Only if you help me get the 5 digit.
There is no such thing as "good formal requirements gathering." You are right that the owner does not understand his employees' day-to-day problems...but you need to go one step further and recognize that the employees don't understand them either. They won't know what they want until they see your interpretation of what it is they think they want. Rapid development/prototyping needs to be one of your essential tools. You really need to take a look at the agile manifesto and negotiate this type of relationship in order to be successful as an independent developer. It's not the document that will win him, it's the shippable product increment he gets along with the bill.
will software simply be a by-product of the operation of other industries?
Software only exists because someone in some industry needs it to help them do their job. It is by definition a by-product of other industries.
My company develops on Macs on a work-for-hire basis. We have experience in the defense field with scientific legacy desktop applications, server-based enterprise apps, and process simulation. We charge $100/hour for development, develop using agile methods, and are extremely customer focused (redundant since I already said agile). You can do whatever you want with the code when we're done; you will own the copyright. We are quite comfortable with OSS; we rely on it for our dev tools and the frameworks we use to develop our products. We're not a huge firm like CA or SAIC; you'll deal directly with the lead developer and project manager. Since we develop with agile, if you don't like what you see after 30-60 days, you can stop us, pay us for what we've done, and find another team. You get to keep the code we've already written.
Check us out:
You can contact us via the Contact Us form or by contacting me via Slashdot (click my name above).
Try six figures.
Hibernate brought you a host of bugs b/c you didn't understand it. ORM is a notoriously complex domain. There is nothing better than Hibernate for ORM. JPA is a subset of what Hibernate offers - without Hibernate there would have been no JPA.
As the trials of life continue to take their toll, remember that there is always a future in Computer Maintenance. -- National Lampoon, "Deteriorata"