Career Paths To Make Money As A Programmer Part Four : The Indie Developer

This is the fourth post from the making money as a programmer series. In the first three posts, I’ve covered freelancing, contracting and the employee routes, in today’s guide, I’m going to talk about the indie developer.

What Is An Indie Developer?

Indie developers are programmers who design, build and deliver their own products. Unlike the other career paths I’ve covered so far, they don’t trade time for an hourly wage. Indie developer’s focus on creating products, like games/apps/software/services. After the product has been created, the developer then makes passive income from selling the product.

A lot of indie developers get started through luck and chance rather than a planned deliberate career choice. A lot of indie developers start off by writing a side project in their own time that they think is cool. As it gains popularity the product can be monetized and potentially generate a lot more money than any of you could make for an hourly wage. I read a recent post about Ramit Sethi, who made 5 Million in the first week of his product’s launch, or Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income, who regularly makes $150,000 a month from his products. As an indie developer, you have the potential to make a lot more than you ever could working for someone else in the time/wage cycle. The downside is that the successes are a lot rarer than the people who start out. For every 5000 side projects, maybe only 1% will make money.

We’ve all heard the overnight success stories of things like ‘Flappy Birds’ or probably the most famous example, ‘Minecraft’. The bedroom developers who create something, gain a lot of attention and success and prophet from it. The image of the dream of making money without having to work for it

How Do I Become An Indie Developer?

Technically, anyone who can program can become an indie developer. All you need to do is have an idea, build it and release it to an app store or something similar.

Life as an indie developer isn’t just about writing some code. Standing out and getting your product seen by people is just as important as having a great product. An indie developer will need to spend a good proportion of their time marketing and building a fan base. There’s a lot more to it than just writing some code and uploading it to a store, or marketplace. This is why indie developers need to be just as good with organisation and coming up with good marketable ideas. It’s these skills that distinguish a hobby project programmer from a professional indie developer.

While you could obviously start it as a hobby, developing successful indie software takes a huge amount of time and risk. You might dream of sitting on a beach in Thailand making the next Angry birds, but there’s a reason only a limited amount of people go down this career path.

A good side-project can take months or years to develop. What happens if you have one good idea that makes a little bit of money but the next one flops? We need a roof over our heads and have bills to pay. As a full-time indie developer if might be months before you see a paycheck… no one can live from a love of doing cool things and fresh air.

It’s these risks and uncertainties that make creating a living as an indie developer more challenging than being an employee, freelancer or contractor. As an indie developer, you can build you own vision and live your own dreams. You get to build exactly what you want. If you can build a successful product, you will make more money than you ever could with a normal job and there are people out there now doing exactly that. On the flip-side, just as there are success stories there are also a lot more failures. For every one product that makes money, there’s probably 1000 more that never make anything.

Will you be the next one?

You should follow this career path if..

  • You can take risks
  • You want to make a living through Passive Income
  • You won’t need a guranteed monthly fixed income
  • You want to decide what projects you work on
  • You want to decide your working hours
  • You can accept you may not make any money for a period of time

Jon D Jones

Software Architect, Programmer and Technologist Jon Jones is founder and CEO of London-based tech firm Digital Prompt. He has been working in the field for nearly a decade, specializing in new technologies and technical solution research in the web business. A passionate blogger by heart , speaker & consultant from England.. always on the hunt for the next challenge

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