Building Some Software Products

Originally published: 06/2011 by J Wynia

Since 1999, I’ve been in the software consulting business, selling my skills, either directly or through an employer who was a consulting company of some sort. In fact, since graduating from college in February of 1998, only 18 months of my working history has been in any other context than consulting.

I’ve built a decent business/career doing consulting and it’s clear that I can continue that for a good long while. However, as I headed into 2011, something was very clear to me. I need to have some ways of making money that aren’t me directly selling my time/skills.

Over 2009-2010, I billed a LOT of hours. 4 x 40 hour weeks yields “fulltime” months of 160 hours. However, rather than seeing that number regularly, I’ve had 300 hour months and rarely bill fewer than 200. In doing so, I made pretty good money during that timeframe. But, it’s tiring and isn’t something I can keep up for very long.

At this point, the only ways I can make more money selling my time directly is bill more hours (been there for 2-3 years now) or raise my rates. I am raising my rates, but the local market for contract dev work is weird for how it responds to rates.  Beyond that, I just don’t like having my options limited like that.

So, I’m now working on 2 software products/services/platforms that I can use to make money via licensing, monthly fees, per-project billing, etc. In short, I’m building levers to harvest the reward of working smarter.

So, what am I building?

The biggest is a framework for building document/data workflow applications for businesses. It’s right in line with the kinds of stuff I’ve been doing in my consulting practice for years. And, that’s where that platform will be applied first. We’re going to use it as the starting point for consulting projects where we charge a licensing fee for the platform and then do the customization and extension as a more typical consulting project.

I’m really excited for the possibilities this offers to do more value-based pricing, which gets the focus on ROI instead of clients focusing on the hourly rate. 

If I told you that if you give me $10 and I guarantee that I’ll bring you $20 immediately after walking outside, you probably wouldn’t question it much. In fact, you’d probably start looking for as many $10 as you could find. Yet, somehow, when it comes to software consulting, people focus on the fact that $10 for 5 minutes’ work is $120/hr and they start negotiating like mad to reduce that number.

Anyway, this product is shaping up nicely and I’m working hard to get it ready for my next consulting project. It’s .NET and is based on the tools I’ve come to rely on in the last few years: ASP.NET MVC and related tools.

The other project is a web application for managing conferences/codecamps, etc. running on Google App Engine. There’s a gap for a really cohesive app in this space and we have a pretty good plan for building one that works well.

So, while I’m cutting down on the hours billed, I’m still working like mad to get these things built, aiming for a day when the leverage starts paying off and I can shift my income away from selling my time. Until then, it’s nose to the grindstone ‘round here.

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