Advice for indies

I often talk to people who are thinking of going indie — Mac and iPhone developers who want to work for themselves, who want to write cool apps and sell them without having to answer to anyone but their customers.

Here’s the advice I usually give.

Have faith

I don’t mean be blind to reality. I don’t mean give in to wishful thinking. Don’t be delusional: be rigorously honest with yourself.

I mean to have faith in your ideas and abilities. Getting recognition — or even that first bit of feedback — can be slow. It can take a lot more work to get there than you think.

But you can get there. When it looks like nobody’s noticing, have faith that someone is, or soon will be, if you keep doing your best work.

There are those nights when you think you should burn it all up and go back to the quieting hug of whatever-you-did-before. Faith in yourself, and in the world’s knack for finding good things, will keep you coding.

Work hard

There are distractions every day and night. It’s worse if you live in a city like San Francisco: there are opportunities to hang out with your tribe every minute of every day. It’s easy to talk big about your big app.

But you have to actually build it. You have to work every day. You have to sit in the chair and stay seated. And sleep and come back to the chair. You need to wear out that chair and then buy a new one and then wear out that one.

Have plans B, C, and D

Your first thing might not work out. Despite your faith, despite your hard work, your app may fail.

Be ready to write another one. As an indie, that’s one of your best strengths: turning your ship around is as easy as creating a new project in Xcode. Getting going is just a menu command away.

Write a weblog

I shouldn’t even have to say it, but I will: you need a weblog. People in the village love toys, but they also like to get to know the village toy-maker.

That’s you, and it’s a great job.

14 Nov 2008

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