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Is a web app earning $100/month a failure?

One of the lessons life teaches early on is that many decisions are not easy to make. Sometimes it’s a case of choosing a bar of chocolate over a packet of crisps/chips. Traumatic, but do-able. This is a quick follow-up to a post at the start of the month about InboxCleaner.

It’s been several weeks since I implemented the pricing change from $4.99/month to a one-time fee of $19.99. In a very small way, it’s been a success; I’ve had four people sign up for it, and if the rate continues, I’m due a fifth member before the month is out.

In one quick moment, InboxCleaner has gone from taking $50/month to $100/month. Yay!

On the other hand: it’s still not that much money. I’m starting to wonder if I’d be better off making it 100% free and using it purely to promote TweetingMachine. Several people seem to think so, and the idea does appeal to me.

The question I’m juggling with is: will any of the people using InboxCleaner be interested in buying something like TweetingMachine? I.e. is it the right target audience? Answers on a postcard, please…

Written by Tom

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Published inInboxCleanerWeb Apps


  1. I think at least part of your problem is that on this blog there is no way of seeing what projects you’ve made or many links to them in your blog post.

    Seriously, add a portfolio section to this blog.

    • Tom Tom

      Heh, can’t believe I didn’t think of that, just added a quick page, thanks :)

  2. Nathan Nathan

    Is it a failure? That depends. How much does it cost you to run? How much time did you spend building it? How much are you making per hour of your work? Is that an acceptable amount of money to you? Are you actually losing money?

  3. If inbox cleaner sends a daily/weekly/monthly summary there is a chance for you to send an advertising message.

    Email advertising – for yourself or someone else can still be effective – a simple trade that many people would have no problem with. Sign up for HARO if you want to see someone who runs a successful email advertising based business. His format is

    Advertisement —-


  4. Nathan Nathan

    Maybe this is a dumb question but a lot of startups dont do this… have you actually asked current/potential InboxCleaner customers if they would be be interested in buying something like TweetingMachine? You’d be surprised in the answers that you get

    • Tom Tom

      I haven’t asked so far – I’m kinda tempted to stick a small banner ad up on the top and see what happens then. It might irritate a few people, but if it’s only there for a week or so, I guess it might give me an idea of whether the average user would convert or not. Hrm :)

  5. The way I figure it is, if it consistently clears $100/month **more than the value of the time you put into it each month**, hey, you’ve got a new macbook every year.

  6. At the end of the day only you can say whether or not $100 a month is a success or failure. The main criteria should be how much time you spent making it. In your previous post you say you spent about 6 hours on Inbox Cleaner. Thus, at $100 per month x 12 months = $1,200 per year. Take that and divide it by the 6 hours and you get an hourly rate of $200, pretty good if you ask me.

    As for whether or not you would be better off using it as promotional tool, I and most other people here probably can’t say for sure. My gut feeling is that the two markets probably won’t crossover that well and you are better off just keeping the income stream you have. Of course you won’t know unless you test.

  7. You should seriously consider making it a pay-per-use service. A buck or two to delete all my old messages sounds good. People don’t want to get into a “relationship” with an app they’re only going to use once a year. The subscription model is too “clingy” for this app, imo.

    • Tom Tom

      The current payment model is a one-time fee, no lasting relationship required.

      I’m not convinced on the merits of pay-per-use, as I think users will get confused by anything more than the most basic of charging structures. That, and $1-$2 doesn’t leave much after fees. Oh well :)

      • Good call, I misread it.

        Congrats on generating *any* money off your web apps. If they make more than they cost you (in time as well), it’s a success.

  8. Jed Jed

    Of course its not a failure, there’s revenue. I’m just not sure about the pricing. Like, if you could provide long term support to your customers now that they own a lifetime subscription. Charge $2/month or $19.99/year but not maybe a one time charge.

    • Tom Tom

      I was previously charging $4.99/month, and before that $19.99/year – so far, the one-time fee is winning by a considerable amount. Whether that’ll continue next month, though… 😉

  9. Sebastián Grignoli Sebastián Grignoli

    This story only surprised me the first time I heard it, but it happened to a lot of people, and it makes sense. Now I think it’s the only way to succeed:
    Someone at he radio asks a very succesful rock band leader how did they become a sensation overnight. The musician then responses that it happen overnight indeed, but the had the band playing underground for ten years before that night.
    Just give it time.

  10. Just remember, $100 is waaay more than most people make off their web apps, blogs, whatever.

    For reference, I wrote this a year after launching my web app: At the time, I would have been ecstatic to make $100 a month off it. Now, we make significantly more than that.

    It’s impossible to know where something will go, but it’s pretty tough to get to $1000/mo without getting to $100/mo. You have to ask yourself how much faith you have that you can grow it further. If you’re convinced you’ve hit the ceiling then try something else. Otherwise, have a little patience.

  11. Sachin Nayak Sachin Nayak

    Its not a failure, its an investment.

    Most of the cost of a product is the continued support, reduce that and you got a “good” investment.

    So is 100$/month a guaranteed revenue? If you stop support to InboxCleaner, do you lose this revenue stream.

    Think of the time you put in previously as an investment. If the 100$/month is guaranteed, you could use it to fund your next projects.

    If you feel that 100$/month is not guaranteed, check up publicizing it, so that your guaranteed revenue subtract advertisement cost gives a way of funding your next project. Thats why I would not call it a failure, but would call it as an investment.

    Creativity cannot be a failure. Making revenue more practical thru advertising or demos would be the question.

    If you feel that you can get a revenue stream by some modifications on how it is being showcased, think of the product as a fund generating machine, until your actual product comes live.

  12. Freemium is the best road to take these days my friend and it allows you the best of both worlds in your case. If you don’t know what freemium is just google it but, basically you give out your service for free and give the option for a “premium” pay version. It sounds a bit scary but, it actually works out and a long list of services you use probably do this and have been with success. Evernote uses this model and there CEO even publicly admits there really is no difference between the free and premium accounts. People simply pay because they love the service and support it and the mind-blowing part of this is that everyone ISN’T Loosing money on this, in fact they claim to be making a decent profit doing this that there happy with and will enable them to grow. I’m guessing young developer like me, if that’s the case I hink your number one priority should be building up a reputation and mailing list of potential customers for your future apps and projects and the set way to do that is giving people a great product for free. I hope this was helpful i am also working om a few apps myself that will use this model,qId love to stay in touch and see where you go with his. My twitter is @fresh83

    • Tom Tom

      I should have mentioned: InboxCleaner *is* freemium; the user can delete a few messages a day for free, or the entire lot for the price :)

  13. Nicolas Nicolas

    It’s your app. You are the only one that can decide wether it is a failure or not. Here is some food for your thoughts :

    If you planned on making a lot more, then yes it is.
    If you planned on making a little more, then no, it is not yet.
    If you planned on making less, then it is not.

    From what I read, it looks like it’s option 2. Which means it’s time to work on promoting your app some more.

    It is important to have goals. In the form of an amount of income, and a maximal period of time to achieve it. For instance, right now you could say “I want to earn at least $300 per month from that app in less than 6 months”.

    Cliffnotes : minimal earning + date = clear goal = answer to your question.

  14. Maybe you need to change the name of the app. Think SEO, maybe people just are not looking for it. Your app focuses on twitter and does something usefull that people may not know they need. You may want to call it “twitter email remover”. I know it’s not as sexy, but it should show up in search results better.

  15. Dixon Dixon

    It’s definitely not a failure. Think about how much you are learning about pricing and what your target market will pay for. This may not be the be all and end all web app but, as you make future web apps, the learnings from this experience will net considerable rewards.

  16. Brian Brian

    Hey, $100 a month is free money. Enjoy the free money. Build up a reserve. At some point you will need it. Also, at some point you can use it to launch other products.

    Keep putting out new stuff or keep pouring into existing ones, but either way, don’t kill it if it’s making you good money.

  17. Rupert Rupert

    One time payments are ok if there are constantly new sign-ups, and the old sign-ups don’t require alot of support. Old sign ups will also use server resources etc. that you will be getting no revenue from. I tend to prefer recurring revenue of these reasons, but that depends alot on the app.

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