Deciding to go it alone as an independent software developer is a liberating experience. The thrill of being your own boss cannot be denied — neither can the fact that being your own boss means building a business. It's no longer simply about the code. Everything is your responsibility, from paperwork to partnerships, and with this increasing burden come greater pitfalls that can sink your business.
While one little mistake might not tank your independent software business immediately, such missteps tend to accumulate. It's easy to get lost in your code, thinking everything is fine; suddenly, a pack of problems pounce from the shadows to tear your business to shreds.
Then it's back to the résumé heap, hoping to get hired as a full-time employee again.
Here are 14 mistakes independent developers too often make in going it alone — and how to avoid them. Good luck!
Indie dev mistake No. 1: Coding yourself out of business
High-quality code is vital to independent developer success, but heads-down coding is a job, not a business.
To be certain, you should always be thorough, with an eye toward delivering the best code you can. But make sure you have something else in the pipeline to work on when you're done.
When coding, it's all too easy to focus only on the work in front of you. In fact, it's far more efficient to devote yourself to coding than it is to task-switch between development, marketing, sales, planning, administration, and so on. But that's exactly what you will have to do to succeed. Billable work pays the bills, but finding more work keeps your business afloat.
Indie dev mistake No. 2: Forgetting that you are your brand
You may not realize it starting out, but even if you are working solo as an outside contractor with only one client, you have a brand, and that brand is you. Remember: A brand is a promise of quality and consistency, and though it can stand for whatever you think is important as a developer, it must be precise.
How you present yourself, your work, your team, and your development philosophy is the bedrock of your brand, and it should be reflected in all facets of your business, from your website to your business card to how you discuss your work with a casual acquaintance on a day off. If you are vague or inconsistent, your business will suffer.
Too often, independent software developers define their business by a tool or fad. Brands built around tools quickly become commodities — would you rather hire a "Java shop" or an "expert in enterprise applications systems development"? Brands built around the latest trends can be lucrative, temporarily, but they too quickly become commodities.
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