Career Paths To Make Money As A Programmer Part Five : The Entrepreneur

This is the last post in the series of career paths available to developers to make money. In the previous posts, I've talked about normal employment, contracting, freelancing and the indie developers. You definitely need to have an entrepreneurial spirit to get into contracting, freelancing or indie development. In any of the aforementioned career choices, it's the individual that needs to pick the projects/products they will work on, to find the own work and to run a business. In my definition, the big different between a software entrepreneur and the rest boils down to working for yourself, or hiring other people to work for you.

What Is An Entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur is one of those buzz words that you hear all over the place but means different things to different people. For this article, I'm defining it as the people who own their own companies and have employees running a company like a digital agency, or a large software company. The entrepreneur is the guy you think of as a Silicon valley start-up, or a digital agency owner. These are the people who have transitioned from solely working for someone else or themselves and have taken on the responsibility of employing other people. You’ve probably realized by reading this series of posts that software development and entrepreneurship are different things. Depending on how much you love coding and the amount of risk you are capable of taking in your life can greatly determine where your career will progress. For a lot of 'programming jobs', software development is a small subset of the skills you need. An entrepreneur will need to be infinitely more business based and risk adverse than an employee ever would. An entrepreneur has a lot more pressure, but will also have a lot more potential reward. This career path is another stage of breaking the traditional trading your time for money and swaps out for making money from other people's time. The more people you have working for you, in theory, the more money you will make per person who works for you. An entrepreneur then has the ability to make unlimited money, look at Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs. At the beginning of your career it is very likely you will start off in a job, maybe start free-lancing, or making a small hobby project that takes off and then, at some stage, you need to hire people to keep up with demand. The entrepreneur understands technology, but is more focused on how they could make money from the opportunities life throws at them. Doing this is a lot more complicated than simply writing some code. It's having the balls to see an opportunity, throw money at the situation in a hope to make longer term success.

Is This Right For Me?

If you hate the idea of everything business related, having responsibility for your employees' well being, firing people and a whole host of other things, then you might want to skip this article as this path is not right for you. Risk and fear are a big part of this route; 1 in 3 new business fail. When you only have to think about yourself it is a lot easier compared to having to take responsibility for other people's welfare. If you can't afford to pay other people they could lose their houses, you may have to declare bankruptcy. This is the risk of this route, especially where there is the startup or agency costs. I don't think a lot of people start their career as an entrepreneur. Owning a company and having people work for you is something you build up from a lot of hard-work. If you want to own a successful company then the best place to start is either freelancing, contracting or indie development. After trying out a few different things and ideas and a lot of hard work, it's something people seem to fall into. It's also another reason why as a career path I think people are more likely to just naturally fall into it. You should consider this career path if:

  • You can handle the stress of managing other people's careers
  • You have a strong interest in business and running a company
  • You want to be a leader

Conclusion With some passion for the craft and a lot of hard work anyone can succeed and make money as a programmer. Each of us is very different, our internal make-up is unique to ourselves. The way any software developer makes money needs to reflect this. If you have a wife and kids with a mortgage to pay, then maybe a career is a good option for you. If you hate being told what to do and you want to work on the things you care about and can handle the risk in pay, then becoming an indie developer or entrepreneur can pay you a lot more than you could ever get trading your time for money. If your values are a mix of both ends of the spectrum, then freelancing and contracting are the best paths for you. The important aspect of this decision is that you are happy in life. If you are unhappy with your work you won’t succeed. If you hate being told what to do and you hate your boss, try out contracting. As a developer, I have become more successful working for myself than I ever would have as an employee. When I worked for someone else I could never find enough motivation to excel. When I had no one to blame, I worked 200% harder for myself and consequently made more money. If you can ask yourself, is what I am doing currently what I really want to do, then good for you, keep doing what you're doing. If not, then maybe it's time to start investigating another path.

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Jon D Jones

Software Architect, Programmer and Technologist Jon Jones is founder and CEO of London-based tech firm Digital Prompt. He has been working in the field for nearly a decade, specializing in new technologies and technical solution research in the web business. A passionate blogger by heart , speaker & consultant from England.. always on the hunt for the next challenge

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