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November 22nd, 2005

Should you be leaving your day job?

David St. Lawrence has posted the third installment of his “Don’t give up your day job” series. The premise of today’s post is:

There is at least one really good reason for not giving up a day job in order to do something you love. The things you love to do may not be exchangeable for enough income to live on.

While many microISVs never reach their goal of leaving their day job, there’s no reason that you can’t create a decent, but not income replacing, stream of money from your software. I think David has a good point when he says:

Freeware is the programming equivalent of a musician playing for the joy of it. Shareware is the equivalent of playing for tips. Both have their place in the world and are best supported by a solid day job that does not take over your life.

We are all aware of the huge shareware success stories that are out there but those two sentences from David sum up the reality that we’re facing. My belief is that thousands of small success stories, even though they won’t get the press and the shareware author won’t leave their job, are even better than a handful of blockbuster successes……unless, of course, you’re one of the blockbusters.

November 17th, 2005

Fortune Small Business: The Power of Profitable Thinking

Chances are, many of you are already following Steve Pavlina’s Million Dollar Experiment, and if you’re not then its worth checking out. Fortune has published an article along those same lines where they profile a performance coach who helps pro athletes perform better and is now helping business owners and entrepreneurs increase profitability through visualization. The coach, Jim Fannin takes the same approach with athletes and business people alike.

Whether his client is an athlete, an entrepreneur, or an entire workforce, Fannin’s prescriptions are fairly similar: visualization, relaxation, and positive thoughts. After meeting with a CEO to discuss the company’s overall goals, Fannin sets up a group meeting with the employees considered to be the company’s weakest links and explains the way that thoughts—both positive and negative—manifest themselves in actions.

Many people I’ve been around regard the idea of visualization and positive thinking as hokey and they feel that there’s no way that just thinking about something is enough to cause a change, especially when they view there challenges as being much bigger. These people, and I’m sure we’ve all been one of those people at some point, miss the point that their negative thinking is causing their inaction and inability to change for the better.

Building a successful business starts with the idea that you will be successful. Sustaining a business requires you to maintain that idea while navigating the ups and downs that come along with operating a business. Those who stay positive the longest are the ones who will realize the success they’ve always wanted.

November 16th, 2005

Interview with Derek Sivers on Venture Voice

Venture Voice has posted a podcast interview with Derek Sivers who I previously profiled here on microISV.com.

One of the good quotes from the interview that many of us can benefit from:

“Just give yourself a 10 day deadline, and just launch it… with almost no features.”

via Business Opportunities Weblog

November 12th, 2005

Dotster coupon

If you have any domains registered or plan to use Dotster to register any domains, use the coupon code FREECASH to get $5 off any order of $10 or more.

November 9th, 2005

Microsoft Visual Express is now free

Announced on the MSDN Forums:

Visual Studio Express is free for one year

Until November 7, 2006, we are promotionally discounting the downloadable versions of Express to free. This doesn’t mean that the product turns off after a year, but rather that as long as you download the product before November 7, 2006, you can get it for free and you can use it forever.

Rewards for Registering

The other big news announced at the Visual Studio launch is the availability of the Visual Studio Express DIY Kit, which is a set of benefits you get for registering Express and includes:

  • 250 royalty-free stock photography images from Corbis
  • Free Windows Icons from IconBuffet
  • Free eBooks including: Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition: Build a Web Site Now, Microsoft Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition: Build a Program Now!, and Microsoft Visual C# 2005 Express Edition: Build a Program Now!
  • 3rd party components from VSIP partners

via Metafilter

November 8th, 2005

Will you be a microISV casualty?

When discussing success rates for new business startups, most people are quick to quote the statistic that 95% of new businesses will fail within X (1, 3, or 5 seem to be most common) number of years. If this is true, then the failure of microISV businesses will be no different. What’s interesting is why the majority of microISV companies fail.

The main reason that the majority of the companies with completed products fail is due to the lack of marketing. This would seem to be obvious because most microISV businesses are created by programmers who don’t have experience or, in a lot of cases, the desire to do the marketing that is necessary to make their product a success. My observation is that there are far more microISV companies that fail before they even get to this stage though.

The simple explanation is that most microISVs will fail because they will never complete their product. But why is this the case? Even though the common way of thinking is to start your microISV while holding down a day job, which is the method of minimal risk, most people fail because they actually fear the risk of success. Once someone starts down the path of creating a project with the grand idea of leaving their crappy job behind they will inevitably end up having to face the idea of not having a steady paycheck, paying self employment taxes, and, in the U.S., paying for health insurance entirely out of your own pocket. With these thoughts the spiral begins.

Unfortunately, we have become a world of comfort. It is all to easy to go to school, get a job, work up, around, and through the corporate world and continue to draw a steady paycheck. Faced with the comfort of a steady job, the decision to risk success on your own actually becomes a daunting thought to many. At this point, the easiest thing to do is quit. It requires no change since you have a steady, stable paycheck. You won’t have the hassle of working on your project at night and on the weekends. And think of all the time you won’t have to spend supporting your customers. Life will go back to being comfortable…and disappointing.

Always remember why you started your project in the first place. The goals you set originally were what you thought would provide you with an improved lifestyle. The lifestyle and level of comfort that can be attained by selling something you created yourself can be far more satisfactory even if you never make as much money as you did in your corporate job, so don’t become a microISV casualty before you even get started.

November 1st, 2005

Book about protecting your IP

I haven’t read this book, but I found a press release about a new book titled Advantage ‘IP’: Profit from Your Great Ideas. This topic is one that comes up quite often in the microISV world so it might be worth the read.

October 31st, 2005

Stress and the micro-ISV

While I run a micro-ISV by choice and desire, I’d be lying if I said it was all revenue and happiness. Stress – recognizing it, mitigating it and finding ways to reduce it – has to be as much a part of your business plan as your product roadmap and how you do tech support.

► Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
► Seventy-five to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
► Stress is linked to six of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.

These are ugly statistics and even uglier facts if you let stress go unmanaged while running your micro-ISV.

Building a successful micro-ISV by any means necessary means long hours and long days. But if you’re going to enjoy the fruits of your success, in my opinion, you need to absolutely make the time to do three things:
► Invest the time to find ways of getting things done more productively with less stress.
► Exercise regularly. That means nearly every day.
► Don’t let your connections to your family and friends be casualties of business.

There’s no shortage of information about what stress will do to you and what you have to do about stress. But all that information is useless if you don’t act on it.

October 27th, 2005

Sales lessons for techies

Forbes has an article titled Sales Lessons for Tongue-Tied Techies that looks at where highly technical entrepreneurs need to focus their attention when they must sell their product.

The following quote from the article will probably hit home for many of us:

Rather than get an iteration of the software up and running, Banerjee and his team of Ph.D. students kept adding more bells and whistles every time a potential customer so much as mused about them. “We love solving problems, and these were cool problems to solve,” he says. “I couldn’t say no.” All that extra tweaking delayed the project by six months and upped the development costs by 50%.

Banerjee’s lesson: “Build spaceship one before spaceship two.”

October 25th, 2005

The billion person Internet

According to several estimates, about 1 billion people now use the Internet. You job is to interest 0.00001 of them in your Micro-ISV’s product. 1 Billion exactly? Of course not, but if you look at the stats at www.clickz.com and at www.internetworldstats.com, about a billion people, give or take a New Zealand, is a good ballpark number.

That’s a very, very big ballpark, or more precisely, global digital market one click away from your purchase button.

Your challenge as a micro-ISV is to find say 0.00001 of those users (10,000) and find a problem that they 1) have, 2) don’t want to have and most importantly, 3) will pay money not to have. Then do that a few dozen times. Narrow is good. Narrow is relevant.

When I first started selling my first Micro-ISV application, MasterList Professional, I made the mistake of trying to reach too many people. Now, I’m finding ways to make MLP relevant to very specific, very narrow little tiny markets. It’s too soon to tell what results I’ll have, but as the saying goes, a 0.00001 here, a 0.00001 there, and soon you’re talking real money!

October 21st, 2005

From the forums: Back office and Shareware Survey

Ben is looking for input on his new idea for a microISV. He’s wanting to know how you handle support contracts for your product and how you generate registration keys.

cmteng has posted a request for people to fill out a shareware developers survey to “determine the current reality of shareware registration services”. The link to the survey is available in the forum post.

October 19th, 2005

SWOT early, SWOT often.

By Bob Walsh

As I’ve been writing my book on building a micro-ISV, I’ve noticed a set of problems that seem to afflict everyone starting their own software company. Brian Plexico has very graciously offered me the opportunity to post here about these issues and whatever small insights I can offer to micro-ISVs as to how to solve them.

As a micro-ISV you have to wear a stack of hats: developer, tech support person, marketing, sales, etc. But the hat most micro-ISVs forget to wear is CEO. A very good CEO spends most of their time worrying about their organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. (A very bad CEO should be worrying if they’ll end up in a cell after the trial with Tiny, the 300-pound biker, but that’s another story.)

SWOTing your micro-ISV is something you should do even before you actually have a micro-ISV. What are the strengths you bring to the party? What are the weaknesses – technical and human – you need to remember and mitigate against? Where are the opportunities for your micro-ISV and how do you connect to them? And what are the threats you need to be mindful of from competitors, a changing society, and the world in general? Keep it bullet point short: 2 pages will do the job if you focus on the big things, and you should.

Once your micro-ISV is up and running, plan on SWOTing monthly as a way of checking your direction, your execution and identifying what’s being neglected. There will be things that are neglected because it’s in the nature of running a small business; there is never enough time to do everything. Think not? How up are you what’s happening in your industry? When’s the last time you checked Google for new competitors? When’s the last time you made time to improve your programming?

Here’s a link to a good general SWOT page, and Businessballs.com has a great page on SWOT from a business point of view.

Reviewing your last two or three SWOTs as you do your monthly SWOT is a great way to see if what you’re making progress on and what needs more attention. Finally, keep your SWOTs to yourself: you don’t want to be sharing this info with anyone, including Tiny!

October 17th, 2005

Is the indie life The Life?

John Gruber of Daring Fireball provides his comments on the recent purchase of NetNewsWire creator Rachero Software. He looks at whether life as an indie is actually what everyone striving for this lifestyle actually achieve. His comments echo a lot of what we heard from Nick Bradbury when FeedDemon was purchased, that the time required to support a popular project force you to make a choice on the direction of life as an indie. The main one being, can you even remain independent.

This story will be repeated over and over in the next few years and I think its for the best. The best innovation comes from the people who are able to create the quickest, and those with the money will be happy to pay for an up and coming but proven product.

via kottke.org

October 10th, 2005

Prioritize by Revenue.

As I’ve been writing my book on building a micro-ISV, I’ve noticed a set of problems that seem to afflict everyone starting their own software company. Brian Plexico has very graciously offered me the opportunity to post here about these issues and whatever small insights I can offer to micro-ISVs as to how to solve them.

Starting a micro-ISV means you’ve got a to-do list a mile long. I’ve long been a believer in the Getting Things Done approach David Allen has pioneered, so much so that the product my micro-ISV sells works that way.

But there’s a glaring hole in the GTD theory: what guiding light do you use to prioritize all those actionable tasks? For micro-ISVs, it has to be revenue.

Not the latest and greatest Web 2.0 technology, or refreshing your web site, or even tech support: successful micro-ISVs, like successful small businesses in general, focus on the bottom line. If you don’t, you won’t survive.

Julie Morgenstern, one of my favorite productivity authors, covers extremely well how to figure out how many steps each actionable task is away from revenue in her book (now in paperback, and renamed), Making work Work. The gest of the idea analyze those actionable tasks by the number of steps they are from either increasing revenue or decreasing costs and give priority at any given time to the tasks closest to the bottom line.

Give this approach a try the next time you have to prioritize your micro-ISV to do list.

October 5th, 2005

Be where you are

One of my favorite sites to read as soon as I see that a new post is available is BigPictureSmallOffice.com. The author is an executive at a publicly traded company who offers a lot of insight to the inner workings of the upper echelon of a large company, usually with great humor. His writing is always eloquent and the post titled “The One Thing” is no different. One idea from this post is applicable for many of us in the microISV community:

And don’t chase new opportunities without first exacting the full measure of potential from existing ones. It is the first rule of focus: Wherever you are, be there.

microISV defined:
a one person, independent software company.

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