What Matters as an Indie Developer

There’s lots of stories lately in the tech world about how hard it is as an indie iOS developer.

And it’s true: stories often discuss how much competition exists (true), how Apple needs to improve App Store discovery (true), or how prices are falling to practically zero (also true).

But I think those valid concerns obfuscate something more important, which is:

What can indie developers actually do?

What’s the difference between a terrible movie with amazing effects (see Transformers 4) and a cheaper classic like Good Will Hunting?

The story.

It’s the story that moves us, makes us laugh, makes us tell our friends.

The story is the thing people want.

It’s why people can love The Simpsons or Family Guy and be disappointed by the beautiful Cars 2.

The effects, props, location, editing, appearance, etc. might amplify a great story, but they can’t fix a poor one.

Craigslist is The Simpsons of Internet businesses.

It doesn’t look great, but people love it anyway because it solves their problems.

It works for the same reasons guys like Joel Grasmeyer and Michael Lovecan make a very good living (and then some) solving problems for specific niches.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many more iOS indie developers out there, quietly making a living solving the problems of some unsexy niche.

Tony Hsieh wrote in Delivering Happiness about entrepreneurial lessons he learned playing poker:

“Table selection is the most important decision you can make.”

Like the story in a movie or TV show, the problem your app solves is what matters most. And thankfully, it’s one of the few things over which developers have absolute control.

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