Why do software engineers work for only $100k while they can program their own software and apps and make millions?

imple true story I tried that.

In 1986 my [now ex-]wife and I founded Compiler Resources, Inc. We built an app. Yacc++ and every copy sold made us essentially pure profit of $1000 per copy and we were selling roughly one per week, with occasional multi-copy sales or “site licenses” eanging from $5k-$25k. We even sold a corporate license for $100k, pure profit. About 1 in 10 customers bought follow on maintenance for $500 per year.

So, in an average year the software brought in $75k profit. But that was for 2 people or $37.5k per person before taxes. So, we also did contract programming as consultants. That made us closer to $150k per year per person, again before taxes. We would have sold at least 4 times as many copies as we did to make it worthwhile to focus on the software full time and not consult. And we were doing well.

But it should be no surprise that after 15 years, my wife wanted out to go back to the easier and better paying job of working full time for the company she was then contracting for. I got a similar offer a few years later and it was a no brainer to take it

No dealing with lawyers that wanted slight adjustments to our license. Nor buyers/accountants that wanted discounted prices. No calls for customer support when our thousand page manual didn't cover the customers exact question. None of that.

So yes we made a million dollars, but made more as software engineers. And we were successful ones. Yes, some people make more, much more, but many make less We were successful enough we had angel investors approach us to buy into our company and grow it That would have been much more work.