10 Tips for Moving From Programmer to Entrepreneur

I have been following Ian since 2005 and I can’t believe I missed his 10 tips. Here are some of his tips and my take on them.

Code is 5% of your business

Coding gives you instant gratification that’s why we programmers love it. But your code won’t do good if nobody uses your software. Nobody will use your software if people don’t know about it. People will not know about your software if you don’t have a marketing plan. You will not have a marketing plan unless you stop writing code. And that’s just for marketing. You still need to take care of sales, operations, finance, and legal.

Design is everything, relative to the competition

It should not be hard to check on the competition since most software nowadays are available in trial or free versions. Of course, the challenge is how to make your software better.

Get used to thinking long term

As successful entrepreneurs always say, growing a business is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash.

Admit that you don’t understand the end user and rectify that

You cannot anticipate everything about your end user but if you try, you can anticipate much. You should have a clear picture of the people who are going to use your software and this starts with having a market focus. Think of your ideal client, what they look like, how they think, and where you can find them. This is a good start but remember, the picture is not yet complete and you should never stop learning about your customers.

One sure way to learn more about your customers is to give them the software as soon as possible. It may not have the all the features that they want (or you want) but if you do your homework, it will have some that they need. From there, you can start evolving your software to cover all the bases.

Love your customers

Ian is not just talking about paying customers but also customers who’ve decided to leave you. Who knows, after 3 months, they may comeback.

Remember to design for ease of use. Even advanced users like easy.

I am a fan of usability so I’m biased if I tell you that user interface is very important 🙂

Remember to bounce your ideas off people who aren’t working on the project

If you have a non-technical partner, that would be great, too. As Scott Meade said, it keeps you honest.

Treat it like you are learning to program all over

One way to help the transition is to stop reading programming books and start reading books on market positioning, finance, pricing, etc. You can also learn a lot from non-programmers who have made it. I recommend the following books to get you started.

Counting the books in my shelf, the business books outnumber the technical ones 2 to 1. Of course, I am still trying to learn what entrepreneurship is all about 🙂


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