How to be a (Successful) App Developer

For every Flappy Bird or Angry Birds game that becomes a massive hit and earns millions, there are plenty of other app developers who put in just as much work designing apps that are just as well-crafted, but don’t see massive financial gain. What’s wrong?

Here’s the situation. When you create an app, you’re essentially entering a lottery. Just like in any lottery, someone will win big and that’s entirely by chance. Put out an app and it could suddenly go viral, but chances are it won’t. You can’t assume one app will make you a million bucks just like you can’t assume buying a lottery ticket will make you a million bucks. It could, but chances are it won’t.

So if you want to succeed as an app developer, you need to have a plan. First, you have to decide what type of app you’ll create. The most popular (and most competitive) apps are games so if you ant to play the odds, make a game. If you don’t want to make a game, then the key is to target a niche market.

If you create an app and hope everyone will use it, chances are good most people will never find a reason to buy it, let alone use it. With so many apps on the market, you need a way to make your app stand out and you can do that by focusing on a niche market that most everyone overlooks.

For example, let’s say you have an app for note taking. Everyone can use that app, but it’s likely to compete against well-established note taking apps so it will likely get lost in the crowd. How can you make your app stand out? Target a small niche like real estate agents or doctors.

The real state agent or doctor market is much smaller than the general public, but guess what? If a real state agent or doctor is looking for a note taking app, he or she will likely notice your app first. So if you target a niche market, you can get a large share of a small market. If you insist on smashing your head against a wall and marketing to everyone, you’ll get a tiny sliver of a larger market.

In business, it’s always best to start small and conquer a niche before expanding outward. Facebook initially targeted only Harvard students, then Ivy league students, then all college students, then all students, then everyone. Friendster, a rival social network, initially tired to appeal to everyone. Thus they didn’t really appeal to anyone. Guess which social network won?

That’s the same mindset you need to follow when creating apps. Target a small market and serve that market well. Since it’s unlikely you’ll make a million selling one app, you can pursue two different strategies. First, you can target that same niche with new apps because once people trust you with your initial app, they’ll be far more likely to trust you with any additional apps.

A second strategy is to take your existing app, modify it slightly and target a new niche. Now you’re recycling the same code to target a new market, therefore duplicating your reach without doubling your work.

The ultimate goal is to have a family of related apps because each app acts like a net that can grab a potential customer. Once someone likes one app, they’ll be more likely to buy the others and tell others about it. If you create five different apps that have no relation to each other, you’re essentially creating five different businesses that each must struggle on its own to attract customers. However if you create five related apps, each one supports the others and acts like an advertisement for the others.

The way to get rich as an app developer isn’t to hope for a massive quick kill like winning a lottery. Instead, it’s to build a small but growing family of related apps that allow you to meet a small market. As you grow, you can expand into other niche markets until you’re big enough to start meeting the needs of the general public. But if you try to sell apps to the general public to son, you’ll likely get lost int he crowd, never to be seen or heard from again.

Start small, keep growing, and keep making related apps either by recycling your code and targeting other markets, or writing similar apps for the same market to mine your current niche.

Everyone wants to write an app that makes a million dollars overnight. It could happen, but plan for it not happening and you’ll be more successful in the long run.

May 24th, 2015 by
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