By Jason Moore
So here I am, maker of a iPhone App, not exactly what I planned. I always wanted to make and sell my own software. After college I worked for a large goverment contractor, and I mostly viewed that as my “day job”. The real work was done at night, behind closed doors so nobody could see the million dollar idea I was working on. Only problem was, there was no million dollar idea, just a bunch of false starts and half finished software that never even sold one copy. Then about three years ago, I got a job at an actual startup. I was still just an employee (the only employee) with no real power, but I was working with the latest technologies and I was still going to be driving a Ferrari in five years. The only problem was that the founders didn’t really know what they wanted and with the birth of my first child, I no longer wanted to work 60 hours a week.
I moved back under the umbrella of a large company again. It was a nice 40 hour a week job. The people here came from a startup that was recently purchased, so it still feels like a startup with the fast pace, and get it done attitude. Odd that when I’m happiest at my “day job” is when I actually decided to make some software that would actually sell.
Just Do It
My friend and I had talked about making an iPhone app for a few months. I convinced my wife to buy me the required Mac, and set off on actually creating an application. In previous attempts at making a software product, I would get extremely discouraged if I found any hint of competition and usually abandon the idea. This time was different. The product I chose was not particularly unique, and there’s even a couple of other directly competing products on the iTunes store. Why was it differenty this time? Why was I willing to actually compete? I guess because it’s a product that I actually wanted and in the past it was all about finding a product someone else wanted.
Armed with my idea, my MacBook, and about half an hour of free time a day, I set off on creating my app. Since I was working alone, I was responsible for everything, from graphics to the website. This clearly shows in the final app. I’m a software developer, and my art skills definitely leave something to be desired. Despite these failings I did manage to get the app on the store in about a month. It’s missing some major features that I would like to have put in before shipping, but I really wanted to get something out there. In the immortal words of Guy Kawaski, “Don’t worry, be crappy.” The best thing about getting a product out there is that customers (or potential customers) will tell you what they want from your app. Now instead of guessing which features to implement first, I know what should be first because 10 people have told me.
First week of sales or, I’m not going to be retiring anytime soon
Bob Walsh asked if I wanted to do a guest post and I told him sure, but I wanted to wait to see what the first week of sales are in so I had something to report. Well, the numbers are in and I sold a grand total of 43 copies. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, even the pet rock application has sold more copies. I’m actually just amazed that anybody bought anything that I made.
At this point there’s a couple of options on how to increase sales. The first is more features. Obviously there have been some comments, so I have a general idea of which things are high priority and which are not. Second there’s marketing. I’m already third on the major keyword phrase on Google, so that’s pretty good. The one major problem I have is that nobody (besides me for testing purposes) has clicked on the “Buy Now” button for my App. About a third of my website traffic is direct and I’m guessing that’s the people getting to the website from the iTunes store, but nobody is going the other way.
At this point, I think the features are more important and they will make the product easier to market. My current schedule is to have a release every month with the most requested features. I doubt I’ll ever be an iPhone App millionaire, but it’s fun and for the first time ever I have a product someone can buy. It’s a good feeling, you should try it sometime.
My name is Jason Moore. I’ve been a professional software developer since 2001, and a hobbist for many years before that. I wrote an application for people to practice reading music called uSightRead.