Top mistakes made by indie developers

For most businesses there is often a wealth of knowledge and constants out there to outline exactly what resources you need to achieve certain business goals. When someone choses to become an indie developer, they often don't have a detailed business model in front of them nor have done sufficient research to make great business decisions, in fact most don't change a thing in their work pattern form when they were just learning.

So what should a coder, designer, artist or all-rounder consider before going from enthusiast to full blown indie developer?

  1. Plan projects based on your restraints and abilities - We often plan projects based on the desired outcomes we would like but this isn't always realistic. As an indie developer you need to consider the amount of time you have to commit to each project, your skill and how much that will slow you down or prohibit you from succeeding and the impact these restraints have on the game.

    A great example of this is "Flappy Bird", the developer said he didn't have a lot of time so he had to make a small, short, simple game. He also said he didn't have time to keep adding content so the way this impacted the game was he had to make it really difficult to generate longevity for the limited amount of content.
  2. Set deadlines and milestone targets - If you were working in a big business you would have set timelines for all your projects and not meeting a timeline would have a negative effect on the business. It's easy as an indie to say "I have no real need to get it out by any specific date" or "It's done when it's done" but the impact can be big. You could be reducing your productivity by over 50% by not committing to a timeline. It also comes with other benefits such as knowing when you have to have the dialog ready to give to translators in order to get them back in time for release, plus producing localised marketing material. Reviewers will take you a lot more seriously if you can give them a date and you actually meet that date.
  3. Plan your monetisation strategy from day one - Research business models and marketing strategies well enough to have a good plan to move forward with. Make a quick list of your products and services you can offer then start putting rough numbers next to them of how many you think you can sell based on marketing demand and do a quick calculation of your annual income. If it isn't what you expect to be making then rethink your strategy.
  4. Plan to make money - In addition to the above, i know it is nice to give away software for free and get feedback but if you plan to have a business then eventually that business should be making money. Think of it this way, if you make enough money that you can quite your day job then you can spend more time making software and updating it and make your customers more happy. It's better for everyone if you are running a profitable business!
  5. Be realistic - Rovio made over 50 games before they produced "Angry Birds", if you expect to get it right in the first year you will probably be very disappointed. If you expect to be rolling in cash in 2 years then (if you are good) you might be earning enough to get more equipment / software and produce better products but I wouldn't quit your day job. We are all learning, even the people who know everything about coding are learning, even the people who write programming languages cannot comprehend all the things it can be used for. Be patient. 
  6. Be proud of your accomplishments - This tip is just from me, if you love what you do and love what you create, that love is often infectious and the community will get behind you and help support your products. You should also support your peers in the same way, some of the best developer friends I have are just people I've cold messaged saying "Hey, I tried your app you advertised on <forum name>, I really liked what you created because of <A B C D> and think you can improve on <E F G> but otherwise it was a great experience and I left you a review". People really appreciate community support and will most likely look at your apps and do the same for you.

Hope you find these comments helpful and as always leave a comment if you have anything you think I should add. I'd love to hear from you!