Rural Housewife or Tech Entrepreneur? You Decide

Marketing Software Skills

with 7 comments

If you ask a software developer how to make money writing code, you’ll usually get employment or selling applications as your answer. It’s my opinion, however, that most are missing the boat and need to think of their skills as a marketable service.

The other answers, while not wrong, have to do with point of view.

If I get a fancy box and shelf space in the big box chain stores, then I’m offering a product. The transaction might even present itself as selling of services – like getting the neighbor kid to mow my lawn. But no matter how you look at it, it all starts with a skill.

If I toss Open Source software into the mix, then I usually have to deal with “Yeah, Right. How am I going to make money competing with a free download?”

Here’s the thing, software isn’t the only Open Source industry. In fact, many other open source businesses are very profitable and are generally skills that have been around for quite some time.

Let’s think about Open Source for a moment. The first line of the Wikipedia article states…

Open Source describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product’s source materials.

To me, it’s just the way we’ve always done things.

Software isn’t the only open source skill, in fact I’d say that all of these could be considered open source.

  • Carpentry
  • Plumbing
  • Farming
  • Repair – Automobiles, Washers, Refrigerators, etc.
  • Fashion – Sewing, design ideas, etc
  • And many others

The people who practice these trades might have their own secret sauce, but all can be learned in an open source manner by examining the construction or using freely available information to gain understanding of the process. If I can get a book at the library or search the internet for the information I need, then I consider the industry to be open source.

Let’s now consider what it means to be in an open industry where anyone has access to the tools and materials that you do…

Wouldn’t the existence of prepackaged seeds put farmers out of business?
What about home improvement stores? Shouldn’t that put Plumbers, carpenters and electricians out of business? Does access to scissors put the barber out of business?

With the answer to those questions being a resounding “NO,” then why do so many people within the Free and Open Source Software movement think that there’s no business opportunities for their skill set?

Yes, there is a bit of a vacuum in the consciousness about the use of Open Source software, but I don’t think that it’s going to be too hard to overcome.

What the middle market is missing people with marketable skills who are willing to begin offering their services in various formats. It could be shelf ready products, it could be custom work. FOSS could even be offered alongside commercial options.

The thing is, FOSS has so many advantages and one of them is price. If you are a provider and can offer the same services and functionality, but you don’t have to undercut your profit to be the less expensive option, that’s a big advantage for you and your customer.

So you make more money, they spend less… Talk about bringing value to the table. You’re happy, they’re happy, the computers are effective. How can you loose?

Up next!

To keep this post on topic and in an easy to digest format, how about we stop here for now.

In the next article I’ll talk more about how to position yourself as a service provider and how to set yourself up for a win.

I/O Session II – Lost Bits 1 by Carsten Mueller

Written by Karlie

July 18th, 2010 at 10:52 am

7 Responses to 'Marketing Software Skills'

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  1. The fundamental flaws with this are in that (A) products scale better than services for building revenue, and (B) you've connected on programming as being a trade (which it is). Plumbers also generally don't need much marketing.


    18 Jul 10 at 12:39 PM

  2. @Michael

    Plumbers need quite a bit of marketing. There are a ton of plumbers and many of them good, but the ones who usually get called are the ones who market themselves well OR the ones at the beginning of the list in the phone book (eg AAAplumbing).

    Having spent a long time around tradesmen, plumbers and electricians.. I have seen this all too often. People very good at their skills but unable to market themselves as well as others who may not do a job as well but knew how to put the right ad in the right place.


    18 Jul 10 at 2:39 PM

  3. @Karlie, could you publish more of the blog on the planet. I normally skip over digests as I like to read the whole article on the planet and then go and comment if it interests me more.


    18 Jul 10 at 2:42 PM

  4. I agree with Smooge.


    18 Jul 10 at 8:44 PM

  5. @Michael – For a start up, "build it and they will come" is a myth. So is word of mouth marketing, because, who is going to say how wonderful you are to work with if you've never worked with anyone before?!?!
    So take that idea that Small and Middle market companies need FOSS Solutions from a local provider and you'll see how these early adopters might be few and far between.  That's not to say that the market doesn't exist, just that those who decide to get in on the action will 1) take some of the risk, and 2) will, if successful reap the rewards that came with the risk. 
    Companies rarely get rich by copying, so it's the early adopters who are most likely to find success once the momentum begins.  It's not that there isn't room in the market for similar offerings, Fast food is one example.  Even if you sell burgers and fries like everyone else, you have to do it differently to be competitive.  Flame Broiled vs never frozen Square Patties, vs the very first chain.  But the issue here is that if a Mom-n-Pop wants to open on the 4th street corner and compete with the other 3, they too have to do things differently.  As more and more players enter the market it's harder and harder to find a niche. 
    I'd also caution that not everyone is going to make the cut.  Tthe skill set that makes someone really good a marketing, may not make them a good field tech, or good at diving in to the code base to fix a bug. 
    That brings me to Smooge's request that I expand my blog on the Fedora Planet… Since I had troubles getting my blog into the planet in the first place, I can't promise that I'll figure out how to expand it for you.  That doesn't mean I won't try or get someone with more terminal window talent to help me. 

    Karlie Robinson

    19 Jul 10 at 6:13 AM

  6. Thanks for the post, great food for thought! Especially with the current economic conditions, FOSS should be used whenever possible. I was recently discussing with a co-worker how a OS like Ubuntu or other flavors of Linux makes money. The only avenues of profit that came to mind were services and marketing. Regardless, without the help of skilled programmers it impossible to gain any sustainable value from these products.


    4 Aug 10 at 1:31 AM

  7. […] my previous posts, (1, 2) I’ve been talking about why Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMB) need Linux and Open […]

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