Indie Software Development and Money

Over the past 6 months there’s been a lot of talk about indie software developers, app stores, and how easily (or not so easily) developers make money in them. I find this topic fascinating because while I’m not an indie developer, I pretended to be one from the late 90s to early 2000s.

I’ve written previously about how I got into programming so I won’t go into that here.

I started out giving everything I made away for free, but as I got better1 at programming and my apps improved, I transitioned a few of my most popular apps to shareware.

While the final update I made to my old Windows software was in 2004, I basically stopped working on any of it in mid-2001 and didn’t remove the ability to buy my software for a long time. I believe it was possible to purchase a few apps up until a few years ago.

From the first app I ever sold on January 6, 1999 to when the last order trickled in on October 24, 2010 my revenue came to a grand total of $12,741. That’s $1,158 a year.

Yes, most of that money was made between 1999 and 2001, but it’s still far from enough to run a real business2.

That first sale in 1999 was for $20.00, of which I received $13.50. That first order was awesome and I’ve never forgotten the feeling.

Indie software development takes a lot of hard work and a part of me still wishes I’d taken it more seriously and kept at it. Heck, I still periodically dream of doing it again and turning it into something more successful.

Even though my days as an indie developer may not have been successful from a monetary standpoint, I feel incredibly lucky to have had it lead me into a wonderful career in software development.

I’m impressed with the quality of work indie developers are churning out these days. I hope more of them can figure out a way to make their businesses work.

  1. I say “better,” but I really mean “less awful.”

  2. I was a teenager when I started and was pretty excited about the fact I was making any money at all while having fun. So to me it’s still a win.