I read The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need yesterday. It was a lightning-quick and very entertaining read… especially since it is in Manga (which my family after looking over my shoulder means “comics for adults.”) I love self-improvement books anyways and I’ve enjoyed all of Daniel Pink‘s books.
It has six career lessons that are somewhat geared towards people working at companies. But what about for us Indies? Us freelancers or us free agents as Dan Pink would say; he did after all, write Free Agent Nation.
I think actually all of the six lessons apply. But let’s see how they apply to us Indies:
1. There is no plan. If you are an Indie, you’ve most likely studied, perhaps implemented but then ultimately ripped up whatever plans you, your parents, and other guidance/career counselors had for your adult working life. There’s all sorts of reasons not to go independent and stick with “the plan”: no steady paycheck, no benefits, etc.
But there is some help out there: Indie blogs, postmortems like Gus Mueller’s How to become an independent programmer in 1068 days, books by Nolo Press and others. Also, you’ll also be able to outsource a lot of things like setting up your company, writing contracts, and accounting to others. I like finding other independents whenever possible to do these things. I think it helps build a freelancer ecosystem.
2. Thinks strengths, not weaknesses. Hopefully you’ve gone independent or are going independent in something you’ve already become an expert at. If so, then you’ve already learned this lesson. Entrepreneurs though I think need to keep learning about business to help ensure success, even though those skills might be your weakest.
3. It’s not about you. You should always be serving your clients if your a consultant or your customers if you are selling products. I do both right now. I’ll be releasing a new version of Webnote shortly and handle customer support requests daily. I’m also building Mac and iPhone apps for clients. It can be easy however to forget when you’re building new products that there are people out there who have needs that your app will satisfy. Don’t keep them waiting any longer than needed.
4. Persistence trumps talent. You really need to be a self-starter to be independent. There’s no boss to tell you what to do and when to get it done by. I’ve found though that wearing a boss / client hat when developing your own products has been helpful.
5. Make excellent mistakes. Independents need to make a lot of mistakes and bigger ones. I’ve probably made too few myself. There’s lots of code that I haven’t released because it isn’t perfect. That’s just a fancy way of saying that I’m afraid of making mistakes. However I’ve learned / am learning that 1. most people are actually more forgiving than you think; 2. people are happy to try new stuff; 3. there are some people who just won’t like what you release even if it is perfect so you just have to deal with that. (I got the last insight from The War of Art… another book I need to review.)
6. Leave an imprint. You’ll have to answer this one for yourself. I do sincerely hope to make the lives of Mac users (and iPhone users) better and happier with my apps. I know I’ve already pleased many consulting clients as well.