, the more of them will be knocking on your door with feedback, issues or complaints.
In other words, if you find yourself nice and comfortable in the common stereotype that sees developers as loners and social outcasts, then sorry, but it’s time to step out of it. Arm yourself with patience, practice empathy, and get good at dealing with others.
#4 – Advertising
I’ve already mentioned advertising in the section on capital, but it deserves its own space because it’s simply so essential. Creating a software product means that you can eschew many of the traditional expenses incurred by new businesses – mainly physical production and distribution.
What does make a difference, however, is signalling the existence and/or the value of your product amid an entire ocean of other products. Advertising is therefore crucial to the success of any new, independent software product. How to do go about it is a complex topic to which I will dedicate its own blog in due time. In the meantime, Dave Collins has an excellent introduction to the topic of advertising.
#5 – Resilience
Creating a throwaway app for your own entertainment is relatively easy. Creating a solid product that rises above the competition is much, much harder work. Less than half of that work will be about designing and building your app; the rest is about all the things we described above, like market research, advertising, people management, raising capital.
This is exhausting, confusing grind which will wear many people down. Coding may be for everyone, but the entrepreneurial road is not. Such a venture demands resilience – the ability to take everything that the world throws at you and still keep moving forward.
Going solo is not an easy thing to do, but its potential rewards are immense. Grit your teeth, steel your nerves, and make sure you have everything you need – you can do this.