Starting a Business as an App Developer

If you’re a programmer, the first thing you want to do is see where the money is. In the old days, that used to be writing Windows programs. Today, it’s writing mobile apps for either iOS or Android. In general, iOS users spend more and buy more, so that’s why companies often create an iOS app first and then port it to Android later.

In either case, most programmers worry about the technical details such as which programming language or tool to use or the details of putting your app in an App Store and collecting money. While such technical details are fine, the real goal is to focus on creating an app that sells.

The most popular mobile apps are games. The most common way games make money is by giving them away for free to entice more people to try them. Then you make money through in-app purchases that enhance the game somehow.

This model of in-app purchases can also work for non-game apps too. For all types of apps, the temptation is to simply copy an existing popular app. While this might work initially, it’s never a path to long-term success. You can copy popular apps all you want and in the long run, the more popular app will likely sell more and be better known. In return, you make less money and have a less than stellar reputation as nothing more than a copycat.

A better approach is to create something interesting that you can clone. The basic idea is that programming is hard work, so you want to create a template that you can fill with different content. Now you can pump out the apps by simply adding new content.

For example, you could create a tower defense game involving medieval soldiers. Now offer that same game with a science fiction flavor or a World War Two theme. It’s basically the same game but in a different appearance. Now instead of having one tower defense game, you have three that triples your chances of making a single sale.

Do the same for non-game apps. Create an app for teaching people how to speak French. Now you just put in different content so you have a different app that teaches people Spanish, German, Italian, or Greek. It’s the same program, but different content.

Trying to create different types of apps is time-consuming. Recycling the basic template of a single app is smart and fast.

Most likely you won’t make money selling one app. However, you can make money selling dozens of apps. If each app reuses the same program but with different content, you’ve just now expanded your market without any extra programming. The way to make money isn’t to hope that one app will make money. Put the odds in your favor and create apps that you can target to different markets by replacing the content.

The goal is to make more money and work less to do it. Whatever technical tool you use to create your app is far less important than the business model of recycling your app to target different markets. Even if you have an app that’s unique and can’t be reused for other apps, simply translate it into different languages like Chinese or Spanish. Now you’ll have one app that targets the English, Spanish, and Chinese market. That will likely make you more money than just selling one app to English speakers alone.

Basically don’t think of app development as a lottery where you create one app and get rich overnight. It could happen, but the odds are against you. Play the odds by creating multiple apps with different content. The more apps you have on the market, the more likely you’ll sell one of them and that just translates into more money for you.

April 7th, 2015 by
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