Nobody ever wants to talk about money.
But current and prospective indie app developers could really use more information on the subject. I’ve seen some very informative and helpful posts from developers revealing their revenue numbers, including:
I’ve decided that the potential educational and market-research benefits to others of adding Overcast to the mix will be greater than the risk of people thinking I’m an asshole for doing so. I hope this is helpful to anyone researching the indie iOS market or thinking about entering it.
Overcast is a podcast player for iOS that I launched on July 16, 2014 after working on it full-time for about 15 months. It’s a free download with a single non-consumable in-app purchase, “Unlock Everything”, at the $5 tier.
It had a perfect launch that far exceeded my expectations — it was the best launch an indie developer could possibly hope for, with tons of great press, a mid-level App Store feature, and thousands of tweets on launch day.
For calendar year 2014:
- 318,996 total downloads. Approximately 200,000 launched the app and got far enough to create an account.
- 46,940 in-app purchases (14.7%).
- $164,134 total revenue after Apple’s 30%1 but before any taxes or expenses.2
- $85,715 received in the first month alone.
Per month, excluding the launch month (since it’s an extreme outlier):
- 27,952 average monthly downloads.
- 4,569 average monthly in-app purchases (16.3%).
- $15,684 average monthly revenue.
Some graphs from Appfigures:
Daily downloads and IAP revenue, after launch month
Daily IAP revenue alone, after launch month
Expenses are relatively low, with total server and hosting costs at about $750 per month. (For comparison, my family’s health insurance costs almost twice that.)
The biggest expense in 2014 was a trademark-coexistence agreement to use the Overcast name that cost about $12,000, and I believe the name was worth the cost. (My other names sucked.) I then trademarked Overcast for a few thousand dollars to secure it for my own use within the agreement, and I have trademark applications pending on Smart Speed and Voice Boost3 — anyone is welcome to copy those features, but I simply ask that they call them something else.4
Having a free app with IAP seems to be a smoothing filter on sales — as you can see from the downloads-vs.-IAP graphs above, downloads are correlated to IAP sales but vary much more, with the daily revenue staying in a smaller range than the downloads.
The biggest unknown in the App Store is what happens after the launch has settled down. I don’t know what 2015 will bring, or where sales will bottom out. (With past apps, February was always my worst month, and not just because it has fewer days.) Promisingly, sales in the last 6 months have stayed within a fairly narrow range and aren’t showing a clear downward trend, although the bumps in November and December can be easily attributed to temporary boosts from Serial and Christmas.
Overall, I’m very satisfied with Overcast’s finances so far. It’s not setting the world on fire, but it’s making good money. For most people, the App Store won’t be a lottery windfall, but making a decent living is within reach for many.
After the self-employment penalties in taxes and benefits, I’m probably coming in under what I could get at a good full-time job in the city, but I don’t have to actually work for someone else on something I don’t care about. I can work in my nice home office, drink my fussy coffee, take a nap after lunch if I want to, and be present for my family as my kid grows up. That’s my definition of success.
Apple made $70,343 from Overcast in 2014. ↩︎
This is sales that occurred in 2014 — the actual amount of revenue received in Overcast’s bank account in 2014 was less due to the roughly 2-month delay between when sales occur and when the money arrives. ↩︎
All three are pretty narrowly claimed, as required by most modern trademarks. I can’t stop someone from making a weather app named Overcast, for example, unless they tried to confuse people into thinking it was my app. The trademark is mainly useful when requesting takedowns of fraudulent clones and keyword squatters. ↩︎
The marketing of Smart Speed, in particular, could be an entire blog post on its own. How do you market the biggest differentiating feature of your app when, by design, you can’t even tell when it’s on? ↩︎