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This is kind of a new years thing for me as I want to be more entrepreneurial going forward with programming and this is kind of a general question for anyone who may share the same ambitions as me. I have experience with web programming and, although I work full time for a company doing programming, I have some freelance programmers that I work with / employ for small projects. I want to see about taking things to the next level as far as building a small company doing custom development. I'm just not sure how to figure out what niches to target as far as what type of apps to build as demos, etc. I was thinking mobile (maybe Android or iPhone) but am just curious if anyone has any advice / resources.

A lot of "web development" seems to end up being just using a CMS like Joomla or Wordpress, for smaller sites, so I want to figure a way to steer clear of this crowd and find some opportunity with companies / entrepreneurs who actually need real programming development done to build apps. Thanks for any advice

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To clarify, I'm not asking for specifics as to a certain product to make. I'm talking about broad demographics to target for a development team that would make software based on their requirements.. I'm just looking for some direction as far as this. I guess the answers I have so far have helped shape my perception a bit, I should probably choose a certain demographic, such as "mid-sized" corporations, or something, and make a marketing plan to appeal to them.. however, the ideas would be theirs, not mine, my goal is to work building their "ideas" into applications – programmx10 Jan 1 '11 at 4:09
Don't know how it is at your side of the wood, but if you want to steer clear from that crowd, I'd never take such assignments. Ever. Most of business is based on hear-say (I know a good programmer who can just do that for you). You want to spend your time in the right projects, mingle in the right circles, or you'd end up with tons of requests for something you don't want to do, and only little time left for the rest. – Joris Meys Jan 1 '11 at 15:08
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think I understand your question now, as per your edit. You desire to become essentially, a contract developer.

If that's the case, the most common scenarios I've seen are creating a business, developing a site and running ads in local newspapers and having a website that details what you're capable of.

If you personally have experience in a particular field then you would generally contact companies that work in that field and try to direct sell them or visit trade shows and online communities and hand out fliers/business cards detailing what you can do for them.

I've had web developers/companies who appeared to have checked companies in my town that have websites made in a stack that they specialize in call me offering to update the look/feel of the site and add functionality - providing examples of existing works they've made. I didn't need them at the time, but I definitely considered them.

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I think my question was mis-interpreted, I'm not making any product, my service of creating software is the product, the client would be telling me what they want and I would build based on that.. the proudct that I produce would be theirs to keep, not mine, I would be selling the service of creating it – programmx10 Jan 1 '11 at 4:06
@Rick: Ah. I think I see what you mean. Edited accordingly. – Steve Evers Jan 1 '11 at 4:12
thanks, yeah thats good advice, I think being a contractor requires a portfolio as I'm realizing.. I think that finding sales people isn't a bad idea actually as I want to do more technical development rather than having people base things off the look and feel of websites that I make (I'm not planning to sell design services), I guess I would like to get into doing business applications and things of that nature – programmx10 Jan 1 '11 at 4:20

If you are "not sure how to figure out what niches to target", than you probably shouldn't start your own business so fast. Your question is a bit similar to: "I want to create a large commercial software product, but I have no idea about what precisely customers may need. Do you have some grate ideas to give me for free?"

Niches to target are defined after a deep analysis of the project you have. Create a business plan, hire some consultants if need; it is the only way you can find how to succeed.

Also, the answer to a question like this is strongly linked to the place you live and where do you want to sell your products, since different countries have different requests in terms of software products. In United States, companies will target one type of things, but it will never work in China, and the things which work great in India will fail in Germany, just because the local market is not identical.

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well I disagree to an extent as I have the programming ability and feel I can take direction from a client and create an application that they need, I'm not talking about creating something such as a Software as a Service product, in which case you would be right... I'm talking about a custom programming "service" where I take direction from a client and create the application based on that – programmx10 Jan 1 '11 at 4:04
@programmx10, to get clients you need business expertise and need to do these things. Often the best niches are specializing in a particular type of business (financial industry or medical or ...) or a particular type of product that might cross industries (HR, warehouse management , etc.). But without the anlysis, you don't know what needs are not currently being met well by existing products and you don't have any special knowledge to sell. Programmers are a dime a dozen, program shops who understand business are not. – HLGEM Feb 15 '12 at 16:54

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