If you’re just getting into programming, there are a number of career paths you can pursue, including front-end or back-end development, mobile engineering, game development, application development, quality assurance, and testing, data science, cloud development, or custom software development like the services provided by companies as BairesDev.
While all these technical paths would make good use of your training, provide you with a good income, and offer many challenges, there is another option that you might not have considered: starting your own software development firm. This option would take advantage of your technical know-how and allow you to develop and build on leadership, decision-making, planning, strategic, and promotional skills.
Here are some basic steps to get you started thinking about this exciting and potentially very rewarding career option.
Prepare for the Long Haul
It may take a few years to get your business off the ground, so plan for it. Make sure you can meet your personal obligations on a limited income and with reduced time available. Talk with family members to make sure they’re prepared to take on additional household tasks and to accept the long hours you’ll likely be spending getting your business off the ground.
Be aware that in the early days of your business you’ll be laying the foundation for success later. For example, you’ll need to develop your brand and engage in marketing, hire a staff, and think strategically about what you want your impact to be in the coming years. These activities aren’t always enjoyable for those who envision running a business as mostly creating great products and watching sales roll in.
Research Your Idea
So, you’ve got a great idea for a software product. Unfortunately, not all great ideas translate into viable businesses. Research your idea to make sure there are people out there who want to buy what you have to sell:
- Check out the Competition. Do online research or talk to people in the companies that already make software products like your idea. Look at their marketing techniques to determine who their target audience is.
- Set up Focus Groups. You may need to get the help of marketing professionals for this one. Bring in some possible customers for your product and ask them detailed questions about how, when, and why they would (or wouldn’t) buy it.
- Consult with Experts. Even if you’re an experienced software developer, ask others for their opinion on whether your proposed product is viable from a technical standpoint. Is it practical to build in a way that would be efficient and cost-effective?
Identify Your Strengths
Now that you have a good understanding of how your product fits into the marketplace, it’s time to think like a competitor. Prepare an analysis to help you understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (known as a SWOT analysis).
- Strengths. List all the things you do better than your competition. For example, maybe you have a team of developers that specialize in this type of product, while your closest competitor’s team consists of generalists.
- Weaknesses. List elements of your operation that could use improvement. For instance, maybe you haven’t been able to get as much funding as you’d hoped.
- Opportunities. Think about ways you can outsmart your competitors even if they’re doing some things better than you. Maybe they’re doing well at some aspects of marketing but perhaps you have a great video team helping you put out promotional videos that are likely to be widely shared.
Threats. Be honest as you identify things that could potentially do damage to your operation, including new competitors, changes in technology, or a fickle market.
Make a Plan
You’ve done great work so far! Now it’s time to put it all down in a plan that you can take to potential funders and partners. Don’t just go through the motions on this step. Take it seriously. Use this opportunity to think through all the aspects of your business to help you build your enterprise in the months and years to come.
To get started with a business plan, use a template and fill in the information for your company. Include a thorough description of your company’s products and services, your marketing and operational plans, your management and organization schemes, and your financial information. The more details you can provide, the easier it will be for potential funders and partners to understand why they should support you.
By now you have a great foundation for success – you’re ready to officially launch. You’ll need to take additional steps for that, such as incorporating your company, hiring staff, getting funding, purchasing equipment, and, of course, developing and testing your product. But so much of the hard work is already done. Celebrate your success but know that continued achievement will come as you continue to sell, get feedback, improve, and repeat.
Starting a software development firm isn’t easy but it can be highly rewarding. If you’re a trained software developer and you have an idea that you think you could bring to fruition on your own, consider taking this path. But don’t go into it blindly. Use the steps above to launch your research into what it really takes to be a successful software development entrepreneur.