Your VB Career
Do you know that half of all newbie businesses fail within the first three years? It's up to you to ensure you're not one of them. One of the greatest strategies for this is detailed in a book which I recommend to anyone who wants to start-up on their own - Paul Hawken's Growing A Business. You can find more information in the bibliography. As for me, I swear by this book damn! ;)
Without a goal, you might as well get eaten by an Aussie crocodile. No we don't want something that corpos make up, like "To boldly go where no developer has gone before". We're talking about something that's personally important to you. "Create the best software for management ever"; "Make enough money to retire by 35"; or "Prove to mom and dad, I'm not a waste of carbon and energy" - are all perfectly sensible and good goals. But try to keep 'em off your company letterhead ;)
Take a piece of paper. Write your first goal in bold letters (yes, yes, you can even do it in Word). Under the goal, write down the list of tasks you need to complete in order to achieve that goal.
They should be something like, "study and learn from good programmers" or "practice till I become better". Proceed with other goals and Do Loop. Keep that goal sheet handy, perhaps on a mirror or next to your PC.
Whenever you need to make a big decision, refer to your Task List! Make it your core DLL, your shell, your Kernel.
You're it. Until you get some money rolling in from your software, you're it.
Once you have some surplus you can think of hiring freelancers. But keep the legalities in perspective. The government (of all countries) are clamping down on irresponsible and sometimes illegal operators.
You must prove to be a good leader if you have some personnel. You gotta treat 'em as independent (which means, you can't be a Hitler). You need to be trusting and should be able to comfortably delegate authority. Can't? Well, you're better off flying solo.
Financial times (of your life)
In this capitalist society, you need to be competent and conversant in financial matters or you're gonna go down the drain, pal!
First off, calculate the bare necessities. No, that doesn't include a new car, office, furniture, etc. This probably means a space to work (your current computer desk CAN do), a nice enough computer to do the work properly and which won't crash (yeah, right!) and at least the OS and VB (both legal, of course). That's it. Everything else is extra. Keep 'em on the list for later.
You shouldn't waste, but don't skimp either. Your PC should run well, with enough memory and mass storage as needed. You're NOT to waste programming time trying to coax an overtaxed machine. If there's something that can actually help you, try to find a way to reasonably finance it.
If you're going to create On-Demand Software, you need to set a common pricing ground. First, investigate through 3rd parties and mutual contacts, what other such businesses are charging. Compare their expertise in programming with yours and set your prices as such. Maybe you'll decide to charge $150 an hour it all depends.
Business is business, if you don't know (much) about invoices, taxes, and accounting practices, I highly recommend Bernard B. Kamoroff's Small Time Operator - once again, details in the bibliography. This book will complete your basic business library if you've already got Hawken's.
This is something I highly recommend. Insure as many things as possible. Since you're working with the devil (yourself), this is something you will definitely need. Take a careful look at your assets - and insure yourself, your family, your computer, your software, books, videos, CDs, etc. If something happens, heaven forbid, you'll need to get back on your feet soon, so insurance is high priority stuff. Please note that sometimes homeowners or renters insurance won't pay enough, so talk with your insurance agent and discuss what you ought to do.
No, no, no! Put down that gun! Sheeesh! You programmers! Okay, though they're few and far apart, there are a few bad clients. And they can potentially exploit you in bad ways. The best way is to keep a bit of background check on all clients. Use mutual contacts, colleagues or such for anonymous background checks. It's up to you to protect yourself from such unpremeditated rip-offs.
Disclaimer: I'm NOT an attorney, nor do I profess to be all-knowledge in all things law. Nothing in this article represents legal advice. This information is based solely on personal experience.
Dealing With Clients
Clients help you survive! So don't neglect any! ;)
Your relationship with them is simple. They have money, you need money. You make software, they need software. Keep this in mind, always!
If you want to make your software purchasable via the Net I'd highly recommend using ShareIT at www.shareit.com. They provide online commerce solutions for shareware authors in exchange for a very reasonable commission. Other such sites include www.kagi.com which is also very popular. Such companies also enable you to take payment in the local currency of your customers. Even if you don't register with them, both sites are worth a visit.
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