Thoughts on Being an Indie Developer

Back at the beginning of 2014 I thought everything was finally coming together. I got my first programming job and I had my first tech conference talk lined up. Everything was going great. 2014 was going to be my year.

A month into 2014 I lost my job. It wasn’t a great fit and I wish everyone the best. However, it put me in this uncomfortable position of revamping my conference speaker bio. I felt kind of like I broke up with my boyfriend a week before Valentine’s Day. I had no idea what to say. I didn’t want to just go, “Hey, I am unemployed! Huzzah!”

My answer came in an email from our CocoaHeads organizer. He was announcing what people in our group were presenting conference talks and he listed my job as: “Independent”.

Yes! Independent is perfect. I don’t have to go through the humiliation of having to put in my bio that I am unemployed or tap dancing around the fact that I don’t have a job listed. I have a job. I am an independent developer.

After I got done with my talks I started a remote contract job that lasted two and a half months. Immediately after that I started a project that I am currently still working on that will take another few months.

Life is pretty sweet. I work out of my house, so I can wear comfortable clothes. I don’t have to leave my pugs. I don’t have to drive anywhere. If I want to leave in the middle of the day to work out of a tea house, no one cares.

I would love to do this for the rest of my career. I get to do things that interest me and I can change what that is every couple of months without my resume looking like swiss cheese. I keep waiting for a nice block of time where I don’t have any obligations to anyone to work on my own stuff.

However, I am coming to a slightly uncomfortable reality.

everyone-is-a-democrat-until-they-get-a-little-bit-of-money.jpgI have noticed over the last month or so that an awful lot of formerly independent developers are now being hired by large companies.

I am wondering if my wanting to work for myself out of my house is me still clinging to a fig leaf that I am not an unemployed developer but that I am doing this out of my own free will. I am worried that I am going to be the guy in the group who dates women half his age long after it stops being socially acceptable and it just becomes sad.

I don’t even know if what I want to do is feasible. Other developers that I have spoken to have seen contract work dry up because iOS has become a mature enough platform that companies are creating in house developer teams rather than hiring contractors to do piecemeal work. Additionally, it is conventional wisdom that the market for paid apps has also mostly dried up.

I don’t really want to start a company and be in charge of people because I noticed people don’t really listen to what I have to say. I also don’t want to jeopardize a bunch of other people’s futures on the chance I might not be wrong about something. I am okay with gambling my own future, but I don’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s.

I am an arrogant person who looks at Steve Jobs and uses the fact that he succeeded as proof that following your gut can pay off even though there are thousands of people out there who have done that and failed. I like to think that there is more than one way to do something and just because 90% of the world does their job the same way doesn’t mean I have to. There is a 10% out there that does things differently, and isn’t that the spirit behind people who identify themselves as Apple users?

I know if I am smart I will find a nice, stable company to work for that hopefully will let me work remotely and pay me a nice wage. One day it will happen. But not yet. I have apps to make.