Effort and marketing

I've spent a lot of my life making software.

A great deal of that time has been making tooling to enable others. While it started with me mostly following orders, assuming others knew what they wanted or needed. That is not the understanding or realization I came to.

A lot of the time, other software developers, enthusiasts and customers tell me what they want. Unless it's been approached in the right way, despite it being a good idea or exactly what they intended.

The problem

Far too often, perfectly talented people build things that they need, or feel would be a good idea; which nobody else has a need or want for. There is a school of thought that with the right skills, you can sell a person anything.

I don't put much stock in that line of thinking. It's not got much to do with the abstract ability, although I've never seen someone exercise that ability, only talk about it then fail to deliver.

Even if you could sell the unnecesarry, my problem with it is that it seems such a waste of your effort, to waste someone else time.

So what can be done?

From day one of people paying me, I'd already solved one problem. How to get paid for the thing I wanted to do with my life. I think this is an important first step.

It's still not been smooth sailing the whole way. Occasionally someone would say "I know what I said, but I meant ...". I have a rather pragmatic answer to that. If you are still paying me, tell me. If your mistake results in me getting paid less, then I'm afraid we've reached a juncture at which you are asking me to take magic beans to pay my bills.

Perhaps you don't have paying customers, because you're building something that the world has never seen. You still need to know people have a need, and you still need to know, who is paying the bill.

The point is that if you do not know who is paying you, you're climbing a mountain without gear.

Is there anything else?

There is probably a book, or volumes of books that could be published on this. I read a fair bit, so I like to read from Seth Godin, books like Purple cow, The Dip, Tribes. The few things that have stuck with me are.

  • Know what you do, and why you do it
  • Be careful not to take too much on
  • Keep track of the benefits, features, incentives for doing so
  • Keep a watchful eye on your motivation
  • Keep a closer eye on outcomes

The reasons for the above are simple.

  • Know where your money is coming from
  • Without knowing what you do, or will do and why, you might try to help a fish stop drowning by taking it out of water. The why is often much more powerful than the what. The when might be important too.

    If you take on too much, then you won't be able to do anything well. Even professional jugglers have limits.

    If you cannot explain the features, or what you do; the benefits of yours versus anyone else, and balance incentives with competitors, if not exceed them, then how can you hope to survive a direct encounter with the competition.

    If you're not motivated, then you won't take care of any of the above.

    If you don't talk about outcomes, and only focus on intentions, it's harder to trust you, and the above won't matter.

    Outcomes

    1. Know where your money is coming from
    2. Know what you do, and why you do it
    3. Be careful not to take too much on
    4. Keep track of the features, benefits & incentives for doing so
    5. Keep a watchful eye on your motivation
    6. Keep a closer eye on outcomes

    Hopefully this helps others.