It Ain't Easy Being Indie

Posted on August 7, 2017 by Dave Peck

As independent software developers, life can be challenging. Some of the challenges we face are unique to the work that we do, while some are exacerbated by our typically small scale.

First, like any entrepreneur, we must discover how the things we enjoy building intersect with the things people will pay for. Our projects have at most an N% chance of success, where N is — let’s face it — probably quite small. As a result, we must test many ideas against the market: if we believe our projects have a 2% hit rate then we need to tackle 50 on average. This is a costly and time-consuming process, particularly for us indies: context switches are expensive and parallel work is rarely possible.

Next, we must cautiously navigate the dynamics of our industry. Competitors armed with substantial capital can enter the fray at any time. Capital asymmetry can quickly lead to conflict between the “lifestyle” business that we seek and the massive returns expected of venture-backed firms. When the competition burns capital to grab land, our business can quickly evaporate.

Finally, we must wrestle with our own self-discipline. Being an indie is a lot like being a marathon runner: once we’ve achieved a basic level of physical fitness, the game is entirely mental. We must pace ourselves. We must wisely prioritize and ruthlessly cut. We must manage all aspects of our business, including corners that feel like drudgery. And we must understand that our work is, above all, a grind: our rare moments of glory will always be preceded by countless days of difficulty.

As I start to work on my own new projects, I intend to use this blog as a place to discuss each of these challenges in detail. I hope you’ll subscribe and join me on the journey.

— Dave