How I Made $19,000 on the App Store While Learning to Code
The past year and a half has been quite a journey. I’ve gone from starting to learn iPhone design, to quitting my full time job and focusing on an application full-time. All while teaching myself to program in Objective-C with no prior programming experience.
OneVoice is a iPhone/iPad application that gives a voice to anyone who cannot speak. Either because they have had a stroke or have non-verbal Autism (or many other reasons), it is making a difference in the lives of a lot of people. OneVoice + iPad replaces a $7,000+ medical device that is bulky and difficult to use. My goal was to make an application that was both beautiful and easy to use.
It all started when my sister-in-law, Hannah, heard I was looking for a project to learn to develop for the iPad. She was working with an autistic boy using one of these clunky medical devices and suggested I build a replacement on the iPad. I’ve spent a lot of time designing software, but have never been a programmer. I focused on the user interface and experience which is where I could add the most value. With the help of some talented friends I set out to create OneVoice. The rest of the story is here: One Year With iOS and The Story Behind OneVoice.
OneVoice was released January 2011. The first day it got 3 sales (great for such a high priced app), but that quickly dropped off. The App Store used to have a newly released list that would give you an initial boost in sales before you dropped off to App Store obscurity. I focused my marketing efforts on Speech Language Pathologists who work with individuals needing this kind of device. I contacted them personally by phone or email and offered a promo copy in trade for feedback. Quite a few took me up on the offer and gave some great advice that shaped the first couple of versions.
These industry experts also wrote great reviews in the App Store which I think made a big sales difference. Now the policies have changed so users who downloaded the app with a promo code cannot write a review. I’ve never been featured or had any promotion from Apple. So all of the numbers below are from my marketing efforts outside the App Store.
September was such a good month because two schools bought 20 and 30 copies each (educators get a 50% discount by purchasing 20 or more).
Here is how the $200 price breaks down:
- Apple: 30% (I didn’t include this above because I never receive this money).
- Acapela Group: 14% (I license the speech synthesis software from them).
- Profit: 56% (Profit is used loosely. This is what I have left to pay myself or reinvest in the product).
Last month after slowly building OneVoice to $19,000 in profit (and keeping almost all of it in savings) I quit my full-time job and am now focused on OneVoice as a startup. Since the product is working well and has plenty of paying customers I am now almost entirely focused on marketing.
Every day I spend some time programming in Objective-C in order to get better. I have a couple other hobby apps that I work on to expand my skill-set, though I still consider myself a beginner programmer. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the help of Chris Brandsma, who patiently helped me through so many Objective-C problems.
I am fortunate to work on a project that both makes money and changes lives.