How to Succeed as an Indie Developer

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How to Try to Succeed as an Indie Developer

Just like in the real world, only a few control the wealth of the app stores. So what can an indie developer do? Well, there’s one: just give up. But we won’t go that negative route. There’s still hope. Even if you feel lost in the flood of millions of apps in the app stores, or even if indie developer horror stories keep on coming, there’s still a way up.

These tips can help you jumpstart your career as an indie developer. Though these tips don’t cover everything that can get you from point a to b, it can encourage you to stop and think about what it really takes to make it in the app industry.


1. Set clear goals from the start.

Why do you want to be an app developer? What do you want to achieve? Take some time to just sit down and think about what direction you want to take. Most of the time, indie developers just plow into “mobile space” without any clear goal or plan. Some do have goals, but most often it’s not attainable. Think of plausible ways to achieve your goals. It’s either you start from scratch, slowly work your up, or just see how it would go. There would be obstacles, so be sure that you have “Plan B” for every step of the way.

2. Find your niche and excel in it.

As nice as “following your passion” sounds, sometimes being passionate about something is not enough. You need to excel in order to compete in a marketplace setting. As they say, you can’t be everything to everyone, or you can’t be what you’re not. You may love gaming but you don’t have the technical skills or back knowledge to design and sell one. But you’ve been in the software utility niche for so long, you know it inside out. Pick a problem in that niche and solve the heck out of it.

3. Believe that there’s a place for you in the industry.

Sometimes, you just need to believe. If you dwell so much on the numbers, you somehow become subjective. “It’s difficult for me to make it because I’m not a big budget developer.” Think that you will be one of those exceptions, not to give you false hope but to encourage you into thinking big.

4. Get it started now.

Just do it – now.

5. Buy into your idea and own it.

Ideas are flexible things, the only part that could go wrong is the execution. Instead of imagining details about your idea, set on to work to see if it is feasible even before you get invested. Consider it as a project and do the necessary research and see if it can be scaled and marketed to the public. If you can’t convince yourself that your idea will work, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. You should believe first before you can even convince others to do so.

6. Learn from apps that didn’t make it.

More often, indie developers jump into the temptation of emulating top apps. It’s not bad so to say; you’re basically reusing a formula proven to work but this strategy had also been the downfall of many indie apps. Study these apps’ shortcomings and learn from them. It is great to learn from mistakes especially if it’s not your own.

7. Optimize app development time.

Success may come slow and disappointingly out of reach if you just wait for one app to bring you there. Create simple apps at first so that you can publish several apps in a year. This way, you can test your ideas and tweak it as you go. Your likelihood of success also increases as you build your app portfolio.

8. Keep the quality up.

Keep it simple, stupid but design is still everything. Find the sweet spot between simplicity and good design and you will have a practical app in the process. Quality need not sacrificed. This is especially important in a highly competitive and ever-changing market.

9. Be critical of your own work.

You can get too invested in your idea that you can no longer notice obvious flaws in your app. Put yourself in the shoes of your prospective users and objectively critique your own app.

10. Don’t sell out even when success seems out of reach.

Just don’t give up. Experts advise that instead of seeking for investors you should build apps in your spare time. You don’t need to pack your bags and leave everything behind just to be an indie developer in the first place. You can work for “the man” as they say. This way, you can still have control over what little success you will achieve.

11. You don’t need to do it all by yourself.

Build a team or join a team or other indie developers that’s on the same boat as you. This way ideas can be shared and developed more efficiently. Resources can also be pooled so that app distribution and marketing would have more impact.

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