Don’t Quit Your Job

By Zhenyi Tan

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons is entirely coincidental.

Why do you want to become an indie developer? If your answer is “to make money,” then boy, do I have some bad news for you.

Look, I’m not going to talk about how most indie developers are just barely scraping by again. I’m talking about when you’ve made it. I’m talking about the best-case scenario.

Your app has gotten popular. You’ve become famous. A lot of people have subscribed to your app.

The money is good. You’re earning more than double what you used to. After years of hard work, you feel like it’s finally paid off.

But as your business grows, so does the workload. You love the design and development part of the business, but not so much the customer support. So, you decide to hire someone.

You post a job ad for customer support. You’re not familiar with the market rate so you just put an amount you think is reasonable. But the candidates are a bit meh.

You end up upping the offer and finally hire someone decent. But it feels a bit off—this person hasn’t done anything for your business yet, and they’re earning a pretty penny. What happened to the layoffs? Where are the desperate job-seekers?

Then, out of the blue, your subscriber count starts to drop. It’s not a huge drop, so you don’t freak out. You can’t figure out why, though.

Is it the marketing? Is it AI? Or did you jinx it by switching shampoos? You redesign your homepage, add some AI features, and switch back to your old shampoo, but nothing changes.

So, you decide to launch a new app. You figure every app has its run, and besides, you’ve got some new ideas you’re itching to try out.

A few months later, your new app is out. You are very proud of it. You market it with all the tricks you’ve learned over the years.

It doesn’t do as well as you’d hoped. The new app is making less than 5% of what your old app did.

You keep tweeting about it to your now-massive Twitter following, but your tweets go largely unnoticed. You start questioning Elon Musk’s leadership.

Meanwhile, your original app continues to lose subscribers. You’re posting less about your startup now, to “focus on improving the business.”

A few years later, you sell your business to a random tech company. Most people on Hacker News see this as a success story and congratulate you.

You’re now a VP of whatever at the new company. You spend most of your time in meetings and talking to people.

You miss the good old days of being a startup founder.