5 Years of App-Making

I realized recently that it’s been nearly five and a half years since I released my first app onto the App Store. Like, holy smokes, where did that time go?

I’ve been feeling somewhat reflective these last few weeks (and I haven’t even watched Soul yet!) as I’ve taken time off from programming to focus on getting ready for Christmas, which is something I genuinely love doing. I ran across this tweet early in my preparations:

…and honestly, that’s exactly what I’m about at Christmastime: being that mom that makes things magical. The day after Christmas, my kids asked how many days were left until next Christmas, so I think I succeeded?

Anyway, back to five and a half years. Although I released my first app on June 10, 2015, I didn’t actually start making any money until the following June when I released LiveRotate, my app for rotating Live Photos (remember when editing Live Photos wasn’t possible without turning them into stills? lol). From June 2016 to today, I’ve made approximately $12,600 in profit from the App Store.

It’s simultaneously a lot and a little. It’s a lot for most developers. It’s a little for the developers I follow on Twitter. Early on, someone asked me how I would define success for myself as an indie developer. I remember stressing that my apps were just side projects (they are) and that I’d be happy if my revenue could cover the cost of my personal device upgrades (it has). At the time, I think I forgot to say something about how I wanted to make things that improved people’s lives, or just made them smile. In that way, I’ve also succeeded, and hearing from happy customers has been incredibly rewarding.

Most of the proceeds from the past four years have come from Snapthread. I owe its success to the very nice media coverage it got, and I owe that media coverage to my following on Twitter, and I owe that following to Brent Simmons, who cared enough to compile a list of women in the iOS community (thanks again, Brent!). Revenue from Snapthread has diminished considerably in the past year or so, as has my enthusiasm for struggling with AVFoundation. Scribblet and YarnBuddy were just what I needed this year, both in terms of challenge and inspiration.

I set a goal a few months ago of reaching 20 annual subscribers to YarnBuddy Pro by the end of the year. I’m happy to report that as of today, my subscriber count stands at 52 subscribers (plus an additional 16 that redeemed a promo code for the first year).

And here we are, at the doorstep of 2021. Convention says that it’s time to set new goals, but I’m just not feeling it. Time stood still in March, and yet somehow things began to happen at an increasingly frenzied pace. There’s a really excellent episode of Mr. Robot in the final season that basically happens in real time, with no spoken dialogue save from one line at the beginning and one at the end. It is ridiculously intense; I felt like I was holding my breath the entire time. This year kinda felt like that too. I hope 2021 feels like a nice, long exhale.

Of course, learning goals are another story. I’d really like to deepen my design skills this coming year as well as my understanding of SwiftUI and Combine. It’s amazing to realize what I’ve learned since starting my development journey, starting with Objective-C in early 2014, then quickly pivoting to Swift 1.0, playing with SpriteKit, AVFoundation, PhotoKit and PencilKit, and now writing apps using SwiftUI. It’s been a wild ride, and I’m so thankful for all of you that have helped me along the way (including many who I’ve never interacted with, but whose blog posts and Stack Overflow answers have literally kept me going).

Do you have indie business goals for 2021? How about learning goals? I’d love to hear them! I wish you all happiness and good health this coming year. 💚

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