I've been a solo dev for nearly a decade (8 years) and I found that sometimes it makes complete sense to pay for an office. Before my daughter was born, I was able to work from almost anywhere: noisy cafes, at home, the library, etc. But after she was born it was like my brain needed a space away from home where I could close a door and have a room all to myself, a place where I couldn't hear family sounds or be within walking distance of anyone I knew. I tried cafes and libraries but, oddly, they no longer worked for me—the noise and the people walking by suddenly became a huge distraction. I couldn't focus. I decided to rent a tiny artist studio for $350/mo that I found on CraigsList and it was the best $350 that I spent each month in terms of direct impact on my ability to get work done.
Your setup reminds me of an article I read many years ago on these sorts of "tricks" to stay disciplined when working from home. One of the tips an individual used was to
1. Walk out his front door
2. Lock it
3. Walk around the block
4. Re-enter the house
Seemed quite brilliant to me at the time.
edit: Just noticed that enraged_camel engages this exact technique below.
It forced me to get up, shower, put clothes on, see some kind of sunlight, even have a tiny bit of face to face interaction with another human at the convenience store/cafe/sidewalk, and then get home, log in, and probably just procrastinate for an hour or so anyway - but at least I was clean and dressed.
Your parent is referring to https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14265636
Too bad these in-law houses (or nanny houses) are so rare in the Bay Area. Where I used to live in Florida they were all over the place.
I can't imagine making a setup like this work for even maintaining basic sanity. Every time I read a post like this, I realize I did the right thing by not having kids. I'm constantly stressed out as it is because of the open-plan office; if I had to come home to people "carrying on loudly and ransacking the house at all hours", I think I'd shoot myself. How people can live without a good amount of peace and quiet, I have no idea.
At home is the only place I get a little peace and quiet, aside from my cats jumping in my lap. Kids would eliminate that.
Where I'm working at the moment, apart from the noise and distraction of an overcrowded open plan office, there are people in my face literally all the time due to meetings, questions, pairing, dealing with outages, and other miscellaneous interruptions. As an introvert this all becomes seriously draining so home is very much my escape.
I don't think I'm alone in this either - plenty of introverts in software, and I certainly didn't choose software as a career so I could sit around yakking to people all day. Quite the opposite in fact. (I may have made this observation in a comment on HN before, so apologies to anyone who may already have read it.)
The real downside of all this is that I often don't want to socialise with my friends or talk to my family outside of work because I'm basically peopled out and need some peace and quiet.
Add to this the fact that the work is boring and the commute is a gruelling 2.5 hour motorcycle roundtrip (>4 hours by car, due to traffic, or about 5 hours by public transport) and it's probably high time for me to find other work.
I am a pretty outgoing and easy-to-make-friends-with person but I still hate working in offices and 6 or so years ago I fought tooth and nail to achieve it. I succeeded, at the cost of a relationship, very old animal friends, most of my "circle" and quite a bit of few other sacrifices.
My point here is that there are other things to have in mind when choosing between on-site and remote: I personally hate commuting. Even if it's 20 minutes from my door to the office, I still hate them. That's a time nobody pays me for, and a time during which I can't be with my loved one.
Add to this that we all know that no work day is like any other; there are days when you're worth $1 and there are days when you're worth $20,000.
Outgoing, extroverted, expressive, call it what you want -- but I want to work on my own terms. And I am times more productive ever since I work remote. (And yes I am in a very happy relationship.)
Even if you made less, not having to commute would make you feel better.
Sometimes you just need to put some distance between where you sleep and where you work.
> When your game sells and makes some money, treat it in terms of how many years you’ve got until you’d have to get a ‘proper job’
> I’d released three games before I went ‘full time’, and my 4th was just about ready to launch. The first games were made in my spare time while my Real Job paid for my food and rent, because honestly fuck starving yourself, fuck living on beans and worrying about rent. Go Full Indie when you can afford to Go Full Indie, and not before
If you're just starting out, making your first game in this case, it makes no sense to spend a ton on office space, designers, etc. You have no income yet... one step at a time sort-of-thing.
Too many people fall in love with the idea of running a business, but don't actually know what that really means. They run around organizing things, setting up office space, getting logo's designed by fancy marketing companies, hold meetings, etc... they do everything except figure out how to make money. They love the idea of being a business, but not the actual work that comes with that territory.
I just heard an extremely similar message from Steve Martin in his Masterclass video series: "I was talking to some students and they were saying things like, 'how do I get an agent?', 'where do I get my headshots?' and I just thought... shouldn't the first thing you're thinking about be how do I be good?"
We should call them "cargo cult businessmen".
I live about 22K out of town, in the green wedge with lots of trees. I like how I am still physically connected each day to the vibrant Melbourne tech community, but can come home to the family and be in a more open, natural space. I am so much more productive when I am in the office and it works well, when meeting clients, to have an address in town.
Best tax-deductible money I have ever spent.
I see that issue with cafés, but I never had such an issue with libraries. At least the libraries I know are very quiet and their staff takes great care to keep it quiet.
My problem with the library was that on some days, I needed to phone quite often, or was called quite often. Each time I had to leave the library temporarily, and this in-and-out was very annoying for me.
> rent a tiny artist studio for $350/mo
Wow, that's still quite a lot. Did you try co-working spaces? Roughly speaking, there you pay for a desk in a room, not for a whole appartment.
That doesn't include a desk that's yours, just that you can come in every day and use the space.
Your own desk starts at the price point for his office.
If your goal is peace and quiet, I would argue his studio is money well spent.
Or you could invest in some sound insulation and a good lock.
I even made a video about it: https://youtu.be/912WN4gUBCs
Edit: I'm not affiliated with WeWork (aside from being a customer). I just like their business.
It's probably totally fine for certain types of work, but for me it wasn't a good place when you had to really focus on solving problems and writing code. Way too many distractions.
It also explains the cons about these brand new "wide noise open offices" that companies are building today.
1) Craftsmen pay good money for their tools. Invest in your office space, whether its a dedicated space in your home or a coworking membership. But be honest about what tools you need. You probably don't need a $1000 aeron chair. But you do need one that's comfortable. You probably don't need that super-cool triple-panel 17" laptop Razer pumped at CES for web development. You probably do need something with enough RAM to run a few VMs sometimes.
2) Outsource everything that doesn't make you money or that you aren't good at. Taxes and bookkeeping, for example. But know enough about it so you can tell if you've hired good help there.
3) Invest in yourself. Learn some new technology at least once a year—whether thats a framework, a language, or a skill like design. Go to at least one regional conference, and at least one national conference if you can afford it.
4) Work the shit out of your network. Set a limit on how many unpaid lunch meetings you'll take to hear about other people's problems, and always try to find a way to help them even if you don't wind up taking the job. And then try to hit your limit most of the time. Farm favors like they're a cash crop.
5) Find a way to keep yourself accountable, whether that's a mentor, a coach, or an accountability partner. We all need someone to keep us honest about our motivations and rationalizations from time to time.
6) Try to exercise some self control over how many self-indulgent HN comments you make in a given period of time. :)
On a more serious note: good advice all-around :)
my most productive setup is a self-made workshop desk and a $40 craftsman workshop stool :)
Tips from the process:
- The "get a solid core door and stick legs on it" process really works. You don't need to get fancy unless you want to - legs can be as simple as chunks of 4x4 cut to length and mounted with right-angle brackets and lag screws, and you don't need to be remotely competent at carpentry to get a solid result. (But if possible, get a door that isn't veneered, because that'll have a microscopically thin layer of wood veneer over several layers of what's basically cardboard, which is just terrible to try and work. $70 versus $300 isn't nothing, though, and you can work with a veneered door if you have to.)
- Iron acetate stain really works, too, but you need to know what you're doing, and you need to test on a scratch piece of the same wood first. I let the steel wool soak about 18 hours and got a very handsome steel-gray result. Then I stupidly put on a second coat without testing, and got a medium brown that's still decent but not what I was going for.
- If you don't have shop space, you can get away without it, but be prepared to put in more effort as a consequence. I'm doing all the work, including staining and sealing, in my ~600sf one-bedroom apartment's living room. A circular saw is pretty much a non-starter, but that's okay; a miter saw will go through 4x4s with enough effort, and you can hand-drill pilot holes for lag screws. (A drill press stand is preferable, though.) A dropcloth or two preserves the carpet from stain and sealer drips. The only hard part was getting an eighty-pound door up three flights of stairs - I don't want to do that again!
- Iron acetate-stained wood will smell of rust to the touch forever, so you really need to seal it. General Finishes water-based polyurethane is effectively odorless; where the vinegar reek of the stain lingered for hours even with the windows open, the sealant doesn't smell at all even while it's being applied.
- It's a really nice feeling to build a piece of really solid furniture out of wood with your own two hands and have it exactly meet your needs. I highly recommend it!
Comes with brackets and screws for all the joints. You just buy the wood and make the cuts. I got some thick MDF for the top and shelf instead of plywood, which is something I definitely recommend if you're going to use it as a desk-type surface instead of a working surface.
Nah. As a solo dev you need to spend your time efficiently.
You can go to Fiverr and pay literally $5 for stuff like that. Sure, what you get won't be amazing, but it will be passable and it is pretty much guaranteed to be better than what you can create as a pure beginner.
That is far more preferable to spending hours or days (or maybe even weeks) learning to do it yourself.
It depends whether you're trying to maximize your income over the next year or over the lifespan of your career. Investing in yourself by taking the time to learn technical skills and also develop your aesthetic taste in different areas of design is usually going to pay dividends in the longterm far beyond whatever immediate benefit you'd get by outsourcing this.
Once you know how to do it yourself, then by all means find a consultant to do it for you, but until then it's just a risky shortcut that's not likely to work out.
The good advice from a conference this past weekend: "if I was hiring, would I hire myself to do this job?"
Unless you are interested in learning that stuff, then it is not only cheaper (in terms of cash, but not time) but you are doing something you'll enjoy as well as learning new skills.
If you want production quality assets, then you'll likely have to pay more. I think what the author is saying is build shit you can build. If you can't build shiny spaceships, then choose a different direction.
> "Working from a cafe"
100% agree. For me, no work gets done from a cafe. I wonder what work people do by sitting at Starbucks. I cant write one line of code if I am being constantly distracted. Does anyone feel different ?
Don't forget a cafe (or anywhere) is also "not home" in that -- over time -- you are conditioning yourself that a cafe is a place of work whilst your home is not. This helps one be more productive in both environs.
It's even better in public libraries, because the noise is 10x lower than the typical open-space environment. You also make random encounters which usually turns out great.
The only things that could be a blocker is music with vocals, for that I use earbuds.
I tend to think of different places like psychological anchors, each one good for a particular type of work.
Moving physically itself is a powerful reward for accomplished tasks.
More importantly, if you can relegate the hustle and noise from a cafe into white noise, you'll be doing yourself a favour if you end up working in a crowded office. A loud office is the worst kind of problem, because it's rarely a dealbreaker- meaning you have to endure it.
I much prefer cafes, and I don't have any problem concentrating there at all.
There is something different about a loud office, though, and I don't like those either
On the other hand, I have a lot more difficulties concentrating on work in an open-space office mostly because the discussions around me would then tend to be related to my work so I can't just completely tune them out.
I can relate so much to the coffee trap. Just went back from grabbing coffe. Just another to delay working.
echo 127.0.0.1 news.ycombinator.com >> /etc/hosts
Co-working spaces are the closest second choice, but I suspect they need to become more like subscription-based cafes before they can work for me.
I think there is research showing that there are a confluence of factors that make working out of a café so productive for many.
It seems some have not actually tried it or are simply not wired to like it. To each their own.
Honestly I don't know why I didn't do that from the start and worked on my projects in my spare time.
It's been a few months and I do not miss coding full time one bit, hell even no longer being involved deeply in tech is a breath of fresh air.
I've had previous management experience (CTO in small start up, Lead Dev ...) so I managed to leverage that during my interview process, then it was mostly showing I was really interested in growing a product and see it succeed.
Software development, for whatever reason, directly spends "spoons" (in the sense of https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine...) at a high rate.
Because of this, it's hard to do much else that requires willpower after putting in a day's work as a programmer. You can do habitual things just fine; or procrastinative things. But, outside of those two activity-classes, it's hard to even do the most enjoyable of things—like, for example, watching a serious, dramatic movie—because you won't get anything out of such activities if you don't invest some emotional energy into them, and you've just plum run out.
In a more technical sense, it's my understanding that the activity of programming somehow "uses up" a lot of dopamine, and so gradually depletes one's available store of dopamine over the course of the day in much the same way that stress, cold environments, and surprising loud noises are known to.
Thus, a neurotypical person who spends eight hours programming in a day, will end up effectively equivalent in behavior/mentality to a person with ADHD for the rest of the day, until they can sleep it off and recover.
(This means you could probably restore your "spoons" by taking ADHD medication just after leaving work... but that seems ill-advised, for multiple reasons.)
1. IP ownership - many companies include total IP ownership during your time of employment.
2. If it's a soul sucking place, you'll burn out quickly and won't want to touch a computer, even if you love coding.
3. Making some company 10-20x your salary is disheartening.
4. You are at the whim of your bosses.
5. Many companies make getting anything done a huge pain in the ass. Over zealous security policies, over tight virus scanners choking your development box, requiring shitty company hardware to develop on, some DBA rejecting your SQL because he decided everyone should do it this way this week, network guys not fixing a horribly slow network, etc.
There are advantages, of course. The problem is you probably will never be able to get a business up and running while working at another job, it just takes too much attention.
I think it depends upon what you want in life from your current situation. Having worked extensively in both startups and big corps, I've enjoyed working for startups where my work and ideas can make a huge impact on the business, far more than in the corporate world. And both have asked me for extra hours at crunch times, but at a startup they know they are asking a lot, and there's a chance for abstract future rewards as a result. When I've had mandatory unpaid extra hours at a big corp, I got a couple of slices of "free" pizza (and I got to not be fired).
In recent years I've worked for small established businesses/non-profits, and I enjoy the happy medium.
People will find themselves preferring "startup life", going from startup to startup, never staying past acquisition, without really knowing why; and then they'll invent all sorts of clever justifications for that. But really, they just enjoy the fact that their job is a gamble and could disappear at any moment, and will miss that and "feel bored" whenever they don't have it.
Just like some people who are "natural soldiers" find it hard to find jobs they enjoy after coming back from a war (e.g. https://www.reddit.com/r/CombatFootage/comments/68v9dv/photo...), some people who are "natural startup people" find it hard to find jobs they enjoy that aren't in startups. Because the risk/stress isn't there, and that's what they really want out of a job.
Are you proposing that every freelancer / solo-dev is unattractive to potential mates per se?
One thing that did help was a sense that my workspace was both mine and a place for work. I needed to know that and no one had the right to interrupt or try and shoo me away. Public spaces never worked for me because other people had a right to them, too, and they could bring their kids or ask me questions about the nearest chair or whatever. I could concentrate better knowing that was true. It was worth money to me.
I mean, once you do 2-3 games and you have a little success, I think you should use that notoriety to gather more talent and assemble a team. Forget starting a startup, studio, being an entrepreneur. I say you should continue doing what you do, but instead of doing all the development yourself and outsourcing the graphics or the sound effects, just bring them in.
A team of 2-3 developers, 1-2 artists, and a composer should level up faster. Watch Fullbright, they had amazing success together, while on their own they were.. just ok.
There are any former solo devs here that could share their story? What was the next step for them?
I used to have a garage office, but the last several months the coffee table is the remote office. Soma.fm queued up when I start working. I take breaks for bike rides/lunch/exercise, if I feel the need to be "social", the local brewery (more like park + brewery) has outside seating and friends are there.
Solo - just gauge how much interaction you need and when you need it.
Be prepared to not make a huge amount of money, but you get to write games for a living.
The other stuff is just optional.
"don’t be a fucking idiot, be sensible."