Bret W. Lester

Life as an Indie, Going on 4 Years

I am now going on 4 years as an indie dev.

How has it been?

Ups and down of course. It's quite hard mentally. Although I know it's a bad habit, I check my App Store stats way more than necessary. If I checked them once per week instead of multiple times per day, I'd probably be a more contented person. Nonetheless, when you're self employed, your mood has a tendency to become correlated with the performance of your business. And that is one of the hard parts.

Another hard part about being self employed, and this is a big one, is the isolation. When working in an office with other devs, you tend to pick up on a lot of stuff naturally, via "osmosis", which has a way of making you a more well-rounded dev. While I don't miss employment in general, leaving the workforce has a price.

I've said a little about the hard parts and I'm sure I can think of more. But lets get into the good parts. And there's one big one that trumps them all.


That says it in one word. Freedom is absolutely priceless. You can think of it as temporal flexibility, i.e., the freedom to go fishing whenever I want the demands of family life allow. The freedom to do absolutely nothing, i.e., be "unproductive", for days on end simply because you're feeling uninspired. You own your time. Owning your time is owning your life. This alone is enough to justify the indie life, even if you're living month to month. And this is why I'm determined to survive as long as possible as an indie.


I'm making enough, and I'd love to make more, but as I approach my 4th year of this, and the rosy growth period has come to an end (for now), it has started to become more about survival than making boatloads of cash. While I haven't given up on the dream of making a boatload (one of the best things about independence, after all, is the unlimited upside), it's starting to feel much more difficult to achieve as the effects of churn have finally flatlined my growth curve. So, a different goal, just as laudable, is that of survival. Surviving as an independent app developer. And survival in this game is no small feat. You can be taken out rather suddenly. Efforts to diversify are not always fruitful. God knows I've been trying. Despite best efforts to diversify, one can remain vulnerable.


Faith has a role to play in all this. And I'm using the word 'faith' here without the religious connotations. I think you have to have some level of faith that things will work out if you happen to fall on hard times. For example, if my primary money maker got booted from the App Store for some reason, I have faith that the aura of that experience would light a fire under my ass, providing a groundswell of motivation to birth something new. I have no idea what that thing would be as I sit here typing now because it would require the perspective of a challenging life event to jostle it into being. Basically, I have faith that something will arise from challenging circumstances although I can't articulate exactly what it will be. That is the essence of faith to me--trusting in something you can't see or explain. It's no wonder the word has become associated with religion.


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