Thinking about going into the game development business for yourself?
I recently listened to an episode of Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast where he discussed the “dark side” of running an online business. Many of the things he talked about seemed to have direct parallels to being an independent game developer. Here are a few of the more important ones, with my thoughts on how to avoid them.
You wear all the hats:
For those who are coming from a typical 9-to-5 software development job, they are often used to having others take care of all the business and legal stuff. I know that, when I was an animator, I wasn’t the least bit concerned with how the business was run (except when it annoyed me).
Moving into a more entrepreneurial role brings with it many challenges, not the least of which is figuring out stuff like business entities and tax returns, Twitter and running a Kickstarter campaign.
While the ability to have the final say on all decisions is powerful indeed, it can be extremely helpful to have assistance with things that are out of your area of expertise. Get an attorney, an accountant and other professionals on board who know what they are doing. Even a quick consultation or checking out a legal eBook (hint hint) can be a big help.
Watch out for overworking yourself:
Particularly at the beginning of a project, it is common to throw yourself into development 100%. Pat Flynn says, and I agree, that this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed before it becomes a problem.
It’s important for personal and social health to allow for time with family and friends. Exercise. Get away from the office and the computer.
I sometimes have difficulty following this advice and I know the toll that it can take. Making and keeping a schedule, even one that mimics a 9-5 lifestyle, can be extremely beneficial.
Avoid the loneliness of home/online businesses:
When working from home, especially when single, it can get pretty lonely. The social interaction present in an office environment just can’t be replicated when sitting in front of a TV IM’ing with friends and tweeting about Mad Men. There’s just something special about having a face-to-face conversation over lunch. Lack of human contact can also lead to the overworking issue above.
My solution? Make time in the schedule for conversations with real live humans. Attend meetup groups related to game development, entrepreneurship or any other topic that interests you. Having the chance to talk about something unrelated to game development can help to reduce stress and the chances of burnout. Learn some martial arts (I’m partial to Filipino martial arts).
If you work out of a home office, consider using a temporary office workspace, like Regus business lounges, in order to get the feel of a company office without the cost. Even working at a Starbucks can be better than working and living like a hermit.
Make lunch dates with friends and be prepared to step back and forget about work for a bit.
All of these issues can be overcome by making serious efforts to avoid them. Hopefully this post helps out on that front! We need more happy and healthy developers out there.
I'd also like to let all the game developers reading this that my new eBook, "The 5 Legal Moves Every Game Developer Should Make" is now available and totally FREE! All you have to do is sign up for my mailing list and it should show up within the hour. It covers business formation, intellectual property, crowdfunding, contracts and more!