and Brent Simmons'
own stories on how they achieved indie Mac software development as a day job finally inspired me to write down my own path to getting to live "The Life
," as John Gruber of Daring Fireball
First, let me start off by saying that I didn't give up my day job at first. Not for quite some time actually. When I started my first Mac application, SQLGrinder
, Mac OS X had JUST reached developer preview 4. I was working for a startup at the time, a company called Abuzz
(which was purchased by the New York Times about a year before this time period), but things were starting to wind down. The Dot.com bubble had burst, and the Times had decided that they had spent enough money and were going to shut us down. So, with shutdown severance in hand, I spent the next 8 months learning Cocoa and OS X, and building SQLGrinder, which was released in August of 2001.
SQLGrinder did OK. Not super-great, but well enough to encourage me to put more work into it, which I think is all you can hope for with a brand new version 1.0 product. Because it didn't do well enough to give up having a day job, back to work I went. For about a year I toiled working for someone else, improving SQLGrinder at night and during weekends, and putting money aside. I still knew that I'd do the full-time Mac thing at some point, so I went about banking as much money as was possible.
At the end of this next year, the company I was working at was having financial difficulties, so they cut 15% of their staff, a portion which included me. Again I had an opportunity to switch to doing my own Mac development full time, but the timing still wasn't right. I knew that one product was not going to be enough to support me, and SQLGrinder, which is kind of a niche app to begin with, was a long way from replacing my day job. Back to working for someone else I went, again.
I love to cook, and at some point in 2004 I decided I needed to organize my recipes in a way that was better than the system I was using at the time. I was pretty much just building a collection of text files, web pages etc. and knew that there had to be a better way to do this kind of thing. I looked at the available applications back then. There was, I think, one that was written in Cocoa (if it was even Cocoa, I'm not sure) and the rest were FileMaker applications. None fit my needs. Like any good software engineer, I decided to write my own application.
I had already started rewriting SQLGrinder in Objective-C (as an aside, the first version, because I knew Java extremely well and Cocoa/Objective-C not at all, was written in Java Cocoa), so I knew it pretty well, and knew Cocoa very well. The application came together quickly, despite some temporary health issues that Summer, and in August of 2004, MacGourmet
1.0 was released. Development time had taken away from SQLGrinder, but MacGourmet was immediately a better seller, so that seemed like a good tradeoff, especially because SQLGrinder is a lot more expensive to develop (in time and resources).
With two applications now, I was starting to take the idea of doing my Mac development full time. I had essentially been working 2 full-time jobs for a long time, and it was starting to take its toll. Something had to give. Some contract work came along, and lasted longer than I expected. The job and money were good though, but by the end, I had pretty much decided that with one application selling well, and another that was heading towards an all-new version 2, that this was the time to take the plunge. It was time to live "The Life."
I didn't need a company. My friend Stephan (who does MacXword
, among other things) and I had already set up Advenio
as an LLC.
But taking the next step did more or less require me to change my current living situation. I was living just outside of Boston, which is easily one of the most expensive places to live, and this had to change. To cut my burn rate, and make my revenue stream have more "oomph", I moved back to the city where I grew up, and where most of my family still lives, Lewiston, Maine, which is not too far from Portland. Big change, but I essentially cut my expenses in half, which was great.
So here I am. I'm now trying to finish up SQLGrinder 2, and am also doing work on MacGourmet 2. Additionally, I have some other ideas I'm chomping at the bit to start on, so I'd say things are good, at least for now. How long will I be able to live like this, and do this for a living? I have no idea. Right now though, it's a pretty fun ride, and even though I took a sizable pay cut, working for myself can't be beat, so it's all definitely been worth it.