Yes, going Indie is difficult

A wonderful bouquet of flowers.Jared Sinclair: “You cannot become an indie developer. Ask for your day job back. Do not proceed to Step 5 or 6.”

I’ve been there. You can feel the frustration in every word. He wants so badly to be a full time Indie, but can’t quite stack the deck in his favor.

Last November I decided I had to bail on my dream of running an Indie shop in favor of a full time job. I had taken an approach I thought would work, I failed to execute it properly. My post mortem of my failure is bitter and filled with anger. I made every mistake a person could make. It’s a tough business, and many great developers (like Jared) will struggle to make it work. You have to be part marketing, part sales, and part developer to give it a chance of succeeding. Oh, and most importantly you need a big break.

Jared has what I would consider a very successful run as an Indie with his beautifully designed and developed Unread RSS reader (now at Supertop), but it wasn’t enough to sustain a living. There’s the rub. If you’re not connected in this market it’s really tough to make it work. The Indies that have succeeded have either been around a very long time, hit the app store early with something unique, or have influential friends that give them an instant leg up.

When I decided I had to get a full time job it became obvious I was going to have to do the development I really want to do on the side, as a hobby. That means I’ll get to dabble a little bit, but never really get the chance to build the piece of software I want to build. That’s ok. I’ll tinker, RxCalc looks long in the tooth and Arrgly could use some love. I have ideas for both, and a bunch of code I’ve been sitting on for quite a while that needs to see the light of day. It feels like the right way to be an Indie today.

Given that I’d tweak Jared’s list a little.

  1. Do you have a day job that pays you a full-time salary? If yes, proceed to Step 2. If not, skip to Step 3.
  2. Good. Keep it, you’ll need the income.
  3. Find a full time job you will enjoy.
  4. Find a passion project. Something you’d love to do on nights and weekends.
  5. Open Xcode
  6. You are now an Indie Developer

I know a lot of folks don’t have much time on nights and weekends. My first iOS App was built an hour here an hour there until it was good enough to put in the store. It’s worth the effort and feels great when you can finally push out your code, even if it is a silly little application.

Hang in there Jared. I understand your desire, I really do. It’s what I want too.