Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Befuddled WasA-WannaBe

IANAP (I am not a programmer) but I do a little programming in the form of little utilities that get used at work - believe me there isn't one of them that would ever exist had I not created them. A decent programmer (certainly today) would scoff at being assigned to create them IF the company would spring for the cash. I don't want your job, I'm quite happy with the one I have. If it's possible with either VB or Delphi it would  probably take me a week to accomplish what (most of) you get done in a day. As an aside, I've been quite satisfied puttering around  with programming since I bought a hot new TI-99a but I've still so much to accomplish. Where you could go today looked so much different back then even for Bill and his pet VB.

I've created a program for converting a Web Site Help collection into a MS-CHM file. I create my help files from  CityDesk created/converted sites. The program was created for personal use although putting on a pretty face and providing options for variations in style and site construction would be fairly easy to do - some of the other stuff involved is why I'm here. I think there is a market, albeit limited, for this tool and I'd like to see if I can make a couple of bucks. Before changing what already works for me into some sort of viable commercial product, looking into a site, investing money/time, looking at marketing methods and doing the additional work that would make this idea work ... I thought I'd  get an opinion or two. Of course the real truth may well be, that I'm still a wanna-be trying to get my foot in :)

I've been hanging about here for quite a while now and there are, IMHO, a number of very valuable opinions to be had ~ providing the facts are either known or, to a certain extent, assumable. What should I do with this program? Sell it, give it away or just keep it to myself. Primarily because my job requires me to be away 5/6 months a year any type of reasonable tech support <grin> and marketing are going to be a grunt but not impossible because that also means that I'm off 6/7 months a year. Having said that, it's a (very) simple utility, how much support do you need. It's pretty much a read the help file type situation and I really don't see many people having to do even that.

I just don't know.
PNII

Perpetual Newbie II
Saturday, May 15, 2004

dont worry too much about how 'big' it is, people will pay for a useful utility that would take me 10 mins to create because (a) they dont know how to create it (b) it would take them far longer to create it and (c) they have no interest in creating it anyway.

which means that if your utility solves a problem and saves some time then people will (quite rightly) happily pay for it.

Heres the rub though; putting together the marketing, packaging the tool with a tidy interface, arranging for online purchases, testing, answering emails (there _will_ be emails, there will be people who have stuffed up the purchase, people who want a refund because it doesn't have a word count feature etc etc etc) and all the rest isn't necessarily trivial.

So you need to decide what you want..if you just think its a pretty neat utility that youve written and you would like people to use it then throw it up on your personal website with the source and forget it.

But, assuming you are hoping to make a few $, you will need to put in a _lot_ of work....the saddest thing about these utilities is that marketing them is far more expensive than writing them.
You have a few choices though:
(a) find someone who is looking for a hobby, agree to split any profit and let them do all the work.
(b) do it all yourself
(c) package it up a little more and see whether you can interest some other company that is _already_ selling other utilities in also selling yours.

Personally I would suggest you go with (c)

<g> but (a) and (b) are potentially more fun, more satisfying and more profitable if it actually does turn out to be in demand.

FullNameRequired
Saturday, May 15, 2004

Have you considered releasing it as shareware?
Or a prelminary version as freeware.

If you do that right, it'll tell you if there's much interest in your product.

The problem with a low price product is that running a company has certain basic fixed costs, independent of the # of products.  I.e., it costs $X to aquire a customer. Joel quoted a round number of $100 / customer. That's the cost of your website, advertising, etc.  (And if you say "but we won't spend $ on advertising" then I'd say you won't have many customers unless your product fills an existing, unfilled demand.


As a software publisher and distributor, I can tell you that option C. is going to be a challenge.


Of us to distribute another company's product, we'd need a signidicant discount and it would have to be EXACTLY what were looking for, and it has to be cheaper for us to buy it from the author (for 1 year's worth of sales) than it would be for us to write the program ourselves.

Mr. Analogy
Saturday, May 15, 2004

Thanks for your comments. I do think it is something that would be of value to others. How many others and how valuable ... I'm not so sure of at this point. I'll start improving the interface and hardening things up underneath while I ponder the how to get it to those who may want it.

Option (c) would probably be the best bet for my particular situation, although not as interesting as the others, but the shareware option may work as well - we'll see.

Lots still to ponder and another new adventure to set out on.

Many Thanks
PNII

Perpetual Newbie II
Saturday, May 15, 2004

Did you write the app on company time?  Does your contract with the company allow you to sell the app for personal profit?

Make sure you have a legal right to sell it before you sell it.

Eponymous
Monday, May 17, 2004

Sell it to Joel (not oe copy, the whole thing).


Monday, May 17, 2004

Eponymous

I own it, primarily because it wasn't written on company time but specifically because I wasn't hired to write it. I looked into this quite a while ago when I was concerned about the utilities I _was_ writing (but not hired for) on company time - I own them too.

PNII

Perpetual Newbie II
Monday, May 17, 2004

Sorry, should have added - I'm Canadian.
PNII

Perpetual Newbie II
Monday, May 17, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home