The Million Dollar App Developer | 9 Successful Traits To Make Money

Becoming a great app developer takes practice and the right tools. If you jump in head first without knowing what you’re doing, you could end up wasting a lot of time and money. But there are big opportunities out there for people in the know.

Forecasts from Statista show that worldwide mobile app revenues could reach more than $45 billion by the end of 2015. The number of free mobile app downloads this year could be over 167 billion. The market is there for people who want to go out there an get a piece.

So, what do you need to know to become a successful developer? Start with the advice in this article and you’ll already be way ahead of the game.

Find your niche the smart way.

Use statistics, studies, and reports to find a winning app idea. Figure out what’s hot in the app world. A recent Smart Insights article showed that games, social networking, and utilities are hot categories right now.

One bit of caution: Be careful about taking on mobile projects that have already been mastered by others. It’s tough for new developers to make an app like Instagram or Uber from scratch (and be successful).

Take advantage of source codes.

Why start from scratch when you can use awesome source codes that are already ready for you? These are basically “app templates” that you can use to make your own app. Here’s why you want them:

  • Cost savings. We’re talking maybe a hundred dollars vs. thousands of dollars.
  • Speed. It takes days (maybe even hours) vs. weeks (maybe even months).
  • Ease of use. The best source codes come with online tutorials that show you how it’s done.

It’s a killer deal. With some minor tweaks, your app can be completely unique and different. This strategy works.

Use analytics and track your ROI

If you want to be a successful developer, you’ll need to keep track of how much money you’re making. You can use free tools like Flurry or Google Analytics to measure downloads, active users, session length, frequency, retention, and other metrics.

By learning simple data about your users, you can make drastic improvements that will earn positive reviews and help you gain traction in the market. More downloads will give you more revenue opportunities, which will improve your ROI.

Be seen on social media.

These days, you pretty much have to be on social media if you want to be in the mobile app business. Facebook is the most popular social media channel for developers. But it isn’t the only option.

Do your research and figure out where your audience hangs out. It’s a good idea to start building your social media presence before you even launch your app. Get the word out early and start generating some buzz. It will help you have a better launch day.

Develop apps for the devices you devices

It makes sense, right? If you don’t have an iPhone, it might be hard to develop solid iPhone apps. You have to understand the user experience.

Learning to run codes on simulators is key for testing and tweaking the user interface. If you want to develop apps for iOS, you really need to shell out the money for a Mac (if you don’t have one). Otherwise, it’s a huge headache.

Learn ASO and other marketing basics.

App Store Optimization, or ASO, makes it easy for people to find your app. It involves keywords in the title and app description, plus localization, screenshots, and icons. Use all your metadata fields and be sure to export your screenshots to all devices.

Don't launch your app incomplete.  If you haven't thoroughly researched and inputted important metadata, then your app is incomplete and won't make it far.

A good strategy for creating hit apps is to research your ASO first. Then you can come up with a wireframe as you go. If you understand basic marketing, you’ll be able to properly position your app relative to the competition. Focus on needs in the market and how your app can benefit users.

To get a complete ASO education, take our ASO course. If you doubt that ASO works, then read this post. It will give you 15 case studies that should convince you that it is worth doing.

Understand the technical basics.

You don’t have to learn how to code. That’s one of the benefits of starting with a source code. But you should take the time to learn how to upload with platforms like Xcode. Even swapping out resources can save thousands of dollars, and its a simple drag-and-drop maneuver!  You need to know how to upload your app, use ad IDs, change in-app purchases, and other basic things.

A good strategy is to ask your developer to record a screencast or write steps on how to do this. If you don't have a developer, be sure to read our tips on hiring your first developer.

Learning this stuff will really help you grow your business. Don’t be intimidated by it. You can actually learn the basics in about 20 minutes. It’s worth the effort to step up your game and keep some money in your pocket.

Push yourself and evolve.

Launching your first app is just the beginning. If you want to stay on top in this business, you have to find new markets and revenue streams. There’s more than one way to make money, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

buckets of money-01You’re bound to make mistakes, but the winners are the ones who figure out how to solve problems and push through the hard times.  Checkout Mark Hall's struggle and success in the app game in the post Conquer Games.

It helps to find something you’re actually passionate about. Think big and venture out into areas that haven’t been explored yet. That’s a great way to find areas that have big returns.

I know it seems like all the good ideas have been done, but there are tons of untapped buckets of money in the mobile market waiting to be discovered. You just have to find them.

Share your knowledge with others.

Mobile app development is a journey. If you stick with it, you’ll end up learning so much. There are so many amazing people out there who are actually stoked about helping new developers.

Life is all about giving back. Pay it forward by giving other people support when you can. You’re responsible for helping others by handing down what you’ve learned.

That’s what Bluecloud does. These guys are all about sharing their knowledge. Be sure to sign up for the mailing list to get awesome advice delivered to your inbox.

Share some stories of development lessons you've learned the hard way.


  • Matt March 19, 2015

    Hi Melissa, thanks for these advices! To “technical basics”, I’d add : learn to master the ads networks. Start with two or three. Understand how they work in the code, and once you know how to the basics with xcode, take one or two days to learn how to implement their SDK and how to show ads at certain locations in the app. It requires to know how a code is structured plus understand a few lines of code but it’s has a double advantage : you can test you ads placements & networks on the fly and you don’t need to pay someone to make any change in the code. Big money saver when you’re still running after the breakeven point…

  • Matt March 19, 2015

    And I forgot one thing : it allows you to fine tune your ad pressure level to find the sweet spot between angry users and a “remove ads” iAP conversion 🙂

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas March 19, 2015

    Awesome stuff. Thanks!

  • Tania March 19, 2015

    That’s a good suggestion on the ad code. I still haven’t really got my head around it and I pay someone to add it into the code and do tweaks because I don’t understand it and don’t have a Mac. I try reading the reports and tracking them but I never really know how to change things on the fly. Doesn’t that involve resubmitting the app each time you change the ad code or are there ways of making changes in the ad network dashboard to turn on/off options?

    I know revmob earns next to nothing. I’d love to turn that off and increase my chartboost interstitials but I think you need to resubmit the binary to do that???

    A tutorial on ad networks, installing them and changing things like ad frequency/placement would be great!!!

  • Matt March 20, 2015

    @Tania : take some time to read and understand the help guides provided by the ad networks, even if you don’t have a mac and don’t dive into the code. There is a ton of valuable information, and you’ll know what you talk about when you ask someone to do the job which has a double advantage : you know what it takes to do a particular task (cost optimization!) and you know what to ask. In this case, you can ask your developper to add “ad placements” in the code : main menu, game over, level completed, level failed, app reactivated… You’ll be able to monitor and turn on/off ads at different placements in the online dashboards provided by ad networks (works very well for chartboost and playhaven). If all this isn’t already in place in the code, yes you’ll have to resubmit! Once it’s written in the code, no need to resubmit to do the optimization 🙂

  • Hitendra+pratap April 8, 2015

    Nicely written Melissa!
    It’s really important for developers to focus more on marketing and analytics (aka knowing user behavior).

    I would add that, If you are creating mobile games, then get on with or for analytics. It does so much more than flurry, right out of the box.

  • Melissa+Wood+Reed April 29, 2015

    Thanks for the tip Hitendra. I’ll definitely look into those resources.

  • tolulope February 6, 2017

    thanks carter for the info pls include video in all your posts thanks

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