Can You Build a Successful Business As a Software Developer?

As we all know developers and salespeople usually share different traits. A developer seems to be more analytical.

Most people are more introverted, they are into maths, algorithms and stuff like that and I don’t mean to oversimplify that because I’m a developer myself.

But most salespeople are more extroverted trying to be more dynamic and more actionable in just jumping on calls and e-mails and this and that.

So, it’s a different dynamic in the environment of people that are working together. Usually again, when you see a dev and a salesperson you can easily tell the difference.

Again, I’m seeing most, of course, most stereotypes are no longer effective as for the past few years, but you get the gist out of it.

So, most developers who have spent several years in the company may decide, well, at least some of them may decide that they want to start their own business, become a full-time freelancer, a consultant or directly from an agency.

And to be honest it is getting extremely common and that is the reason why we have so many development agencies out there, and design agencies and SEO agencies and things like that.

But at least for the marketing part because creative people often work in arts agencies and marketing agencies and creative studios that are working more directly with clients we’re understanding the business needs in a kind of a better way.

Understanding The Business Semantics As A Software Developer

While developers are often assigned to a bunch of tasks without really being asked to understand the business semantics of things and of course I’m talking about junior developers sometimes mid-level developers.

When you become a senior developer and senior technical architect, you’re expected that it’s a hard requirement to understand the business semantics.

Because in order to build the right architecture, in order to put all the pieces together you need to understand the business needs, the business expectations, the business requirements in order to pick the right solution for a given problem.

Can A Software Developer Found A Business?

So, now that we have it out of the way, how can a web developer or can a web developer become a founder, a successful one when they don’t possess sales skills?

It’s a very common question, there’s a lot of web development agencies out there, lots of people who have started as developers and decided to fund their own companies and there is a good reason for that.

Statistically speaking, there are lots of those cases. And the reason being is that good web developers and software developers and other types of developers are really smart.

They have a high capacity in terms of brain power and memory and everything else they can collect references to different stories and resources they know where to find stuff.

They think fast, they can analyze business situations. And on top of that, they get lots of business opportunities, so they did get to work on different business problems. It’s always evolving, always in the learning cycle so their brain is always in a learning workflow itself.

And on top of that, the salaries are really great which means that for example as a developer in most places, you can get to start your own business in a different non-I.T industry and probably pay people half of your usual salary or even less.

Again, I’m talking about different types of jobs that are not in I.T., not in digital, not in the medical industry, or law.

It’s simply the gap is too high, so you can start small by even offloading a portion of your salary to a different role which is not an I.T, which means that demand is slower, and the usual salaries are lower.

That’s again I’m oversimplifying. It’s likely that web developers and software engineers may look forward to different opportunities to start on their own which is fine. Again, I still don’t advise most people to take this route because it’s a lot of work that’s not really devolvement related.

Like, when I started as a business owner, first I started as a freelancer and then I founded the company. I soon realized that the time I was spending on development was getting shorter and shorter and shorter and shorter.

Because I had to do sales and marketing, and networking and finances, and accounting, billing, legal stuff, and a bunch of other different things unrelated to what I was supposed to do as a developer, right? Because that’s the essence of running a business. But still, most people believe or it’s a common way to start a business is to just focus on sales.

If you’re a great salesman, of course, you can go door to door. You can do networking events you can again meet up through conferences, you can write cold emails and eventually find clients and when you find clients you can work for them at the same time you can potentially hire people and you can outsource those people to those people.

And of course, there is another misconception here because a great developer is not necessarily a great manager, a great recruiter, a great leader and a lot of other things that a senior, kind of a CEO or a Founder needs.

What Software Developers Can Do About Sales

But regardless if you’ve decided to do that, you have several different options.

Learning Sales

The first of course is learn sales, just become more extrovert, just overcome your objections and everything else start talking to more and more and more clients start pitching your services try to solve problems for us.

This is the number one most important thing and you need to deal with because once you start solving problems there is a high chance that customers are going to come to you asking you to solve their problems by paying you just a portion of the return on investment that you are supposed to get.

That’s the first rule of thumb so to speak.

Finding A Co-Founder

Number two is trying to find a co-founder CEO co-founder is probably the smartest thing that most people tend to do.

They get the business person who is again an extrovert, someone who is great at sales. Someone who can do the sales for them.

And again, that’s a great way. Usually, you get someone who’s V.P. of sales elsewhere or a chief sales officer or someone else who is ready to become a co-founder of your business.

Given the fact that they like the idea so they do the sales part for you and potentially at first they also take care of market analysis and business planning and other bids so that you can possibly stay at the role of CEO for a certain amount of time.

Working With A Sales Agency

Number three is work with a kind of sales agency or something else by sales agencies usually mean all of those lead generation agencies that also do outreach.

This may be a good start for you. Some work, some not. But, if you’re in a niche that’s not that competitive and if you provide something unique, this may be something to do.

Using Marketplaces And Partnerships

Number four, think of using some form of a marketplace. Marketplaces do the kind of marketing for you. And this may be a great idea to utilize their own services so that they can bring new leads one way or another.

Another option of the marketplace is partnerships. Partnerships could be instrumental because for example as a web developer you can partner up with a hosting company with an SEO company, advertising, creative, other things that also work with clients who have websites.

So, if you find the right partnerships, you can work together with the same client and retain them for a longer period.

This could be a mutually helpful relationship by you, also onboarding your own clients to the types of services that your partners are following.

How Developers Can Become Marketers

Next one is marketing. You can entirely bet on marketing which could be outbound and inbound and try to build a brand of yourself investing in press releases, investing in content marketing, PPC and a bunch of other things in order to work around the sales issue.

I know a lot of people who run agencies and they don’t have a sales staff. They don’t really take on sales calls. They only have requests for proposal forms with lots of fields and their clients are only going to that specific form.

Closing that form, sending it and if the company is interested they get back to the client and say we’re starting the relationship so that’s, of course, a great way.

And the last one is you can try to hire if you don’t want to have a co-founder. You can try to hire your V.P. of sales.

Now that gets a little tricky for starting businesses this could be a very expensive endeavor. And more importantly, it’s likely that you cannot teach that specific person the semantics of your own business and the specifics and how to overcome objections because you’re not great at sales.

If you follow Steli Efti from They also have a blueprint on hiring salespeople and the blueprint starts with the CEO should be the chief salesman of the company for a while before they onboard their first salesperson.

And then they can start training other people or kind of delegates that to the again, chief sales officer or someone else who is going to be responsible with it.

So long story short, there are different ways to do that. The thing is you really need to decide whether you’re willing to take the financial risks and work the crazy hours and so on. On running a business, that’s the first thing.

The second thing is you need to decide on whether you need sales, or you can go through partnerships or marketing or other channels and whether you’re willing and interested in pursuing and pushing for becoming a great salesperson yourself or you need a co-founder, a V.P. of sales or someone else who can potentially do the heavy lifting for you.

So once you’ve made a decision, you can give it a shot just again make sure that you’re fully in that you’re really interested in pursuing that. And if that’s the case, good luck and probably see you on the interwebs.