The designers’ guide to iPhone apps: Revenue

Everyone always asks me “How much do you make?” whenever I talk about my iPhone Polaroid app, ShakeItPhoto. So many designers want to get into the business of iPhone App development. They have a ton of questions, but what they really what to know is if their time is worth the pay off.

Let’s get straight to the point. ShakeItPhoto has made almost $30,000 since it was released six months ago. Was it worth it for me? You bet.


Let’s get more specific. I paid $3,000 to the developer to make the first version of ShakeItPhoto. It took about two months to get that money back. Since then, the developer and I have become partners and split any future income. He does the coding for updates and new apps and I do the design and marketing.

Is it all sunshine and lollipops? No way! The App Store and approval process is a real bitch! With a three month delay during the approval process, frustrating comment and rating system, and app copy-cats, things get pretty stressful at times. But overall, it’s a huge learning process and a great way to make some secondary income. It’s really great to see people using your app, too.

Here is a graph of the revenue to date for ShakeItPhoto. The big spike around mid August is when the app was on the “Staff Favorite” section on the front page of the iTunes App Store. I’m not sure how the staff favorites are picked, but as you can see, it was a great help in selling more apps and getting the word out.

ShakeItPhoto Revenue To Date
Graph by AppViz

How much time does it take to develop, design, and market an app like this? It can take anywhere from 2-8 hours per week to keep the app updated and the community happy. Here is a rough breakdown. The development and approval process took about a month of work, done in our spare time. After approval, we had two updates that took about a week of work and testing. Recently, the majority of the time is spent on interacting with customers through flickr, twitter, facebook and on blogs. Community-building can take up to an hour each day and is one of the most important ways to help build your app’s user base and to foster word of mouth.

Will your iPhone app make this much? Like all products it depends on a million things including timing, market, customer base, design, price, app usefulness, uniqueness, marketing, word of mouth and a ton of other things that are hard to quantify. However, hopefully posts like these can help you start to understand the process of getting an app off the ground, into the store, and in the hands of its users.

Stay tuned! I hope to post more info about what I have learned while building iPhone apps, including posts about:

  • the approval process
  • designing for the iPhone
  • where I found my developer
  • dealing with the App Store
  • advertising techniques
  • how to deal with copy-cats
  • connecting with customers
  • getting press
  • and more…

If you have a question about the iPhone App process or about ShakeItPhoto, please leave it in the comments below. I will be sure to include the answer in upcoming posts.


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  • Very interesting. I’ve always wondered about the behind the scenes stuff with App making. I’m sure some of these Apps are making people some phat loot on the side. Thanks for sharing man!

  • congratulations… really appreciate you being transparent with the figures and process. its an instant glory world we live in. this just makes it all real. thanks.

  • Thanks for sharing Nick! I was wondering what is the amount that Apple takes from your sells, 50%?BTW They send you the money monthly?Via Pay Pal, check or Credit Card? Cheers

  • Nick, thank you for being very honest about your figures and the time involved with the process. I am just glad to hear publicly how rewarded you are for all the hard work you put in to helping the creative community.
    From the tutorials and experiments to the critique reels and personal feedback we’ve exchanged, you really are a great example to set to others in the creative industry.

    Just goes to show the more you put in the more you can get out of life.
    Cheers Buddy…

  • have you built another app? how much is it making? repeating your outcome is very difficult.

    what you’ve done is created a pie-in-the-sky dream for new developers that will be sorely disappointed.

  • Is that net or gross?

    How about taxes?

    How long does it take for Apple to pay you?

    How do you get paid (wire transfer, check, PayPal)?

    And, congrats!

    However, I cant believe people pay for that, I just don’t get it with 99% of these apps and or the people who buy them.

  • Seriously looking forward to more info about the logistics of making it happen (as opposed to the cash point of view), e.g. how you found the developer, the submission process etc.

    I look forward to getting your “warts and all” view on the lessons learnt.

  • Hey Nick, thanks a million for your useful information, and also thanks to be so open about everything, hey man I’m getting used to it is very intresting

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