Another year and I'm still here! If you're wondering why I haven't blogged in a while, well actually I have - but it's a long story which I won't go into here.

Anyway, last time I wrote an app-business post I spoke about giving in-app-purchases (IAPs) a try. So I converted my Today Calendar app to be free with ads, with an option to do a 99c IAP to remove the ads. Which was interesting, so i'll share the results here. To make it more readable, i'll give you a tongue-in-cheek weekly summary first:

  • 1st week: Awesome!
  • 2nd week: Pretty good, hasn't dropped much, I hope this stays constant.
  • 3rd week: Oh dear. I may have wasted my time.
  • 4th week: And... Sales have hit zero.

And here are the actual figures if you're interested:

Dec 20th: 700 free downloads, 12 IAPs
21st: 600 free, 2 iap (terrible!)
22nd: 650 free / 9 iap (looking good again)
23rd: 700/9
24th: 600/12
25: 580/4
26: 1101/10
27: 736/10
29: 600/7
30: 830/9
31: 610/6
1st jan: 840/12 (still looking good!)
2: 870/10
3: 710/6
4: 670/6
5: 640/7
6: 670/3
7: 388/4
8: 460/7
9: 161/4 (downloads *really* dropped off, unsure why?)
10: 120/1 (yuck)
11: 120/1 (ouch)
12: 130/4 (picking up again?)
13: 130/4
14th jan: 130 free, zero IAPs. My app is now as dead as a can of spam.

So it certainly worked better than when I was simply selling the app for $1 on the app store. I guess that's because people have the chance to 'test drive' the app first before buying it, because 99c is such a huge commitment. But after a few short weeks, sales have dried up.

At least I can say i've tried the ads and the IAP model now. But what else remains to try? Make yet another farmville clone game? Spend megabucks on marketing? I think i'll stick to my dayjob from now on.

One more thought before I move on, let's look at conversion rates: on my best day, my conversion rates are about 2%, and on the worst day, about 1%. For an app with good reviews (lets be honest, not great reviews, but it's a far cry from a one-star-wonder) - that's just a poor reflection of the app market. About one or two in a hundred people who go to the effort of downloading my app bother shelling out a lousy buck to support the developer, ensure future updates, and nuke the nasty ads? Wow. And I've heard developers say 'don't make apps for android, the users are too tightwad to pay', well it looks like iPhone owners aren't any better, unfortunately.

New year

Well! Excitingly, 2012 is over. If you've followed my blog, you'd know that that is excellent news. But i thought i'd write a few of the lessons I learned in 2012. You don't have to read these if you don't want, i'm writing these mostly for my own benefit:

  • Don't be naively trusting - lots of people are actively trying to scam you! Trust cannot be given to someone, they have to earn it with time and evidence that they can follow through with what they promise.
  • A second kid is much harder than the first one, because there's no time off. When one of them is asleep, the other one is likely to be awake and screaming. Parenthood will mess you up!
  • Tough experiences make you tough, unless you form the mindset that 'I'll never win so no point trying' (aka learned helplessness, which i'm currently trying to beat). Life is long, you're still here, so you might as well keep trying while you're breathing.
  • Count your blessings! I had my fair share of fails last year: house builder going broke, missed government grant, starting a failed app business, a few lousy jobs, and a stingy insurer. But in a perverse way, it's taught me to be glad for things like having cute healthy kids, because when everything's falling down around you, well, at least the kids are good.
  • Blind optimism is all well and good, but harsh reality will impose itself. If you have to be a dreamer, have your feet planted in reality as well, otherwise you'll get nowhere. Be a realist+dreamer. Reality may be ugly, harsh, and counter to your sacred cows, but it is what it is, and you can't get around it.
  • I'm a bit humbler. I used to look at people who weren't doing much with their lives or stuck in a dead end job and not looking for something better, and sometimes think 'how can you be like that, so lazy and unambitious'. But after being hit by a raft of failures I can totally understand the desire to give up trying and empathise with those who have done so. After all, failure is incredibly painful, and if you've failed enough in the past, you simply won't bother to try anything new because the previous evidence certainly make it look like you'll just fail, painfully, again. Now I just think it's a bit sad when people give up, rather than judge them for it. Also, i've come to accept that i'm no business maven.

You

I heard this week from a great guy in china who said he read an old one of my blog posts, and it inspired him to quit his job to become an iOS developer! How cool is that. Well, if anyone else is feeling the need to change jobs, here's a tip: iOS contracting is great - if you want to know why, email me :)

Oh and as always, please email me if you've made an iOS / web app, i'd love to promote you in my next newsletter!

Thanks for reading! And if you want to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you: chris.hulbert at gmail.