This post, from 2005, covers the dangers of “consultingware” (love that term). This trap is so easy to fall into, especially for startsup looking for product market fit and ESPECIALLY if you land that “big client”. For that reason, it brings to mind Mark Suster’s Elephant Hunting metaphor.
Custom development is that murky world where a customer tells you what to build, and you say, “are you sure?” and they say yes, and you make an absolutely beautiful spec, and say, “is this what you want?” and they say yes, and you make them sign the spec in indelible ink, nay, blood , and they do, and then you build that thing they signed off on, promptly, precisely and exactly, and they see it and they are horrified and shocked, and you spend the rest of the week reading up on whether your E&O insurance is going to cover the legal fees for the lawsuit you’ve gotten yourself into or merely the settlement cost. Or, if you’re really lucky, the customer will smile wanly and put your code in a drawer and never use it again and never call you back.
Somewhere in the middle is consultingware, where you pretend to be doing shrinkwrap while really doing custom development.