Crossing $1k in quarterly app sales for the first time 🥳 (2014-2020 story)
This was a pretty cool milestone to bypass, and certainly with this year getting such a bad rap, at the very least it's proving to be a solid year in terms of side project software sales.
Why did it take so long, couple little nuggets here to chew on for fellow hashnoders.
Apple released Swift, thought it was cool and set out to build first apps.
I wanted to build games to build something fun so I created a couple different card games for the iPad and also a novel puzzler for iOS.
I had zero knowledge of marketing, didn't really think about WHY the large global markets would be interested in obscure Finnish card games and overall just did a real rookie job.
I was a decent coder, but I think that's pretty much where it started and ended.
Not too much activity, kept tinkering with a number of projects but didn't release new significant stuff.
Didn't count the non-published projects that were taken quite far but I'm sure there was many.
What can be learned here? You can't win if you don't play the game.
This was the first time I started to see more traction. There were two reasons why this happened.
I created a couple of games that already had audience (Klondike, Spider and Freecell Solitaire). Games that many people love and will always look to find for their new HW. In short, launching something with a pre-existing demand.
I started primarily focusing on the MacOS market. The iOS simple games market is incredible competitive. There are big studios there that pour in big bucks to make really refined experiences and make the games freemium. It's really hard in that environment to be discovered or sell your games for a few bucks. But in the Mac App Store this was possible. In other words, finding a market with less competition and easier discoverability.
Still didn't really spend that much time on indie hacking, community building, marketing in general or much else. Just built a few games, put 'em out there and tried to make sure most gamers would be happy with them.
Quite suddenly and unexpectedly my sales made a huge jump in Q4 2019. Without releasing anything new. What happened?
Apple released macOS Catalina that would not run 32-bit apps anymore.
This meant that they erased much of the competition for the card games and all of a sudden more people were looking for these games and had less options to choose from. One would rather excel due to their own great products, but everything counts, right?
At the same time I also knew that I really had to create more something totally different, was simply not interested to put too much effort into this genre anymore.
The year obviously went haywire from the start and under quarantine I had a chance to finalise and release an app into a totally new genre - productivity.
I created a pretty simple Mac utility OwlOCR and for the first time tried to release in a more sensible way. I published some posts in r/macapps and got phenomenal feedback that really helped improve the app. Super thankful to these early users.
I then launched PH and got a lot of downloads, but less direct feedback. At this point app was still free as I wanted to get some footprint first.
After a few months of totally free, I introduced a premium in-app tier to help with further development. Sales of this tier have been pretty steady and there hasn't been too much negative backlash, as I've kept most features free for all.
This was the first app where I put more effort into the webpage and release efforts, I think next ones should easier as I know a bit more again how to play it.
There's still waaaaayyyyy long way to go before this could be primary source of bread and butter, but the last year has given at least kind of a glimpse of that.
I'm afraid I might need to pivot away from the Mac App Store however, as it opens to iOS apps in the future. At that point I'm afraid it will become as convoluted with big player apps that the indies will be pushed to the sidelines.
Article first written and published in Indiehackers on October 4th 2020. Also image from that release. Updates to follow after 2020 ends.
I write daily web development tips that help you become a more efficient developer. 👨💻⚡️
Loving your app as well, you state I might need to pivot away from the app store why is that?
Well, you know how the iOS App Store is these days. Packed from edge to edge to with software done by big companies with large dev and marketing budgets.
It’s pretty hard to get discovered or even stand out there. Not impossible of course, but certainly not easy.
Compared to that, the Mac App Store has had relatively few apps so it’s easier to get discovered. Now with the M1 chips iOS apps will flood the Mac App Store, so I’m afraid that might change.
Sr Full Stack Engineer, Front-End Specialist, DOM Artist. https://braydoncoyer.dev/
Fantastic job! Congrats!
I started my development career building iOS apps back in 2011. If you don't have thousands of dollars to dedicate to marketing endeavors, it can be extremely difficult to get traction flowing to your app; especially because Apple tends to give special treatment to larger AAA companies.
I'm glad the Mac App Store is treating you well - and I hope it continues!
I guess you always got to be ready to adapt right? I’m fortunate enough to have developed a well rounded palette of engineering skills from apps to embedded and web, so if something stops working just got to skate where the puck is going.
I do enjoy making Mac apps the most atm anyway.