Software Hustle for Entrepreneurs: Make Your Programming Inexperience a Non-Issue

Do you have a professional career at a thriving corporation, but you dream of becoming an entrepreneur? Are you a fledging entrepreneur still holding that corporate job and big dreams of leveraging technology to solve the world’s most wicked problems?

Like millions of Americans in this modern digital age, do you have between zero and ten degrees below zero of actual experience in coding software?

Let’s take a deep dive into your daily life as a corporate sales manager for a multi-national company selling widgets to fast food chains, or consulting services to war torn countries improving phone service, or perhaps you provide HR or tax services to a non-profit building and coordinating rescue teams for refugees.

Whatever your professional career, you know your daily grind. You know the software systems well enough to be great at what you do; and when you know your passwords that day, it’s a better day.

However, you also know those especially challenging, but familiar blocks in your career that make you stop — really stop, and really think.

In those blocks, whether days or months, you find yourself and your team waist deep in some peculiar, seemingly impossible problem you are charged with fixing and finishing. Perhaps you makeshift your way around the issues; or, you sweat away hundreds of extra hours to get the job done with limited resources.

On your third cup of coffee (and maybe you give your coffee Red Bull too, whatever it takes), cheese crackers, a pop-tart dipped headache, and a second walk around the block tirelessly pumping yourself up to keep going (you have bills to pay) — it is in that moment, your mind wanders to a better way.

You imagine a sophisticated software program that streamlines your progress and work output. You imagine how that will improve your performance and the performance of others. Because you know the problem well, you map together a simple and brilliant solution.

But, the map of your brilliant solution is not enough to get started. In your mind stands an enormous roadblock. You have no programming experience. You didn’t have patience to learn HTML to keep up on Myspace, how can this work?

Fortunately, software development services are widely accessible. In this open source digital age, if you have a plan and persistence to begin, then you can enlist a software development team to help you build the software elements you need. With help from the right software team and perhaps aid from your professional business experience and seemingly unrelated academic backgrounds in liberal arts and law, it can be inconsequential that you lack formal education and experience in actual software programming.

Make no mistake, the hustle is real, the hours are long, and the following are five key practices and skills you can leverage to make your programming inexperience…dare we say it…irrelevant to your success.

1. Plan Daily, Plan Weekly, Plan Yearly.

A well organized, clear business plan can be as important to software developers as it to founders and investors. Plan your napkin idea initially in separate buckets: the product, the business, the funding, the budget. Keep it simple and straightforward for yourself and everyone else.

Elite software developers will want to know elements of your business plan including the problem you are solving and whether you’re prepared for the foreseeable long and challenging road ahead.

The software planning process also means researching, networking and vetting software developers against your budget. Keep in mind — hiring an individual or company of developers can also be a dating game. You love her, she doesn’t love you — the most successful entrepreneurs learn when to adapt their approach and try again.

2. Pitch, Again and Again.

Cofounder, Kristin Miller pitching InMotion Albums at Summit Angel Summit at Elevate Co-Space. Photo credit to Peter Adams, the Rockies Venture Club.

Your SaaS model, mobile application or other software solution may look to a software developer like a waste of time, and it is not because you are inexperienced at programming software.

You’ll need to pitch your solution with clarity and passion — take every opportunity to sell your value story in meetings, your online content and website, phone calls, and even casual conversations. Your passion for the vision and solution must endure, always.

Sell it like a distant memory you can’t forget. Remember in fifth grade when you disemboweled the dishwasher desperate to fix it before Thanksgiving? You can vividly illustrate that story like it happened yesterday with humor and passion. The same goes for your pitch, tell it like a story with confidence, clarity and passion!

3. Establish Clear Expectations Early.

Take great care to bridge the gap between what you expect and envision from the software deliverables, and what you are actually receiving. You may envision the National Lampoon’s Christmas tree, but you’re actually getting the Charlie Brown tree.

Look at comparable software applications. Articulate and organize your expectations early with bullets in simple terms like: green, yellow, red.

· Green — must have features,

· Yellow — depends on budget, time and outcomes of other features,

· Red — future upgrades indicating where the software is going.

4. Learn Balsamiq.

Youtube can be an excellent learning tool. Depending on the program you are building, it is likely you will use Balsamiq. Balsamiq is a wire-framing software tool that allows you to clearly map your software design. Think Etch-a-Sketch for grown-ups. It can be that easy. You won’t develop and write the code, but you need to paint or illustrate your ideas clearly in a roadmap the developers can use.

Below is an example illustration our founding team at InMotion Albums sent to the developers working with us at Amadeus Consulting — A Division of Exadel in Boulder, Colorado to build the web and display applications. The software engineers informed and encouraged our founding team to begin by wire-framing our vision.

The actual web application is live here:

InMotion Albums Web Application — Initial concept design by cofounder, Kristin Miller
LCD Module Application to run inside the InMotion Album — Initial concept design by cofounder, Kristin Miller.

5. Demonstrate Pervasive Professionalism, Integrity and Patience.

Exude professionalism, integrity, patience and flexibility with your software development team. Approach and think of your partner developers like they are your corporate supervisor(s). When drafting emails, ask yourself if this is how you would email your highly respected colleague or supervisor of the company where you accept a paycheck. Your professional demeanor, integrity and patience will be quietly noticed, and it may assist you through the tough obstacles that will inevitably get in your way.

This article was written by Kristin Miller, the Cofounder and CEO of Colorado startup, InMotion Albums. InMotion was named a CES Innovation Awards Honoree in Digital Imaging in the same category as HP and Samsung, and was featured by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™ hosted startup-themed broadcast media tour.

Reach Kristin at kmiller@inmotionalbums.com