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How to Avoid Economic Ruin: A Survival Guide by Dana Brown? 2009 by REAL Software
Inc. Introduction 5 Chapter 1: The Idea 7
Determining If There is a Market for your Idea 10
Chapter 2: Software Made Simple 11
Choosing a Development Tool 11Choosing a Platform 11Choosing a Language 12Testing Your Application 14Naming Your Creation 14 Spreading the Word 15
Chapter 3: Creating a Website 16
Text and Organization 16Get Found: Search Engine Optimization 17What Not to Do 19 Creating a Demo Video 19
Chapter 4: Selling on Your Website 21
Available E-commerce Tools 21
Chapter 5: Marketing your Product 23
Viral Marketing 23Facebook 24Flickr 24 Twitter 25Free Listings 26Public Relations 26Press Release Template 28Sample Press Release 29Paid Search Engine Advertising 31YouTube 33 Blogging 34 Chapter 6: Conclusion 35 Appendix A: Resources 36 About the Author 37
The economy is in the toilet and it probably won’t get better any time soon. So let’s be honest: We are all stressed and we are all worried that we’re going to walk into
work tomorrow and get laid off. It’s just the reality of the world we live in today.
Times are tough and we have to figure out how to get through this economic downturn as easily as possible. These past few months everyone I know, myself included, has been working three times as hard, just to prove how valuable they are to their company.
We are all pinching pennies. I am monitoring my bank account and credit cards so closely these days that I spent $82 online, saw the charge come in on my credit card, realized that it was a frivolous spend, and called 15 minutes later to cancel the order. That was the only nonessential thing I have attempted to purchase in months. Sad.
Amidst all of the darkness surrounding the economy there is a beacon of light, something at the end of the tunnel that can help you turn your personal financial situation around. I’m not suggesting a “get rich quick” scheme, nor am I suggesting you should contact that guy in Nigeria that sent you the email about your $10 million birthright. What I am suggesting is something that, over time, could actually become a great, solid career.
Why not start a software company?
I know you are probably thinking, “I’m not technical enough,” or “I don’t know how to program.” But there is a way to make it easy. This eBook explains how you
can create your own software, market and sell it. All you need to get started is an idea. Some of the most popular software products started out as an idea in the mind of someone who wasn’t a programmer. Scott Cook, a marketer from Proctor & Gamble
and the founder of Intuit, came up with the idea for Quicken while watching his wife balance their checkbook. Observe your surroundings, see what daily problems you can solve, and an idea will come to you.
This idea probably won’t make you a ton of money-- not right away at least. But in
the meantime it will be a great way to generate some supplemental income. It could earn you enough for your monthly mortgage payment, or even help you build your nest egg. Whether you have lost your job or are just nervous and want to save up as much money as you can, creating your own software is easy to do, fun, and can definitely help pad your bank account. You can do it in your spare time or on the weekends, as a hobby or a fulltime endeavor. Creating your own software company is a relatively easy process. No, really. It’s a lot easier than you think. The hardest part is getting started. Give it some thought, and with a simple idea you could make a dramatic change in your life.
Chapter 1: The Idea
What makes a good idea for a software application? This is the age old question. Well, not THE age old question, but it’s a big one for this age. Coming up with the idea for your application, deciding what you are going to make, is the hardest part of starting your own software company. You need to develop something that:
will make life easier for other people • • will fill a gap that is evident in the market today • will sell
A great way to start is by listening to the things other people complain about. This will help you identify the voids your application could potentially fill or the problems it could solve.
For example: With increasing frequency, the headlines in the news report yet another company making massive layoffs. Well, all of these layoffs have to put some strain on the remaining employees; if half of a team has been laid off, the remaining workers are doing multiple people’s work. These employees could definitely benefit from learning to write software! They could create a simple software application to automate or manage some of the new processes or tasks they have taken over.
Another benefit of knowing how to write software is that it will make you more valuable at your current job by giving you a new skill set and increasing your productivity. For example, every Monday when I get to work, a simple application shows me two valuable reports about my company’s website traffic and sales conversion rate. I could look up that information manually, and waste the better part of my morning, but with a simple application I am able to view that information quickly and easily, making me a much more efficient employee. Another application I use at work breaks down our sales numbers by geography and displays them in a nice little report that I use frequently. It saves me from having to do a bunch of calculations by hand.
One developer I know, Markus Winter, was trying to make his own life easier. In the new version of Safari, Apple’s web browser, some settings are difficult to change.
Markus was annoyed at having to spend a lot of time to get to these settings, so he quickly wrote an application that opens a dialog box displaying them. It allows him to easily adjust his preferences. He suspected that other people might have a similar frustration, so he put his application on Version Tracker
(http://www.versiontracker.com ), a website that offers
8How to Avoid Economic Ruin: A Survival Guide software of all kinds for download. He had an astronomical number of downloads -- on the first day.
Your application does not need to be “cutting edge” to sell. You just need an application that will do something you otherwise could not do, will solve a problem, or will make people’s lives a bit easier (or more fun). Some examples of these types
of applications include:
• Rondo: A MIDI player and Piano Keyboard practice tool.
( http://www.fracturedsoftware.com/rondo/) • Simple Cataloger
(http://www.oatmealandcoffee.com/software/simplecataloger/), an application that logs every file in a folder and saves it in an easy to read and use file. This is great for people who produce a variety of CDs that are shipped to various destinations -- to keep a record of what information has been burned onto each CD. • iWatermark: Puts your watermark on your images. (http://www.scriptsoftware.com/iwatermark/) • Volleyball Ace: This developer got the idea from his daughter’s high school volleyball team. They needed an application to record and manipulate their team statistics. He created this application for his own personal use, but the team coach really liked it and its now sold to volleyball coaches across the United States. (http:// www.ace4vb.com/) • Coachstat: A baseball statistics program. (http://www.coachstat.com/) • MyBlood: An application that allows you to track and
manage your ancestry.• iPod Access: A great music and video transfer application for the Mac that I’ve used quite a bit.
(http://www.findleydesigns.com/ipodaccess/index.html) • Movie Montage: An application that gives users quick access to all the Quicktime movies on their computer in one window so they can view and export them. (http://
www.findleydesigns.com/moviemontage/index.html) • SpamX: A Windows email spam tracking and reporting application. • A police detective wanted to add improvements
to an application he already used in his job, and he now sells his application across the country. • PACES: An exam simulator for anesthesia students.• Inspeed: A wind speed and direction tracking application. (http://www.inspeed.com) • Animated Knots:
An application that explains how to tie different kinds of knots - whether you are looking for the Blood Knot, the Crown Sinnet or the Monkey’s Fist - this has it all.
• Serial Cloner: An application made by a cancer researcher for molecular biologists
that allows them to manipulate, modify, and prepare new DNA fragments via computer simulation. (http://serialbasics.free.fr/Serial_Cloner.html)
Consider the story of a maintenance manager at a power plant in Florida who created an application that made him more valuable in his job. When the power plant is in continuous operation, more than 5,000 alarms go off. Most of them are false alarms, or just alerts, nonetheless, they are all printed out and filed. This became a cumbersome chore for the manager - imagine all of the paper that was wasted! He created an application that would capture the necessary data and put it on a website instead of printing it out. His application saves his company time and resources. Think about ways you could do things differently, or what you could do to save your company money. It could lead to a future opportunity.
Another great example is the guy who worked at a printing company and saw the need to automate a process in his job. He had no programming experience, but he created an application that saved the company so much money they decided to sell the solution to other commercial printers. This spun off into a software division putting this employee in charge. He had no idea he was going to go from simply working at a printing company to being in charge of its new software division!
You can make an application to do almost anything. The software world is your oyster and the possibilities are endless. Developing software is no longer just for the super technical computer nerds. It’s for everyone.
Here are some more suggestions to help you get started. Ask yourself, your friends, family, and coworkers these four questions:1. Have you ever searched for an application on the Internet and not found
what you were looking for? 2. Is there a task you perform every day at work that you could automate? 3. What is a source of frustration for you? 4. What sort of tool would help make your job easier, your home life easier?
Another suggestion is to observe how your co-workers, or others around you, work. Often people become so used to doing something in an inefficient way that they don’t
stop to think there might be a better way to do it. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see what is right in front of us. I know a developer who asked himself these questions. A citizen of the United Kingdom but a resident in the United States, he realized that it was very difficult for him to get a passport photo at the local drugstore matched to the specifications of the UK passport. He created an application that allows you to create any number of passport photos for a variety of countries’ specifications. His application is called Passport Photo Studio
(http://passportphotostudio.com/) and he now sells it online for $8.95. Does he make all of his income from this helpful little application? Probably not. But it certainly helps!
Determining If There is a Market for your Idea
How do you know if your application will sell competitively? Talk to your potential customers! Explain to them what you are planning on doing and determine if there is an interest. Tell them the features you are planning to implement and see if they have any suggestions. It would also benefit you to identify any competitors in your market space and understand what their product does and who their audience is. You might find there is already something out there that does what you were thinking of doing. On the other hand, you might find that an existing product does a bad job and that you could greatly improve upon its weaknesses and shortcomings. My point is: Take a look at the market before you start developing your application. You don’t want to develop something that will flop against the competition, or that has already been developed. Do the research up front so you won’t waste your time.
If you have an idea for an application, it’s not difficult to make it a reality, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Your idea doesn’t have to be grandiose, like the next Microsoft Office or iTunes. It probably won’t make you billions of dollars.
But if it just put another $1,000 a month in your pocket, that would certainly be a nice start, wouldn’t it? Start small, see what you can do, and as you hone your skills and ideas, tackle something larger.
How to Avoid Economic Ruin: A Survival Guide
Chapter 2: Software Made Simple
Choosing a Development Tool
Now that you have a great idea for your first application, how do you create it? Well, you need to start by getting a development tool, an application that will let you create your own application. With so many tools on the market today, selecting the right development tool can be a cumbersome task even for a seasoned developer. Here are a few tips.
1. You are definitely going to want something that is easy to learn, which quickly rules out a lot of development tools. 2. You need something with a good graphical interface so your application looks professional. 3. With the increasing market share of the Mac and Linux operating systems, you don’t want to lose any sales because
you don’t support a customer’s operating system. So, cross-platform development
tools are ideal. This will significantly narrow down your choices on tools. 4. Lastly, you’ll want a tool that is inexpensive but still a good long-term investment. You
don’t want to write your application in something “flimsy,” or a tool that takes you forever to learn, or one that might not make your application look professional. Remember, just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s better, and usually you get
what you pay for. An umbrella with a big hole in it on the clearance rack is no bargain and the same rule applies to selecting a development tool. If this is a tool you plan
to rely on for supplemental income, or possibly your whole income, invest in the correct one so you don’t have to go back and learn something new a few months later.
Choosing a Platform
You can write your application for three primary types of platforms: The desktop (on Mac, Windows, Linux or all), the mobile platform (iPhone, etc.) or for the web. You will have to think about your application and determine which platform will make the most sense. Many of you are probably thinking about how awesome it would be to develop your own application for the iPhone. Apple does provide their own development tool for the iPhone, but this tool is not really designed for someone with no software development experience. However, if you are thinking that it would make the most sense for your application to be on the mobile platform, then due to popularity, the iPhone would be the way to go. If you don’t have any programming experience, you might consider investing in having an experienced developer build the application for you, but this, of course carries more risk.
How to Avoid Economic Ruin: A Survival Guide 12
There are some options for the web, like PHP and Ajax, though it’s generally not very easy to make money from a web-based application. It can be done though - SalesForce.com (http://www.salesforce.com) is a great example of a profitable web application. But most web-based applications get their revenue from advertising, and often this can be difficult for someone to manage on their own. So, let’s focus on creating a desktop application.
Choosing a Language
Next, you’ll want to choose a programming language and development tool for your application. Based upon the requirements outlined above, you’ll rule out languages such as X-Code, Tcl, Python and a few others, pretty much leaving you Java, and C++. C++ is not a language designed for people who are just starting out or for people who want to get something done quickly. Java desktop applications are generally hard to deploy and use a non-standard user interface. Although Java is effective for developing server-side applications, it has failed on the desktop.
There is, however, another language and development tool that is excellent for developing cross-platform applications: REALbasic. The user interfaces you create in REALbasic maintain the appropriate look and feel - whether for Windows, Mac or Linux. REALbasic is a modern, object oriented language that enables you to create a cross-platform version of your application from a single mouse click. Because it’s
object-oriented, you don’t have to know a bunch of code to lay out your user
You can simply lay it out graphically, just drag and drop items into the window editor, and you can refer to the REALbasic Language Reference or User’s Guide when you need to get into the nitty gritty of your application’s functionality. It’s really easy
to use and easy to learn, and you don’t have to worry about downloading the application and wondering what to do next. It comes with a QuickStart and Tutorial that will hold your hand until you are ready to venture out on your own. REALbasic is inexpensive and will get you on your way to developing a cross-platform application. I just want to stress how important the ability to compile cross-platform applications is. Go to your nearest coffee shop and look at all the different types of laptops you see people using. They aren’t all Windows laptops anymore!
So how do you get started in REALbasic? First you’ll need to go to http:// www.realsoftware.com/download to download REALbasic. A free 30-day Trial Edition is available so you can check it out first. Or you can simply download the application and purchase your very own license through the online store. Included in the download is the product documentation, which will help you get started. A new feature added to REALbasic is the Quick Launch window with a lot of great information for new users, along with some links to video tutorials which are a great way to introduce yourself to the tool.
So what do you do once you download REALbasic? The first thing you need to do is work through the REALbasic Quick Start and Tutorial. They are pretty simple but they will really help you learn and understand what you are doing. With them you will get to create your first software application! Next there are some helpful video tutorials for new users through RBTV here:
Another great thing about REALbasic is its user community. Not only is there a knowledgeable group of developers who use REALbasic and discuss features and ask questions, but they also want to see the tool prosper and grow. And it’s a peaceful community where newcomers are welcome. Don’t be afraid to post questions to the forums or mailing list - the more seasoned developers will try to help you if they can. What’s more, the REALbasic engineers themselves post on the forums and lists, too. You would never see direct participation like that from a company like Microsoft. The upper management and the engineers alike post on the company blog, http:// www.realsoftwareblog.com. The blog posts range from industry trends, helpful hints, product announcements and other information. You can also follow REAL Software on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/realsoftware.
As one member of the community told me, “The community is really one of a kind. I
hope that kind of atmosphere stays around the product forever. It’s an incredible resource for new people to come in and the attitude towards ‘newbies’ is very welcoming.” The community is always there as a resource for you whether through the
online user forums (http://forums.realsoftware.com) or the NUG (Network User Group),
mailing list (http://realsoftware.com/support/listmanager/).
If you have any prior programming experience, especially in Visual Basic, you are in luck! REALbasic has a fairly low learning curve for you. Very quickly you will feel comfortable with the syntax of the language and the object-oriented usability. If you have no programming experience whatsoever, do not fret! It’s pretty easy for
you to get acquainted with REALbasic. I know people who hardly knew any HTML yet were able to build an application in REALbasic. Don’t be scared. REALbasic exempts you from having to lay out all of the code for your user interface, since those elements are all objects within the development environment. You can create some cool little applications, like a web browser, with just one line of code! You visually lay out the user interface and then write a bit of code to tell your application what to do. It’s pretty simple. And the REALbasic Language Reference includes all the stuff you will need to know about the REALbasic language, such as syntax, specific commands, the works. It will always be there to help you along the way if you get stuck or are unsure, simply select Language Reference from the Help menu.
Testing Your Application
Since you are going to be creating an application for multiple platforms, you will need access to hardware on all of the platforms you intend to support so you can adequately test your application’s compatibility. If you already own a Mac, you can run Windows and Linux through VMWare (http://www.vmware.com/) or Parallels (http:// www.parallels.com/). If you have a Windows PC, you can run Linux, but you cannot run Mac OS X. At the beginning, you might consider asking a friend who has a Mac if you can come over to test on their Mac. Later, you could purchase your own Mac if you wanted to test on all three platforms.
Before you launch your product upon the masses, you should make sure it is sufficiently tested. Ask your friends, family, coworkers or anyone who might find value in your product to test it. Have them provide feedback about usability and notify you of any bugs they encounter.
Naming Your Creation
When selecting a name for your application, be sure to pick something people can say. Most likely, word-of-mouth will be the quickest and most effective way to sell your product so you want to make sure to have a name that is easy to say and, subsequently, easy to spell so they can easily find it online. A name that effectively describes what your product does or somehow relates to that is advisable. When people hear the name they should be able to identify to some degree what its purpose is.
If you are in the United States you will want to check to see if the name has already been trademarked (http://www.uspto.gov/main/profiles/acadres.htm). Please note
that I am not a lawyer and you should consult one to do a trademark search once you have decided on a name and are at the point where you know the product is going to “ship”. Also, you might consider obtaining the corresponding domain. Having the same domain as your product name is certainly not the be all end all, but it’s definitely helpful for marketing purposes.
Spreading the Word
Now that you are on your way to creating your application, how do you get it out there? The next few chapters will cover creating your website, making it a selling machine and marketing your product.
Chapter 3: Creating a Website
Many people think creating a website is something for the pros. Well, you’ve just created your own application, so creating your own website will be a breeze! After all, how many websites do you visit each day? I think everyone should know the basics of how they work. The good news is that there are a ton of resources available for creating your own website. One thing to consider, if you prefer not to spend the time creating your own website, is finding a freelancer on Craigslist
(http://www.craigslist.org) or a similar website, or paying a friend who knows web design. This could get your product out to the market a bit faster than if you were to design it yourself.
Having an informative and well thought out website is key. It will be the storefront for any software application you create. When making your website design, you must take into consideration your audience’s level of internet experience, age, background, etc. Gone are the days where you can put up a simple image and HTML description. The public’s expectations for websites are continually increasing with the availability of broadband and rich media. To be competitive with other websites you have to consider it as digital entertainment. One way to appeal to your audience’s expectations is to create demo videos and put them on your website. Not only will they spruce up your website, they will show your potential customers how to use your product.
To get started on your website you will first need to get a URL, a place for your website to live. Getting a URL is easy; go to http://www.godaddy.com (there are other sites you can go to for domain purchases) and do a domain search for the URL you would want to have. New .com websites run about $9.99 per year and they give you a discount for purchasing multiple years up front. You can also purchase server space with Go Daddy and they make it really easy to set up your account.
Before you start designing your website, I suggest you get a simple step-by-step guide to help you. One that I really like is Creating Web Pages in Easy Steps by Nick Vandome