This is my first annual review, and what a year it’s been! A doubling of revenues, several new apps launched… but sadly still nowhere near being able to work full-time on them. That’s my target for 2012; turn these from paying the rent to paying a full-time salary instead. So without further ado, here are the details:

I launched 4 new SaaS apps in 2011: Interactwive, twitter contest managerFasterDev, Facebook development tool; InboxCleaner, for deleting Twitter direct messages; and CampaignBar, website marketing tool. I also started implementing the advice I’d read elsewhere and tested the potential for EasyEmailProtection, a Gmail burglar alarm. Finally, Twitter tool TweetingMachine ran happily in the background.

The Failures

1. FasterDev

At the start of 2011, developing apps on Facebook was still surprisingly painful. The developer tools provided by Facebook were sorely lacking, and I saw a potential market for an app I had created for my own purposes. I quickly knocked together FasterDev and started telling the world about it.

Sadly, I had made a painful mistake which stopped search engines from indexing FasterDev’s website, to the extent that you couldn’t even find it by Googling for “FasterDev”. By the time I figured out where the problem lay, FasterDev had been meandering along for six or so months. And then Facebook improved their tools, I’d stopped developing for their platform, and the whole thing’s gathering dust now.

Total revenue in 2011: $100.

2. CampaignBar

I’ve previously written about my many, many mistakes with CampaignBar. My biggest mistake was doing zero research and thinking that if I build it, people would magically start using it, simply because it’s such an awesome idea. That and a complete and utter inability to explain what it does, how it helps solve the problem and so on… not pretty. Oh well. It was a learning experience.

Total revenue in 2011: $0.

The Successes

1. TweetingMachine

I first told the story of TweetingMachine back in April of this year. At the time it was bringing in revenue of around $500/month, against expenses of $20/month hosting, c. $10/month domain fee, and 1-2 hours/month of support costs. I’m delighted to say that since then, TweetingMachine has slowly grown to a little under $1,000/month – at time of writing, the total’s standing just $40 short for this month.

After receiving a lot of advice regarding TweetingMachine, I spent a couple of days rewriting the copy, and fixing a couple of new browser bugs. I’m probably going to leave TM running in this state whilst working on other projects that I think have greater potential.

2. InboxCleaner

I had a couple of moments this year where I wondered whether to scrap InboxCleaner altogether and use it as a promotional tool instead. Imagine my surprise – and wonder, frankly – when I finally found a price point that worked to the tune of earning $200/month! Previously I’d tried $4.99/year, $4.99/month, and higher and lower variations on that. Nothing has worked as well as the current one-off fee of $19.99. I’m tempted to try other one-off fee prices (say, $9.99, or even $4.99), but given the current support costs of zero, I’m reluctant to rock the boat.

3. EasyEmailProtection

I had the idea for a Gmail burglar alarm after reading some comments elsewhere. I wrote a proof-of-concept just to make sure that what I wanted to offer was feasible, and then set about getting people to sign up for a mailing list, and gauging their opinions. I received a lot of feedback, very little of which was happy about my idea of charging for such a service

I sat down and thought about ways to monetize a premium service – and, by the way, the idea itself people seemed to love! – but ultimately decided to shelve the idea; right now I think I still need to work on my core skills, and doubt I could pull off a truly successful freemium product.

Why do I list EasyEmailProtection under successes? It was the first time I attempted the marketing side of things first, leaving development for afterwards. Had I repeated the mistake of CampaignBar, I would have another few months of development with nothing to show for them.

The Potential Success?

1. Interactwive

The idea for Interactwive came to me one day: wouldn’t it be great if I could save people huge amounts of time when they run a competition on Twitter? We’ll collect the tweets themselves, so none get missed, make it easy to pick winners at random, and give some great statistics as well.

Idea firmly in my mind, I contacted various friendly contacts I’d made via TweetingMachine, and asked them for their opinions. Happily, they were all positive, with no complaints about paying for such a service, and with several requests to let me know once I’d put the tool live.

I thought I’d try and be clever by using Bootstrap from Twitter for the tool’s design… and forgot that I have all the graphical design skills of a blind wasp. As with TweetingMachine, as soon as I replaced the design (just a couple of weeks ago) with one from ThemeForest, I saw user registrations increase hugely.

So far, earnings are unimpressive – my first customer paid $30 on Christmas Eve – but the first customer has paid, and that’s always an ego boost. I’m not expecting much until businesses return to normal in the New Year, and then I’ll ramp up the marketing efforts.

Conclusion

2011 was a fantastic year, proving that I can create apps that pay the rent (and a few decent meals out each month). My target for 2012 is simple: I want to earn enough to move to working on these apps full time. I’ve set myself a target of $3,000, which even after tax leaves enough for a good standard of living here in Warsaw, Poland.

And what if that doesn’t happen? In that case I’ll keep making mistakes until it does :-)

 

Written by Tom

Tom

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