I've been developing software professionally for almost 20 years, the last five doing mobile - native iOS & Xamarin. I also have a lot of experience in marketing and growth hacking. I'm currently planning my next venture based on my mobile development skills and trying to figure out the best approach to take. Weighing the pros/cons of consulting vs product: Consulting only - Easy to start but hard to scale. I would focus on offering xamarin cross-platform solutions for small businesses. Consulting/Product mix - Do consulting work to generate income to fund the development and marketing of a product. Products only - Only focus on building a product: app, game, etc. Very scalable. Boostrap to profitability. Thank you for your input.
How important is scaling?
For example, if you're charging $400/hour for consulting and filling 20 hours a week, would you need to scale?
Products are great, but there's a lot of unbillable hassle involved in the path toward getting there. Your product needs to have a big enough audience to give you a strong paid user base. You need time set aside for marketing, support, new features, maintenance, and all the little things that are sure to come up. You probably need to create a second (and third, and so on) product as time goes on.
And if the product only grosses a few grand a month, it can feel like you're stuck: on one hand, you have paying customers; on the other, you're making barely $40K/year for the effort.
All that being said, a product with a solid user base and a solid team can pay serious dividends in the long run (assuming all goes well). It's just the struggle through the opening months/years to get the product to a place where you can actually pay yourself and staff and marketing budgets and such.
I've had successes with product businesses, but they've always been a bit more high-touch than I prefer. (That whole "there's no such thing as passive income" thing.)
Consulting offers a much shallower curve, and you can always "scale" by raising prices until you hit the proper blend of hours:billing.
However, consulting also puts more responsibility on your shoulders to be available to your clients.
In my experience I've found it's not impossible to make a good living as a consultant without killing yourself (six figures, <30 hours a week) if you set things up responsibly at the outset and know how to sell your own value.
I'd be happy to share my strategies on this with you if you're interested.