In this article, we’ll explore the 8 best ways to grow your software development company. These are incredibly valuable for startups and small businesses that don’t have a product yet, but still want to build market share so they can make money. At this point you will be able to decide whether it makes sense to simply hire an in-house team or go out and find new customers.
Software development is a fast-paced industry. New technologies emerge every day, and if you are not on top of the industry, your business will fall behind. Software development is also a cutthroat environment, so unfortunately you need to be ruthless to survive and thrive. I would like to give you some tips how you can achieve this goal (and how am I qualified to give such advice? Well, because I have been doing it for over 5 years and have managed hundreds of people).
Stage 1: Getting started
When starting out with your software development company (or even as an individual freelancer), the first thing you should do is post your services on freelancer websites (like oDesk.com or elance.com) and ask for feedback about your skills. Utilize online tools like Google Base to post blogs, share articles, advertise your services and collect leads.
Stage 2: Building up a portfolio – getting clients
Once you have some customers or leads on your freelancer profiles, the second stage of getting started is to start building a portfolio of projects that you can reference in case you need a reference from the client or one of your potential clients. A great way to do this is by developing working software for free (which is not really free). Offer short simple projects with specifications that are easy to understand and don’t have too many technical aspects involved.
Another great way to get started is to find a small business that you like and that needs some software developed (that is relevant to your skills). Offer to develop some small software for free or on a contract basis. You can use these examples of small software that are easy to develop as an example for your portfolio. If you do this, just remember that it should never take longer than 1 month. If it does, then the client will see you as someone who doesn’t deliver (this is bad).
Stage 3: Going big – finding larger clients
When you have a portfolio of your work in place, it is time to start getting larger clients. In most cases, these will be companies who are willing to pay several thousand dollars or more per month for software development. If you are just starting out, I would advise you to use a freelancer website for this task as well (you can still use the same profile if it has some positive feedbacks). However, when looking for larger projects, make sure that your pitch revolves around the fact that you are able to deliver results quickly (within 1-2 weeks), have extensive experience in the industry and have several references to show them.
Stage 4: Growing your team
When you are able to deliver some results, it is important to hire someone to help you. If you are just starting out, this will be a junior programmer. Again, post on freelancer websites and use contractors (not employees) on a project-basis. Your goal should be to grow the number of people in your team until you can handle all of the projects by yourself (or with two or three others). A great way to do this is to offer bonuses for great results in an agile development cycle, where each sprint focuses on one particular feature that addresses the client’s problem.
Stage 5: Software development for a living
When you are able to grow your team this much, it is time to make software development be your full-time job. You should try to maximize the profit from each project you take on. This means that you should work with as few people as possible (under the premise that they are able to deliver high quality results), remove any unnecessary costs and keep your focus on the client’s problem. This is a great way to achieve success, so try and do these things until you are fully comfortable with them.
Stage 6: Make your company a brand
Once you are able to work on your own, it is time to make a name for yourself and your company. Try to get some PR from the software development industry by writing blog posts, publishing articles in relevant magazines and posting interesting materials on relevant blogs. This will help you increase the awareness of your brand and your products. It will also position you as an expert in the industry. You should also register your brand and trademark it so that nobody can use it for their own gain (and steal all of the credit).
Stage 7: Expansion into other markets or services
When you are able to get a lot of clients, consider expanding into several markets. For example, if you develop software for software development companies or consult for enterprise companies, it is important to consider how you are able to deliver similar results in other areas such as finance, marketing, human resources and customer support. A great way to expand into these areas is through consulting. If you have a good track record as a consultant with a lot of references, it will be relatively easy to get hired by some of these companies.
Stage 8: Exit the business
When you are able to deliver consistent results and work on multiple projects at the same time (or with several very skilled people), it is possible that your company will become more successful than you want it to be. When this happens, you should consider selling the company. If you have a brand with name recognition and some positive feedback from large companies, it might be very easy for you to get a good price from someone who can continue developing it the way you did. This is one of the best ways to exit the business and make even more cash out of it.
It is important to understand that there is no such thing as being too small for success in software development. You can always make your first step towards achieving great things in this industry. Once you know what your goal is and when you are dedicated enough to achieve it, everything else will fall into place easily.