Completing Software Projects

Anyone who’s been in school can complete a project.  So why do so many people have trouble completing personal projects?  What can be done to complete projects?

People have trouble completing projects for three simple reasons.  The first trouble is a lack of skill.  If you don’t have the skill then enthusiasm or dedication don’t matter.  Consider the example of differential equations.  Give someone a simple second order linear non-homogeneous differential equation and odds are they can’t solve it.  They may really want to solve it but without the skill they can’t.  So when considering a project, the first step is identify skills you will need and learn them.  Then either self-study the skills or hire a professional to teach you.

The second trouble comes from procrastination.  If you say things like, ‘I’ll start it later,’ or, ‘I’ll start it tomorrow,’ then the project probably won’t ever finish.  The best way to avoid procrastination is to sit down and do the next step.  Once you do the next step you naturally keep working on it.  You’ll get pulled away as other things happen, but ensure you go back to it every day.

The third trouble is lack of focus.  Emergencies happen in life, and those distract us.  Too many people and businesses go from one emergency to the next.  For people who have emergencies, deep in your gut you know why and you know how to prevent them.  If you have trouble focusing, then fix that.  Try getting help from a psychologist or friends and family.

If you can master these three troubles then you are well on your way to completing projects.

The first question you need to answer is what is the purpose of the project.  Is it to make money?  Is it for personal growth or fun?  Is it to show the process of making something, for use in a video?  Start with a clear purpose.  Will your project meet that goal?  If the purpose is for a video, would someone be willing to watch that video?  If you want to make money, would people want to use it and would they purchase it?  It’s easy to get lost in the project and lose track of the purpose for it.

Next, what is the project?  Do you have a crystal clear idea of what the project is?  What does it do and how does it do it?  What sets it apart from the competition?  You can’t build something unless you know exactly what you are building.

Now you learn who to listen to.  If someone tells you that you can’t do a project then you generally shouldn’t listen to them.  Most people who try to dissuade you are typically projecting their own inadequacies on you.  However you may occasionally find someone who dissuades you for a good reason.  If someone dissuades you, ask them why.  If they have a really good reason then the project may be impossible to achieve.  At that point you may have to change the project.  Finally you should seek out experts and learn from them.  Most people believe experts are unapproachable, but you’ll find many are happy to lend a helping suggestion or two.

You’ll probably have to learn things on the way, and that means you’ll fail.  Failure is a part of learning.  Remember, if at first you don’t succeed then try something different.  What you tried failed so don’t do it the same way again.

If the goal of a project is to make money, you need to ensure money can be made with it.  You need to do this before starting a project.  Many people start projects without considering this, only to later realize they wasted a lot of money.  This step isn’t difficult.  Estimate the total market for the project, look at the competition and estimate how much of the market you could claim.  Compare that against fixed and variable costs.  If you can make money then go ahead.  If you can’t then improve the project or find a different project.  Even if an idea is good, if there’s no money then be prepared to let go.

If you need investors then learn what investors want to see.  There are plenty of resources to help with this.  For example, most investors want to see a business plan, patents, etc.  They want to ensure you did the work to ensure a project will be profitable.  Finding investors is not the only way forward.  You can also use crowdfunding, where many individuals can contribute a little towards the project.  Often times these are treated as pre-orders.  Crowdfunding works well if you do the work yourself.

If you lack startup costs then projects can still move forward.  You can look for people willing to put in sweat equity.  Many youth would be willing to work like this.  However you must treat these people like investors and sell the idea to them.  Sweat equity is just another form of investment after all.  If you aren’t willing to do this then you can try the school project route.  Many schools, especially community colleges, have practical projects for students.  Students, typically in their final year, are required to find a community project and complete it.  If you lack programming skills then you can submit the project to a local school.  Just keep in mind that the software produced will probably not be production quality.  However it does give you a working prototype.  You can take that to more serious developers and have them rewrite it.  It can also help secure investment.

Suppose you finish a software project.  Most of the work is still ahead of you.  There’s business development and training, setting up everything for marketing and sales, marketing and selling the project.  Then there’s installation and support.  Then you begin developing the next version.  Every step is easy to do but takes work.  There are plenty of resources online to help you with this.

Remember, you can accomplish anything if you apply yourself correctly.  Focus, avoid distractions, work hard and learn any skill you need to complete it.

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