Is building apps a viable business?

The reason

I’m writing this post because I can hear from people that the gold rush of the App Store is over. This is absolutely true in a sense of building a shitty ios app probably makes you 0 revenue now. A lot of people are downloading less and less apps nowadays than a few years ago. Just read this twitter thread and you’ll get what I’m talking about:

This is definitely not a good sign when you want to start doing what I’m doing. Although I think this question is not that easy to answer. It’s something that we should not ignore of course, but my opinion is that this whole marketplace is more mature than it was a few years ago. Which means more competition and a more income for the winners.

What led to this conclusion

I think it’s easy to say nowadays that doing App Store Search Optimisation (ASO) is mandatory to get downloads. It’s still on of the best ways for sure, but I think it’s not enough. It also has some risk involving if all of your sales are coming from one source. What if Apple will change the algorithm? What if somebody will do it better than you and lose the first place? To be fair it’s absolutely true that the people are using the app store discovery and the search less and less. A good solution, in my opinion, is building other streams of downloads. This could be a blog doing SEO for the keywords which are related to the app. Or building up your online presence or creating Youtube videos to generate leads. Maybe using App Store Search Ads or cross promoting inside your applications. The conclusion is to create at least another channel to sell your apps. Personally, I’m really bad in this right now, because the majority of my downloads are coming from the App Store search, but I’m experimenting with the Search Ads and I started building my online presence as well as you can see here. I’ll write another post about the search ads as soon as I’ll have enough data to share but it looks like that it could work.

Bad signs

There are some examples that show that the App Store business is over. And there are articles telling the same thing.
There is nothing wrong with this article, but I would state that when you are talking about the people who are building apps are in two separate categories: The ones who are not really committed and the ones who are. I was in the first category for a long time, I had a few apps I built and even some revenue, but I never took it that seriously because I had another income stream, it was just a hobby. I believe there is always space for the second mentioned category, while the first one is increasing heavily with the newer tools and easier ways to publish apps. This is distorting all the data we have, and can not really say anything about the people who are 100% committed going indie.

So what is the way to succeed?

I wish I could know this! I’m still experiencing and trying to figure out what to do and how to improve my strategy, but in my opinion is that having multiple streams to generate downloads highly impact your success rate in this field. My strategy is that if there are 100s of other devs who are trying to sell their apps, the best thing I can do to stand out is finding those steps they are not comfortable taking. One of these is writing about my journey, including my failures as well! In long term, this is helping me being more structural with this process and maybe getting some awareness in this field too.

Possible outcomes

When I started this experiment, I considered it as a huge risk, because worst case I lose the money I could possibly earn in this year. Well, this is actually true, but my opinion about the size of the risk changed. How I see now, is this is an investment with a few possible outcomes. The best one is if I am able to build up a portfolio of apps that generates me enough money and I don’t really have to worry with this anymore. The second is that I fail to deliver what I planned and I need to go back to freelancing. This is still a win in long term because with the portfolio I’m building I can charge much more than I did before so still it’s a win. The third is if I don’t do anything and I have to just go back where I was before, I would still consider that as a win, because how many 25 years old guy can afford to spend all of his time what he likes to do and not worry about money. So basically I could have an awesome gap year. This is not happening for sure because I already started working on my own apps not just having fun in the library day by day. After all, for me, only the first two outcomes are possible now, which is not really a big risk.

I’ll post about my experiences about once a week, and if you would like to get notified when I publish an article, you can subscribe to my email list here:

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