What to Do If You Have a Software Idea But You're Not a Software Person
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It’s a nagging thought in the back of your mind. Maybe it even keeps you up at night. And after several weeks, it still doesn’t go away—because it could be the idea that changes your life.
After all, we live in the .com era, the one in which a college dropout can write code in the middle of the night that turns him into a billionaire. So why not you?
But first things first. Here’s a healthy dose of reality…
Don’t count your chickens, so to speak. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking your idea has value before you really think it through. The truth is that a software idea, like any idea, only has value when it’s created; there is no value in the idea itself.
So… you EXECUTE!
You take your idea for a new app or piece of software and start investigating. But it doesn’t take long to realize you might be in for more than you bargained for.
* Service-oriented architecture?
* Integrated Development Environment programs?
You know the up-front decisions are important and can save (or cost) you a lot of time and heartache in the future. But the truth is, you’re just not a software person. Even the first step eludes you.
* Do you start with hiring software programmers?
* Or should your first get a lawyer to prevent the programmers from stealing your idea?
You have the idea, but where do you go from there?
Map out the process.
Put pen to paper and develop a process flow chart of exactly how your software will work. What will happen when you do this or select that? If you have any coding experience, you could build a prototype model with minimal features to start. But if you don’t, develop a prototype in another format—on paper or otherwise. This will make it much easier to convey your idea and potentially prevent costly time and misunderstanding later.
Put together a business plan.
And then run it past people. You may have heard the caution to keep good ideas a secret, but the danger with that is that your idea will die in isolation. Instead, take the opposite approach and seek feedback and accountability for your idea. You need to share it with others—and I’m not talking about your mom, dad and the mailman. Run it past people with business and technical expertise. Here’s another reason why: You need to make sure your idea is viable, technically feasible and realistically affordable to develop.
(Remember, your idea in itself isn’t valuable—the ability to bring it to reality is. So instead of keeping it under lock and key, reach out to ask for help.)
You’ll also need to put together a list of people or businesses willing to pay for your software. Some call that “blueprinting services.” Don’t worry; there are companies willing to help with that.
Find someone to do the coding.
You can tackle this in one of two ways: hire an experienced company or freelancer, or find a co-founder willing to work for equity.
If you end up hiring, make sure you do your research. Look into a company’s or freelancer’s past clients, and get references. It’s worth noting that hourly rates with freelancers can build up, and you run the risk of them disappearing halfway through the project—which sadly does happen. Hiring an experienced company brings security in the fact that it has multiple employees, so your whole project doesn’t depend on one person. Of course, this will cost more.
On the other hand, if you decide to go the co-founder route, you have to find one. Start by putting feelers out there with everyone you know. There are also websites out there to connect people solely for that purpose.
Or—if you’re hell-bent on doing it yourself—get some basic training. Online resources, from YouTube tutorials to paid classes, can point you in the right direction and help you figure out what you know and don’t know. Once you feel like you’ve got a pretty good understanding of how to start, try creating a simple “Hello, World!” program. It’s a good first step because it’s the bare minimum you can do to run a full-fledged program, so it will give you a taste of what you’ll be getting into. It will also ensure your development environment is set up and working properly.
You can also look into immersion coding programs (such as The Iron Yard) that give a crash course in coding in 12 weeks.
So, let’s look at a real-life example of how this can work…
Sam Ovens is the successful founder of property inspection software SnapInspect, a company he launched with absolutely no development knowledge.
Sam said in a Mixergy.com interview, “I honestly couldn’t build a website that would say, ‘Hi, my name is Sam’ or install WordPress on a server. I don’t even know a single HTML tag, even today.”
But, he had an idea and a list of customers willing to pay for it. Sam’s first piece of advice? You have to know your product inside and out before you can clearly explain it to a developer.
“You’ve got to know every screen and you’ve got to know what happens when you click this, what happens when you click that, and it’s too much detail to have in your head,” he said.
Sam first tried drawing it all out on paper, but he said it was too complex. Still, he needed to get his head around what it would look like and what the development would involve, so he created a clickable PDF.
You can do this step via a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation, or something a little fancier from Prezi or Marvel app.
Not only did that help Sam fully understand and communicate what he wanted, but it also saved him money.
He explained, “I just built every screen of my software in Keynote. I told the developers to not do any design and don’t charge me for any design, just to grab those Keynote elements and use them as the user interface design file.”
Now, Sam’s SnapInspect idea is up and running with 1,500 customers and $37,000 in monthly revenue.
There you have it: proof that you don’t have to be a software person to turn a software idea into a full-blown, money-making reality.
So you have a software idea? The real question isn’t whether you’re a software person.
The real question is: When do you start?