One of the trickiest things for me as an independent developer has been choosing the right size of applications to build. I didn’t want to make software that only a few people would use, but at the same time, it was out of the question for me to target a huge audience because I’d be unable to handle the support load. So even though my ego didn’t like the idea, I’ve always narrowed my scope in order to build software I could manage.
Each of my applications initially targeted a market that I thought would be too small for a big software company to bother with, but was more than large enough for an independent developer. And each targeted a market that I thought would gradually increase over time, so I’d be able to grow my customer base without suddenly being overwhelmed (with admittedly mixed success).
But just because I chose to think small didn’t mean I had to act small. Surviving as an independent developer requires you to act big. You can’t get away with a substandard UI or feature set just because you’re a small company – in fact, I’d argue that you need to make your product even better than the software created by the big players. A lot of people are nervous about shelling out for software written by a very small company, so you’ve got to show them that you’re worth it.
If you really want to act big, puff up your chest and realize that the fact that you’re small is your best asset. Your size is a competitive advantage, because large companies take forever to write software. In the time it takes for a big company to finish deciding what they’re going to build, you can develop and ship an entire application. And you can respond to market shifts and new technologies much faster, so you can survive even if a large company moves into your space.