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How to create your own app and make money

As I explored the Playstore sometime in June 2018, I stumbled upon an app to create other apps. Out of curiosity I downloaded it, did some research and played around with it. I soon realised I could actually create a “real” app from scratch. I soon found myself asking whether it was possible for me to make money with an app. See, some years earlier I had downloaded Android studio and done a few lessons on programming. So I had a basic understanding of Java and android programming, but this new app that I had found, used simple drag and drop features and you could actually run the app on your device or send your app to friends in just a few clicks. I was not a professional programmer but using this app I could easily create “proper” mobile apps without cracking my head over code. You can check out my app made using Sketchware; Business Builder- Small Business Management Suite here.

Fast forward to a few months later and I had created an app that I felt was ready for the big leagues… Play Store baby!! Note that I was at a low point financially, so I had to borrow the $25 needed to create a developer account on the Playstore. On the 21st of August, I made my app available for download and then waited for the magic to happen. As with all things, what seems like a good idea to you, might not always seem so to the next person. Needless to say, I struggled to get people to download my app. In my first month I got 10 downloads. For a while I felt disheartened, until I stumbled on a YouTube channel by Eric Wroolie of Overpass Apps. What drew me to his channel was the way he was unfiltered. Normally, developers will only tell you their success stories and keep the struggle hidden from you. To cut a long story short, I had seen someone making apps and making some money from it. In one of his videos he explained how if you’re not getting downloads, it’s mainly because people just don’t know about your app. So I went back to the drawing board and tweaked my Playstore listing and in a few weeks I started getting results. First I was getting an average of 3 downloads per day(You have no idea how exciting it was to see this become regular.) This number moved up to an average of 7 downloads per day, then 11, then 17, then 24 and as we speak my main app gets an average of over 100 downloads per day. I know there are many doing better, but this showed me that it can be done.

So in this article I will take you through the process of how to create and make money with and app. Needless to say, patience is a prerequisite and it might take a while, but I’m pretty sure if you have a decent enough app, then you can do it too. The great thing about apps is that once you start gaining momentum, you can then generate money even in your sleep as people download and use your app.

Apps VS Websites

According to a web server survey by Netcraft in January 2018, there were in excess of 1.8 billion active websites on the internet. With such a huge number of websites and many of them serving up the same content, it must be noted that a significant number of those websites get little to totally no traffic at all. On that same note however, there were only 2.1 million apps available on Google’s Playstore and about 2 million on the app store. Similar to websites, a great number of these apps also do not enjoy significant success, but your odds of cracking it with an app are much greater than with a website.

As a maker of both apps and websites, I generate more income from apps. So it goes without saying that I would vouch for apps. Getting a significant number of dedicated users to your website is also harder than with an app. For the duration that a user has your app on their phone, then you have a chance at engaging them. This is because apps are easily interactive and we spend a greater amount of time using our mobile devices. So apps provide a lot more opportunity for you to make easier money than websites.

Getting Started

Choosing a developer platform

I know for many, the idea of writing code can be quite intimidating. It is an added advantage if you know and understand how android programming works but you can get started with app development even if you have no programming experience whatsoever. Just look at me! Well, sort of…. I will not get into the technical details of creating an app in this article, but I will give you some pointers on how you can get started in the business. I will also not be getting into iOS app development platforms at this point so bear with me.

Android Studio

If you have some programming experience and an understanding of Java then you can create your app using Android studio. The great thing and main advantage of android studio is that it gives you the flexibility to create any kind of app that your mind can conceive. The main disadvantage I found with this method is the amount of time that it takes as well as that you cannot use it on your mobile device.

App Inventor

This program allows you to use drag and drop features to easily create an app. It’s easier to use than android studio. The main problem I found with this method is that it does not allow you to create apps on your mobile device and you need an internet connection. Not the biggest problem but maybe not convenient for some.

Sketchware

This android app allows you to create apps on your mobile device and to actually run them on your device even if you have no programming experience. The app also allows you to work offline and you can create apps in a short space of time. Sketchware however is limited in that some advanced features may not be available and you also cannot edit the source code.

I got started with Sketchware and have been on a roll ever since. The easiest app I created took me less than 24 hours whilst the more complex one took months to make. So if you’re not sure where to start as an app developer, I recommend you start with Sketchware. It might seem a bit complicated at first but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
Once you have decided on a platform you can then start building your app. If your goal is to reach billions of users then you will need to consider the following factors when building your app.

  1. Offline capabilities- create an app that works even when the user is offline. Many users especially in the developing countries might not always have a steady connection or data charges are higher, so bear that in mind.
  2. Compatibility with older android versions- my first app targeted android 8, yet at the time all the people around me where using between version 4.4 and 6. So I initially struggled to get downloads.
  3. Localisation- consider getting translations for your various apps. This will help you reach more users and makes the app relevant to your targeted users

Uploading your App to Playstore

You will need to create a developer account for you to be able to upload your app onto the Playstore. Google charges a once off fee of US$25 which you can easily pay using a credit card. Upon paying this fee you can then upload as many apps to the Playstore. Once your account has been created you can then create a Playstore developer account where your app will be housed. For starters you will be required to:

Update your store listing.

This is where you enter your app title, short description, long description, app logo, screenshots and feature graphics. This will have a great impact on your amount of downloads, so create awesome app icons and let your messaging help users to find you.

Content rating questionnaire.

Your App will need to have its content graded and given the relevant rating for the various locations to which it is served. For example if it contains foul language, nudity or excessive violence. This will protect you and your business, as well as your users from harmful content.

Select pricing and distribution options.

These will determine where your app is served as well as how much your users pay for it. If you are selling your app then you will need to create a merchant account.

App releases.

This is whereby you upload various apks for your app and then choose how your app versions are served. Normally, one starts with a Beta app, which is the raw unrefined version of the app. You can choose a test group of users and then get their feedback about bugs and other areas to make improvements. Once you feel confident of your app, then it can graduate to production. This is where you determine which version of your app is available, and to which audience.

Before uploading your app’s APK to Playstore you will need to sign it. This will let Google and other users know that the app is really from you. It will also protect you from anyone that might hijack your app and use their own code to show ads or do nefarious things with it.

Using AdMob to monetize your app

You will first need to create a Google AdSense account and then an Admob account for your account. Admob will allow you to create ad units which you can then place in your app. Sketchware comes with Admob intergration and this makes the process of showing ads in your app much easier. There are currently three types of ad units available, and these are banner ads, interstitial ads and rewarded ads. Banner ads are thin banners which can be placed at the bottom or top of your screen. Whereas interstitial ads are those full screen ads which appear during screen transitions or breaks in the flow of a user’s activity. Rewarded ads are those which you show a user to unlock a level or in exchange for coins or some advantage in your app. My personal favourite are interstitial ads because they pay really well and appear during breaks. Avoid the temptation to overburden your users with ads. Let your focus be on getting users engaged and spending more time on your app. This will pay more dividends in the long run than excessive ads.

Getting users for your app

Once you have your app on playstore and your admob account setup, the next step is to get users for your app. This is the challenging part for many developers. See, creating an app is easy, but getting it to millions of users is an art form in itself. This will require a combination of app store optimisation, social media marketing and a really great app. We all want that viral app that will get us into the millions, but the truth is that growth is often gradual.

Appearance

Start by creating beautiful graphics for your app. Let these showcase your app’s best features and project your app in the manner that you want it to be seen.

Store Description

Describe your app and what it does in the simplest of terms. Explain key features and how your users can benefit by downloading your app. The secret here, is to enter key words that a potential user might type in when searching. The idea is to match as many potential keyword variations that they might type in. For help choosing the right keywords you can use the Google keyword planner tool.

Create a simple marketing Plan for your mobile app

Once you have your graphics and store listing set up, you have to come up with a plan for how, where and when you will market your app. This starts with answering the following questions:

1. What do I want to achieve with this app?

2. What platforms will I use to market my app?

3. What materials do I need to create for the various platforms?

4. How often will I post about my app on these platforms?

Use the answers to these questions to help you create your app’s marketing plan. The key is to remain constant in your marketing efforts but at the same time, avoid bombarding people with annoying ads. When I started marketing my app, I used mainly WhatsApp and Facebook… so my logic was: these great friends of mine will surely download my app and support me. If not because it was a great app, then maybe out of sympathy. However most just saw the ads and passed a comment here and there, but my downloads weren’t increasing.

I then took a strategic approach, and instead of saying “hey, please download my app”, I would follow conversations and then tactfully pitch my app as a solution. After some time, I started seeing results. Another thing I learnt earlier on, was that people want wants “hot” at that moment. So I created milestones for myself and started sharing them with my friends and users. I created a poster for my first 50 downloads and shared it on my timeline and WhatsApp status. I then did the same when I got to 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 downloads and so on. People are watching, and only when they realise that you mean business will they also start taking you seriously. So don’t give up. Once you have laid the foundation, your app’s user base will start to grow over time and the financial rewards will begin to manifest.

Conclusion

Making money from your app may seem quite difficult at first, but it is quite possible and can be done. It takes a holistic approach to managing your app and treating it like a business. You might want to check out our ultimate step by step guide to starting your own business here. The rewards won’t be much at first, but once you’ve gained traction, those cents will become dollars and you will reach your payment threshold. So creating an app is a great way of creating a source of passive income.
I hope that you’ve found this very helpful and I wish you the best- great health, great wealth and happiness.

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