So far, I have documented 49 Android business models, only one of which involves selling individual apps to individual users via the Android Market.
Model #50 is to get paid up front.
Once you have established some credibility, perhaps through a free app or two, you might consider trying to fund your app development before you actually build the app, or at least before you complete the app. While this may cap how much you make, it also limits your downside risk.
This may sound bizarre. After all, if you are having difficulty getting people to pay 99 cents for an app on the Market, how can you get people to pay money before there is even an app?
Yet some developers and other folk have managed to pull it off.
Take, for example, Zombie Defense for the iPhone. This project was initiated via Kickstarter, a site for enabling this sort of project funding. He requested $700 up front to complete the app, based on a short project description. He collected $701 from a total of 14 people.
Why did they contribute?
Some probably did because they thought the game might be interesting. Others, though, were in it for the rewards.
What Kickstarter promotes is selling things that are scarce — such as being mentioned on a credits page in the app — to help fund the development of things that are not necessarily scarce (in this case, copies of an app). In this case, while the rewards were…well…not earth-shattering, they were apparently sufficient to get the seed money the developer wanted to complete the project.
The app itself is not free (after a trial period), so the developer still gets money from the iPhone App Store for sales.
Will this work for everyone? Probably not. After all, there are other iPhone projects on Kickstarter that haven’t received much funding at all. However:
- If you have established a dialogue with existing users of your apps (via a newsletter, blog, Twitter, whatever), you will have an easier time than if you are just trying to beg for money from the public at large. After all, your current users have already demonstrated interest in your work.
- If you can come up with creative rewards, you will have an easier time enticing people to fund you. Can the user be a character in your game? Can the user get votes on features to include in your app? Can the user get this new app, or past ones, for free by helping to fund up front? Will you be willing to release the app for free for everyone if you get enough funding?
- In the end, a weak app proposal will have as much difficulty getting funded up front as it would getting sales later on. In fact, this is one of the advantages of a Kickstarter model — it can help you gauge potential interest in the app.
Kickstarter will not work for everyone and will not be right for every app. But, it is certainly something you could consider, in your quest to make money at mobile.