Have you ever thought of an idea, something quick and easy, that you could launch in an afternoon and start taking money straight away? This is what happened to me with InboxCleaner, and six months later, here’s how it’s going.

Creating a New Tool

After a bumper month of TweetingMachine sales, I decided to write another tool to see if I could repeat the minor success. My only problem was that I didn’t have the free time to write a full system like TweetingMachine, nor the money to afford a decent outsourcing effort. Not willing to give up, I sat down with the thoughtΒ Do one thing, and do it well running about in my head.

Twitter has a feature called Direct Messages. They’re how two users can send private messages between one another. Now, for reasons known only to Twitter’s engineers, there is no simple, quick or easy way to delete all of your Direct Messages; you must delete them one-by-one, which is both cumbersome and time consuming.

Realising that I could steal a lot of code from TweetingMachine, I bought the Constellation theme from ThemeForest and set to work. From beginning to end, this was about 6 hours work.

I spent another hour or so submitting to every Twitter tools directory I could find. I also contacted lots of people on Twitter and asked if they’d give my app a try. Happily for me, lots of people appeared to be interested.

Money? It’s Free!

To help spread the word about InboxCleaner, I decided to disable charging for the time being, and instead offer the tool for free. The response? Lots of very happy users.

I left it free for a couple of weeks, all the time reading lots of happy comments, before I started charging $4.99/year… and promptly had lots of very upset users.

My mistake quickly became obvious: I had built a tool for an audience that didn’t like to spend money.

What to Charge?

In an effort to entice users to part with their hard-earned money, I made InboxCleaner free for life – just as long as you don’t mind being limited to only 50 deletes per day.

The first month, I had zero sales. None, whatsoever. Then – aha! – a moment of excitement! Two signups on the same day! Maybe this will make me rich after all! Sadly, that wasn’t to be the case: one signup cancelled within a week; and no new users came along to pay until 3 weeks later.

I sat down and thought about it. Users were certainly willing to try the service. A couple pay for it as well! Maybe I need a rock-bottom price? So I tried $0.99/year.

No dice. Double the number of paid users. Definitely not worth the hassle.

I had one final experiment ready: up the price to $4.99/month.

The Future

A subscription to InboxCleaner has cost $4.99/month for the last few months, and I’m starting to see a pattern emerge: 4-6 people sign up per month, of which half cancel their subscription within a week or two, and the rest stay on. In June the tool earned was $50.

Given the high cancellation rate, users can’t be happy with the end product. My pet theory is that most want to empty their inbox once or twice a year, and not have to worry about it again. A monthly rate makes no sense for these users.

With this in mind, I’m contemplating charging a one-off lifetime fee of $19.99. I’m not sure if this will work, but given that some people appear to be willing to pay, I figure it’s worth a shot.

In total, the project has brought in around $200. I’ve watched my time on this (thankfully, support emails are close to zero), and with the 10 hours of work, it’s not an absolutely terribly hourly rate. Just one that’s taken a long time to pay out :)

Written by Tom

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