- The cards are stacked against you
- You have to sacrifice a lot of time
- Money can be tight
- You may live in your mom's basement or attic
However, as sad as people think being a starving artist is/was in some ways it was better than being an indie game developer. As an artist you could charge a lot of money for a painting. Prices could go from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Of course it was hard to sell it but often times you had to sell just a few paintings a year to pay your bills. On top of selling your product you could teach classes and usually charge a lot of money. I remember that the top musicians in a big city could charge outrageous prices for their lessons.
For whatever reason in the past people seemed to understand why these price points were high. Patrons would pay a lot of money for paintings for prestige and status and take music lessons for the same reason.
Let's flash forward to the present and look at indie game developers. You get to sell your creation for a dollar on the app store and if you charge two dollars the community is up in arms saying the game is too expensive and not worth it. You cannot teach people at a premium the same way music lessons were taught in the past and finding 'patrons' or advertisers that will pay a lot of money is very hard.
In summary, art in the past was perceived as a high society wonder and indie developers today are perceived as "just people in somebody's basement".
I always tell indie developers to charge more money for their product. I did this and noticed an increase of money in my bank account. Personally, there should be a marketing/PR campaign to slightly raise the price of indie games. If people know the struggles and what they are buying into (passionate indie developers) perhaps we will see more innovative and better indie games.
I can tell you as an indie developer it has to be a full time gig or else the quality suffers. My games have improved tremendously ever since I left my day job.