Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to the 30th issue! Thank you to everyone who has read and supported this newsletter so far ❤️ And a big big thank you to all of the indie developers that have made this newsletter everything it is 🥰
I fell a little bit behind this week on my indie developers interviews (even though I have a long ever growing list 😉). So I instead wanted to take this issue to pull out a few of my personal favorite moments from the previous issues.
Our indie developers have given us some very insightful thoughts across many different topics. I’ve picked a few and I’ll provide a little of my own commentary on why I these quotes hit me in the feels 🙃
Thanks again and I love you all. Hope you enjoy my favorite moments!
Eat that humble pie (and listen to users)
Oh, and listen to your users! A lot of people like to shrug and think they know best because they’re the developer, but eating some humble pie and listening to what a bunch of people have to say instead, and readjusting your mindset can really make for a much better end result, and users really appreciate it.
In my observations, a lot of indie devs start building a product solely for themselves (or someone closer to them). It’s usually something that we are very passionate about and therefore… we think we know best 🙂 We know is best for us if we were the only user. But your are not the only use once you release an app. As a developer, it’s really hard to pull our heads out of the code and into a user mindset. Listening to users is key to making users happy and getting more users.
Christian is the expert on this. He has a whole subreddit dedicated to getting feedback on Apollo. I can’t imagine all of the user feedback he has had to filter through 😝 But listening to everyone is important! You don’t need to adopt everything but at least listen. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot and gain a lot of respect 😉
The hardest part of an indie dev and I believe a lot of others will agree is when to stop and release! We keep adding feature after feature adopting the latest APIs and just feel it’s never enough. To draw a line and release I believe is the hardest thing to do.
“Ship it” has become one of my mottos. Half the time I say it ironically. The other half I actually mean it. I say this often because its stupidly easy to not ship something. There are so many reason to not ship something. There is always that one feature you can add or the one bug you can fix that you think is preventing you from releasing.
I like to ship my products as early as I can. It keeps me from getting so bogged down by that one more thing. If I ship early, I end up iterating quicker and shipping more often. But I play things pretty losey goosey 😇
Ship when you are comfortable shipping. Just be ready for the hard decision when figuring out when that right time is.
Build the fun things
The most fun part of being an indie dev is not having to have a single meeting to discuss whether you should do something or not. Take for example the PS4 light bar support that I built into the app a few weekends ago. In a larger company, how could anyone justify that? Well when 2.0 releases soon, if you have a PS4 paired with your iPhone or iPad, you’ll see the light bar change color as you navigate through the app, light up with the color from the best category card as you browse categories, and going into disco mode when you get approved for a new card. Actually, I’d love to see someone pitch that idea at a big stuffy company meeting just to see every jaw drop to the floor!
This this this 100%. Building and maintaining an app is such a rewarding experience but sometimes you just need a break and need to do something stupid or fun. Emmanuel’s PS4 example is that! Does this provide value to his users? Ehhhhhhh. Was it fun and worth releasing? Heck yes! Being an indie dev is about having fun. Find your own ways. Users will be happy to see that you are enjoying working on the app they love.
Build small, iterate, and use early on
When picking an indie project to work on, I think it’s important to try to pick something that can be iterated and built upon. I found it to be really satisfying to build something that I can start using early on, and then continue polishing it. The same applies once the project is ready to be released and used by others. I rather make an app with fewer features that are solid, and then continue adding more functionalities to the app. I found that this is a great way for me to see the progress I’m making while keeping each feature within a manageable size 😊
These are exactly the kind of projects that I like to work on! Malin has some great advice here. Building something small that you can start using from the beginning has some benefits. It really helps you focus on what you are trying to solve. Once you have this figured out, you can polish it and get it the door and ship it sooner 😉 (either for beta users or for release).
Malin has done a great job of following her own advice with Orbit! Check out Orbit if you have any needs for time tracking and invoicing 💪
Code as a tool
Ultimately, the thing that I love most about my job isn’t writing code itself; it’s the fact that I can use code as a tool to build cool stuff! And while I’ve certainly built some cool stuff as an employee, it’s extra fun to be able to control the whole creative process of building and releasing something that’s entirely my own. The idea of using app design and development as a really genuine and personal creative outlet is definitely what drives me to build apps on my own time.
I feel this so hard. Before releasing my own apps and becoming an indie dev, I wanted was all about “the code”. Not saying that being really into a language or code is bad but these days I see code a lot different. I see it as a means to an end. I just want to build cool stuff like Daniel. Sometimes that means I use SwiftUI. Sometimes that means I use Shortcuts. Sometimes its really bad HTML. I don’t really care as long build and be creative.
Hardest part is that it’s a lonely job, at the crux of it you’re all alone going at it day in and day out, managing everything from design, development and marketing on your own and to stay on top among the cut-throat competition that is the App Store is not an easy job.
I’m not a full-time indie dev myself but I can semi-relate to this. I’ve also heard this from other indie devs as well. Being an indie dev gives you a lot of creative freedom in what you build and when you build it but it does come at a price. That price is working without a team (or on a small team). It can get really lonely. Find yourself a community or a small group of other developers to get that social interaction of working at a larger company! They don’t need to be working on the same product as you but they might be in a similar situation. Indie dev can be lonely but it doesn’t have to be 😊
I also want to share an important piece of advice, explaining the second-best decision from above that I made. If you’re thinking about how to get traction with your app early on in the process… Share, Share, Share!
Talk about everything and anything related to what you’re working on because if you persist with this effort, people WILL take notice and reach out to you.
I think this is a really great follow up to the feeling lonely. Sharing what you are working on won’t 100% solve the being lonely but it will help build that community around what you are doing that you can interact with.
But on top of that, sharing your development progress can help gain traction for your app! Michael did a great job of this with “Focused Work”. It helps get those early passionate users that will spread the word of your product. I did something similar with “An Otter RSS” and it really did make all the difference. Part of being an indie developer is personally connecting with your users. Showing that how you built that app and your personality through sharing will help bring in more users and keep users around (at least that is what I’ve seen from my experience 😇)
Best name of all time
We used to have ten chickens, but all of them got chased off by an unknown predator except for one, which we have named Hen Solo.
This is not directly related to indie development but I just love the name “Hen Solo” for a chicken 🤣
When I first started learning how to program, I purposefully sought out solo iOS developers that had blogs, Twitter accounts, podcasts, etc. I wanted to hear about their experiences and they largely inspired me to keep pushing toward my dream of releasing my own apps. Meanwhile, I did my best to think of myself as one of them—to sort of get in that mindset and gain a sense of belonging to that community.
This is the way to enter a community! And Becky definitely succeeded at it. She has made a big splash in the community with her successful apps and blog posts!
There is so much knowledge and inspiration that can be soaked up by just being around and observing other developers. This is one of the reasons I wanted to start Indie Dev Monday. I not only wanted the newsletters to benefit the indie devs but I wanted to give others another resource for inspiration and knowledge.
There is just one rule: my family first. I don’t care if the app is crashing or if I have a deadline to meet, my family is first and is at the top of my priorities. I learned that when you put things in perspective, it’s all clear: your loved ones are the ones who make you happy. That’s why I invest in my family, I invest in creating memories. All other things you do that don’t fulfill your priorities like family, health and recreation are just a waste of your time and effort.
At the end of the day, there is nothing to balance when you have your priorities clear.
I feel really strongly about this rule that Cesar follows. This was in response to my question of “How do you balance indie dev and life?”. This is such a simple answer and I’ve never thought about it this way before.
Me and my wife just had our first child two months ago and I’m trying to apply this new way of thinking to our life. Family is my number one priority now. My health is number two (since it directly affects my family). Work and side projects come after that. The rush of indie dev life is great! But I only want it to be great if I can share the enjoyment with the ones that I love.
Take a rest
This has been a longer than normal Apple release cycle, under some pretty stressful circumstances, so what’s next for me is a rest! I will likely take some time off soon, and think about what to do next at the start of the year.
This is something I also need to apply to my life. And I’m sure there are a lot of you that could also apply this to yours 😉 It’s very easy to get caught up in a mentality of “if you snooze you lose” with indie development. There is always something new to add or competitors you need to try to differ yourself from. But one thing you really want to stay away from is self sabotage and burnout. Taking a well deserved break can really do you some good. It will give you a fresh perspective when coming back to work that can propel you in the right directly 💪
I think the most difficult thing for any indie dev is getting your name and your project out there and known. Which kind of perfectly segues into what I think is the most fun thing about being an indie dev, which is the community. I’ve found an amazing community of iOS developers on Twitter, and I can’t recommend getting a Twitter account enough and getting involved. I truly believe it’s the best community on the internet. Everyone is so supportive, helpful, and basically just cheering each other on and offering advice wherever they can.
The iOS developer community and indie dev community on Twitter is what got me started writing thing newsletter along with creating my own indie apps 😊 It’s inspiring watching what others are talking about and building. And as Travis mentioned, mostly everyone is supportive and helpful. It’s really a place where you can grow as a developer and help grow your product. The Twitter community is very welcoming if you want to join but it’s also not the only community. Find a community that is right for you!
I’d say the hardest part is doubt. Not in the sense of “am I able to do this?” because it seems a prerequisite to be an indie, but it’s more about “should I do this?”. The feedback loop takes more time or is not systematic. So you spend your days taking an almost ridiculous number of decisions alone, while companies rely on teams of experts in their fields who can challenge each other.
This take on doubt was mind blowing to me. I’ve experience that “am I able to do this?” doubt before but it was never really the same feeling I felt with indie development. “should I do this?” is exactly what I feel but I didn’t know that is what I was feeling.
Indie development is all about making your own decisions. The smallest decision could maybe lead to direct success or direct failure. Or… maybe it couldn’t? Nobody knows! This is where the thrill of indie dev comes from. If you are feeling this doubt, reach out to others in your community. There are probably others that have faced similar issues or decisions to what you are seeing. You are an indie developer but you aren’t in this alone.
Comparing yourself to others! I fall into this trap a lot. Everyone has different talents and when it’s a one-person operation, you have to wear all the hats. It can be really easy to look over at another dev who is stronger at something you’re weaker at and say, “I’m a failure!”. Not to mention the varying successes around you. Because you often only hear about the popular apps & devs, it’s easy to think that your project is horrible because you haven’t received a review from X publication or Apple hasn’t featured you. But every app and every dev is on their own journey. I just remind myself that this is supposed to be fun!
Comparing yourself to others is sooooo easy to do! It’s stopped me from even attempting some ideas in the past. Heck, it stopped me from actually finishing “An Otter RSS” for a while. There are so many other RSS apps that are “prettier” or “has more features” or “less buggy”. It got to me. But after a few months I realized I needed to do this for me. I wanted to experience a big launch and how to properly market an app. I stopped comparing “An Otter RSS” to other apps and instead gave it it’s own spotlight in my eyes.
Do as Sawyer would and remind yourself that you are supposed to be having fun!
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