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It's a big job to write decent AV software and anyone that's going to be paying you even the minimum hourly rate is going to want some significant differences between that and, say, just using AVG. You need to understand how viruses work, of course. That much is obvious. That may involve setting up a test machine that can get infected, and it would be useful if it didn't take you out with it.
You need to determine, for each virus, how it infects executables, what to look for to determine that the executable has been infected (just looking for changes to that executable isn't enough because the user may simply have upgraded their software), and you need to do that for all executable filetypes and all filetypes that can contain executable code, including Windows bugs that may or may not be known about. You need to be aware of viruses that change their patterns to avoid detection and also there are viruses out there that employ anti-detection techniques.