The pressure of money

In today’s post I would like to share with you some thoughts about surviving as an indie iOS developer. I started my iOS journey in August 2009 with the development of paintingWalls. However, I went full-time indie one year later, on August 2010. So currently, I’m living from the incomings produced by the apps you can see in the Projects page of this blog.


However, despite of being indie I’m still dependent of money… Usually, indies are romantic people passionate about what they do. To be happy with my job I only need to see my work completed, well done and enjoyed by people. Really. These are the only needs of my mind.

However, you know… you can’t live from happiness. It would be great but it is not possible. You need to manage to make some money. It is a frustrating paradox: I’m not interested on making money, I’m interested on making great games and apps. However, to be able to make great games and apps, I need to make some money with them. However, sometimes, thinking about making money, makes your games to be less great.

I only see two ways for breaking the paradox:

Way 1: the Noel Llopis way 😀 I think we all know Noel at iDevBlogADay, don’t we? Put “indie iphone” at Google and his blog is the first entry. Awesome.

Anyway, on his last blog article “My Next Game” he states: “It turns out the indie life is treating me very well, so making lots money isn’t one of the main reasons to make this next game. That means I can safely remove that requirement from my previous list, which grants me a lot more freedom.

Ok, that’s way 1. This really blows out the paradox. Clear and easy. 🙂 However, I needed an alternative… so here comes way 2.

Way 2: freelance is not indie, but is also cool! 😀 (notice that the title of both ways ends with a smiling face 😀 ). My personal projects produce about 40% of the earnings I need for everyday life. So, I needed a way to obtain the other 60% taking into account that what I really wanted was to keep myself self-employed.

During 2011 I have received a lot of employment offers. My iOS activity (specially this blog) during the last 2.5 years has given me some relevance in the little local iOS community, around Barcelona, Spain. So, specially from LinkedIn, I receive many employment and job offers.

During the first half of this year I systematically refused all of them. However… during the last months, the pressure of money is getting heavier… I still keep refusing employment offers but now I consider all freelance project offers I receive. And I have accepted some of them.

And that was cool! 😀 You know, Noel Llopis way is, by far, much better, but the experience of working with clients has given me some extra skills that I can use also when working on my own projects.

Keeping a confortable balance between self-projects and client-projects is not that easy, though. Client-projects tend to slowly take more and more of your time. The more client-projects you successfully complete, the more offers you receive. And it’s very difficult to refuse an offer because you are afraid of loosing clients and, therefore, not earning enough money for everyday living and, therefore, not being able to keep self-employed and, therefore, to eventually be forced to abandon the indie dream.

However, if you don’t refuse some offers, you don’t have time to work on your own projects. Isn’t that also a paradox?!?! OMG! The key, as in game design, is balance 😉

What do you think?

This post is part of iDevBlogADay, a group of indie iPhone development blogs featuring two posts per day. You can keep up with iDevBlogADay through the web siteRSS feed, or Twitter.

9 thoughts on “The pressure of money

  1. You might also want to consider subcontracting some of your clients work. Start by subcontracting non-vital projects, and then when you’re confident enough with your partner’s skills and will, you can hand him more and more of your clients work, and free yourself some time to work on your main projects.

    • I think that’s the natural evolution. I have considered it. Actually, if things keep growing as today, in one year it would be the only one solution.

      Thanks for your feedback!

      • Eventually you could run a development house.. you could start by hiring a good junior developer and assigning parts of your clients’ projects. Later, you could hire a second one, and so on.. This would allow you to oversee the quality of the work being done for clients and also devote part of your time to develop your own ideas!

  2. Very good points, nice post.

    I agree in your point of view, the different with you for me is that the financial situation has been so difficult that I never had the time to complete a single app, and entering the game now is very difficult. But I do enjoy reading these posts. Having been a freelancer for 10 years, but in the field of web development, I know very well the fear of not having enough money to pay the rent at the end of the month.

    I am sure that if you keep going like this, you will be soon able to get all your income from your apps. You are freelancing, but you are still working on the tools you will need to make what you like to do. It is a bit like school, just paid 😉

    Keep it up!

  3. I think KPM has got the right idea. If you focus on outsourcing the time consuming or boring parts of your work then you will have more time to build apps or do money making work. I currently have 2 developers working for me building my next apps. This frees me up to focus on the marketing / pr. I’m not doing this because I’m hugely successful but because I won’t be able to grow my business from it’s current point at the rate I’m going on my own.

    I’m planning on doing a blog post about outsourcing for idevblogaday in a few weeks if this interests you.

  4. Thanks for sharing. I quit my day job to do app development full time almost a year ago. I haven’t made any money since. Maybe I should take up on some freelance work as well.

    I read an article somewhere that compares app development to playing a slot machine. I don’t think that’s the case. What do you think? Is it always either hit or miss?

    • I don’t think it is like a slot machine. There are different ways to monetize your apps. Reaching top charts is not the only way. paintingWalls lives quite comfortably deep in the charts. People everyday uses the iTunes search engine with the word “decoration”. And paintingWalls is there. Only playing with the price I can increase benefits in some percentage.

      It’s not easy. There are a lot of little things that affect sales. Understanding the App Store complex system is very difficult. However, I think that if you have a good product is only a matter of time. Do you have time? :p

      However, if you are thinking about becoming millionaire, then yes, is like a slot machine 😉

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