Much like the American Dream, ever since people from around the world have experienced the App Store, it is as if a door was open for us that wasn’t before. The spark of hope and excitement at the opportunities that putting an app out could mean for us individually. Maybe it’s the thought of being apart of a lucrative business model that drives us. At times I feel like this is the digital version of the gold rush of our day. Everyone has a great app idea; the question is, what are you going to do about it?

 

Expectations – The Shiny Object Syndrome

 

It all happens to us, and the shiny object syndrome pulls us in, mostly when you read about independent app developers who become millionaires. Once in a while, there is another successful app developer in the news. All the success with rainbows and sunshine. Don’t get me wrong, and I’m all for reading about these successes and congratulate every one of them. I even had to congratulate one of my competitors who sold his company for $5 million. That was good as it validated I was on to something and a disappointment as I didn’t aim higher in my app features. The expectations of starting as an app developer are that everything is good, there are no troubles or obstacles, and it will be an easy path to go down on. Right?

 

Reality Check

 

Reading someone’s “overnight success” can be misleading. The good part is it outlines the successes the person or company was able to achieve. However, it doesn’t reveal how many years, the struggles, obstacles, and long hard work that was put in to achieve such an accomplishment. 

 

Being an independent app developer requires a particular type of person. It will challenge you to think differently. You will build patience as you handle obstacles in your code errors, Apple’s rejections, Microsoft headaches, Android entitled non-existent sales, and app reviews from people yelling at you for a $0.99 app. The developer puts in the sweat equity of long hours in front of a computer. Ensuring the software art project is a thing of beauty only to find it wasn’t good enough. Back to the drawing board to fix things and work harder next time. This vicious cycle has the benefit of becoming more polished in our craft. It helps us become more robust despite it not being easy. The more obstacles we can handle, the more effective we can become. 

 

There are some apps I’ve spent weeks developing only to have it rejected from the App Store. It is as if these various App Stores are the gatekeeper of who are allowed to publish apps and who isn’t. On one side of the coin, they are great as they handle all the traffic, logistics, and financials. However, on the other hand, they limit the app developer’s creativity side as we can only go so far, and if you think differently from them, they shut you down with a click of a button. 

 

The reality of being an indie app developer is that there are so many variables we must meet each month, quarter, and yearly. We have to comply with ever-changing laws and regulations and the more than yearly changes on every App Store we are on. If they release the latest gadget, you bet we have to own it to ensure our apps can run on them. It was easy at first, but it can be too much to buy new gear over time. 

 

Software changes continuously. Your app may work flawlessly now but might need adjusting after there’s an update to a new operating system of the year. Apple releases a new version every year, and Microsoft has its list of changes. Your app requires maintenance monthly or quarterly to run and stay in the game.

 

Not all app ideas are successful, nor is it a guarantee you will get one sale. The app must provide some value that the user wants and demands.

 

App ideas do not always pan out as you visioned them to be. Certain features can be rejected from the App Store. Governments can demand to shut you down. There are so many reasons that can go wrong and most likely will. On a positive note, if it were easy, then everyone would be successful, right? I think this is what drives us, our courage to want to make our stand against the odds and prove others wrong. Test our abilities to overcome challenges to see what happens.

 

Even if your app gets published, there are more hurdles to pass through next.

 

Top Reasons Why the End-User Won’t Try Your App:

 

  1. The app icon isn’t polished enough.
  2. The app isn’t free.
  3. The app costs more than its competitors.
  4. The app cost more than $0.99.
  5. UX / UI.
  6. The app is a slow website. Not native.
  7. You must create an account to use the app (I’m not too fond of these).
  8. App reviews.
  9. Bad screenshots.
  10. Slow to load.
  11. Requires user to type in the information. They want it done for them.
  12. Etc

 

Will Your App Be A Successful Hit?

 

There are so many variables at play when releasing a new app to the world. It is not up to me or you what becomes successful or not. It is up to the market. The end-user will decide who makes it and who fails. Our job is to listen and adapt to the best of our abilities hoping the market accepts our app. 

 

One thing to remember is, what was successful back then, will not be successful now.

 

Conclusion

 

Can indie app developers still make it today? To be successful, you must put in the work to provide results. There are no shortcuts, unfortunately.

 

We can view things from a different perspective here. In a 9 to 5 job, you trade your time for work. As an appreneur, as they say, you trade results for possibilities. No matter how many hours, weeks, months, years it takes, your results (app products) are the only metric that matters. There is no guaranteed salary here, but self-employment can be very fruitful if you work harder than traditional full-time employees and are consistent with what you do. My message is to reveal the ups and downs of this path. Is it worth all the effort? Yes. Is it easy? No. Will you become a millionaire doing this? It is possible, but there are no guarantees you will make a buck. I find being an independent app developer to be fulfilling as it has brought me experiences that are both enjoyable and horrible times. Looking back to how this all started, the only regret I have is not working harder and faster. It is the experience that makes this whole journey aspiring. 

 

The name of the game here is taking action. No matter how many obstacles we face, the ones closer to success are those who push forward despite the risk and challenges ahead. Don’t focus on complaining and setting up a non-profit organization like some fellow app developers are doing. Focus on improving your product instead. Doing the work generates results while complaining doesn’t solve anything.

 

The real question is, what actions will you take with this knowledge I’m passing onto you?

 

 

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Mac App Store

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The thought of having a business, solely based on simply creating mobile applications through our creative minds to then be pushed off to a driven company that handles the transactions and logistics is simply amazing. 

The Opportunity

According to Internet Advisor “Across the world, about 3.5 billion people have a smartphone today” https://www.internetadvisor.com/smartphone-statistics

 

That’s over 3.5 billion people using smartphones every single day! Just take a moment to think about this. There are over 3.5 billion people who are a tap away from downloading your app. If this doesn’t make you excited, as far as seeing a great opportunity, then I don’t know what will. In another view, we can examine what it’s like for a retail store to get exposure. The store is stuck at 1 location in one city. Unless it’s able to open new stores and be online, it still has a problem with people not able to find them. Now for apps they still have a discovery problem, this is where niche apps come into play. If your app fills a need it is better positioned as all it takes is a tap away rather than needing to drive to a single located retail store which seems inconvenient.

The App Store Risks

If your apps are only available in one app store, or even all the top 5 app stores (iTunes, Mac App Store, Google Play, Amazon, and Microsoft), you are at mercy to them. 

Any policy changes they make, which they do quite often, can either, raise your profits, keep them steady, make app discovery harder, or put you out of business altogether, overnight, most of the time without notice. Not to mention some stores require annual fees to have the “privilege” to sell on their app store with of course a 30% cut from each app sale. The 30% cut the app stores take can be a bit hefty but for indie app developers like myself, I see it favorable since they are taking care of the app transactions, refunds, and an online marketplace.

Because of the many risks, it is always better to diversify through different app stores, or if your brave enough, sell direct to consumers through your own personal website. Although you need to set in place a merchant account to accept credit cards, transactions, refunds, ways to fight off pirates, more expensive website hosting services to handle the traffic, withholding taxes for every jurisdiction including overseas (app stores handles some of these), and advertising.

Conclusion

So the opportunity of over 2.1 billion smartphone users globally, this is definitely a great opportunity to be in for app developers. As with any type of business, there is always some kind of risk, the risks outlined here are the risks associated with app developers. It is really easy to get into this type of business and if you have the drive and consistency to do it, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be successful. You need to create valuable apps but not depend on just 1 app. I’ve read plenty of developers complain about how it doesn’t work for them or blame other circumstances instead of there own. It takes hard work and dedication to create new apps. There are apps that make money, ones that don’t even get 1 download but based on your situation the best solution is to just make a better one and move on. Complaining about a situation doesn’t get us anywhere or make us into a better person either. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed but what is, is what we can control and that is our mind and how we respond to challenges, and if we have the courage to solve them, results will show up. 

Build out your app empire and watch the market grow with your app journey.