I’ve spent most of my career developing custom software. I’ve worked as an in-house developer creating custom “line of business” solutions. I’ve worked for software development firms that provide custom software for clients. And I’ve primarily been a self-employed custom software developer since first going out on my own in early 2000. Today, a lot of the work that I’m doing involves developing custom software solutions using Xojo.
I’m often asked by other developers – some who are already using Xojo and some who are not – where the opportunities for Xojo developers are, and how to find them. I also occasionally see these types of questions posted on the Xojo forum by developers who want to use their knowledge of and passion for Xojo to start their own business. So I thought I’d share some of my experiences and observations.
There are a number of Xojo developers who have been successfully selling commercial software solutions. For example, there’s EverWeb, Jeremie Leroy’s Packr, and the amazing color management applications provided by CHROMiX, to name just a few.
However, in my case, it’s all about custom software. Businesses turn to me for highly specialized software that simply doesn’t already exist. These are solutions that are tailor-made to meet their business needs and fit seamlessly into their processes. One of the many things that I love about Xojo is that regardless of what type of solution a client needs, I can build it for them. With Xojo, I can develop web, desktop, iOS, and even Raspberry Pi apps – and Android apps will soon be possible as well. But best of all, because Xojo is a rapid application development platform, I can deliver solutions quickly and affordably. And needless to say, clients love that.
Enhancing SaaS Solutions
To help reduce costs and increase efficiency, many businesses are moving “to the cloud.” They’re using Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions. Oracle’s NetSuite, a cloud-based ERP system, and SalesForce, are two popular SaaS examples that you may have heard of.
It’s probably not surprising that this move to SaaS has had a big impact on my business, and you’re probably thinking it has been a negative impact. But you’d be wrong. In fact, SaaS has actually opened up new – and very lucrative – opportunities for me.
Here’s why. These services try to be “all things to all people.” (Or, more accurately, all things to all businesses). They provide everything from contact management, quoting, order processing, inventory … you get the idea. And it’s that breadth of functionality, and the tight integration between those functions, that appeals to many businesses.
However, businesses often find that they have needs that these solutions don’t address. And that’s where the opportunities for custom software developers come in. We have the ability to develop external solutions that integrate with SaaS systems. And as I mentioned earlier, with Xojo, we can develop those systems quickly and affordably. It’s simply a matter of learning how those systems allow integration. At that point, with Xojo, wiring up to them is usually quite easy.
Of all of the opportunities that I’m running into these days, it’s the integration with SaaS that has me the most excited.
I’ve been developing with FileMaker for many, many years. At one point, I even wrote a book on it. But back in 2015, I saw changes coming to the platform that lead me to begin move away from it. Increased pricing. Licensing changes, and so on.
Today, while Xojo is my preferred development platform, I am still actively doing FileMaker work as well. But it’s very different. I very rarely develop new FileMaker databases. Instead, clients – many of whom are FileMaker developers – are coming to me and seeking help. Some are looking to make the most of their investments in the FileMaker platform. Others, including several FileMaker developers, are looking to migrate their solutions from FileMaker to Xojo.
While having experience with FileMaker certainly helps, I strongly believe that you don’t need FileMaker experience to be successful with these projects. The trick, I think, is to think of FileMaker as just another database. Sure, it’s different from the databases that you’re probably used to dealing with, like MySQL, SQLite, and so on. But FileMaker is, essentially, a relational database. And if you’re curious about how you can connect to it from Xojo, check out Temper, a Xojo-based, open source Web API for hosted FileMaker databases.
Finding and Attracting These Opportunities
I’ve discussed the types of opportunities that I’m seeing for Xojo developers. But you’re probably wondering how to actually find these opportunities.
I’m sure that if you try hard enough, you’ll eventually stumble upon these opportunities on job boards such as UpWork or even Craigslist. But I’ve found that the best way to get business is to have prospective clients come to you. In other words, don’t just look for business opportunities, also do things that will attract business opportunities to you.
To do that, you’ve got to give prospects something to be attracted to. A way to learn more about you, your skills, your experience, and so on.
While I’m not a fan of social media, I’ve found that LinkedIn is a great way to network with people, including people that you already know and new business contacts as well. (If you want, connect with me on LinkedIn.) Of course, you should also setup a professional Web site. This is becoming increasingly easy to do, with services such as SquareSpace and Weebly. And be sure to check out EverWeb, which I mentioned earlier.
When you get your site in place, consider adding a blog to it. Even if you only post occasionally, I think you’ll find that it helps to attract prospective clients. My advice: Write about technical topics (that developers like us will understand) as well as topics that a non-technical business person will understand.
I’m probably one of the shyest people that you’ll ever meet. However, I really try to move outside my comfort zone by attending conferences and user group meetings. And I’m really pushing myself when I present at these events. This is a great way to meet other developers, and you never know what might come from making those acquaintances. If I can do it, you can, too.
And finally, you should consider investing in a Xojo Pro license. With Xojo Pro, you not only get the ability to compile your apps for all of Xojo’s targets (desktop, Web, and iOS), but you’ll also get access to consulting leads that are posted to a special area of the Xojo Forum. My investment in Pro has more than paid for itself.
Whether you’re a Xojo developer that is already doing development for a living, or a developer that is considering it, I hope that the experiences, observations, and tips and tricks that I’ve shared will help you achieve success. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on the Xojo forum. And I hope to meet you at XDC.
Tim Dietrich is a custom software developer based in Richmond, Virginia. To learn more, visit: https://timdietrich.me