I can’t believe it has been 4 years since I quit my job and became an indie developer. It was my birthday present for myself on my 35th birthday. People talk about midlife crisis, but I was always an old soul, so it was fitting for me to have one in my thirties. But enough about me.
What started as a pet project, and had very satisfying grows at early stages, became a plateau very quickly. The first 1.5 years were great, M-O-M had exponential growth, just like numbers of COVID-19 patients (let me just say that we live in scary times and black humor helps me cope, as it always had for my people, with it), but I managed to flatten that curve pretty quickly.
But this is not the whole picture. During this time frame I spent around $120K on advertising. Mostly on SearchAds, but also on some publications that mostly helped boost my ego :)
One more piece of information that I forgot to include and thanks to Axel Kee I’m adding now: I published my app in 2013, while working for a company. Here the revenue between then and when I quit my job and became indie.
Here are some lessons I learned during that time:
Be persistent — it’s very easy to work hard during the growth stage, but you need to double down when you start seeing the decline, and most people give in (if you do — you join the statistic, the number of abandoned apps on the AppStore is 🤯), but if you instead of giving in, double down and work harder you will increase your chances of beating the statistics.
As with everything in life — you are the problem but also a solution, and what I mean by that is: ignore your competition, they don’t have as much effect on your app or business as you might think. You can learn from their successes and failures, but you stand on your own. In life, 99.99% of people don’t have the energy, time, or means to push you down or lift you up. Your choices and your actions are what matters — get them right, and you will (most probably) succeed.
Working from home is hard — you might have discovered that for yourself lately, haven’t you? But it’s also great. Hard doesn’t mean it’s bad, hard means change. You need to adapt, and if you manage that, hard becomes easy. Even before shelter in place, I stopped working in coffee shops, created a home office, and set a goal of working 5–8 hours a day. This doesn’t seem much, right? But if you take into account how much time you spend in the office doing anything but the work, you might be surprised. I’m talking about 5–6 hours of real work… no 15-minute coffee breaks, no mindless Facebook browsing, or news reading. And I don’t have to do it in one sitting either. I spend 1–2 hours working in the morning (I wake at 6 AM thanks to my dog) — usually addressing urgent matters that pop up during the night (I live in Israel which is GMT+2 — so most of the tickets, app rejections and etc. happen during the night for me). Then I spend another 2–3 hours before lunch to plan and work on my apps, website, and anything else that requires my attention, and finally, I do another 2–3 hours in the afternoon.
Asking people nicely — works. Recently I asked my users to leave a review to help me out, and it was amazing. Don’t be pushy or gross, be polite, and ask nicely and people will surprise you.
Adjust your expectations — I started this journey, without research, thinking that I can make Silicon Valley salary of $120k/year, being an indie iOS developer. I’m thankful for not researching the percentage of successful apps or indie developers, but when the app stopped growing I did, and that helped me understand that I’m doing pretty well. Knowing all the facts can be discouraging, but it can also help to manage your expectations. And it worth remembering #1 — be persistent… don’t believe me just watch Last Dance first episode (actually watch all the episodes even if you are not basketball fan — I’m not but I enjoyed it tremendously).
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — I recently added support for Windows to my apps, trying to increase the audience and also preparing for Apple to lock down macOS for non-AppStore distributed apps. I hope to build something new after this year’s WWDC, outside the family of my Mac companion apps. I tried that couple of times, but I wasn’t serious about it as you can see from this — https://apps.apple.com/pa/app/qr-code-reader/id1329401669?l=en. I built it and made it free cause I saw a QR code scanner app generating unbelievable revenue of $1M/m. I won’t name names… but you can check for yourself, all you need is to check top charts using AppAnnie (https://www.appannie.com/en/apps/ios/top/united-states/utilities/iphone/) and check estimated app revenue using SensorTower (https://sensortower.com). OK, ok… I will name names — just because I think it’s so ridiculous https://apps.apple.com/us/app/qr-code-reader/id1200318119