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Can you still make a living from your apps?

rijeka2008rijeka2008 Posts: 118Registered Users @ @
I have sudden sale drop in my sales.
Post edited by rijeka2008 on


  • JonPMJonPM Posts: 159New Users @ @
    Sales? What are those?
  • astersdoastersdo USAPosts: 640New Users @ @ @
    It's that time of year, but I don't think there is much doubt that things are continually worsening overall for Indies.
  • id256id256 Posts: 83New Users @
    astersdo wrote: »
    It's that time of year ...
    @astersdo What do you mean? Is it always worse in summer?
  • astersdoastersdo USAPosts: 640New Users @ @ @
    It is a lot worse for me during summer. Always picks up in Spetember.
  • fouldscfouldsc Posts: 398Registered Users @ @
    depends how much money you make and how much you need to live on.
  • rijeka2008rijeka2008 Posts: 118Registered Users @ @
    I guess I will have to find a job :)
  • Posts: 452Registered Users @ @
    I'd be curious to know how much you spend in marketing? top 10 App review site where developers can post videos, place promo codes and announce apps on sale and gone free.
  • dev666999dev666999 Posts: 3,632New Users @ @ @ @ @
    edited June 2016
    Read it and weep... It appears to be very difficult today. As previous posters have stated, it depends on where you live. But in economically strong countries it is a tough grind.
  • smashingsmashing Posts: 292Registered Users @ @
    If you can ignore John Gruber's other political posts, he has a favorable write-up[1]. Apple has some information on their website[2], so it remains to be seen if this is something that HAS to be done to remain profitable, or if this is something that lifts all boats. Personally, my boat is already on dry land.

    Time Calculator+ the best time calculator in the world.
  • jhonkjjhonkj Posts: 150New Users @ @
    edited June 2016
    Some day, I think Apple will announce something that is actually useful for me as a developer, I am basing that on just hope that they accidentally announce something beneficial... of course I'll have to ignore the past few years of disappointing announcements.

    Subscriptions, great for spotify, music, newspapers.... etc.... which would be big non indie businesses. and mainly Businesses that are already doing well at subscriptions... while there will be a rush from nearly all businesses to try it then leaving bad tastes in customer's mouths for any app in the Apple App Store, after being scammed a few times by all the "experiments" that will happen...

    worthless to apps that ARE the content, in cases where the app IS the content, the app IS the thing the people spend the money for... what would have been useful would have been a free trial period/demo period, (a real free trial, rather than then making the customer pay on going fees afterward) a demo period where apps are removed from device if they are not paid for, with a auto message of time expiring before hand, nothing like that made it, one of the most requested features... oh well...

    they could have solved that easily, by making a 'subscription" option of 10 years, or life time... but this still doesn't solve the "upgrade" pricing, I don't know about you, but I don't have a new "worthy" update every month, or every 6 months, or even every year in some cases. and worse the "subscriber" doesn't see the benefit of me putting in a new "update" worth spending money on. they just see "subscription" model... oh great, I have to spend every month, wether the app is really updated or not. I want to spend money on a real thing, a real update. remember when Steve Jobs said: people don't want to rent music, well they don't want to rent apps either. (apps that are the content)

    subscription apps in general are just a portal to other web like content, and soon a whole bunch of experiments in worthless content... hey maybe I'll even have to add in the description, "no subscriptions here" after enough people get p'od... maybe that is my benefit :wink:

    Paid ads, great for big non indie businesses that will out spend and make it impossible for indie developer to get an ad in, sort of like, well, all paid ad platforms.... move along nothing new to see here... except Apple will be the collector of some of your ad dollars.

    instead of actual search/discovery improvements, nothing like that made it in, one of the most requested features.... why am I still surprised by these announcements...

    got to give credit where credit is due though, review times are down, of course right after I went through my month of hell of updating four apps with major updates... :smile: and several months of low sales because of "no/few user reviews", hey here is an idea, let us decide or not to push user reviews to the "previous review" area on an app update, how simple would that be? how beneficial to both users and developers? imagine doing a quick bug fix, with out the pain of low sales for lack of user reviews... oh well.
    Post edited by jhonkj on
  • astersdoastersdo USAPosts: 640New Users @ @ @
    I felt like I was pushed towards IAPs, but get the impression we are now being pushed towards a subscription model.
  • ethanwaethanwa Orlando, FLPosts: 733Registered Users @ @ @
    I have been making my living off apps since 2008, 2 months after the App Store launched. Of course, I am the exception, not the rule.
  • CoDEFRoCoDEFRo Posts: 645New Users @ @ @
    I feel like whenever I make an update that works to increase my sales, it only lasts a couple of months before my downloads drop because of whatever. This happened to me last year in September, all of a sudden right off of a cliff. Now it might be happening again, I thought based on last year's performance that the summer was a good time for my app and that's why I dropped in September. So far that appears not the case.
  • savannasavanna Posts: 275New Users @ @
    jhonkj wrote: »
    Some day, I think Apple will announce something that is actually useful for me as a developer,

    I think its good there is focus on these issues now. That alone is progress. Some of the press are talking about subscriptions as a straight alternative to paid upfront, and the guy implied as much in the interview. But read apples website and it talks about providing a service or content.

    On daring fireball Gruber talks about this confusion. I don't think we know for sure yet what all the changes will be. Maybe free trials will be included and we just haven't heard about it yet? Until the end of WWDC we won't know the specifics so Im reserving judgement until then.

    As far as subscription goes, it is useful advice at least to talk about providing content or a service. In the end the customer can just not use your app, and unless you offer something to meet their expectation youll make less money. Regardless of how dumb those expectations are.
  • OddballOddball United StatesPosts: 118New Users @ @
    These posts are kind of pointless, of course you can make a living off it. My friend told me about a guy in a small town who made a fortune selling road signs to the city/county/whatever....road signs, who thinks about the small town guy making a fortune selling stop signs. The point is, you can make money in any business if you do it right, including and especially apps. Research, test, adapt, repeat. The people who bitch and complain until the cows come home about Apple trying to kill the indie developers already lost, they should give up now.
  • dev666999dev666999 Posts: 3,632New Users @ @ @ @ @
    Oddball wrote: »
    These posts are kind of pointless, of course you can make a living off it. My friend told me about a guy in a small town who made a fortune selling road signs to the city/county/whatever....road signs, who thinks about the small town guy making a fortune selling stop signs. The point is, you can make money in any business if you do it right, including and especially apps. Research, test, adapt, repeat. The people who bitch and complain until the cows come home about Apple trying to kill the indie developers already lost, they should give up now.

    Did he steal them from other towns? That would explain how he made his fortune. The devil is in the details. ;)
  • OddballOddball United StatesPosts: 118New Users @ @
    "The devil is in the details" sure but my point is still true.
  • dev666999dev666999 Posts: 3,632New Users @ @ @ @ @
    Your point is well taken but just not accurate. Yes you can make a living from it if you research, test, adapt, repeat etc... and you definitely should not approach any endeavor with a negative attitude.

    Having said that, the majority of developers do NOT make enough to make a living from it. The majority of posters on this board do not either. All the positive thinking by them won't change that. It is a tough but fun grind.

    If anything, you need either a supportive (financially) spouse, deep savings, or a financial backer to pay the bills while you research, test, adapt, repeat etc... And that may still not be enough to buy you time to be successful.

    But like anything in life, you never know until you try.

  • OddballOddball United StatesPosts: 118New Users @ @
    Well I never said you can start making apps and in a month be financially independent. When I first started making apps back in 2011 I failed, luckily I was younger and still living at home and making money other ways. I slowly made changes and it was some nice side money, I moved across the country and between that income, flipping stuff on ebay, and some help from family I was getting by but got to the point where I wasn't sleeping because I knew I would go broke if I continued the way I was in a few months. I said **** it and spent all my time on apps (I was trying to get into real estate at first when I moved). I literally remember trying to go to sleep one night and after 30 minutes I got up and said I can't afford to sleep right now. It paid off, I watched my app biz slowly grow, last summer I did extremely well but then things slowed down. I've continued to research, test, and adapt and things have been steady.

    Sure I still get nervous when numbers drop but the app world is a huge business and I know I can make money with them. I think the gold rush days of making an app and making insane money are over but you can definitely still make a living if you put in the work. You may need some financial assistance at first whether it be a job or family/friends/financial backer but its 100% possible in every way.

    Also, I personally don't live as if this business is endless. I will continue to make apps for as long as I can/want but I put a lot of money aside to invest, I'd like to get back into real estate eventually and its obviously easier if you have money to invest yourself.

    Your points are all valid but they apply to all and every business. It might be rough at first and you need some money in your bank from other sources but if you really put in the effort, and work smart, you can be successful. Not trying to act like I'm some smart app or business guy but I think a lot of indie developer are delusional on their expectations. That or they try these cookie cutter app practices that some guru told them but that doesn't always work.

    I'm part of another developer group and I see some of the shit these people release and then they wonder why they aren't making money, its utter garbage. I'll admit, I made some money with garbage in the past but like I said, I think those days are over. A good app with good marketing (I don't think 80% of indies do anything for marketing other than ASO) will bring you success. It might not be right away, but it will happen.

    At the end of the day, it doesn't effect me. I know I can make money with apps and that is what I focus every day on. Maybe I got lucky here and there but what successful entrepreneur didn't get lucky at some point. Grind it out and you can make a living.
  • Posts: 452Registered Users @ @
    It's certainly difficult to make money, and getting more so as a developer must also become an expert at marketing, data analysis and financial planning and to go from start to success requires some seed capital, or the means to live while waiting for the income to arrive. The fact that 80% of developers don't make money in such a large market with relatively low entry costs begs the question why?

    I look at about 250 apps a day and the profiles of up to 50 developers, and can certainly see patterns that go some way to answering this question. @oddball mentions this, and I agree that a large proportion of apps in the store are rubbish and I feel no amount of marketing can transform those apps in to profitable ones.

    For simplicity purposes I divide the chances of an app's long term success in to 5 categories:-

    1. A good app with marketing and sound business practices.
    2. A bad app with marketing and sound business practices.
    3. A good app but without any marketing and poor business practices.
    4. A bad app without any marketing and poor business practices.
    5. Complete rubbish.

    There will of course be a few exceptions, but I really can't cite those as something to base any success on. Indeed, a developer may have some duds at the start but use the lessons learned to improve the next time but for me, the biggest frustration is to see apps in category 3 above. I communicate with 3-4 developers a day about their apps and many of them fall in to this category. I recall @oddball planned to implement some tracking of where his users came from as that's vital in planning for growth.

    Certainly Apple does a bad job of discovery but one must assume that they are constantly trying to improve this for users. Remember, they have a constant battle against developers gaming the system with fake reviews, irrelevant keywords, misleading app titles, bot downloads etc but I do believe they will solve this as they have the data and the technology to outwit the gamers. The answer to their hypothetical question "how good is your app compared to other similar ones" takes many factors in to account and should ultimately level the paying field for indie developers with good apps as Apples processes improve.
 top 10 App review site where developers can post videos, place promo codes and announce apps on sale and gone free.
  • dev666999dev666999 Posts: 3,632New Users @ @ @ @ @
    edited June 2016
    Good replies by both @Oddball and However, none of this changes the facts as to the odds on being successful. In stock trading if the odds are 50/50 you don't place the trade. In a casino, the odds are less than 50/50, but not much less. In both, statistically, you will lose money if you take the long odds. For some other endeavors no matter how hard you try the odds are very slim indeed. For example, the acceptance rate for all Stanford University applicants in 2015/2016 was just 4.69%. And the other top rated universities are not far behind. Becoming a successful app developer already has the deck stacked against you, with long odds. That's not being negative. That's being realistic. To have a reasonable chance of success you have to have at least 50/50 odds. Unfortunately today, the app store is more like the Stanford University admission odds. Also, the world looks completely different through the eyes of a millionaire vs the eyes of your average Venezuelan citizen.

    As for crap apps, not making it...hmmm... there's some glaring exceptions here. "Josiah Jenkins" produces absolute garbage apps, completely unplayable, and yet in 2015 they were at the top of the charts, with tons of reviews, raking in all that ad money. Since then, he's reorganized and now has his apps under "Squad Social LLC". By my estimates, he's made hundreds of thousands of dollars the last few years. And all with garbage.

    In the end though for the average developer, it's still at best, a crap shoot.
  • Posts: 452Registered Users @ @
    edited June 2016
    @dev666999 There are of course exceptions but @oddball and I deal with things that can be changed and I hope you can agree that with 80% of developers spending nothing on marketing, that goes some way to explaining a lack of success.

    A grade F student applying to Standford will never get in unless he's the US presidents child. The odds of getting 21 in Blackjack on another card when you're already on 20 are 7.7%

    The app arena, like any business, is a gamble but can be a much more calculated gamble than the crap shoot of a casino, although even those can be improved from losing your money quickly to losing it over a longer period of time. The appstore doesn't have a "house margin".

    There's no secret sauce to guarantee success but there are certainly mistakes to be avoided and always, always actions that can be made to improve the chances.

    1. Make the app good enough to deserve 5 star ratings.
    2. Make sure that all your family, and everyone you have ever met downloads AND rates the app.
    3. Have a proper support site as customer retention is as important as acquisition.
    4. Choose the best pricing model before launch. I loved the Shazam model which gave me 4 free tries a month for free but an upgrade was $4.99 if I remember correctly. I hardly ever use it now but would probably not have paid $4.99 before trying it.
    5. Select keywords that describe your app and try to avoid filling it with popular ones that are less relevant.
    6. Choose the best icon with a strong relevancy to your app. Indie developers can't afford to be too risky on this. Swarm built the audience with 4square and their icon makes sense now, but imagine starting off with a buzzing bee?
    7. Take great care in the screenshots. A look at many apps shows that there's a lot of room for improvement.
    8. Have social media like facebook, Twitter, Instagram as part of your campaigns. Boring but I believe essential.
    9. Include these features in the app. Not many share but then try to give a reason for sharing.
    10. Make sure you brand your app or business from the start. I see only 4 out of the 14 posters above have a picture as their avatar. @alifar targets @jhonkj is a utility/tools app? @smashing has action as the theme

    I know most if not all would be obvious to seasoned developers but it is surprising how much of the list hasn't been implemented top 10 App review site where developers can post videos, place promo codes and announce apps on sale and gone free.
  • dev666999dev666999 Posts: 3,632New Users @ @ @ @ @
    edited June 2016
    Excellent points

    As for my Stanford example, the applicants were all highly qualified. And still, only a 4.69% acceptance rate. :)

    Playing football in the NFL is another example. The best player in middle school, will get weeded out in high school. The best player in high school will get weeded out in college. The best player in college may very well never have an NFL career. So steep is the competition as you rise in the ranks.

    But examples aside, your advice is good and to the point. IMO, when you do everything right, and it's still not working, then paid marketing may really be your only viable option. My inbox is hit daily with constant offers... many too good to be true. And that raises up a whole new issue... weeding out the con artists from those who will give you value for your money. The bottom line is exposure and lots of it. Madison Avenue has traditionally been the way to go, but is expensive. Social networking may be the better solution for those with thin pockets.

    As for alifar's avatar, he uses his latest app's icons, a smart move. That "target" avatar is from his app only available in the Netherlands and Belgium. It's Auto Radar. Clever idea but not doable in most countries due to privacy concerns.
  • Posts: 452Registered Users @ @
    I get the offers too as a few developers have listed our site as the support for their apps!!! I guess "too good to be true" says it all with most of them and of course aren't true. Certainly without exposure, an app is destined for probable failure.

    I actually think that paid marketing should be part of any business model as scale can't be achieved purely from free options, but that should only be done after the app has been improved to a high standard. I also accept that many developers don't have the budget for this but then they must also accept that they are increasing their odds of failure by not having it.

    It's a grind but following the 10 tips above plus 11-100 other ones to improve visibility helps the chances of success. top 10 App review site where developers can post videos, place promo codes and announce apps on sale and gone free.
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