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A lot of App Store users assume that indie devs make a lot of money, and whilst this may be true for many, it isn’t a fact for most. For instance, I’ve made roughly £25 across this past month. I think indie developers need to be transparent where possible.
117 replies and sub-replies as of Jun 07 2020

I have ~8 apps that are currently live on the App Store, and whilst this may appear to be a large source of income, it’s not really a direct linear correlation. I definitely need to do more in terms of ASO, but all in all, having apps doesn’t automatically translate to sales.
For one of my apps that’s free to download/use, I get about 15-20 IAP sales for every 1k downloads. This seems to be similar across all my free apps. There’s definitely a trade off involved with much less eyes on the app if I made it paid.
Is the IAP subscription based? I find subscription much harder to sell, and one time purchase easier in comparison. I have a free app + non consumable IAP, around 4% of users who downloads it buy the IAP
That’s correct, they’re subscription based, although I also offer a higher one-time purchase option.
Are you saying freemium is better than paid upfront, even though the conversion is very low?
I feel like freemium would be better for gaining that initial user base, but not necessarily the money.
Thanks for sharing. I have three paid apps and typically make less than $100 a month. I’ve always thought free with IAP might make more money but it’s not currently my full-time job (given so little income). Free more downloads means but more emails so haven’t tried it yet.
My app Eyeye has a conversion rate of around 10% and peaked at 24% during promotions. But it’s a fairly new app and I haven’t got 1k downloads yet😂…
I can attest to this. App business is hard. Takes a long time for indie developers to crack it. For me, the average conversion for paid app lies between 3-5% on App Store.
This is great insight, thank you for sharing.
When I was developing an app, some people would complain that "my team" wouldn't fix bugs fast enough. This was before subscriptions and by that time the app wasn't making much anymore because most of its niche market had bought it years before.
Most of the profit was sunk anyways in buying new test devices (android + iphone)
It all depends on your networking. If you’re an indie who’s popular on Twitter, your word can reach far out. Some indie developers even get to have their apps feature on sites like 9to5 or Macstories
By across this past month: for all of your app?
Yes, across all apps.
Damn. I thought you made 8K. I checked your account last month and it's 20K. Now I don't know what to believe anymore...
Services like that offer an estimate based on the industry and download figures, so not sure where they get exact figures from.
Also makes you wonder how accurate the numbers for popular apps are
Appfigures seems to be the most reliable resource I’ve come across. These insights are available as part of their paid subscription.
It has taken me so long to become profitable, but things do get better over time. Here are the first 5½ years of Working Copy revenue. I'm not comfortable making the exact numbers public.
Thank you for sharing, this is incredibly insightful!
I have been very stubborn about the business model and not done enough ASO or promotion. It doesn't have to take this long.
ASO is something I definitely need to get better in.
I'm sure you will. 😊
Are there any good articles about ASO topic? I did keywords which are very close to my app, I’m using some of them in the app’s title and subtitle, I did localized screenshots and video preview. What else I can do to move away from my zero sales?
Thank you for sharing.
I have a feeling that as many of the tasks and workflows are moving over to the iPad, Working Copy is going to be an essential app for many people . Love the app and can’t wait to see what you have in store for us.
I hope you are right. I'm a little afraid that the moment Git becomes super useful on iPad is the same moment one of the big companies move in with something free but hopefully there will be room for my app as well.
Big companies can pry Working Copy from my cold dead hands. Love the app, the fact that it's indie only makes it better
Thank you ☺️
Thank you for sharing this. Love the app. Best of luck :)
Thank you for sharing.
Success rarely comes overnight. First 2 years of @DrinkControl was on average $30-$50/month after Apple’s cut. We ship, improve, learn, get better and try to not burn out.
Different colors in the chart are different business models/in-apps. Paid (green), freemium (blue), donations, discounted promo offers, donation subscriptions. It takes a while to find right model for app and landscape changes all the time and we have to adopt and go along.
Thank you for sharing! It’s great to know that things work out over time.
Interesting. I’m always wondering how my download numbers would differ if I charged for my apps. My guess would be around 5-10%. 🤔
I think being open to experimenting is always good.
I like to pay for the apps that I find valuable. I feel like indie devs giving away their work for free hurts more than it helps. I guess that's one of the reasons of app store users having high expectations of quality without paying a fair price? Not sustainable
I totally agree. For me personally, due to various reasons it would be a huge hassle to legally be able to charge money. It’s also not my job. Also, free experiments software has always been around. The situation is different for everyone though 🤷‍♂️
I tend to agree with @_chuckyc here, in the sense that subscriptions generate expectations for continued development. But freemium or paid up front don’t seem to warrant the same kind of expectations.
Hey man. I’m new in the industry as I’ve only been making apps for 9 months. I think a lot about whether I should look for a job or go the indie route. Is there any specific reason you prefer the indie route? Working for yourself and creative freedom I’m sure are a big plus.
Working without payoff could be super frustrating and unfortunately this is quite common for the most of indie devs. I would go with a job especially in the beginning of the career.
Thank you for your response. I’d imagine that to be the case. Perhaps it’s smarter to go that route with more experience have something to fall back on.
I’ll second this. Also, having a day job can actually give you more creative freedom allowing you to pursue what you love and solve the problems you’d like, without having to give major importance to money making.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone wants to make money. Just saying it doesn’t need to be your primary focus when you have other source of income.
Would recommend putting a few apps into the store and *then* getting a job - doing this will make you more employable.
Are all your apps free with IAP? Imo users who look for free stuff are not likely to pay later.
Both my apps (@chartyios and @chatstatsapp) are freemium apps. Conversion rates fluctuate between 10-15% of overall downloads. That said, I still believe freemium is the best choice to allow users to test the app, while holding special features for premium users.
I’d even go so far as to say freemium allows people to think they don’t have to. There’s enough other people paying to subsidise them. I think we just to get used to asking people to pay for our work. Devs across all areas are bad at that.
I launched in 2014 and made <$100/mo for the first 2 years. It takes time and is definitely not easy.
Thank you for sharing! Very insightful.
Interesting graph - out of curiosity, what do you attribute to the change? App improvements? Marketing?
The biggest jumps I’ve had were (1) adding audio pronunciations as a pro feature, (2) when a post from a Chinese user on about the app got a lot of attention, (3) adding a Chinese localization, (4) switching to subscriptions, (5) quarantine month in China.
Thanks for the response, very interesting 🙂
Interesting that audio as a pro feature made a big difference because a lot of Japanese dictionary apps have it as a default feature? It seems like you have a big Chinese user base, most of my downloads are from US/Europe.
Also, when you price a lifetime pro version for roughly 2.5x annual subscription price, are people still subscribing annually instead of making the purchase? It seems like it's the obvious choice to just buy it outright.
That’s really interesting, thanks for sharing! From your steps, seems like Chinese localization should be the easiest step to add to my priority list.
Took me a long time to get to where @StepsPlus is, and even at ~33k / day users - it is not able to crack 1k / month. It's really difficult
Thank you for sharing, I guess it takes time and experimenting.
Installed it ages ago and never deleted, it’s so much better than all the scammy alternatives 👍
Absolutely. Made a thread about the last month…
Transparency time! This was a great week for app store revenue (yes, $20 is a great week 😂) so it's a good time to talk about how much a side-project developer app like @cifilterio makes on the App Store, + chart from the good folks from @NativeConnect (details in thread 👇)
5 apps on the store. April sales $ 13,20, May sales $ 36,65. ......don't worry ... it's all normal. 😎👍
This is great insight, thank you for sharing.
Yea, I don’t do a lot of marketing just because of how mentally exhausting it can be so I literally like 5 downloads a week 😅 100+ if I do market it on Twitter then it decays.
You might benefit from learning App Store Optimization and let the users find you in the Store then 😊
Marketing is incredibly hard!
A month ago I introduced a tip jar in an app that had 20k downloads and good reviews. Since then I got 3 tips. Not mad because mainly did it to learn IAP APIs but it's low!
Serious question. Are tip jars allowed in apps?
They are. I do not recommend the approach unless you have many, many users and no other way to monetize it though. Last year I experimented with making my apps free with a Tip Jar. Revenue tanked. Here’s the screen I used. It’s still in a few of my apps:
I find that tip jars only work if you've got brand recognition somewhere else (social media).
Why do you think that users assume this? I don’t think they usually care, they want value. If your app doesn’t sell, it quite likely means there is no demand for it or there are better options?
I submit most users don’t have a clue about the math and numbers involved. Developers don’t at first, either, but majority find out how much they make, and it’s quite low. Race for the bottom makes incredibly few apps more than resume fodder in practice, you can’t live off them.
In the same boat as you. Got two apps that sell a handful of copies each month. I plan on releasing more apps but hopefully there is one that catches on a bit that I can focus on.
[1/2] It doesn't help (for the Mac at least) when you search for the #1 keyword for our app and it default lists 8 yr, 6yr, 2yr old apps with lower downloads & lower ratings way above the your app, which has the keyword as part of it's name.
[2/3] I think it's chicken and egg situation here, because the "top" apps are old (do they even work) with terrible results by today's standard, some people are shying away the App Store as it appears to be full of old junk. With all the rules and regulations, Apple should make a
[3/3] Guide on creating a "top" tier app, and use these to help improve ranking of apps where it's clear the dev cares putting in extra effort. As it stands right, I'd have been better off, to write an app in a weekend and release it, than spend 2 years trying to make it good.
This has been my continual nightmare with my apps for years now. App Store search often feels like it’s actively fighting to kill off the good indie developers who play by the rules and respect their users.
I totally agree with you there man, it sure does feel this way; A LOT!
ignoring the Broadcasts launch, which is atypical in a number of ways, app revenue peaked on my bigger apps sometime around 2013, when the platform devalued design and the allure of iPad wore off. Extracurricular revenue sources have been essential
It definitely feels like the App Store is a race to the bottom these days, and well-crafted apps don't get the love they deserve.
What baffles me most is that people consider an app they'll use a couple of times a week that's 4-5 dollars as an expensive app while they will happily pick up a cup of coffee that's $4 every morning on their way to work...
I've always liked this analogy, especially because there really isn't a valid counter argument against it. People want things, but don't want to support the people making those things.
at least this is in Apple ecosystem having some sort of reviews and credibility so many people still invest money on Apps, consider Google play store and situation is far more worse there for Indie developers.
I think you should compare it to the office coffee machine. People are used to grabbing free coffee from there. If there is a barista next to it that charges you 4 dollars for a cup of coffee, most people will just opt for the free one. Even if that one’s quality is lower.
By that logic you would expect an app that provides about 1 commute of entertainment to be worth the same as a cup of coffee? And an app that provides you dozens of commutes worth of entertainment should at least be worth the money spent on 2 cups of coffee? Or 3? Or 10? idk
People are weird..
iOS developers make great money! ...working for someone else. Full time or contracting, great. As an indi dev making your own apps, not so much...
This is great insight, thank you for sharing.
I do not consider myself as an indie developer in any way. But I have 3 paid apps in the app store and did proceed 110 USD the last 26 weeks. I do no marketing or anything similar. This is just some hobby projects.
I had 2 successful apps on the App Store (1 of which I sold) that were making 2-3k monthly from admob. The first two were instagram related. My advice is to go where the numbers are, build things that tie into IG, tiktok, snap. More ppl will end up searching for your solution
This is good advice. I tend to go with 'passion projects' without thinking too much about numbers.
First time adding a subscription to @thezenjournal $3.49 per quarter. At about 4K users this should deter all my competitors. 😂
I think the speech shouldn’t be “how many apps have I published?” but “what problem am I helping to solve?”
Exactly this. How are you even able to work on 8 different Apps and optimize ASO, do customer support and tweak internal KPIs to improve your conversion rate from free to paying customers?
I’m focusing on one App right now and try to learn as much as possible. With this knowledge, I will probably launch another App I’ll then focus on. And then the next. But never work on many Apps that aren’t profitable at the same time.
That’s right. A lot of time I thought to start a new app but actually I’ve one app on the App Store which is profitable and with a lot of feature requests from the users. So my strategy is to focus on this app until it’s “mature” and then I’ll focus on a new one.
This is a great topic. If you think about it, the most profitable “apps” aren’t really apps, they’re full businesses. IG and Snap, as apps, are free and don’t bring in revenue. Their user base and customer data becomes valuable for marketing, which supports their growth...
I also believe that targeting the business to business space opens the door to more potential revenue and subscriptions rather than directly to consumers, who are not necessarily cheap, but conditioned to believe our hard work is worth $0.99.
This is very true. Users ultimately want free things, and business want money. The intersection of these that works out best for unassuming users seems to be selling their data so they get a free product.
I am guessing you @foxfortmobile made more from your tweaks? I would like to think so.
I posted about my income today as well… - that is for a month across 2 apps, I’m expecting zero next month
Living the dream #iosdev #gamedev - does this make me a professional games developer?
I’ve been thinking on this more - I use the #indiedev hashtag occasionally, but the truth of the matter is I need a paying job. It would be more accurate to say #hobbydev #dreamingindie
Very true. I've always thought of it as multiple tiers of 'indie', where the big players get lumped in with us smaller devs.
Yep totally agree - I think being open about this can only be a good thing. You create amazing apps and I think there will be a lot of devs that are shocked at the income that generates. Keep up the awesome work
If your apps get roughly £25 then I can't imagine how other apps can make 🙁
Your apps look really good, screenshots are great, icons also, video app preview ✅, a thorough description. Should research if there is a market for what you are selling. Maybe you just need to find the right problem to solve. Quality seems to be 👌
Thank you, this is very kind of you to say. I do think I fall short when it comes to understanding what the users want and appealing to them.
That's generally the most difficult part for us devs
I have an idea 💡 Make an app that locally scans a document and mask sensitive information such as social security numbers. If you can achieve 100% accuracy then you are in business.
that's almost enough to cover for the deceloper account 🤐
In the interest of transparency, since I added an IAP to my app two weeks ago I’ve made one sale 🙈 I’m doing it as a hobby and it doesn’t provide that much value yet so it’s fine, but yeah, more would have been nice!
A third from me, then :-))
I’m thinking of paying for an Apple Developer subscription: how big has an app to be if you want it to be economically self-sustained?