This is a question I received from a well-respected developer. Let's call him "Nick".
Nick is highly skilled and has recently branched out into consulting. He's thinking of augmenting his consulting practice with a range of developer-focused tools. I told him to go for it, and am giving him as much advice and help as possible.
Building products is certainly a 'résumé booster' — but it is a whole lot more as well.
Let's say you do a terrific job of building a product, but you don't generate much money in sales. This can certainly happen, and there's a lot you can do to improve your sales — but let's take a worst case scenario and say that, at the end of the whole experience, you've made almost no money.
What have you gained? Just something to put on your résumé? Certainly not! You've gained solid, real world experience and knowledge of the most marketable tasks in the world.
And this isn't the usual losers' defense. "We failed, but we learned a lot." This is real, tangible learning. This is specific and meaningful. It's not an abstract claim, "Err, we think we learned something... didn't we?" This is actual concrete learning.
The skills you achieve in shipping one tiny product can be applied again and again. For yourself and for others. And they are such broadly applicable skills that you can apply them in everything you do, whether its consulting, contracting, programming, writing or even running a food truck.
"Productizing" your work is a very valuable skill to have unto itself; possibly the most valuable outcome.
What did you give up? If you followed my approach you spent hardly any money. You gave up watching a few TV shows. You gave up time spent staring out the bus window.
You can be the best in the world at what you do, but unless you've learned how to share those talents, how to promote those talents and how to multiply your effectiveness, your skills are wasted.
So, you can learn, through productizing, how to help other people, not just yourself.
Unlike writing an article (for example) you can't skip over any of the details along the way. You can't remove any of the tricky steps or hand-wave past anything.
And this solid, practical form of experience gives you confidence, true confidence, not the flimsy sham confidence of a trickster.
But back to the original question... can you make real money from it?
CAN YOU MAKE REAL MONEY FROM IT?
Can you make real money from it!?
That's right. 500 cents.
Well you can make a lot more than 500 cents from it, of course. You can make millions.
But the reason why I bring up the figure of 500 cents is because there is something magical about those first 500 cents.
There is something magical about those first 500 cents.
When you make a product, and you promote it, and it goes off into the world all by itself, and it brings back 500 cents of real money, from a complete stranger, simply because the need you identified was a need that they shared, there is a magical transformation. It is a wonderful thing.
Can it make a lot more than that?
Of course it can. But so what if it doesn't?
Nobody is a failure who has brought in that first 500 cents. That's all you need to focus on for now.
Is there a topic you'd like to see covered, or a question you'd like answered?
leonignore this@ignore this tooyourfirstproduct.com
...with your question or topic suggestion. I'll be sure to respond with a personal and thoughtful reply.