10 Ways to Be a Better Independent Developer
Stress is a fact of life for an indie developer. Every decision comes down to you, there is nobody to pick up the slack, and there is very little sense of security. When you are employed at a company, there is more security because employee turnover is expensive and time consuming. As an indie, you are constantly in need of pleasing your clients or customers because they have many more opportunities to choose someone or something new. Beyond that, it is virtually impossible to not tie your identity to the success of your business. All of these things can lead to incredible amounts of stress. The best thing you can do is to accept that stress, and learn to appreciate it and to channel it into positive results.
My stress level is something I have been monitoring closely because I grew up with my dad running his own business and I saw how stressed out he can get. A few weeks into going independent I began to notice my stress level consistently rising, however, I noticed that my happiness did not seem to correlate with my stress level. I then realized that my stress was coming from the exact same thing that was causing me to be happy.
I am happy because I have the chance to create a product that I have extreme control over. My clients are paying me because they value not only my development skills, but also my product design and project management skills. I am collaborating with my sister on my own products, but we don’t put anything into the product that we don’t agree upon. This is very different than working for a larger organization where at some point you need to simply accept what the person above you thinks. It is much more satisfying to put my name on a product that I agree with every aspect of. I won’t have anyone to blame for failures, but it will be that much more more of a learning experience when I do. Then finally, when I do create something successful, it will be that much more meaningful.
I also use my stress as a mechanism to stay motivated and to always strive to be better than the day before. I use my support system to keep my stress at a reasonable level and then I channel it to be more creative, to be more fastidious about my code, and to never fully accept my status quo. I don’t mean to say that I don’t accept my current pay or that I’m not extremely happy with my life; I mean that I want every product I create to be better than the last. I want every project I contribute to for a client to be more valuable than the last. The desire for improving is what causes me stress, and the freedom to do so is what leaves me feeling full-filled and happy. The moment I eliminate the things causing my stress, is the moment I stop growing as a person. I have learned to not only accept my higher stress level, but to channel it into being the best I can be.