So the headlines are: Be as boring as possible, Networking, Focusing on the outcome, rather than the product and start studying business instead of tech.
Be as boring as possible
Tech to tech guy is sexy, i avoid the sexy, because thats where all the other techys are, you know where they're not, boring businesses. When i say boring i dont actually mean they're boring, i find them interesting, they're just not considered fashionable and sexy and the "in-thing". If you go through life like i do, as a customer wondering why a difficult process isnt made easier using technology, then you already know what you can go after. I rent cars quite often, car rental companies have to take my details EVERY SINGLE TIME! Why dont they have a system that looks up my info for next time? The local chamber of commerce runs free business workshops, you can even register online, however after the workshop, they give you the slides on paper, ask you to fill out a feedback form on paper and that paper asks for your email address if you want to hear more? Why isnt the first part married with the second part? My local council that does my refuse collection required me to phone them, get a paper form posted to me, i had to fill it out, post it back, then pay over the phone, then i had to go to the local office to collect my trade waste bags? SERIOUSLY???
There are SO MANY boring problems out there that can be made better, its all LOW HANGING FRUIT, why? Because most of the tech world is making a salt dispensing centerpiece for the dining table that has an app for your iphone to pick how many pinches of salt you need, oh and bluetooth! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/smalt-the-world-s-first-i...
Go to your local networking meetups, don't go to any tech ones. Go to ones for Oil and Gas, Construction, Local Government, Textiles, Motor vehicles, etc. Find and talk to people there, be helpful, give away your knowledge for free. Establish yourself an an authority on making business processes better. Join your local chamber and volunteer your time to grow their membership, this will not only benefit them, you can develop some software to make the process easier, they get to use it for free and you get exposed to their membership, also, you can sell this software to other chambers in the area. (We're doing exactly this.)
Focus on outcome, rather than the product
Your business client does care about code quality, or test coverage, or continuous integration, or git branching methodology. Just write the damn app and make it look pretty. Write it well and secure, but dont spend time on shit that wont ever be appreciated by anyone but you. Deliver it, show them you just saved them £XXX,XXX per year now they use your software and they'll love you forever.
Study business, not tech
Read business books, read Patio11's blog, especially the one about not calling yourself a programmer, realise that what you are delivering is value, not exchanging your time for money. Charge accordingly, I recently charged £16,000 for about 5 days of work from my junior developer and about 3 days of work from me, why? Because it was for Kodak and the tool allowed their salespeople to make more sales by displaying pretty graphs for their clients. The value to them was easily 6 figures a year. This was through a middleman, and i know he charged a lot more than i did.
Sorry for the wall of text, i could talk for hours on the subject.
Thank you for the elaboration in your comment above, very useful in my journey as software focused consultant!
Do you have any advice on how to find these meetups? Is meetup.com good enough or is there a better resource such as something at city hall?
We are all sitting on the edge of our seats, waiting for you to launch your blog.
I am sure you could find an audience. You sound like a rich source of much-needed wisdom on the subject of small business of a sort that would be highly relevant to lots of people on HN.
Edit: It is also fine to interpret my first remark to mean "No apologies needed re the length. Lots of people here would be happy to read more." I mean, you aren't obligated to start a blog because a random internet stranger flippantly suggested it, but I have the bad habit of taking objections literally when people really mean "I don't actually want to do that" but they don't actually say that, they say "I would, but (reason)" and then I'm all "That's totally solvable!" because I am compulsively helpful.
I shall stop digging my grave deeper now. kaythxbai