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Creating a successful Android app is a goal worth pursuing. If you can create a genuine hit, then you’ll have a source of passive income that can generate money while you sleep for years to come. What’s more, you’ll have the immense satisfaction of being able to tell people you’re an app developer; and of knowing that something you created is being used by thousands of people around the world.

There’s no feeling quite like seeing someone load up the app you made on their commute to work. But with so much competition, how can one person – sans a huge marketing budget – possibly stand out and have a hit? Unfortunately, there’s no one answer to that question. Instead then, let’s start with some of the things you definitely shouldn’t do when you’re getting started…

Become Jealously Protective Of Your Idea

Most people who want to start developing apps will have one ‘big idea’ initially. At some point, they get their ‘eureka’ moment and they just know that they’ve stumbled onto something that will make them rich and change the world!

Problem is, they don’t know how to program and they aren’t exactly great at using Photoshop or marketing themselves. In other words, they need help.

But this is where the catch22 comes in: how do you go about approaching people for help without the risk of them running off with your idea and making it for themselves? How do you avoid becoming the next Winklevoss story?

In other words, no one wants to steal your idea.

As a programmer myself, this is something I encounter regularly. People will often approach me to help them code their app but then refuse to tell me what the app is, or even what it involves.

How am I supposed to tell them whether I can help if they won’t tell me the nature of the project? How can I give them a rough quote or any advice? And if they have no experience with apps, why would I take time out of my day to meet them for coffee and sign an NDA?

Even some of my close friends refuse to tell me their app ideas for fear that I’ll steal them (I presume??). It’s rather insulting actually!

When it comes to app development, it’s genuinely the execution that trumps the idea. People you discuss your ideas with will either lack the technical know-how to steal them, or they’ll have their own projects on the go that they’re more passionate about (and likely halfway through development with). In other words, no one wants to steal your idea.

And in the rare case that they do? There’s nothing you can do to prevent them anyway – you’ll need to start talking about your app eventually! So your only real defence is to be the first and the best.

Play At “Business”

Arranging a meeting and getting someone to sign an NDA is a classic example of wantrepreneurialism.

Wantrepreneur” is a term that comes up a fair bit on business blogs at the moment. The portmanteau describes the kind of person who is more interested in looking like they run a business than they are in actually running one.

This ties in with the last point. Arranging a meeting and getting someone to sign an NDA is a classic example of wantrepreneurialism (wantrepreneurmanship?). Don’t arrange an in-person meeting with someone unless it’s the fastest and most efficient way to exchange information. Of course face-to-face meetings are useful for networking and building relationships but this won’t always be relevant if you’re just reaching out to someone to see if they’ll make a sound effect for you. Under those circumstances, a meeting would just be a waste of everyone’s time.

Keep ‘communication overhead’ to a minimum and consider the ROI (Return On Investment) you’re offering to the people you work with. Don’t make them jump through hoops to do business with you, it’s frustrating and they’ll likely just move on.

Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with being friendly and jokey in e-mails. And don’t use the plural ‘we’ when you’re addressing people unless you actually have a team. It’s transparent and it can be a bit cringey…

Try To Design The Next Facebook

When my friends do tell me their big app ideas, I often still find myself rolling my eyes (maybe that’s why they don’t want to share?). As soon as someone tells me that they’re building a social network, or something that requires accounts and private messaging, I face-palm. Building a social network as an app is hard work. Not only do you create more complications by requiring a server and more stringent security measures but you also need to build a user-base of several hundred before your app will be at all appealing. No one wants to join a social network with 6 other people!

periscope 3

Go and take a look at the new streaming apps Periscope and Meerkat. Even these apps, which have been getting massive media attention for the last few months, feel somewhat barren and empty. Apps like these are just a massive undertaking and while it’s great to dream big, it doesn’t make any sense for your first project.

Want to start making money from apps? Then start with something simple.

Want to start making money from apps? Then start with something simple. One of my first apps was a keyboard, which was followed quickly by a slideshow of parkour images and later a word count utility (back when there weren’t any other apps that included that function). They weren’t ground breaking but they only took a couple of days to make in each case and they let me get something out there fast that I could begin earning and learning from.

If you have some grand vision for ‘changing the way we do business’, start with something smaller first and build up to it.

Avoid Taking The Path Of Least Resistance

Once you’ve chosen a simple app idea for your first project, the next step is to start making it. Now you’ll be presented with a lot of options: you can use an app builder, you can use Android Studio, you can use Basic4Android, you can use Corona

All of these are tools and/or IDEs (Independent Development Environments) that facilitate the creation of your app’s code. If you’re creating a game meanwhile, you might choose to use Unity which streamlines the process by providing a ready-made engine and intuitive interface, while handling a lot of the physics and other code for you. Or you can always outsource the programming to a developer rather than handling everything yourself (more on this in a moment!).

corona-sim

So which is the best choice for building your app? That very much depends on the nature of the app, your time frame and your current level of expertise. But what’s key here is that you take the fastest and least complicated route. Don’t be a snob about tools that make things easier.

If you’re making a game for instance, then using Unity will save you a huge amount of time and the end result will be much more professional than if you’d done it all yourself. That’s because the physics engine in Unity has been created by a team of professionals and refined over several years – unless you can rival that amount of time and experience, then their physics engine will always be better than one you build. And seeing as it’s ready to ‘plug and play’, it really doesn’t make any sense to make life more difficult for yourself. Even using a simplified app builder is fine if your app only needs to convey information.

For those of you familiar with web design, this is the equivalent of building your own website from scratch versus using WordPress. WordPress, like Unity or certain app builders, will allow you to build something more professional in a fraction of the time.

You can find out more in our guide: I want to develop Android Apps – What languages should I learn?

Do Everything Yourself

Asking for help is also very important. Don’t try and make all the graphics yourself unless this is something you’re specifically good at. The same goes for the sound.

You can find good graphic designers on Fiverr, UpWork or Elance and again they’ll be able to make something much more professional in far less time. Focus on what you’re good at and let others handle the rest.

If you’re going to hire a developer though, then take extra measures to make sure they’re good at what they do before you commit. Ask to see samples of their work and look for someone local wherever possible so you can speed up the refinement process.

Skip The Validation Process

Even if you’re creating a small app in the easiest way possible, you’re still going to be investing a fair amount of time and/or money into its creation. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to start building until you know for sure that there’s a market out there for you (or until you’re as sure as you can be).

This is called ‘validating’ the idea – which essentially means getting proof that there is sufficient interest in what you’ve got planned to make the development worthwhile.

I knew someone who spent two years building an app, hired a legal team and even paid to trademark the name; only for the final product to sell about three copies…

Taking to Kickstarter is a fantastic way to validate an idea and to get funds for hiring coders and designers (though it still doesn’t guarantee success). Alternatively, you might take the ‘fail fast’ approach where you release your MVP (minimum viable product) to test the market before investing more time and effort to develop it further.

There are other strategies for validating an idea too: such as conducting surveys, asking around on forums, building a mailing list or looking for similar apps to yours to see how they’re performing.

Think as well about your ‘route to market’ and any contacts you may already have that you can work with. If you happen to know the editor of Gardening Weekly, then making an app aimed at gardeners might just be a smart move. I made one app with a very popular YouTube vlogger and that meant I could be fairly certain it would reach a large audience. With the risk mitigated, that allowed us to spend more time on the app prior to its initial launch.

In short, you need to consider how you’re going to sell your app before you create it and you mustn’t spend months and years building something unless you can be fairly sure it won’t flop. I knew someone who spent two years building an app, hired a legal team and even paid to trademark the name; only for the final product to sell about three copies…

As you might imagine, they rather quickly lost their enthusiasm for app development.

Conclusion: Keep It Simple!

If you’re building an app purely out of love/for the fun of it then you can disregard everything I just said. This article applies to those of you who want to start earning money from apps. If you’re looking to make this into a business so you can exit the rat race, or if you plan on supplementing your current income, then you should focus on ROI. That means assessing the risk against the potential profit to be made and it means finding ways to reduce your overheads – both financial and time-wise.

Try not to get carried away with app ideas that will change the world. You’re far more likely to make money from something simple and easy and there’s nothing wrong with that. For every Mark Zuckerberg, there are countless people who get rich from gardening apps or fancy calculators.

And the best part about this business model is that it’s highly repeatable. If the first app doesn’t make a splash, just rinse and repeat. It’s a lot of fun and you’ll learn as you go. If throw enough ideas at the wall – as long as they’re ideas you believe in – eventually something will stick!

  • AnthonyKR

    Great article with some excellent and simple concepts! That last line really is key for me: believe in what you’re working on. Honestly, I wonder how many times app creators said to themselves before starting, “this is something I would use. I wonder if others would too?”

  • pyroflyx

    IDE is Integrated Development Environment, not independent. As in, the compiler, editing environment, debugger are all integrated into a single piece of software.

  • Renascienza

    Dude, really: “app makers” create shitty code. There is so much poorly built apps threatening Android ecossystem, draining battery and network from users, we don’t need more.

    In time, Unity is not an “app maker” is a development plattform.

    Is there a difference between a productivity tool that accelerates the work of a true developer and a crutch that promises to allow a layman to make an application.

    So, please don’t encourage this.

    Make a good or even average app is hard. Probably always will be. My best counsel is if you want start on this market and you are not a developer, learn to be or hire one.

    If you don’t want/can do this, please stay out.

    • adel

      Wow, pardon me but I see your comment retarded.
      Telling people to stay out just because they can’t make a snappy app.

      “App maker” is not the problem here, it’s the misuse of them that’s the problem.
      I always regard those so called “app maker” as prototyping tools.
      They are quick to convey ideas into a working product.
      They are useful for quick prototyping, demo for client, communicate with designer.
      But as a stable & performant product? No.
      No one in their right mind would release a prototype as production-ready app.

      Unity? Unity is just another prototyping tools.
      It is good to get you started in game development.
      It has decent Editor that greatly simplify game development pipeline.
      But as you reached more advanced game techniques, such as custom physics, space partitioning, dynamic modules, and so on, you’ll quickly hate Unity.

      • Renascienza

        At first, please make it clear what u mean by the word “retarded”: you mean “late” or you want specifically to offend me?

        If you *wanted* me to offend or use the word to undermine the comment somehow first demonstrate why I should take you seriously, and then I can decide whether or not feel offended, ok? Because, currently, I’m not.

        The “App Maker” concept is used to products that intend generate ALL application code just from somekind of meta data. Is impossible do it right and ends with a botched application, that undermine system, wastes resources and give to all developer class a 1$ more of bad reputation.

        The attitude of crooks who try to push this type of product for the naive is very funny sometimes…

        Once I saw a Youtube tutorial from one of these and put some comments asking how the team solve this particular problem, and this other, and that…

        Comment removed. :)

        If you aren’t a developer but need demo your idea for a client, there is a bunch of design prototype tools to use it (including the cheaper and best: pen and paper). Even so, you need some UX training or you build a crappy design.

        A “prototyping code tool” is another kind of beast. It generates… Prototypes! :)

        A prototype is not based on your high level meta data idea, so if you want your product you are forced to code, with or without help from another tools.

        Sorry, but if you think that Unity is just a prototype tool, you don’t really know it. Unity *have* libraries and prototype tools inside, instead. Just like any developer plattform or even IDE.

        If you don’t fully like the libraries that Unity offer (I don’t), you need to use another alternatives, or write yourself to some blocks, of even entire layers (you don’t write monolitic code bases, right?).

        All said, my message still is the same:

        *** There is no possible tool to allow untrained people to create applications. If you have no training, you need to learn or hire someone. If you can’t, or don’t want it, please STAY OUT ***

  • EngineerGunter

    Entrepreneur => entrepreneurship…
    Wantrepreneur => wantrepreneurship?

  • Felix the cat

    Very good article!
    In my case, I use 3 rule of thumb when developing software:
    1. Start simple.
    2. Keep it simple.
    3. Use the simplest thing that works.

    Every software project tends to become increasingly complex over time, so it’s imperative to keep things as simple as possible.
    Don’t be shy to use ready-made frameworks, engine, templates, or even appmaker. You can always refine your skill later, using better and better tools as you progress.

  • awesome post…..
    http://nowgadgets.com

  • Scr-U-gle

    …and make it for iOS first, like all the real developers do.
    ?

    • Renascienza

      Except if you decide don’t support iOS at all, like us! :)

      • Scr-U-gle

        Great business sense, not developing for the only ecosystem that makes any money.

        How is life living in a cardboard box?

        • Renascienza

          That is your perception?

          Well, I don’t know how is the market for amateurs looking for some sort of easy money, because this is not our focus. iOS is helping you with?

          But I can say that for those who have a sustainable strategy, life is good enough, thank you.

          In time, cardboard is a really nice technology, we don’t have oriented products to it yet, but can get in our plans as soon as we determine that our customers will benefit from it. :)

          • Scr-U-gle

            Not perception, the facts back me up. The issue is you Andrones don’t understand things like facts.

            Now you pretend to be a Dev, only problem is you have product to put your name to.

            No, I do not want to go large.

          • Renascienza

            If you really have no idea about our size, is better don’t make assumptions.

          • Scr-U-gle

            Name one app you can put your name to?

            All goes quiet….

            Next!

          • Renascienza

            My focus is B2B. I indeed have an app B2C on storage, yes. Just a weekend project but Isn’t really hard to find.

            Sure, if you trying on Apple Store, you are obvious seeking on wrong place. I already told you: Android only.

            But no, I have no practice to advertising our work on blogs freely. When we need, we pay for. People generally don’t liked. So you need search for yourself.

          • Scr-U-gle

            Lmfao.

            Of course, businesses want the least secure OS available, good one.

          • Renascienza

            And you insist to talk about something that you obviously know nothing about…

          • Scr-U-gle

            Tell us about how the worlds leading experts laugh in the face of Eric Shit when he made the same claims you make?

            No I do not want to go large!

          • Renascienza

            Sorry, but what “leading experts” you are talking about, and what claims from Eric Smith, specifically?

            Seems like another bullshit that don’t survive under sunlight (I think that you don’t follow my advise…), so please proceed, that can be fun.

          • Scr-U-gle

            Oh dear, seems like you don’t have much of a clue, who is Eric Smith?

            Maybe if you got out of your walled garden of Scr-U-gle and try Bing searching for Eric Shit laughed at by worlds leading security experts, you can hear it on the video as they laugh at him.

            This is getting quite funny now, are you a waiter at fawlty towers?

            No I don’t want a meal deal Manuel! Keh?

            Remind me how bad UNIX Certified OSX is and how much better UNIX is, seeing as they are the same?

            Androne, the “open book” OS.

          • Renascienza

            If I remember well, once upon a time Eric said that Android system and ecossystem is more secure than iOS. Is what you are talking about?

            Well, seems that he was right, anyway. iCloud was hacked, exposing Jennifer Lawrence nude photos and more personal data about other millions of users. Some time later, a core library to iOS applications (XCode) was infected with malware, affecting almost a hundred of *previously thrusted* apps at time.

            I have never seen events of this magnitude occurring with the Android ecosystem, so I think that Eric really got it. Would he have a crystal ball?

            But to be serious now: I know it can be shocking to a layman, but the first thing about software is that there is no such thing like an unbreakable system. Since Android is an open system (as Linux, but not Unix), we hear about vulnerabilities every day. That is why they are repaired and not become large in proportion attacks. As these *disasters*.

            And a last thing… when you refer to any kind of “experts” please, give us **names**. Unlike your case, many of us are experts in our fields as well (encryption and digital security is no coincidence mine) and the word “expert” does not mean “God” to us, but “colleague”. They are only professionals, who have names.

          • Scr-U-gle

            Tldr

            An ‘expert’ who can’t string a cogent sentance together and spends a full working day on Disqus, you are not fooling anyone.

            Got to where you thought you know what your talking about but got it so wrong it’s embrassing.

            Really try with some facts instead of the standard androne responses that are bullshit.

            You are still avoid the point, is UNIX wonderful and OS X UNIX certified not?

            What an imbecile you really show yourself to be.

  • Matteo Contrini

    Are you trying to teach developers how to do their work? O.o

  • gfowler103

    Make Money cash app is easy use this code to get your first 100 credits..NP4100

  • jh1289

    I am a moderately skilled, but forward thinking C# developer. I created an app in the Windows Phone/Mobile store about 4 years ago that gained about 10,000 users (possibly not bad for the Windows Phone store), but the ad revenue was pitiful and I made about $75. I spent a year of my life (free time only) writing this app. It has a 4.5 star rating in the Windows Store.

    I did some Java many years ago (around 2003) and am wondering if I learn the latest Java incarnation, and write a halfway useful Android app, if I have a fair chance of attracting users? The market seems very crowded with an app to do just about everything already. I just wonder if there’s a chance for new developers that aren’t actually the next Zuckerberg.