Earning A Bit Of Cash With Your Delphi Programs

I wasn't sure what section to put this question in, but it is Delphi related. My apologies if it's mis-placed.

Having written quite a few Delphi programs, (mainly utilities), I'd like to make them available to everyone in case someone else might find them useful.

I want to make them available free, but I'd also like to make a bit of cash from them if it's possible. So, I'm thinking about putting some kind of optional 'sponsor' URL links in them so users can show their appreciation by clicking on the links (only if they want to) and I would receive payment by one of the many pay-per-click services out there.

What I want to know is if anyone has any recommendations on the best way to go about this in a Delphi program and what referral services are the best to use?

I don't want anything underhand going on with these links which would get my programs labelled as spyware, so the sites linked to would have to be safe - virus free and don't install any junk onto users systems.

I also like the idea of having say three links to click on when the program is first run which would permanently unlock the program. What are your thoughts on this method? Would you use software like this?

Does anyone have any other suggestions or comments on the viability of doing this in Delphi please?


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Wim ten BrinkSelf-employed developerCommented:
First of all, no one will buy bad software or components and most people won't sponsor developers. So make sure your product(s) are of a good quality and offer functionality that isn't found in some other product.
The best way I earn money with Delphi is just by finding a job as Delphi developer. Means I get paid a fixed (and nice) amount every month doing what I like most: developing in Delphi.

If you do want to earn cash with your product, you have almost no option and first spend a lot of cash for advertisements. For example, by having your product included with some magazine on CD-Rom.

Sponsor links won't work unless you have a huge amount of visitors. And if your product is given away for free then people visit your page, download it and then forget about your site.

There are no good ways for developers to earn money with their work unless they find some (temporary) employer willing to pay them. For this, the best thing is to put an interesting CV on your website describing you and your skills, some free product samples and whatever else you like.
tdk_manAuthor Commented:
I think you misunderstood what I meant...

First of all, I have a computer supply and maintenance business already, so my Delphi programming is only a hobby and another job is not an option. :)

However, I think that making a bit of pocket money (not a living) from a program you have spent months creating for yourself is not a bad thing - if someone else finds your programs useful.

I'd like to give them away rather than sell them and think that many users who find the software that we write useful would not mind clicking on a few links in the program just once to unlock it when it's used for the first time.

If the links opened up their browser and took them to a web page to view adverts, you as the author of the program would receive a small referral payment. It may be a very tiny amount, but if a lot of users download your programs, the amounts could add up to quite a few dollars.

The user wouldn't mind this as they are getting the software that does something they want for free. It just takes a few minutes of their time to visit the links. I personally would be happy to do this - I just wanted to know if I was on my own!

I was wondering if anyone had tried this in their Delphi programs or anyone knew of any reliable, safe to use pay-per-click advert sites who you can register with for the purpose described above.

"Sponsor links won't work unless you have a huge amount of visitors. And if your product is given away for free then people visit your page, download it and then forget about your site."

Yes agreed. That's why you write your program so it won't work until you have clicked on the links *in the program* (not on the website you download the software from) - at which point the program becomes fully functional. Users have visited the web sites in the link just once, so they have registered your referral and enough of them will earn you a bit of pocket money! :)

Thanks for the input...


Wim ten BrinkSelf-employed developerCommented:
Oh, I understood you well, but if you like Delphi that much then find a way to make it part of your job. ;-)
Now, about earning money from some program that you've created, let me put it simple. If you can't advertise for it then hardly anyone will buy it. If the quality is bad then no one will buy it. If there are already many similar products then no one will buy it. But if you give them away and ask them to just send you an email about their opinions about your product, then the responses could be more valuable than cash.
Writing an application that requires users to click on the links first will also end up in the garbage bin quite fast.

And finally, how many users will you get if you don't advertise? If you end up with 100 users then that's quite a lot. So 100 references for $0.01 per click means you will earn a whole dollar... Well, it is a BIT of pocket-money... ;-)

I've seen people try something similar and fail because no one was interested or no one even knew about the product. My employer managed to get thousands of people interested in a cheap product, however. He gave a shareware version away on some CD-Rom that was part of some magazine with about 250.ooo copies of this magazine being published... A couple of hundred people did indeed show interest and paid the $30 for it until now. More people are still evaluating and we might end up with over a thousand users. Thus, this pays back the costs for the advertisements.
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TheRealLokiSenior DeveloperCommented:
What I've done in the past is have a free "trial" version of my software, and a "professional" version, with extra features + support + "willing to make code changes for users" version.

I put it on a web hosted site, and waited....
.... nothing happened, because no one knew about it :)
I paid some sites to add my project to their advertised products list of "free software"
(there are free sites, but the paid for ones get more traffic)
Suddenly, I had downloads, and eventually, I got requests for the professional version.

Since that first lesson, I now make sure there is n email/forum link on my software, so even the free users can contact me to let me know about bugs, ideas, improvements.

my recommendation is much along the lines of Loki's comment.

Here are some of my additional thoughts:
* add some locking and unlocking mechanism to your code
* realize that you will never be able to fully protect your software from a determined hacker/cracker...just make their task very difficult
* add some demo period and limitation of function during the demo period
* place your shareware setup kit on as many sites as possible (Torry's, etc.)
* if your software is targeted toward a particular industry, seek web sites that cater to that industry
* create your own web site to support your software (FAQs, registered user forums for technical questions/answers)
* create a merchant account that provides credit card processing or use some intermediary service that provides trusted sales (like Amazon)
* as your shareware software is registered, start working on an advanced commercial version of this/these programs.  Your shareware will act as a teaser for these more lucrative versions of the programs.
* as your support requirements grow, be prepared to offload some of the support work on others or contract some help desk.
Wim ten BrinkSelf-employed developerCommented:
Also keep in mind that once you start selling your product, you might have to spend more time making commercial contacts and talking with (un)satisfied customers than actual development. If you like Delphi that much that you want to sell your products, then get someone else to sell and support the product for you, in return for e.g. half the profits. He will have to keep the customers satisfied, selling copies and actually pay for the promotions while you just keep on developing...
Google Adsense works for me. I have a full time job as a programmer, handsomely paid, but do a bit of hobby stuff at home. This I give away for free on my website, but I do encourage donations or clicking on the Google ads. The former earns me enough for a few good nights out, and the latter even more so. Just half a dozen clicks a day pays for the website hosting for a week. But then the software I produce is of a high standard and used by hundreds if not a few thousand people around the world! It's taken several years to get to that point, mind.

You might be able to embed ads into your program, with a web front end. However, this probably won't work for Adsense because it relies on "targetted" ads - key words on your webpage, a webpage which you won't have in an embedded program.

Much as I hate advertising, it does actually work if the software is good enough that users click on the ads. Alex, you get more than 1c per click! Google won't let me disclose figures (and it varies according to the ad anyway), but as I say it more than pays for the web hosting.

Geoff M.
Wim ten BrinkSelf-employed developerCommented:
Geoff, okay... Some sites might actually pay a bit more per click but it's not something that makes you rich fast. You might buy a couple of beers more (or cola's if you don't drink) per day from what you earn but it's never going to be a lot. And it will take years before you get at some point where enough people know who you are.
Another problem with those click-sites is that your site has to fit their criterias. If they don't like certain kinds of contents on your server then you either have to quit or remove the contents. They also specify the banner that should be displayed on your site and probably demand that you link an image tag on your page to an image on their server. (Which means they can track the number of visitors of your site too!) Then again, they're paying customers so they can have some high demands if they like to.

Some ad-sites prefer that you include some script in the page of your website, which allows them to take some control over your page. I've seen what happens in some of those situations, where their Java-script would generate a popup or draws an image over the page that actually hides the contents of your page. Thus visitors are confronted with an ugly display and the need for popup blockers. But most probably won't visit your site again after being confronted with such a situation. Giving this kind of control over your site to others is not a good idea in my opinion...

Embedding ads in your application is a good idea for the shareware versions. Registered versions would just disable the advertisements. But it means your application must download those advertisements somehow from the net and people might just block internet access for your application in their firewall. This would mean the advertisements would never be refreshed... It also means you have to put something on your site from where advertisements can be downloaded and some way to include them in your application. A simple image with URL would be enough, though. User clicks on the image in your app and your application opens the URL with the default browser.
The Google Adsense is a small script that you have control over. No pop-up ads, they're fixed in size (your choice) and position, your choice of colour scheme (for text-only ads). As I already stated, it pays the way but not a huge amount, which is what Mr TDK asked for ("a bit of cash").

Geoff M.
tdk_manAuthor Commented:
Geoff is correct, I'm not after a get rich quick (or even slow for that matter) scheme.

Over the years I've written a lot of small utilities - you know, the sort of programs that do something useful in minutes that you could do manually but would take a fair bit of time... and you couldn't find something that someone else had aready written.

Like me, a lot of people don't like re-inventing the wheel and other coders have said that they could have written some of my programs in a few hours, but why bother when I've already done it.

Alex is correct in saying that the key is to do something that no-one else has. As I said, nearly all my programs were written for me because I couldn't find a program which already existed to do the same job.

Many are trivial, but make life easier - like my MP3Tidy program which sorts out the names of your MP3s by removing underscores, extra spaces, inserting missing spaces around hyphens, capitalizing words, removing leading numeric characters, inserting missing or deleting unwanted text strings, editing ID tags and more.

I've spent a long time on just this one program and getting enough for a few beers from it via ads is infinitely better than getting nothing at all - and the user doesn't have to pay for the software.

That's why I want to go down the 'clickable links in the software' route - rather than on a web page which I guess no-one would visit anyway.

If in the ramblings of this discussion, we could come up with a viable way of doing this, I believe it could benefit all hobbyist programmers who use Delphi - not just me.


Wim ten BrinkSelf-employed developerCommented:
Well, I've written lots of little tools for myself too. Things I considered useful. For example, a small tool that would rename all image files in a single folder to a fixed name with a sequence number. And it would make sure all names have exactly the same length. And I've created a simple webcrawler once. I'm considering on creating a fast tool that could find duplicate files on my harddisks but just can't find any time for it. Created a simple icon viewer too but that was just good practice. And lots of things useful for me but perhaps not for others.
Ever tried Yahoo Messenger? A free chat application for which Yahoo is dedicating quite a lot of hardware. It is paid for by the advertisements but I never click on them anyway. I've gone ad-blind, I guess. (Then again, it helps if you know which registry setting needs to be changed to change the ad URL so now it shows a random banner from http://www.workshop-alex.org/Scripts/Banner.exe which are quite funny if you haven't read all hundred as I have...
Then again, it must work in some way. Some people probably do click on a link if it seems interesting enough. But if 1 in every 100 users decide to click, then to get enough for a nice candle-lit dinner for you and your partner, you'd need thousands of users. Will your product be popular enough for that many people? Will it's quality be high enough to keep them interested and provide the mouth-to-mouth advertisements that you need? Is it interesting enough for your users to keep using it?

I still believe the shareware method is the best way to earn money from your software. A person downloads it from your site and tests it. If he likes it, he buys the registration key to open up more functionality or perhaps to get his version more personalized. When the purchase is made, you calculate some key based upon his name and provide him the information he needs to enter to register. Then he can register the software and use it as he likes. And of course, people could just make illegal copies or share the key with dozens of others but hey, for you it's just a bit of additional income, isn't it?
An interesting example of this can be found at http://www.oska.com where you can buy so-called deskmates. Okay, $29.95 isn't very cheap but it's software that a user probably keeps running on his system anyway, thus there's a chance someone else sees the deskmate, asks about it and either steals an illegal copy or buys a legal one. But the best example is actually JASC software. First they produced a simple image viewer/browser called Paint Shop Pro. They added some editing abilities to it. Added filters and other enhancement techniques. Supported more and more file formats. And today they're so popular that Corel felt really threatened by them. So Corel actually bought JASC...
Btw. Paint Shop Pro 9 is out now.

The advantage of shareware is that good shareware just sells itself.

Step back an look at what you have created in light of how many different places it might be used.  For instance, you have created a string tidying utility and only applied it to MP3s.  
For instance, it might be:
* generalized file renaming utility
* generalized directory renaming utility
* HTML tidying utility
* text file editing utility
* callable API or instantiable ActiveX from MS Word macro (this would open up a much larger market than Delphi developers)
* database string field editing utility
** generalized string manipulation utility, driven by different wrappers that feed it a variety of strings and use the manipulated strings in different ways.

While you are correct in that you will not likely get a lot of hits to your web site initially, you should realize the value of a web site.  It adds legitimacy to your product to potential customers and can reduce the number of support contacts you have to field.
lol this question is amuzing :D keep it coming

this question can help allot of people, so keep discussing about how we all can make money though our hard work in our spare time.

tdk_manAuthor Commented:

I agree, but if I am correct, unfortunately the rules of the forum only allow questions and answers - not discussions. So, I have to accept an answer or close the question.

I honestly think that despite the excellent comments, my original question has not been answered so in the hope that there is still someone who knows, I'll re-phrase it slightly:

I have some simple Delphi-written utilities which don't already exist and may be extremely useful to a reasonable number of people. I thought it might be possible to earn a small amount of money from them, but still make them free to download and use, by uploading them to sites like Download.com where downloads *can* be in their thousands - if you are lucky.

The payment method for the user would be by pay-per-click (which I don't know anything about so may not be possible).

But, assuming it is, rather than having the user click on links on my web site (which they probably won't bother with once they have downloaded the software), the links they click on appear *in the software* when they first use it.

For example, clicking on say three links on a panel will unlock the software and they won't have to do it again unless it's re-installed. No ads, no pop-ups! They just click on a few links and they have the full software for free so they are happy.

If users are using your apps, then you are guaranteed that their clicks have been registered and you have received $0.01 or whatever it is for each click. I fully accept that the software needs to be used by a large number of users to generate enough money for a couple of beers, but with some download sites, this is possible if you app is useful enough.

Has anyone done this already?
Can anyone see any downsides of this - ie would it work?
Does anyone know any reliable sites to register for this sort of thing.

In fact, as a post script, if this sort of system could be made workable then a tpanel-based component could be created which you drop onto your apps and enter the URL's for your click-links. Just a thought... :)



Who is your target customer (demographic)?
  * developers (in general, just Delphi)
  * end users
  * power users
  * data center staff
  * others __________

How do you expect money to change hands?
  * credit/debit card processing
  * to you directly or through a third party
  * phone bill item
  * PayPal
  * online account that is debited
  * other ___________

What is most important to you?
  * easy download
  * adding demo capability to your programs
  * establishing a revenue stream
  * promoting your products
  * developing a customer base (market share) for you products

How do you want to measure your demo usage?
  * number of days until expiration
  * number of executions until expiration

Will you support purchased as well as lease use?

It seems that what you want to do will not be popular with developers.  If I like a product that I demo, I want to pay for it to be unlocked (once) and be done with it.  I don't want to pay for each use.  Also, you haven't mentioned any licensing issues related to redistribution, which is something I look at closely.

Your scheme requires the developer/user to be connected to the internet at all times in order for your software to get the approval to execute.  This may be a limiting factor for (disconnected) laptop users.

If your products are low-use items, lending themselves to a pay-per-use revenue model, you might consider repackaging them as a service, rather than a distributable program.  Suddenly, a webservice comes to mind.

I would recommend contacting some software houses and establish a deal where they would take over certain parts of you program distribution, marketing, and sales in exchange for a portion of the revenue.  They will help you decide what kind of protection you should use.  Go to firms you can trust.  Get a lawyer involved to help with the contract.  Realize that you can create a demo version of the program that directs potential buyers to a commercial software reseller site.  The commercial version of your product ought to be better than the demo version to help intice users to lease/purchase your product.

Otherwise, you are going to spend a great deal of time trying to do this and not see much revenue as a result of your efforts.

Also, you might want to look at the software products from Smarte Solutions.  They have many programs/utilities that might help you...
  * protect your intellectual property
  * reduce/prevent piracy
  * help you with demo and licensing issues

Note: I have used Softlocx with my commercial software since 1999.  This was originally a BitArts product that is now distributed by SmarteSolutions along with their existing products.
One thing about embedded ads, since they do appear to be the best way for you, do NOT, I repeat, do NOT consider Gator. You will p*ss off a lot of people in an extremely short time. Don't use any ad sites that promote pop-ups either. It should be just the standard "banner ad" at the top of your software that changes every minute or so. People can handle that.

One other thing: be careful about asking your users to click on the ads. Google, for example, specifically prohibits this in their Ts&Cs and will cancel your income if they find you doing it. Same for if you click your own ads, although that is harder for them to trace (it is possible in many cases though). Statements like "please click the ads" is a no-no.

Geoff M.
tdk_manAuthor Commented:
Sorry aikimark, but from your comments, you don't seem to have read my last post - or at the very least completely misunderstood it! You made quite a few points, all of which I'll try to address...

> Who is your target customer (demographic)?

Who cares as long as it's useful to someone.

> How do you expect money to change hands?

Unless I'm completely losing the plot here, I thought the idea was that you register with a site that pays you a very small amount for every person you direct to their site which contains adverts. Ie: A 'pay-per-click' system which deposits the amount generated at the end of each month into say your PayPal account.

> What is most important to you?

Your choices suggest that I'm talking about MAKING A LIVING from our software - something that I've clearly stated I am not! Thousands of people like Alex and myself already have jobs but also enjoy writing software in our spare time as a hobby. I'm talking about generating just a small amount of cash from the hard work we all put into that.

Surely, generating just $50 from your software written as a hobby is better than $0!

> How do you want to measure your demo usage?

I don't! I'm not even talking about producing demos at all.

OK, I write a program and you download it. When you run it, you click on three links in the software (taking a couple of minutes of your time, but NO money). These clicks generate a fraction of a dollar for me and you have the program unlocked and fully functioning!

> Will you support purchased as well as lease use?

Irrelevant in this case. I'm only talking about small but useful programs which any programmer could write themselves or that make easy a task which could be done manually but take time to do.

Someone earlier in the thread mentioned a program for removing duplicate files. I could write that myself or do it manually wth Windows Explorer. It may even already exist as part of a commercial suite of programs which you have to purchase.

If however that program was released and I just had to click on three links to use it without restrictions I would gladly do so knowing that the author would receive something from my doing it.

> Your scheme requires the developer/user to be connected to the internet at all times in order for your software to get the approval to execute. This may be a limiting factor for (disconnected) laptop users.

I'd agree if that was true... but it isn't. It would need to be connected to the internet when first installed - something that must have been available or they wouldn't have been able to download it in the first place. From then on it would be fully unlocked and free to use without the internet connection.

The remainder of your comments suggest that you are talking about large commercial projects - not small utilities like tidying up MP3 filenames, searching out duplicate filenames or other minor housekeeping tasks.

I have such a utility which compares the contents of two directories (including any subdirectories) and tells you what files are present in one but not the other and gives you the ability to copy files from one to the other to syncronise them. You can also rename and delete files and other tasks.

This sort of thing you wouldn't want to market commercially, but by giving it away free, enough users might generate a few dollars via pay-per-click that you wouldn't have got otherwise.

tdk_manAuthor Commented:

Actually, I was hoping it was possible to do this without even having embedded ads in the software.

My idea was to have in the software, links which you click on that open up your browser and display a web page. Your viewing of this web page counts as a referral (payment to the author) and after viewing all the links in the software, it is completely unlocked and you never have to do it again.

With this method:

* Users get the software for free
* You as the author get something for your hard work
* The user cannot avoid visiting the links which provide you payment because if they don't, they can't use the software
* After clicking the links, users get fully functioning, advert-free software

I think this method has merit, but only if it is possible.


Well, simply redirecting to a page with links on will not earn you money. The users have to actually click on an ad to generate the revenue. I don't know how you'd link back from the webpage back to your software to prove they'd clicked the links.

If users like your software, and they come back for more, they'll click on your links, without you forcing them to. Like I said before, you might only get a few clicks per day (mine average 5-15 hits per day) but that's more than enough to support the site and buy a few beers.

Geoff M.

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I'll agree this is an interesting idea for a revenue stream.  If you have a product that will be used infrequently but you want to see some revenue from it, you can sell ad space through your product.

I see some interesting problems to overcome:
* your program needs to know that the three links have been clicked
* your web site needs to know the three links have been clicked
* the ad-click target needs to know their click has happened
* you need to know the email address of the user in order to send them an unlock code after they have done their three clicks
* as your targets change, your software will need to supply different hyperlinks
* you need to balance the unlocking Nag mechanism with the unlocked code convenience
* click revenue isn't always lucrative and you are competing with Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.

You have to ask yourself how much revenue you might receive over the life of each release of each product and how much of your time will be required to enable and support both the revenue stream as well as your products.
tdk_manAuthor Commented:
As I have to accept an answer, I'll accept gmayo's answer that my idea just isn't possible.

If I do find a way to do it, can I have a refund? :)

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