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How Software Programmers Can Become Rich

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Smart software developers are not worried about their jobs being outsourced to India or about being laid off when they're 30 years old.

Because they're the boss.

They're using their programming skills to solve problems, selling their software solutions online.

They're starting their own software companies, now called micro-ISVs.

Many high tech workers have shown a proclivity toward self-employment and entrepreneurialism – dating back to the earliest days of Silicon Valley. And despite the dot com craze of the late 1990s had Wall Street going ape over Internet companies that did not make any profits. . . it was inspiring that a new generation of techies were looking to start their own companies rather than "just code" for someone else.

In the 1980s and 1990s, single programmers made some extra money (a lot of extra money in a few cases) by creating shareware programs. They uploaded their games, utilities and business applications to computer bulletin boards and, later, online services such as CompuServe.

Anyone could download the program and try it out. If you liked it, you were supposed to send some money to the developer. It was essentially a try before you buy system based on trust. No doubt many people took advantage of it, but since most people are honest, the creators of popular programs and games did prosper.

Now, many software developers are leaving their cubicles and once again starting their own companies. But they're not seeking money from venture capitalists or expecting to launch a Wall Street IPO (Initial Public Offering) a la Netscape 1995.

No, that business model failed.

Rather, they're going back to basic bootstrapping. Finding a need and then selling their software online – with the advent of online payment processors, they now want your money before you can download the program.

Big Attic House Software, AutomatedQA, YesSoftware, DiFolders Software, Six Apart, Oryx Digital, Antair, Virtuoza, Fog Creek Software, Safari Software, Wildroot Software, Sunbelt Software, SourceGear and many more are all examples of this trend.

ISV is Microsoft-speak for Independent Sofware Vendor. "Micro" means it's one or two programmers in their underwear in their basement.

Promiment speakerspeople include Jack Spolsky, Eric Sink and Bob Walsh.

Some of these new work-at-home CEOs prefer to be called simply start-up software companies.

No matter – they're techie capitalists, and I applaud them.

If you'd like to join them, I must warn you that your success will depend on learning some very nontechie-like ways of thinking. Such as:

1. Pre-product Marketing.

Some micro-ISV writers annoy you to find a problem to solve. That's a good start but not good enough. I add this – Make sure it's a current problem. That is, do not create a program that will prevent a problem in the future. Make sure your prospects are currently suffering from their problem.

Also, make sure it's a problem people will pay substantial money to solve.

Ask people in your target prospect group what they would like to see included in the solution. What should your program do? What would make it most convenient and intuitive for them to use?

Ask lots of questions, both over the phone and online in discussion forums. Be up front. Tell people you're planning to come out with software that will do such and such, and you want to know how to make it the best possible. Most administrators will allow that because at this point you're not trying to sell something.

Do not develop a product just because you think it'd be "cool."

2. Listen to your prospects / customers and learn how to speak to them in ordinary English – not techie-speak.

Many techies have a problem with this, as anyone who's ever called a help desk support line can attest to.

3. Once you have your product – sell its benefits NOT its features.

Do not tell people the technical aspects. They do not care. Tell them what the software will do to benefit THEM.

4. Test your marketing. Change something. Then test it again.

Keep what works until you find something that works better. Then keep testing.

A successful company concentrates on developing products that customers want to buy.

Make your micro-ISV about your customers – their needs, the marketing that will reach them, the vocabulary that they understand and benefitting them with more and better products.

Do that, and you too will join the ranks of successful and financially free techie entrepreneurs.

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