Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Paying the Indie Dues and Simplifying My Life

Let's be honest.  It's lucky for me you happened by my little blog.  I'm nobody of any sort of fame.  I wouldn't say that I'm one of the world's, or the industry's, or even my circle of friends', best thinkers. I'm just a regular person.  A software developer.  I have a day job that more than pays the bills.  I'm really happy there.

Why, then, would I dream of becoming an independent software developer?  It must be because the life of an indie is so glamorous.  I mean, who wouldn't love working from anywhere you want, on whatever you want. And who wouldn't want hundreds of thousands of dollars thrown at you each year as the general population of the world falls all over themselves to pay you a couple of bucks to have the pleasure of using your beloved software creation?

Oh yeah. Apparently, it's not like that.

I am thoroughly impressed by indie developers that can make a living at what they're doing. They work hard and most of them enjoy none of the benefits mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago. But they're making a living.  I listen to many of them on podcasts, and one thing I've come to understand (we all know it, but we don't all understand it) is that their success is the result of years of working at it.

If you look at My Apps, you'll see that I've developed a couple of games for iPhone and iPad.  They're fun, or so I'm told by all my family and friends who have played them (not all my family and friends, mind you, just the ones who have played my games). I admit I had dreams of going viral and retiring on it, or at least paying off my mortgage and sending my kids to college on a TreeDudes scholarship.  The reality is, they're only my second and third attempts at publishing indie software.  My first attempt was about 12 years ago, when I wrote a hex file viewer for Palm OS and sold two copies of it via Handango.  So, between that app, and my two recent iOS games, plus the ad revenue from the games, I have earned so far a grand total of about $40. I suppose the dues to be paid for success are somewhat higher than where I am currently at.  It's all good.  I'm not angry or disillusioned.  Of course I'm disappointed, but it's the same kind of disappointment you experience when you buy a raffle ticket and you don't win.  What else would I expect?

Rovio produced 51 titles before Angry Birds made them instantly famous. David Smith (@_DavidSmith) has a whole portfolio of apps he maintains.  Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater does, too.   His podcasting partner, Manton Reece, is the same.  (Can you tell which podcasts I listen to the most?)  Interestingly, Manton's app business is his side job.  He has mentioned often in his Core Intuition podcast that he has a day job, too.

Still being honest... I did more than just dream of wild success. I prepared for it. I registered my own domain,  formed an LLC, got an employer ID number (EIN) from the IRS, opened a business account at the bank, and converted my personal Apple Developer account to a business account.  After all, I had to look legitimate so nobody would realize I was just a small potato.

Looking back, I can now understand why my wife (she is so patient and understanding) always looked at me and said, "Well, I don't think all that is necessary, but you're the one who knows about these things, so I trust ya."  $40 in revenue doesn't even come close to covering the hosting fees, domain registration fees, Apple Developer fees, and small account fees at the bank.  And, oh yeah, I had to pay extra for Turbo Tax to help me do my small business taxes, since I had a small (very small) business.  But, after operating on a loss, at least my tax bill was in my favor!

I didn't need any of that stuff to publish my software.  I've learned a valuable lesson.  I'm letting my domain expire. It was always a bit of a pain having to explain that it was "cornerstone" but spelled "kor-ner-sto-ane." We did that so the domain name would be unique.  Yep.  The only thing I hosted on that site was this blog, which was easily moved over to Blogger.com and I actually like the platform.  It's nice not having to worry about Wordpress updates anymore.  My LLC has been terminated.  It's not like it was really going to protect me from a lawsuit, anyway.  The bank account is closed, eroded entirely away by low-balance fees.  Oddly enough, the EIN gets to stay around forever.  I'm sure I'll forget about it someday.  And, yes,  I've opened a new Apple Developer account in my own name again since Apple doesn't convert business accounts back to personal accounts, darn it.

I am not giving up on developing my own little portfolio of apps, though.  I've got a few ideas that I'm thinking about.  One of them will soon be moved from the back burner to the front, and I'll be off developing something new again.  But before I start that, there's an awful lot of home repair and yard work that needs to happen!

I am not foolish enough (anymore) to hope for overnight success,  but I am still counting on life providing for me what it does for others who pay the price required for success. Success takes steady, consistent work.  As I consider it now, maybe the reason I have a good day job is because I've worked at it nearly every day for two decades.  Gosh, imagine that!

I really do feel fortunate that you've read my blog post all the way to the bottom.  Thanks for that.  I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.


  1. It seems we both followed the same rainbow path to adoring fans and eager investors. I enjoyed your post and actually lol'd. Keep living the dream and I'll keep looking in on your progress.

    1. I'm sure we're not the only ones who've dived in too deeply before reality smacked us. But it's comforting to know that others understand exactly how I feel! Thanks for the reply.


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