My first year in the App store. How a Spanish bible helped me earn $73,000
By Joey Ferguson
I released my first app one year ago yesterday. It started as a small side project with the explicit goal of paying my rent.
As of yesterday it’s done $73,034 in net revenue, after Apple’s cut. While not considered “VC” successful, I’m extremely happy and proud of how well it’s turned out thus far.
Today I’m going to give a brief history of our apps and talk about why I got into mobile apps in the first place.
In February of 2012 I went to a family dinner where I learned a relative was doing $8k to $10k a month in the App Store. The crazy part was that he wasn’t a developer or a designer. I’d read that most devs/designers were struggling to make money in the App Store, so seeing a business guy be successful was a surprise, and a little weird.
But I figured if he could do it so could I.
For the next few weeks I thought a lot about what I’d make. See my next post for that decision process, but ultimately I decided to make a Spanish Bible mobile app for iPhone.
You read that right.
It turns out that most of the Spanish Bible apps out there are really bad. (I should point out there are a few exceptions to this from competitors that I admire. Their “problem” is trying to be everything to everyone, so Spanish speakers don’t get as much support.)
My hypothesis was three fold: (1) Whoever was making Spanish Bibles right now was making decent money, (2) I could make a better Spanish Bible app relatively cheaply, and (3) the competition wasn’t too heavy so I’d still be able to be found.
Who Launches on Sundays?
Because I’m selling the Bible, I launched on a Sunday. I was checking rankings all
day, which didn’t really help because I still didn’t know how well you had to rank to make any money.
The next morning (and literally every day since) I woke up and first thing checked my email for that magical message from AppFigures. My total day one net sales? $36.35. Admittedly not very much.
But remember: my goal was only to pay my rent. I’d spent ~$500 on the app, so if I made that back everything else was gravy.
That $36/day average actually went up, and so the first 30 days I made $1,475.99, almost $900 more than our rent at the time. While still not a lot of absolute money, relative to the time and initial investment this side project was a success.
From there I expanded.
I contracted a professional audio studio to record the entire Bible as an audiobook. That was released a few months later in a separate app and made the side project that much bigger. Revenues at that point were around $4k to $5 a month.
Test the Market, Cheaply
Since then I’ve slowly improved upon and expanded our product line.
To show you how far we’ve come, below are screenshots from the first two versions of the app. I’m pretty embarrassed to show these because they don’t look very good. But they were good enough, which at the time was all that mattered.
I didn’t want to spend $10,000 making something really great that nobody wanted. I wanted to test the market, and cheaply.
Once the apps were generating more revenue I was able to invest that back into a complete overhaul. The latest version looks awesome. It’s faster, has more functionality, and I think customers are going to love it. We’re releasing the update in the middle of next month.
And May 1st I’m flying to a Spanish Christian publishing conference in Miami called ExpoLit. I’m hoping to make friends with people who own copyrights to additional content our customers have asked for. Not only would the in-app purchase revenue be nice, but our customers would love us.
All of this from a little app that I launched for less than $500. That’s the story.
This is the first of 10 posts about my first year as a profitable entrepreneur.
For the curious, the next 9 posts will collectively cover the following and more:
- How I picked the Spanish Bible niche
- Hiring successfully and for cheap on Elance
- Running 99Designs contests that actually get you nice design work
- Thoughts on Trello vs Basecamp
- Finding a long-term designer and developer
- How to manage contractors
- Making an audiobook
If you liked this you can follow Trevor on Twitter here — @trevmckendrick. You can also check out his blog at trevormckendrick.com