One of the common aspects of consulting that is missed is clarity about developer tools and licenses.  In particular, this obstacle is natural to overlook when you are used to being an employee.  The challenge is not just being able to access the tools; you also have to navigate what can be used for your customers.  Even more, there are applications you can use for your projects, but they are not licensed for your customers.

Get Legal Developer Tools and Licenses

Step one is to make sure you are adequately covered.  Every tool you use (i.e., install on your machines) should be appropriately licensed.  If you do not, then you might find yourself on the wrong side of a software audit.  This situation is not only costly immediately in the form of fees; it also can cause a negative view of your company moving forward.  The worst case is where you get a customer fined for your licensing mistake.  Be safe out there.

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Similarly, make sure the tools you are licensed to use are also going to work for your customer. There are plenty of developer licenses that are fine right until you move into production.  If your customer is required to purchase a license to launch their solution, then they need to know that sooner rather than later.  They may tell you to find another solution or change the scope of the project to make it economically viable for them.  The worst of these can be an application created with a user-based license and a large number of users.  The costs can skyrocket, and margins can go to zero or worse.  When in doubt, consult a lawyer.


Outside of the legal issues for tools, there is also a version aspect to review.  There are cases where using a language or framework that is a different version from your customer will be fine.  However, there are also many cases where that can be a critical problem.  The work required to fix or merge your code in a different version can add up to more than what was required to code your changes.  When in doubt, try to match everything used in a project including compilers, databases, IDEs, and any other tool that is a core part of the development.

Learn more in the book written for Develpreneurs at any stage in their progress:



Rob Broadhead

Rob is a founder of, and frequent contributor to, Develpreneur. This includes the Building Better Developers podcast. He is also a longtime student of technology as a developer, designer, and manager of software solutions. Rob is a founder and principle of RB Consulting and has managed to author a book about his family experiences.In his free time, he stays busy raising five children (although a few have grown into adults). When he has a chance to breathe, he is on the ice playing hockey to relax.

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