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Life as an Indie Developer

As I’m sitting here writing this blog post I think back to when Edwin and I started our grand adventure in forming our company and becoming indie developers. I can remember thinking to myself “man I can’t wait to make a game!”. But you have to learn to walk before you can run, right? So we started out with our first app, SleepLab (available on iOS and Android).

As Edwin and I discovered making our first app was very challenging and not as easy as it sounds. We both had to become familiar with new programming languages and each platform’s respective SDKs. Doing so took quite a bit of time, but it was very rewarding.

We’ve seen many people want to get into making apps/games thinking that it would make them a lot of money immediately. However this is rarely the case. It seems as if you’ll either become an indie superstar or fall by the wayside and all of your apps are “failures”.

Failure is a GOOD thing believe it or not! Failure can teach you lessons that no success will ever teach you. We at Bromance Labs truly believe in our ability to take these risks,“fail” and learn that will result in the innovations that the mobile development industry needs in order to grow.

New indies coming into this need to know the realities of this business. Therefore I want to present a constructive and honest view of the indie mobile development business from what I’ve learned over the last 3 years.

Wearing Many Hats

Indie development is different than working for a traditional company. Indie developers have to be good at a little of everything as we are constantly learning. Edwin and I had to do much more than just program. We’ve had to become knowledgeable in areas such as:  social media, marketing, artwork, forming a business, etc. It’s amazing to think that so much of your time can potentially get taken up by each of these “jobs”.

I’d estimate about 30% of your time is spent during development while the other 70% is spent doing all of the above “jobs”.

We don’t know what the future holds, what the major OS platforms will be in the next 2-5 years, or how technology will change. These are things that we figure as we go along on this journey.

We’re also prepared to change direction quickly as things come up. There have been countless apps/ideas that we’d had along the years that we scrapped because….(insert reason here)

Making Money

It’s often been quoted that most businesses don’t see a profit in the first 3-5 years! (and that’s just the average). If you aren’t in it for the long haul you most likely will fail.

Each app/game you make is a huge gamble. There are very few people whose first app/game will make them a lot of money. However even if you do make a lot of money you’ll often want to re-invest the money into the business to make it grow.

Edwin and I have talked at length about the following topics: getting our apps/games onto as many platforms as possible, having our apps be seen by more people on the different app stores, and travelling to different development conferences. There’s also the following expenses that you have to be aware of: marketing, software, hardware, and whatever else it takes to get the business to the next level. All of this costs a lot of money and your wages will be the last thing you will want to pay.

Luckily today there are several ways today in which you can try and accomplish this: getting investors, grants, taking out a small business loan, running a Kickstarter, or just doing it in your spare time.

Making a Reputation

The mobile development world of today is so much different than when we first set out to do this. Before there weren’t nearly as many mobile app developers as there are now and the app stores weren’t as saturated. Today there are literally thousands of apps released on a daily basis so it’s very hard to get noticed. So in short – NO ONE KNOWS WHO YOU ARE! There are 2 sides to this:

  1. The bad news: You have to build your reputation from nothing and do a lot to grab people’s attention. It may sound silly but getting someone to drop 99 cents on an app takes a lot of time and effort. You want to give your customers something to care about and an experience that they’ll want to share with other people.
  2. The good news: FREEDOM! (insert Braveheart audio clip here)….As an indie developer you have the freedom to try out many different ideas. So feel free to experiment and learn to see if your ideas get noticed by other people. If no one likes your idea and your app “fails” then it won’t be noticed by the masses.

Being Your Own Best Boss

In any industry you’re going to see people working so much that they are drained all of the time. This impacts their relationships and they are always stressed. Or you may see people who have forgotten why they started out doing their job in the first place. They end up chasing money rather than their dreams. In the end they feel like they sold out.

Edwin and I established some rules from the start:

  • “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life” – Dolly Parton
  • Work with people who understand you and have the same values
  • Don’t compromise your values

If you are running your own company it’s your responsibility to create an environment that YOU enjoy working in. It needs to be an environment where you can learn and innovate, and enjoy your life. You need to believe in your purpose. Even if you never plan on getting any future employees, the culture of your company and the way you work is entirely up to you to establish.

It’s the journey that is the most important thing, not the destination. You can aspire to have a successful app/game, but if you don’t enjoy getting there then it’s not worth it.

Development Sucks, like a Roomba and Hoover had a baby

You may think you know how hard this is journey is, but it’ll end up harder than what you think it will be. No matter how prepared you think you are, you can’t prepare for every outcome.

This all takes a tremendous amount of time – A LOT longer than you expected.

It’s the most scary, stressful, exciting, fun, fulfilling ride of our lives and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

You’ll have to dig deep and find ways of pushing through all of the bad that you come across during this journey because you may end up quitting and it will have all been for nothing.

Do This Because You Love It

Don’t do this for the money and success. You have to have faith that by continuing to hone your craft that you’ll get better and it will all pay off in the end.

All anyone can ever do it get started at something. Just keep practicing and don’t be afraid to try new things. You will get better. Just believe that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The ones who succeed are the ones that never give up!

Good luck future developers!

Understanding the Mind of a Programmer

Consider the following programmer-themed comic (go on, I’ll wait):

Jason Heeris 2013

I think this sums up a lot about how most programmers feel when they are interrupted. When I think about how to explain to a non-developer the cost of interrupting a developer while they are knee-deep in coding, I can come up with the following analogy: Karaoke.

Allow me to paint the picture for you. Imagine you’re out with your friends at a karaoke bar right in the 2nd chorus of Survivors Eye of the Tiger…

It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the eeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeee

Then your mom walks in and asks if you called your grandmother and wished you a happy birthday. You have to stop what you’re doing and attend to said interruption, even if it’s just acknowledgement. When you finally get to resume your song, the magic is over. Programming is no different.

I myself have had this countless times and the original spark of an idea I’ve had has long since become dim. So it takes me a while to ramp back up and continue where I left off.

After all each interruption, it means that it’ll take that much longer to finish what was started if work has to keep getting restarted.

So I implore all non-developers to give us developers some consideration when you see us working.
Until next time, have a great week everyone!

Do not disturb your programmers!

So You Want to get into Mobile Development, eh?

Mobile Development has become engrained in our culture. Devices are being pushed to their limits, developers are high in demand in every industry and the biggest companies are just finally catching up with what we already knew: Mobile computing is here to stay. As Bromance Labs, we’ve been here since the beginning – with a couple of other believers – and are here to say we told you so.


mobile developmentSo where do you stand in the realm of mobile computing? We attempted to answer that question by asking you who you were in relation to us when we asked who you were. So if you haven’t reached out to us, let us know!  That being said you could be a combination of types. I personally view myself as a user, enthusiast, programmer, and probably dreamer. To explain that last one – I really believe that we can expand the greatness of mobile computing into practical everyday living. And we think the world is starting to agree with us.

What does that have to do with programming? Well… frankly, everything. We have met several developers, entrepreneurs, users and have found that a lot of them share the same passion for mobile computing and have gotten their hands dirty in development for a variety of reasons. As Joel told us last week, we became a company simply because the idea of making something for mobile was exciting (even if it was on the failing BlackBerry infrastructure)! At the time I was developing on the BlackBerry, I actually hated it. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even want to own one. No really – I got one as a prize and sold it. I owned this glorious piece of Windows Phone hardware:

Verizon XV6700

My first smartphone the VZW6700

The reason for having a Windows Phone at the time was the interface, the user experience, the integration. It felt ahead of it’s time. Pocket PC was a valid title for the little smartphone that could. But that faded for me with the release of the iPhone 3G. At the risk of sounding like an Apple Fanboy, I loved it. It was the first time I felt raw mobile power in that device and inspired me to want to dive in completely into mobile development. So for me, it was user experience that made me take the plunge.

I’m telling you this because there are a lot of people wondering if they can get into mobile development and I’m telling you, yes. If you want to do it – do it. We don’t care about the competition – we encourage it, we thrive on it. We’ve met people that have gotten involved with mobile development through so many avenues. One person saw a gap in app he needed for himself, so he learned to code. Another wanted to build a game and had never programmed before, but he learned. I know of a web programmer that wondered if she had the chops to transfer her skills to a mobile app – she did. There are so many ways to get into mobile dev if you want to be a part of the process.


The reality is that if you want to get into mobile programming there are a lot of resources out there depending on your skill level. You can come in with no programming experience or have 20 years. The truth of the matter is that we really enjoy the opportunity of learning more about our industry and meeting people from all kinds of walks of life.

So we say to the mobile industry: Thanks for having us!