Improving your App Business – More Bootstrapping

The number one goal with this blog is to help mobile app developers make money, to be profitable. There are many components to building a profitable business and continuing to increase its profitability. It is useful to underscore that 65% of developers are not breaking even with their apps; and likewise; roughly 65% of developers engage in little to no marketing, advertising or distribution efforts. Again, what applies here to mobile app developers applies broadly to most businesses.

One other point needs to be made, in line with the Pareto Principle, 80% of the work you do is responsible for only 20% of your revenues; implying that the other 20% of your work is responsible for the vast majority of your earnings. That is, it may take 2 or 3 months of full-time work to produce a mobile app, all of which earns you nothing unless you are being paid to develop it for someone else. It is EVERYTHING you do after you’ve finished the app that makes you money.

Developers… develop. Most developers don’t like spending their time on other things like marketing and distribution. Nevertheless, it is worth spending 1 or 2 hours a day (20% of your work day) engaged on building your business. You will benefit accordingly.

The number one question is whether you are going to everything by yourself or if you are going to do it with someone. This is your choice, where your other options are to bring in partners or to hire someone. If you don’t have the money to hire someone, then your best bet is to try to find a partner, an agent or gradually outsource work as you can afford it. These are all things that I’ve covered previously (see the Guide), but I do have a few things to add.

Partnerships. Subject to your local business laws, there are all kinds of ways to form partnerships with two or more people. It is not necessary for all partners to have equal shares, equal say or even have a salary. My first commercial business endeavor involved a partnership with four people where our lead programmer retained a 40% share with the other 3 of us having 20% each. Of special interest here is that we were able to pull in a senior VP from a major cable company who was only responsible for providing 2 hours of guidance per week.

The main point, it is possible for new companies to bring in high quality talent without necessarily paying anything. There is a generational divide in that many mobile app developers today are young (20 – 40) at the same time as there exists an massive and underutilized pool of very experienced retirees (45 – 70) who would be happy to contribute in building a new business. In the other direction, there are plenty of college students graduating every year unable to find regular jobs.

Functionally, it all boils down to there being a lot of people without a product to sell or who fundamentally do not want all of the responsibilities that come with having their own business. As a mobile app developer, you are able to produce products which you can use to attract the people to help you build a profitable business.

Outsourcing. There are likely to be many occasions where you need something done that you cannot or do not want to do, for whatever reason. Many of these things reside in the “only need to do it once” category – like creating a company logo or business card, writing an app description, or even getting your apps set up on different app stores. You might also be looking to localize your app or its description, getting press releases written and distributed, or getting a web site up. There are literally hundreds of different things involved in developing, improving and promoting your business. These don’t need to be expensive:

  • Fiverr.com – You can find loads of people to help you on just about anything relevant to your mobile app with some tasks costing as little as US$5.00 – translations, business logos and cards, graphics, press releases and distribution, social media marketing, web sites and more. One benefit of this site is that you can review showcases of previous sample work.
  • Freelancer.com – An all around place to hire and offer your own freelance work.
  • MTurk.com – Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk” – another freelance/crowdsourcing site with low-end costs.
  • Clickworker.com – Microjobs strong on content development and surveys being of possible interest to mobile app developers.
  • Odesk / Upwork – Merged and now operating as Upwork; comprehensive and on the higher end of the freelance market.

When it comes to any business venture the more you have “for show” the better you will fare – true whether you are a mobile app developer, in online sales or run a brick-n-mortar establishment. Prioritize your needs based upon what is likely to provide you the quickest return on your investment. You always have the option to do it yourself, possibly learn a new skill, save money and increase your potential for making money in the process.

Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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