GUEST BLOG: How to make money from apps

Even with a development team at their disposal (for free) and a wide open door to three of the UK's top tech media outlets, the Apprentice hopefuls found that making money from apps is just not that easy.

Not easy, but not impossible either. Try these tips on for size.

Ideas, ideas and more ideas

It may sound obvious but the idea is everything. Understanding the market and having an idea which fits that market is the absolute bottom line in app making and the same is true of software and web businesses too. Just because it's an app does not mean it will sell well and make you a fortune. The excellent Angry Birds has a lot to answer for in shaping people's perception of the app business.

So where do you start? Well, firstly don't give up your day job (not yet at least). This is an increasingly competitive space so you have to be sure your idea sings.

Research your market

It's all very well having a great app idea but will the market care? Are there any other similar apps on the market and what is the commercial value? Researching what is and isn't available on the App Store should be a first step.

Develop an icon

Once you have finished your app, a crucial element is the icon - how can you make your app stand out from the crowd? The icon is so important as it has to be both eye-catching and informative. I've seen some very poor games get to number one on the back of having an attractive icon.

It's also worth pointing out that Apple doesn't like it when you don't use all your allocated space to sell an app on iTunes (ie, you don't need to put an iPhone image on the iTunes screens). The first screen is the most important and everyone should maximise this to promote the app, using the dedicated space for a nice full screen screengrab. Your app description should be nailed in the first sentence to hook people in - don't be clever, just cut to the chase.

Make friends with Apple

Get to know Apple, what works and what doesn't. This means checking the rules of engagement and ensuring your idea does not go outside of the parameters set by Apple's approval teams. When you eventually submit your app to Apple for approval, you want it to roll through the process as smoothly as possible.

Free or paid for?

You will get about ten times more downloads with the free app than the paid app. This can generate the interest and get the app up the charts bringing it to the attention of a larger audience. Of course, no one makes anything from a freebie so a revenue stream has to be found. Putting in iAds, AdMob and other advertising platforms is a good way to monetise free apps, but you do need big volumes to make it pay.

For apps costing 59p+, you also need a huge volume to realise any financial return. This is not impossible but it is very difficult to achieve.

Add on some extras

If you have released a free app, think of add-ons that carry a premium cost. This could be more levels, upgrades (bombs, etc) or characters for a game. The key is to upsell where possible but not hard sell. A small percentage of your users will be really happy to pay for extras, but you balance that with not annoying/ripping off your players.

Socialising and marketing

Getting the app noticed will drive downloads. Marketing can be expensive so it is important to think of alternative promotional methods, using social media where possible. Independent app reviews can drive interest, but don't think they'll drive big sales. So pitching your app is essential and this means understanding your story and angles. If it's not different and interesting enough, no one will care.

Ultimately anyone embarking on a journey into the app business needs a plan. From our experience a mixed model works best. You can use free downloads to attract interest and establish a game. Use a chargeable upgrade model and in-game advertising (for free apps only) to drive revenue. Success will vary greatly from title to title but a clever approach to app development and delivery will at least give you a fighting chance.

Good luck!

It's important to realise that not everyone gets it right and even the big games companies can sometimes struggle. Sadly, most small app developers fail to break even. The market can change quickly and if you can adapt quickly, you may get lucky and hit the right note at the right time and then you too can fly like an (Angry) bird.

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