Before, I didn’t know when was the best time to do it. Now I feel like I have a lot to share after almost five months of it being released.
The success of this app has brought so many benefits. It brought recognition. It brought opportunities for interviews here and here and guests posts like here. It brought a flood of revenue to allow me to start my own business. I had my app featured in an Italian iPhone magazine.
I had someone from a startup contact me during App of the Week about buying my app. I was very skeptical because it came from a generic email. Once I told him of my concern, he revealed the company he was representing. One of the main investors co-founded Google Adsense. That was a wild time, but after exchanging some emails, nothing happened. Still cool to experience!
I’ve enjoyed getting emails from people getting started with their app. I know I’m not an expert, but I know enough to help those get started. It feels great to be able to help others.
It hasn’t been all this easy though. This journey has been a roller coaster.
The first seven months of app development were easy compared to the last five months. I’ve had to face challenges I was NOT prepared for. Nothing warned me about what to expect.
I’ve never worked harder and never had to deal with so much. There have been moments when I’ve thought about shutting it down.
In the end, I still can’t believe my luck. I am very thankful, and still moving forward.
I refuse to let any challenges stop me from making this the best app I can.
I hope my experience will help those who want to know what it’s like to manage an app as a first time app developer.
For the rest, I hope there’s something you can take away from it.
How have sales been?
Might as well start off with the big question. That’s the number one question I get from friends. I wish I could have said “Great! I’m making $500 a day!” but that wasn’t happening.
I knew sales would go down from being App of the Week. Since then I’ve reached a low of $10.50 (explain more about why later).
You can see where the app peaked during App of the Week.
After that it started sliding down in the rankings. I quickly got use to seeing over $1,000+ a day in sales and seeing anything less than that was a difficult.
If the feeling of making over $1,000 a day was a drug, I was hooked.
Sales in the middle of Nov – Dec leveled out at about $50 a day. I’ll be honest that I wasn’t happy to see low sales. Thankfully, my wife reminded me to stay positive. Every time I’d tell her the sales, she said “That’s great!” You know what? She’s absolutely right. Friends also reminded me that’s something to be happy about.
Before my app was sold if someone told me I’d be making $50 a day, I would have been very happy. Many apps make far less than that.
So yes I’m happy when I make any money, even the day when I made $10.50, but that bad for other reasons.
I started to get a lot of e-mails from Photo 365 users.
I got emails from people who loved the app, some disappointed with it when they realized it didn’t do what they expected, and even got one from a guy who refused to display my app on in iPhone unless I changed my icon.
(Sure, let me get right on that.)
I got lots of emails for suggestions. Users wanted so many things. I guess that’s good because they like the app, but it was difficult to juggle. What should I add to keep people happy?
My idea for the app was to keep it simple. However, I realized there were nice features I didn’t think about.
One way to decide what to add was see how often I’d get asked for a feature. The more I got, the more I listened. Unfortunately, I couldn’t add every single feature users wanted.
A month after the app was released, I was ready to start work on new features with my developers.
Working on the first update
My app cost $1900 to develop. At the time, that was a lot of money to me. It was a risk I was willing to take. They gave me a flat fee instead of charging me by the hour. I believe their price was determined by the number of hours they projected it would take to complete. They told me it would take 1.5 month. Instead it took eight months, but that was okay with me.
With the updates, I’ve been paying my developers by the hour and it’s been more expensive that way. The first update took two months. It felt like six months because I was so eager to add these new features.
I originally worked with them on Elance.com, but then they moved to Odesk.com. I had never used it, but I liked it a little bit better because the system takes screenshots of their computer screen so I can follow their progress.
If they do 40 hours of work a week, which is the maximum I set, it can cost a little over $1000. That’s almost half of what it cost to make the app! They haven’t worked the full 40 hours every week though.
I’ve totalled up all the work from the day I started working on updates until December 31st.
Sept 5 – Dec 31 $9537.80
A huge increase from the original cost to develop it.
Ready, Set, Stop!!
My first update was finally ready on December 5th. I was excited to finally have new features. The main new feature was multiple photos in a day.
When I first had the idea for this app, I thought about just one photo a day. I had no idea that I would get so many emails about wanting to add more than one picture a day. I read the reviews in the App store as well and that was the main thing people wanted.
So I thought this was a feature that needed to be added. I even posted the first mockup of how it would look on the Photo 365 fanpage and got lots of positive responses. This is how the final product looks.
Clicking on a photo would enlarge the picture and look like the first version. I was happy with it.
I released the app and thought everything would be smooth after that. I was wrong.
I forgot exactly how many emails I got, but I got at least three emails that first day from people that day saying they downloaded the update and it erased all their photos!!!
When I got the first, I thought it might be isolated, but when I got the others, I knew that it was a problem that needed to be addressed. There may have been more, but they didn’t email me.
I felt really bad. I hated that anyone would lose their photos in the app! If that were me, I’d be so upset too.
The first thing I did was email my developers. I explained what was going on. Tuesday morning they suggested I pull the app from the app store. I didn’t know exactly how to do that. I knew I could completely delete the app, but I didn’t think that was the best move.
So what I did was pause my app. No one would be able to buy it and download the update. It would be invisibile.
That’s the day I only earned $10.50.
They said they found the error and sent me a new version in a couple days.
After less than 24 hours, I decided to un-pause my app. The reasoning was I read I might lose all important rankings. Also, I knew the problem wouldn’t exist for new downloads.
Awhile ago, I remember I owned an app that had an update, but gave a warning message to not download that version.
That’s what I decided to do. I resumed the the app, but with a warning message to those who hadn’t downloaded the update. They could, but should backup all photos first.
I checked my stats to see how many people downloaded the update before I paused it. Remember, I got a few emails about losing photos. I was shocked to see 10,000 users had downloaded the update in the first day!
A few problems out of that many wasn’t the end of the world, but I still wasn’t happy that anyone was losing their photos. I didn’t want more problems as more and more downloaded the update. At the time I had ~ 60,000 users.
I had to wait less than a week for the next version to be ready and approved. When it was ready to be downloaded, I held my breath. Thankfully, it seemed like the bleeding had stopped.
That wasn’t the end of my problems though.
Did I Mess Up a Good Thing?
I started to get feedback about multiple photos and some didn’t love it. In fact they downright hated it. They loved the old way how the photos were displayed. They didn’t like seeing it in thumbnails.
I got enough feedback to wonder if I screwed everything up.
For the first version, people emailed me about wanting to save multiple photos a day.
For the second version, people emailed me about wanting to go back to just one photo a day.
Had I messed up a good thing? Was I not being true to my original vision of the app?
There are those out there who love the new version. They just don’t say as much. I hear mainly from the ones that don’t.
I have to find a way to keep both sides happy. Have to talk with my developers whether or not they can implement my ideas.
Reply to All E-mails. Good or Bad.
Every day I have to answer customer emails, whether they’re happy or angry about it not working right. I also have a customer service forum where people can ask question. I answer questions there as well.
I love the ones that say they love the app, but I get many more with suggestions and problems. It’s definitely my least favorite part of the process, but it’s not something I want to outsource. I feel it’s important that they get an email from me.
Sometimes I turn an unhappy customer into a fan. These are two response I just got after telling me about problems they were having. I get these replies often.
WoW.. I’m completely shocked that you responded in such a timely manner, or at all! You commitment to providing a quality app is evident! This will be my favorite app either way. Thank you(:
I love this app. Sorry for the dee da dee moment. The response time was unbeatable you guys rock I’d buy more apps by your company in a heartbeat if I needed them.
So I do what I can to keep them happy.
Lack of Control
One thing that has bothered me has been a lack of control. Since all the work is outsourced, there’s nothing I can do to fix a problem. All I can do is tell them my developers to fix it. Then I have to make sure it’s fixed right or have them do it again.
This process takes time. I wish problems could be fixed right away and sent to all users.
I have no choice but to outsource the work, but when problems arise, I wish I could do more about them.
There’s great news!
Enough of the challenging parts. Let me share some great news!
I had heard from many developers that Christmas time gets a huge boost. According to USA Today, on Christmas Day this year, 250 million apps were downloaded in the Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market versus 85 million last year.
It makes sense. Lots of new iPhones, iPads and iTunes gift cards.
For myself, I had my increase from ~$50 to ~$80 per day from Dec. 25-28. Not the increase I had imagined. Still happy with the boost.
Then I had a great surprise.
December 29th brought in $431! I was stunned. What happened? I checked and didn’t see my app featured anywhere in the App store.
I checked my Google analytics and saw a spike to my homepage from Photojojo.com, a huge photo project blog and store, with over 405,000 email subscribers. You can see the post Sweet Photo Projects for the New Year.
It’s awesome my app got recognized by them because now I see a handful of apps that are in my same niche now.
I had a feeling sales would increase after January 1st. The reason is the app is perfect to start at the beginning of the year. People get excited by a new year, resolve to take more photos, and want to try a 365 project.
You might be curious to know how much I’ve earned overall.
As of January 4th, I’ve earned $48,320.73. I’m close to reaching $50,000 which is a huge milestone!
Thanks to any who had downloaded the app or shared it with someone. It wouldn’t be possible without you.
Here is a breakdown of the top ten countries where sales have come from.
What’s in store for 2012?
I have lots of ideas for the app in my head. I’m still trying to get it to that level where there’s not much that needs to be done to it. I feel like a plane still on take off, and waiting for the cruising altitude so I can take off my seat belt to relax.
If I had a $1 for every time someone asked about the Android version, I still couldn’t retire, but I’d have enough for a nice meal at a fancy restaurant.
I’d love to have an Android version before the end of 2012. I have to figure out how to get it done. Ideally, I’d like the Apple version to be at a stage where I’m happy with it before going to Android.
I have other ideas that I know could bring in a bunch of revenue. It’s going to take time , money, and hard work to find out how to make it a reality.
The goal is to make Photo 365, the BEST app in its niche before the end of 2012.
Thanks for making it this far
Any advice for the challenging parts? Any question? I’d be happy to answer them.
To learn more about my app, go to Photo 365.
I’ve been know to giveaway free copies of my app on my Facebook fan page. Make sure you join if you want to have a chance for a free promo code.