How (not) to sell software yourself

Selling software is simple…

Just start coding/making it based on an existing app, make a better version, put it on the App Store, or Play Store and then people will buy it!

Ok, stop. If this is what you think of when you have an idea for a product, then you're going about it the wrong way. Sure there are a few people who have done this, but this is an exception. Don't get me wrong, generating ideas is a good thing, you should at least jot them down. But how do you pick which one to execute on?

That's the question I asked Yaro Starak, a well-known blogger, he respond to my question with this: Don't make it about something you can sell, figure out the thing that people want to buy. In other words, find out their pain points and make a solution for them. So treat your "ideas" as guesses as to what people want and try to validate your guesses.

If you would help me validate my guess, that would be much appreciated! It will only take 5 minutes (4 questions).

[link to survey]

Here are some of the concrete steps that I have compiled

Just a word of warning: I have not actually followed through on this yet, I'm just jotting down the rough steps of what makes sense to me at this point.

  1. Find a pain point to solve (interview or survey)
      • In this step, you'll be interviewing potential - I actually attended a really good webinar by Cindy Alverez last week. The main point is to validate your idea. She provided some good questions to ask potential customers.
      • Follow up on pain points:
      • "In the past month, how often has [problem] happened?"
      • "What other ways have you tried to solve [problem]?"
      • "How high a priority is it to fix [problem]?"
      • "If [problem] was magically solved, how would that make your life better? What would you be able to do?"
      • "Who else is affected when [problem] happens?"
  2. Make a new email list and a landing page for people to get signed up. Keep trying to grow this list as you build your software.
  3. Create a really simple prototype (don't need to code anything, can just lay out what the screens look like)
  4. Make the software in small incremental steps. After each small victory, blog about the process or share with the list. Keep validating your assumptions as you go to figure out which features to implement first.
  5. Set weekly goals to complete your tasks.

Here's a popular article by (@cliffordoravec) that I've found very helpful - it is related to selling Software as a Service, but the ideas presented can apply other digital products as well (ebooks, courses, etc.):

In it, he gives some templates as to how to reach out to potential customers via email.

Another helpful and popular course is Evan Kimbrell's 1 day MVP on Udemy (444 ratings at 4.7/5)- he's even generous enough to give this away for free (assuming coupon code still works)!  Here's the link.  He goes in depth about the 7 steps of an MVP:

  1. ​Sniff test (in your head)
  2. Competitive analysis
  3. Customer Development Interviews
  4. Basic Pitch Experiment
  5. Complex Pitch experiment
  6. Build the prototype

Tools You can use to Sell your Software

As a last step, here is one solution you can use to package up and sell your software (make sure you spend more time on getting a following of people via email first):

withCoach.com - You can get started for free - you can list an unlimited number of free products and one paid product (Coach takes a 10% commission on that, which isn't bad). You are allowed 100 customers (which is a good target if you're just getting started).

Another popular platform is Gumroad, but the support isn't as good. You can read more on my article about Gumroad vs WithCoach: The two best online platforms for regular people selling their stuff.

Others: selz, ejunkie, shopify. I didn't bother with these as they didn't fit my needs