(This is part 2 of my story. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, do that first so you’ll know what’s going on.)
I told you about my decision to finally quit my job. I first want to address some points that weren’t so clear. It was brought on by comments by Sam, who runs a blog called Financial Samurai.
Quitting my job was harder because it was a family business. While my mom would have welcomed me back anytime if I wanted a job again, I still felt bad to quit. She relied on me a lot to oversee the restaurant when she was off or out of town. There was no one else she could trust. So my guilt made me stay longer than I wanted. I felt my mom has given me so much so I should help her out. However, that was at the expense of my health and happiness.
Looking back, I wish I would have taken the leap to go on my own sooner. I didn’t though. I was scared. I got too comfortable getting that paycheck.
Yes I could have quit, tried to make more money online, and if it didn’t work go back to work in six months. I would have a job and my old salary in a second, but I didn’t want that at all.
When I did decide to quit the restaurant, I didn’t want to look back. I didn’t want to have that safety net of being able to go back to the restaurant if needed. If I had that mindset of “I could always go back”, I wouldn’t be so determined to make it on my own.
In 2013, I finally felt that way. Enough was enough for me.
We just got back from a four month overseas trip. It wasn’t all pleasure while we were away. I had to think how I was going to earn more money this year.
Now I had all this free time. At first, it felt strange. I’m never home on a Friday or Saturday night. It felt nice, but strange.
I’ve often repeated this advice because it helped me so much at the beginning. If the results I’m getting aren’t what I want, then I’ve got to try something different, or else I’m going to keep getting the same results.
My app sales seemed to want to stay about $60-$100 a day on average for all of 2012 and the beginning of 2013.
No matter how much money I was spending into updates or new apps, it remained the same.
In 2013, I could not keep doing the same thing. I had to try something different.
My plan to make more money in 2013
One goal of my mine was to create a product for this blog. I had been working on one since 2012. I released Get Busy Living in 30 while we were in Hong Kong in March 2013. I hoped for a January release, but it wasn’t ready. Finally in March I had to get it out there and stop trying to make it perfect. I imagined if I could sell one a day at $49 that would be a great monthly addition to my income.
However, it hasn’t done what I hoped.
Maybe cause it’s I don’t market it that much. I just have it advertised in my sidebar and it’s mention when you subscribed to my list. That’s it. Maybe I should do more marketing for it.
The most important thing though is I know it’s not because of the content. I’ve gotten feedback from many people who said the course has truly helped them. Some call it life changing. That’s the best thing I can hear.
I wasn’t going to be financially independent from just this course so I had to try something else.
In 2012, I learned about re-skinning games. The idea behind that is taking an already created game that is sold by the owner as a license. It means I don’t own the game. I just own a license to sell the game and change it however I want. Usually just changing the grahpics is enough. The game play is the same. The games are monetized by ads and in-app purchases.
Games are a huge market. That’s where all the money is made in the App Store.
I joined a course in early 2012 to learn how to hire designers and programmers to re-skin games. Another student put together a small private Facebook group to talk apps, games, and re-skinning. I was the only one not doing games for a long time. I read a lot about their progress and saw the games they were releasing. It was something I wanted to do, but I kept putting it off.
Now it was time to try. In the Facebook group, one of the programmers was giving away a game he worked on. All I had to do was change the graphics, music, and advertising information. It was a real simple game. Main character just dodging falling pieces. That was my first experience with re-skinning.
I hired a designer on Odesk for $300. I wanted a pixel theme. I just imagined with this type of gameplay, a lady bug crawling up a tree would be fun.
The game turned out great. I liked the graphics. My wife helped picked out the game music.
Instead of hiring a programmer to swap the graphics and set it up to be uploaded to the App Store, I decided to do it myself. I was told it wasn’t hard at all and given step by step instructions on how. That meant I had to learn how to navigate Xcode, which is confusing for a non-programmer like me.
It turned out to be easy. It was like painting by numbers. Uploading the game was challenging, but thanks to Youtube and Google I eventually figured it out.
I released the game, called Lady Bug on the Run, on June 17th and was excited. My first game.
I eagerly check how much I was making from advertisements that appear in the game. How these advertisements work is I get paid per 1000 impressions (eCPM) or when someone installs a game that is being advertised. Depending on the game and what types of ads are being shown, typically eCPMs can range from pennies to $30 from what I’ve seen with my own eyes.
Daily revenue generated the first five days:
Okay not what I was hoping for. Really low. This wasn’t going to make me rich. $5 in one day was cool though, but .16 couldn’t get me anything at McDonald’s.
I thought if I could make $1 a day from a game, and I make ten more, then that’s $10 a day and $300 a month. I wasn’t going to make ten versions of this game, but the idea was that I needed to release more games. I hired another two designer to create graphics for two more re-skins of the same game. I paid $500 total.
When I released those two, I saw the same thing when I checked ad revenue. Really low. Three games and three strikes. That’s $800 I spent. To this day, those three games have not broken even.
I realized I couldn’t keep paying designers to create games that weren’t making me a profit. This sucked. I could have quit after three games, but I wasn’t ready. If I was going to keep re-skinning games, I’d have to keep costs down as much as possible until I was profitable.
I’ve always outsourced everything when it came to apps. That’s how I got started so that’s what I continued to do. I had to change my strategy.
I needed to go back to the basics and learn more myself. I had much more time now, but I didn’t have as much to spend. With re-skinning I wouldn’t have to learn programming. Most games come with a PDF that give instructions on how to change everything to make it a new game. If I got stuck, I went to Google for answers. So it wasn’t as difficult as learning how to code. I still don’t know how to code, but now can use Xcode to re-skin a game myself.
Still I needed money fast because I was living off whatever I had saved in my bank account and it was going down every month.
I was going to be as frugal as possible. The way to do that was to do everything myself from the designs all the way to uploading the app myself.
However, I’m not a designer. My Photoshop skills are poor. I didn’t have Photoshop but had a similar Mac software called Pixelmator. I bought some graphics from Graphicriver.net that I knew I couldn’t design and created buttons myself. It looks like a beginner did it and they aren’t great, but I was happy I did it all myself.
I released the game Tiny Planes and it became my best earning game, which wasn’t saying much. I’m talking a few dollars a day, but still better than my previous games. That motivated me to keep creating more games, but doing everything myself.
(Note: Success of games depends on many factors including theme, design, keywords, name of the game, screenshots, and game play. I learned how I could improve with each game I released).
If I was going to keep re-skinning games myself, I needed to use the best so I bought Photoshop and slowly taught myself how to use some of the more advanced features.
All my time and focus was on creating more games. I had to cut back on how much I blogged cause it took away time from making new games. Though I love writing, I had to put my focus on my #1 priority – making money.
I bought more game source codes and worked on creating new themes. Here is what I made for my games in the first three months doing game re-skins only.
- June $64.64
- July $259.74
- August $441.74
It started off slow and each month it improved. While it was going the right direction, I would have liked to have seen it much higher much quicker. Because when I’m living off whatever is in my bank accounts, I didn’t have time to be patient. Three months is a long time.
Just so you get an idea of the numbers my non-games averaged $2,316.31 a month in those three months. That’s good, but money was being spent on updates for Gratitude 365 and Photo 365 and work on a new app, which turned out to to be my calculator app. My thinking was it would help with my apps in the long run.
During this time my developers were working on adding iCloud and doing a major re-design to Photo 365 for iOS 7. The biggest update to date. It was complex and took a long time to get it working right. While it cost me more than I wanted to spend, I hoped this feature would set my app apart from the others because no one else can sync between devices. That’s why I went ahead with the work.
I still needed more monthly income though. I sought work on Odesk.com to help beginners with their reskins. I figured since I knew how to do it myself now, I could make extra money helping others. I had one client say he would give me $1,000 to help him re-skin ten of the same app (no designing just the rest). I was so excited about it, but he never got back to me.
I ended up with three clients and I charged $20 per hour. Most of the time, what I had to do would only take an hour since the re-skins were very easy for me. I can’t remember exactly how much I earned, but just around $300 when I stopped doing it. Not too bad for doing something I had just learned how to do.
Now It’s already August and money hasn’t drastically improved. Bank account is shrinking. My calculator app came out and I thought it’d be a huge hit. I loved the calculator designs and though it’d be popular. It wasn’t, sales were low, and that bummed me out.
I remember one night my wife was asleep already. I came to the couch in my office and sat down with my iPad. I Googled “How to make an extra $1,000 a month”. That’s how badly I needed extra money.
Still I kept believing that what I was doing was going to work.
The Tipping Point
I wasn’t just making the same game over and over. I was trying different types of games. Puzzles, casino, and shooting games. I wanted to see which ones would do well for me.
I made a handful of versions of a really basic slot machine game, which made the majority of my earnings in July and August.
In September, I released a version of a slot machine code I bought that was more advanced. I called it Vegas Classic Slots.
I love playing slots machines. I’ve even won $12,500 one time back when I was 22. I’m still working on being that lucky again. So creating new themes for this game was fun for me.
Again I did all the work myself. I bought slot symbols, used Photoshop to cut, crop, paste, set up the app in Xcode, and uploaded it.
This app was a monster. It took me a full week of doing it whenever I had free time to finish it. I worked on it at nights and during the weekends.
I released the app and immediately I was surprised by how well this game was earning. The earnings from advertising were more than I had seen.
Everyday I checked my revenue from and was amazed. What was even more amazing was that people would actually buy more coins in the game. Even though the game doesn’t pay out real money. Amazing!
By the end of September after adding everything made from only games, I made $2,801.09! That’s 6x more than last month!
I made more from my games than my non-games. When adding everything total it was $4,793.70. Was I excited? Oh yeah! However I couldn’t relax now. I needed to keep this momentum going. That’s what I focused all my free time on. I created more versions of this slot machine game along with other types of games.
- In October, I earned $6,103.48 from just my games alone. I had a $8,980.04 month.
- In November, I earned $8,930.07 total again.
That’s what I wanted to see! The great part was that I wasn’t spending much on these games since I did all the labor myself. I just bought the graphics.
I hadn’t seen these sort of numbers since 2011 when Photo 365 did so well to start.
The $500 bill
December is always a big month when it comes to apps. Sales and downloads increase for everyone. People get new devices and love to download apps. Other developers I knew would released holiday themed games because customers love them. I had never done one before since I only had non-games. This would be my first December for Christmas themed games.
I released six Christmas themed slot machine games. Some ended up doing well. Some poorly.
Since the beginning of the year, I printed out an image of a $500 bill and typed that I’d be making in one day. Every day while on the computer, I could see it right above me. It reminded me of the goal I wanted. It seems silly, but I needed that visual reminder.
Even when I made 0.16 in a day from my one game, I would look at that $500 bill. When things started to turn around, I had gotten close, but never breaking $500 in one day.
On December 10th, I finally broke $500 in one day for games and non-games combined! The next day I earned $488. So close. The following week, I earned over $500 from just my games alone. Total I made about $600 that day. The great part was that I did it two days in a row.
When December was done, just from my games I earned $9,976.64. Adding in my non-games and I made $12,960.24. That’s an average of of $418.07 a day.
I had come a long way since my first game in July and making 0.16 in one day.
The past three months my apps earned more than all of 2012.
When I quit my job and began this new scary chapter in my life, this was my goal. To be making money like this. Enough money to finally make my business truly profitable. I could rely on my business to give me the financial freedom I dreamt about.
Plus doing work I actually enjoyed.
It didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t easy to get to that point. I’m thankful it took me less than a year.
Having to use my savings was difficult. Seeing how much was left and knowing that it would last us another month or two at the most scared the you know what out of me. Not seeing app sales increase was tough.
I could have spent most of my time worrying and watching TV to forget about the reality of my situation. I didn’t though. I kept moving forward. I believed that I could do it though. I saw others around me who were doing this same business model and having success.
In 2014, in January and February I’ve already done $22,828.70 total. This month is looking to be less because I haven’t released many new games because of the focus on my podcast. Still the work I’ve put in is giving me passive income.
It’s certainly not time to rest. I’m still making new games. I’ve hired a full time designer so I’m don’t have to do graphics myself and it frees up my time.
Looking Forward and Not Backwards Helped
Looking back, the one thing that helped me through the tough times was not giving up. There were many times when I could have easily given up. After my first three games, or the first three months when I was making less than $1,000 a month from my re-skins was easy to quit.
However, there was no turning back for me. I wasn’t going back to the restaurant and there was no 9-5 job that I wanted to do.This was my only option. I was going to make it work. If not, I’d find something else online. My dream has always been to create a life of freedom.
Last month my wife and I took a trip to London, Paris, and New York for two weeks. I didn’t have to ask for time off. I didn’t have to come back to a job I hated. It’s what I’ve always wanted.
I share my story because I know there are some of you who want to take that leap, but are scared. I was, but I couldn’t take working full time at the restaurant. I finally had to go all in.
I told my wife when it wasn’t looking so good yet in 2013, bank accounts dwindling, and apps not doing so well, that I’d rather be in this position, than comfortably getting a paycheck, but dreading each day I had to work.
It paid off in the end.
I’ve learned a lot from this experience and made mistakes I wish I could redo. I hope you can learn from my mistakes. That’s coming up in part 3.