How I Created an App Under $200 and Earned 6 Figures in Return



Almost everyone has an idea for an app, but most people never act on their idea. This is unfortunate because there are a lot of great ideas out there that could empower, entertain or educate millions of people.
The biggest reason for not pursuing an app idea is that people think that they need to be a programmer. There is nothing further from the truth. I have published over 1,500 apps and I am an app consultant for large corporations — and I do not know how to code. So believe me, you do not need any programming skills to create an app.
Below, I will give you the exact blueprint that I have used to create my apps, through which I have been able to earn a 6-figure income. Keep in mind that the app marketplace is in constant flux, so you may need to make your own adjustments to these 7 core steps.
Step 1: Research Your Idea
You may think that your idea for a butterfly identifier app will do really well, but the reality is you might be the only one who feels this way. Start your market research by analyzing the app store to find out which apps in your category are doing well. Do not worry about having a little competition — this is a good thing.
Sites like Apptopia, Sensor Tower, Mobile Action and App Annie will give you access to estimated download and revenue numbers for the apps in your target category. You want to step into a proven idea; you do not want to be a pioneer.
Also, look at reviews of these apps and talk to those in your target market. What new features or improvements are users looking for?
Step 2: Buy an App Template
There are different ways to build an app, but the way that has worked for me and other successful app entrepreneurs is to purchase an app template. An app template is app source code that has already been built that you can improve upon.
Building an app from the ground up will usually start at $15,000 and can cost as much as $35,000 or more. That is a lot of risk. But by purchasing a template, you shave a considerable amount of time and cost.
Some quality code can be purchased for as little as $100. You can also look at existing apps that have not been updated in awhile to see if their owners might be interested in selling.
Step 3: Monetize
Next, you have to figure out how your app will make money. There are different ways to do this, but start by looking at successful apps in your category. Are they charging up front, offering in-app purchases or showing ads? If that function is not available in your existing code, add it to the list of tasks you want your developer to complete.
Step 4: Hire a Developer
Now that you have your template app and you have a strategy for making money with your app, it is time to hire a developer to help with the programming. You can use sites like Upwork to find an experienced developer or explore local developer groups or online forums.
When evaluating candidates for the position, consider the following criteria:
Experience. Is it highly related to your project?
Ratings. How well has this person done on previous projects?
Rapport. Do you get along with this person and communicate well?
Cost. Is their rate going to be within your budget?
Once you find someone you want to work with, establish a workflow and payment plan.
Step 5: Do App Store Optimization (ASO)
By now, you are probably wondering how you are going to get people to download your app. This is where app store optimization (ASO) comes in.
Studies have shown that more than 50 percent of people find new apps through an app store search. This is like a Google search where people type in an app they are looking for and the search function returns the top results.
There are tons of ASO tutorials out there, and it is easy to learn. Just Google “ASO mastery course” or something similar, and you will find a few great options. ASO involves optimizing your apps icon, screenshots, keywords and description. All of these factors will increase the chances that people will find and download your app through an app store search.
Step 6: Launch Your App
Now it is time to launch your app. Again, this might sound complex, but if you do not want to deal with this process, you can always hire someone to do it for you. The developer you hired in Step 4 will usually be able to do it or you can find someone else.
That being said, I believe that it is very beneficial to go through the process once yourself so you know how it works. You can pay someone to sit down and walk you through the process step-by-step.
Step 7: Buy Traffic
Now that your app is live in your chosen app store, it is time to ramp up your app marketing efforts. To start seeing results faster, you should have a budget to purchase some ads for your app. Various platforms offer different types of ads, but I recommend you start with Facebook Mobile Install Ads. Facebook has some of the best (and most affordable) demographic targeting.
Keep in mind that ads are not just for you to get more downloads. Contrary to what most people think, ads are actually more valuable as a way to get data on your app. For example, let’s say that you are just starting out and getting 10 downloads a day with ASO. At that rate, it will take several months for you to get enough users to really understand how people use your app and what needs to be fixed. However, if you can buy some Facebook ads and get the same number of users in a week, you can improve your app much faster.




The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Wesley_Fryer

About the author: Carter Thomas

Carter Thomas is a marketer and strategist in the mobile app space. Since 2011, Carter has published over 1,500 apps on multiple platforms that have generated 18M+ downloads. Since early 2013, Carter has built and sold 5 separate app portfolios to private buyers. Along with apps, Carter’s blog, Bluecloud Solutions, has reached over 2.5M visitors and been responsible for over 100M downloads from the readers who implemented his strategies. On the weekends, you can find Carter swimming in Hawaii, looking for new investments and working on his next creative project, LemonDrone.

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