Ben Szymanski

Software Engineer • Vlogging about efoils, tech and music • 🇺🇸 & 🐊

I came across some old tweets and remembered the time I attempted to go indie and failed.

False. This is blind optimism.

Don’t do it unless you have some connections somewhere to help you out. It’s tough getting people you don’t know to listen to you/take you seriously.

Also don’t do it unless you have some other (even if small) regular income from somewhere else.

These are lessons I learned from when I tried going indie in 2015.

I was 24 at the time I decided to leave my safe full-time job and try to venture out into the professional world on my own. I moved back home and got started. Ideally I'd be making small websites and web applications as an indie contractor. I'd spend the hours I wasn't doing that stuff working on software/apps I could sell on the App Store.

I made several concept native Mac applications and did some crazy-tedius graphics programming in CoreGraphics. Everything was fully animateable with CoreAnimation. It was kind of cool and ridiculous.

After about eight months of this, I was probably about half-way to having something that could be released. But I never did.

Despite having a lot of support from everyone around me, it was incredibly difficult to find projects I could contract on. Looking back now, I think there's a way to do this but was/am unaware of the best way to go about this. I suppose you need a known name and a solid network to pull that off, and once you have that, it's much easier to find work. I really didn't have any of that though, building it proved to be insurmountable.

It wasn't entirely fruitless though, I did have several leads pop up, but they essentially ended in the other party wanting to bring me on as full-time, which was definitely not what I was trying to do. Eventually I gave in and started full-time as a back-end dev at one of the local ad/creative agencies. I''m still in that #agencylife today.

~19:40 FML

hashtag agencylife'

As tough as agency life can be sometimes, I'd really hate to go back to a commercial development op. I think I do much better work in a hellish agency environment that I would have if I stayed put at my first job.

The first job I had was developing (or maintaining?) an ancient ASP.NET WebForms web application that was sold commercially. It was essentially supposed to be a web port of the desktop/Win32 software, with the same modal conventions.

Have you ever seen a window.opener.opener.opener before? Have you ever been like five IFrame's deep? Stuff like that was all over the place. Along with crazy, undocumented query params. Throw in ViewState and you have a real party on your hands.

It was truly a miserable web application, and mostly in maintenance mode. Though customers loved it because it was super easy to deploy and actually the most reliable of all the clients. Even so, I was debugging and working on tickets filed a decade ago.

I did make some really great friends, and we would convienge in my apartment on Friday evenings, mix alcohols that shouldn't have been mixed and snickered about our beloved BBoM Big Ball of Mud and those who we called the "swamp guides."

photo of relaxed man sitting on couch with wine watching Kanye west music video

After two years of this, I felt like I was stagnating and ready for something new. I devised that foolish plan of going indie, and then I failed, and then I ended up in an agency.

The applications I was working on are still sitting on my disk. I permanently gave up on them when Swift started taking over, and then watched the Mac platform degrade year after year. 2014/2015 was just before the bottom truly fell out for indie developers.

The only application that ever saw the light of day from these days was a tongue-in-cheek project called Classic Finder that I was making to amuse myself.

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