I've been developing software professionally for almost 20 years, the last five doing mobile - native iOS & Xamarin. I also have a lot of experience in marketing and growth hacking. I'm currently planning my next venture based on my mobile development skills and trying to figure out the best approach to take. Weighing the pros/cons of consulting vs product:
Consulting only - Easy to start but hard to scale. I would focus on offering xamarin cross-platform solutions for small businesses.
Consulting/Product mix - Do consulting work to generate income to fund the development and marketing of a product.
Products only - Only focus on building a product: app, game, etc. Very scalable. Boostrap to profitability.
Thank you for your input.
How important is scaling?
For example, if you're charging $400/hour for consulting and filling 20 hours a week, would you need to scale?
Products are great, but there's a lot of unbillable hassle involved in the path toward getting there. Your product needs to have a big enough audience to give you a strong paid user base. You need time set aside for marketing, support, new features, maintenance, and all the little things that are sure to come up. You probably need to create a second (and third, and so on) product as time goes on.
And if the product only grosses a few grand a month, it can feel like you're stuck: on one hand, you have paying customers; on the other, you're making barely $40K/year for the effort.
All that being said, a product with a solid user base and a solid team can pay serious dividends in the long run (assuming all goes well). It's just the struggle through the opening months/years to get the product to a place where you can actually pay yourself and staff and marketing budgets and such.
I've had successes with product businesses, but they've always been a bit more high-touch than I prefer. (That whole "there's no such thing as passive income" thing.)
Consulting offers a much shallower curve, and you can always "scale" by raising prices until you hit the proper blend of hours:billing.
However, consulting also puts more responsibility on your shoulders to be available to your clients.
In my experience I've found it's not impossible to make a good living as a consultant without killing yourself (six figures, <30 hours a week) if you set things up responsibly at the outset and know how to sell your own value.
I'd be happy to share my strategies on this with you if you're interested.
I've been providing professional development and consulting services since 1991. In 2001, the company developed some products and have been selling and supporting our clients for the last 14 years. While the products provide a good return our business has continued been a split of consulting and products.
The secret to consulting is to provide exceptional services and in many cases being able to field a team of consultants. This can be difficult for a small company and you need to have a roaster of associates to fill gaps on projects that require a team rather then just you.
With products you also need to maintain a high-level of support services and updates to satisfy the client base.
Marketing is critical to both and we have found that client referrals are the best form of marketing. Keep your customers happy and satisfied at all costs to ensure they speak well of you and give you glowing reviews to potential clients.
Marketing in consulting can also be a drain on resources. Too often "free consulting" is provided in marketing phases that can impact your bottom line.
When developing products you need to ensure you have strong client needs built in. The bottom line is driven by sales and if your products don't meet the needs, no sale.
Being an entrepreneur is extremely rewarding and full of risks. Deciding what product and service best suits your business is ultimately by your market.
My recommendation is to do some consulting and develop products while building your client base. You may also discover in your consulting the needs that you can fulfil with products.
Let me know if you would like to discuss this topic further. I'd be happy to share my experiences and offer my advice.
I'm glad you've mentioned that you have experience in both Marketing and Growth Hacking, because if you are planning on going into Consulting, that's mostly what you will be doing when you start, with a bit of sales added in.
If you'd like to be a developer, great, but first get a steady income. Developing software can take a while to get something that will become revenue generating, and creating a full-scale marketing push for something is time consuming. You will be working for yourself unpaid until you have money coming in from that source.
So, find someone to support you while you work on your more lucrative project.
Establishing yourself as a consultant to start will be difficult if no one knows who you are and you don't have the leads to get jobs in your area. If you have a client list already, then you're all set. If you don't, whip out those skills at creating a targeted lead list and get calling and pounding on doors until you find people willing to pay you. As a developer you have options like Guru.com and Freelancer, but you can may make money by going to the local coworking centers and networking mixers in your town to find people who are looking for ongoing developer talent.
Next, figure out what revenue model you want to follow for your own project. Schedule 2 hours or so per day for your own thing in addition to the work you're doing for your day job. Block it out, and then you'll be able to get something done quickly enough.
My recommendation there is to look at the top app lists on all the platforms, see the commonalities and try to find something that is either missing on IOS or can be done better by you. Then, simply do it and use a full scale marketing push to make people aware of it.