So you have the next great app idea that is going to turn you into a millionaire, hence have no issues convincing yourself and even some loved ones that it would be safe and even lucrative to invest money into your killer app. If you know programming, you won’t have too much trouble.

However, as a newbie, you are probably going to rely on a programmer, even pay him big bucks for the job. This is where you will be sinking your boat! If you don’t want to end up broke after your very first app, read this realistic and practical guide on how to make an app without spending all your money.

Let’s take a look at a true story of one of the developers I know.

This was a classic example of four dudes working under the assumption that they had chanced upon a really good idea. No doubt the idea was great and it did garner a significant fan following. The app had a whopping 450,000 downloads.

You would think the guys must have minted money on this one. But, to their utter shock they were neck deep in loss, and we are not talking about a few hundred dollars here. Their financial statement showed losses of over $80,000.

So, how did the app makers gets themselves into this soup after having a relatively well performing app on their hands? Simple, they spent too much on production, posting and marketing.

App making and selling is no different from any other business!

There is a simple yet extremely effective and surefire way to keep the cash registers ringing, regardless of what you are selling- keep your acquisition/ production cost low while increasing your revenues. This trick is time tested across the spectrum of industries.

Since the developers above were faced by a loss of over $80,000 despite the number of takers for their app, it would be safe to assume that they may have spent upward of $120,000+ in developing and selling it. With production costs running so high, they would need a Whatsapp or Snapchat on their hands to actually make a profit, and we all know that does not happen every day.

You don’t want to find yourself head deep in losses, do you?

Assuming that your app exists as an idea in your head at the moment, let us tackle the first part of our profit making principle given above- lowering your production cost.

Now, although it may seem adventurous and even fulfilling to try your hand at app development, most people are not too keen on learning the finer nuances of programming to develop their dream app. Paying a developer is an option, but the more experienced the programmer, the higher will be your cost of development.

Not to mention that the professional will make you pay through the nose for every small service that is added to the project. So, something like publishing the application could set you back by a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, adding to your overall expenditure.

We still have not accounted for the time that it will take to get the app up and running. You are looking at anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the complexity of the program.

In the meanwhile, the highly dynamic app market will have moved on, which would mean that you would also be looking at additional expenses for upgrades. To put it simply this is a money guzzler through and through!

Is there a way out of this mess?

Yes, and it is called reskinning! In fact, this is the magic word for all those of you who want to know how to make an app without spending all your money. There is a lot of negativity surrounding the reskinning of apps; some even call it day light thievery.

However, if you were to step out of the haze of morality and take a closer look at reskinning, you would know that it is no different from using templates or standard product designs. What you are essentially doing is taking the code of an application which is already out there and making the necessary changes/improvements to it before putting it out in the market.

Read Here: What is APP Re-skinning? Start with the Basics

Reskinners will burn in hell?

Don’t worry, Luci boy will be happy to spare your transgressions; after all, this is a win-win arrangement as the source code of the app to be reskinned is often sold by the makers of the program.

What is your takeaway here? Simple, you save both time and money. Plus, it would be worthwhile to consider that there are millions of apps out there, so chances are that your great idea has already been discovered albeit with a few changes.

So, why not make hay from the sunshine in the neighbor’s yard? A classic example of how well reskinning works and how lucrative it can be is that of candy crush soda. You have probably heard of its brother candy crush saga, the hugely popular game?

The soda version involved stripping the graphics from the source code and adding new ones, and lo behold, the makers had a new game on their hands. This one reached the same heights of popularity.

That sounds great, so I can just sit around and twiddle my thumbs!

Not exactly! The whole autopilot money making claim is sheer humbug. If you want to make money, be prepared to put in some effort if not all of it. This means that you will need to acquaint yourself with the reskinning procedure.

Fortunately, there is ample of literature out there even for absolute beginners. All you have to do is use your friendly search engine. There are two advantages to learning the ropes before you jump in.

  1. You will have a clear idea about what can and cannot be done with the source code. This also means that you will know what the end result will look like. Moreover, you will be able to accurately estimate the time and money that will be required to complete the project.
  2. Even if you do not want to handle the programming part, at least the coder will not be able to take you for a ride. Yes, there are many horror stories in which hapless app makers have been duped of $5000 for something as trivial as the integration of a currency system into the app.

So, you got your app ready, now what?

You have this really cool application which you know is going to create waves, but it is bound to fall flat on its face if you do not market it well. Another quick business mantra for you here- To sell it you need to show it!

Be prepared to get your hands dirty here if you want to save on marketing costs. Instead of enlisting the help of App Store Optimization Company or expert, do this yourself. Once again, there is no dearth of information on the topic online. Besides it is all easy stuff. Similarly, if you want to launch an FB or Twitter page for the app, do it yourself and save money.

What exactly should you be aiming for with your apps?

There is an extremely interesting concept called lean manufacturing which is exceptionally hot in the corporate circles at the moment. A core principle of the concept is that of Minimum Viable Product and everybody from Apple to Microsoft and other are using it.

So, what is an MVP, simple a good product but not the perfect product. Perfection takes time and while you wait for a flawless product, you will miss the boat. Remember you are not the only one making apps and then, there is the ever changing interface and environment of app stores.

Simply put, quantity certainly takes precedence over quality in case of app development. What you should aim to do is get about 5-10 apps out there quickly, reskinned versions of course. This will not only expose you to the working of the digital marketplace but also give you a gist of what works and what does not. Also, the money that you make can be invested in your big venture, which can be started from scratch if you like.

OK, where should I be putting the millions I make?

Hold it bubba! Who said anything about your first app being a raging success? In fact, expect a few misses before you get a hit. No, there is nothing great about pessimism, but it is always best to be prepared for the worst in business. What you should be going for with your first few applications is no loss. The experience that you gather will be as valuable as any profits you would have made.

Tracking is the name of the game!

Put in some effort to understand what works in the app market and your good ol’ excel sheet can come to your rescue here. Treat your app like any capital investment and as such, this is what you need to keep an eye on:

• The revenues: Not only should you track the total amount of money made by application but also segregate the funds according to their sources, such as advertising and sales. Track the ad networks separately, so you can weed out campaigns that are not performing too well
• The downloads: Make a note of the number of downloads; this will help you to gauge the average revenue per user
• The code: Juxtapose this information against the source code used for the development of the app
• The Amount spent in development: Finally, compare the earnings with your spending.

So, after going through all that information you should be convinced that you can indeed learn how to make an app without spending all your money. But, do not get lulled into a false sense of security. Like with any other commercial venture, it will be a while before your products start churning out profits and you will need patience to wait for that moment as well as the diligence to keep working on your apps and their marketing.

Raj Arora
Author : Raj Arora

Founder and CEO Of Reskingames and GameGorillaz.com. Love to write about my experiences in the app industry, and have fun working!