Jared Sinclair: “Focus on a difficult problem that matters to a significant number of normal people. Don’t worry about being the prettiest or the most featured. Get your hands dirty and find out what the rest of the world is struggling with.”

Will write C/C++ for foodThese words apply to any software indie, not just someone developing an iOS Application. I’m convinced now, more that ever, that services are the way to go. Create something people are willing to pay for and give them access to it from the desktop and mobile (iOS and Android), and possibly other platforms. Guys like Rob Walling have been spreading the gospel of the micropreneur for years.

A perfect example of this in the iOS world is the work Justin Williams is doing with Glassboard. He’s following the micropreneur playbook, even if he doesn’t realize it. He’s found a nice niche market, he’s asking people to pay for the service (the nerve!) He also has a blog, where he runs ads, and has just recently changed his podcast from advertiser supported to listener supported. All very smart ways to earn a living. These ideas all run counter to the Silicon Valley idea of blowing large sums of money in hopes of an “exit.” These guys are actually running businesses, bravo.

If anyone thinks this is easy, they’d be wrong. It’s not easy. It requires long hours and sleepless nights to get things off the ground, then it requires constant supervision to make sure it doesn’t fall apart. Oh, and even if you do all of that, it can still fall apart. Hey, it’s a business. Some people have the midas touch when it comes to business and many of us do not. The majority of us will fail.

Something else in another of Jared’s posts that really struck accord: “My marriage and mental health suffered a lot because of that punchcard. I worked on Unread seven days a week, at almost any hour of the day. I think the quality and polish of Version 1.0 is due to all that extra effort, but it was physically and emotionally taxing. It’s not a sustainable way to live, and I don’t recommend it.”

This reminds me of something I read on a CompuServ (I believe?) forum circa 1988-89, back before the internet. My manager would check the forums on occasion for tips and tricks for Clipper developers (wow, what an awesome dBase compiler.) If memory serves it was in one of those forums we found a quote that sticks with me to this day. An indie developer of C extensions to Clipper said something like:

“Being a self-employed software developer is great. I can work any hours I want to work. Any 80 hours in the week I want to work.

Food for thought if you’re thinking of going indie. I don’t mean that to discourage you. I only say that because it’s going to take a lot of work. Be prepared to do more than have a great idea. Be prepared to put in the time to make it work. Oh, yes, one more thing. After you develop this great application you have to market it. I think that’s where most of us will fail. Marketing. I’d imagine that is more important than actually developing a great service, or application.