A podcast discussing news of note in iOS Development, Apple and the like.

#183: Anxiety and Inertia

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My thanks to everyone who purchased a t-shirt in the last two weeks. They should be at the printer and then on their way to your door within the next week or so.

Anxiety and Inertia

I’ll be taking a quick break from the Unconventional Wisdom series today. I want to ruminate a bit on something more topical for my personally.

Feed Wrangler hit its one year anniversary this past week. That accomplishment in and of itself is rather significant for me. If you have been listening to this podcast over the last year you know the trials and triumphs getting to here has involved. I wrote up my thoughts about that here if you are interested.

The actual topic I want to discuss though isn’t directly related to Feed Wrangler. It has to do with the anxiety of sustaining a business. I’ve been making my primary living from the App Store for just shy of five years now. In that time I’ve seen it morph and change dramatically. The manner in which I have been able to make a living has necessarily required several adjustments along the way. One thing that has remained constant is the lurking sense of anxiety that tomorrow everything will fall apart and my business will fail. I’ve had that lingering fear now for five years running. From talking to other iOS developers I know I’m not alone in it.

As a brief aside the funny thing about being independent is that this anxiety feels much more real than it does working for a larger company but I doubt if it is actually as dramatically more likely as it feels. Because there is a direct connection between your work and your success everything gets magnified. But I suspect you are roughly as likely to get laid off as you are for your business to fail.

I’ve had to learn to deal with this fear in order to stay sane and to take the risks necessary to grow my business. It hasn’t gone away but it has become manageable, if not useful, for me.

The key I found was to rely on what I will now pompously refer to as “Underscore’s First Law of Business Dynamics”

On any given timeframe, the rate your business will decay roughly matches the rate it grew.

Put another way fast up, fast down — slow up, slow down.

I’ve seen this in my own apps time and time again. I’ll have big spikes followed by big falls, but over the long term things decay much more slowly. I’ve rarely been hit by sudden dramatic fall offs in sales unless they were preceded by big spikes. They haven’t always been at the level I’d like but even when an app falls down to just a few sales a day…it tends to stay consistent there.

This gives me some comfort. When I look at my business today I can roughly predict how it will do by looking at the past few months. The trends over the long term might not always work out but the need for day to day worry is likely unfounded.