How to Build an App Empire: Can You Create The Next Instagram?

Chad Mureta runs his seven-figure app business from his iPhone. (Photo: Jorge Quinteros).

I first met Chad Mureta in Napa Valley in 2011.

Two years prior, he had been in a horrible car accident. He’d lost control of his truck in at attempt to avoid a deer, hit a median, and flipped four times, nearly destroying his dominant arm in the wreckage.

While in the hospital for a lengthy recovery, a friend gave him an article about the app market. Shortly thereafter, Chad began designing and developing apps. His results?

“In just over two years, I’ve created and sold three app companies that have generated millions in revenue. Two months after launching my first company, one of my apps averaged $30,000 a month in profit. In December of 2010, the company’s monthly income had reached $120,000. In all, I’ve developed more than 40 apps and have had more than 35 million app downloads across the globe. Over 90 percent of my apps were successful and made money.”

After finishing rehab, Chad was able to leave his real estate company, where he’d been working 70 hours a week, to run his app business from his iPhone… in less than 5 hours per week.

“Apps” are the new, new thing, thanks to major successes like Draw Something (bought by Zynga for $210 million) and Instagram (bought by Facebook for $1 billion), among others. But for all the hype and promise, few people actually know how to create something that gets traction.

In this post, Chad will discuss his step-by-step formula for rapid app development and sales optimization. It covers real-world case studies and the details you usually don’t see: early prototype sketches, screenshots, how to code if you don’t know how to code, and much more.

Last but not least, don’t miss the competition at the end. If you’ve ever thought “I should make an app that…,” this one is for you…

Enter Chad Mureta

When you are on your deathbed, will you be able to say you lived a fulfilled life?

I nearly couldn’t.

I started my app business from a hospital bed, wondering if I even wanted to live. I had barely survived a terrible car accident that shattered my left arm. I had gone through two groundbreaking operations, and spent 18 months in painful rehabilitation.

With limited insurance, I had racked up $100,000 in medical bills. Even though I survived, I had no clue how to get out of the deep hole I felt trapped in. I was moved to a physical rehabilitation center and worked on reconstructing my body, my mind, and ultimately my life. While I was there, I read two books that made a huge impact: Unlimited Power strengthened my thought processes, and The 4-Hour Workweek inspired me to pursue lifestyle freedom.

During that time, a good friend gave me an article about “appreneurs” and told me I should consider getting into the business. I learned that most appreneurs were one- or two-person teams with low costs, and the successful ones were bringing in millions in profits. Still in my hospital bed, in a state of semi-coherence from the pain medication, I began drawing up ideas for apps.

Three weeks after my final surgery, desperate, broke, and grasping at straws, I borrowed $1,800 from my stepdad and jumped into the app business. Fortunately, taking that leap was the best decision I’ve ever made…

These days, my life is about doing what I love while earning easy income. I run my business from my iPhone, working in a virtual world while earning real dollars. I am part of a growing community of “appreneurs,” entrepreneurs who make money from applications that are used on iPhones, iPads, iPods, Droids, and Blackberries. As of this writing, the world’s youngest appreneur is nine years old, and the oldest is 80!

Appreneurs earn money while creating lifestyles of great freedom. Two of my appreneur friends spend several months of the year doing nonprofit work in Vietnam, while their businesses are generating seven-figure incomes. Another is taking his kids to see the Seven Wonders of the World, creating priceless memories with his family. Still another friend goes backpacking throughout Europe with his wife for most of the year. As for me, I’ve hiked in the Australian Outback, trekked with Aborigines across the desert, climbed in the Rocky Mountains, got certified in solo skydiving, heli-skied in Canada, walked on fire, and most important of all, learned not to take life so seriously.

No matter what your dream lifestyle is, you can have it as an appreneur.

The Opportunity for Appreneurs

There are currently more than 4.6 billion cell phones being used worldwide, enough for two-thirds of the people on Earth. The app market is literally the fastest growing industry in history, with no signs of slowing down. Now is the perfect time to jump into the mobile game.

What happened during the early days of the Internet, with the creation of websites like Google and eBay, is exactly what’s happening today with apps and mobile technology. The only difference is that we have experienced the rise of the Internet and are conditioned to react more quickly to the app revolution. This means that the app world is running light years ahead of the Internet, when it was at the same development stage. Developing apps is your chance to jump ahead of the masses and not be left behind, saying years from now, “I wish I had…”

Common Objections

“I’m not a tech person. I have no experience in this market.”

I was in the same spot, and I still don’t know how to write code. But I found successful people to learn from, emulated their models, and hired programmers and designers who could execute my ideas. If you can draw your idea on a piece of paper, you can successfully build an app.

“The app market has too much competition. I don’t stand a chance.”

This industry is just getting started– it’s less than four years old! What makes the app business unique is that the big players are on the same playing field as everyone else. They have the same questions and challenges as you and I will have.

“I don’t have the money.”

You don’t need a lot of money to start. It costs anywhere from $500 to $5,000 to develop simple apps. As soon as you launch your app (depending on your sales), you could see money hit your bank account within two months.

“It’s difficult… I don’t understand it… I’m not smart enough.”

Just like everything you’ve learned in life, you have to start somewhere. Fortunately, running an app business is far easier than almost every other type of business. Apple and Google handle all of the distribution, so you can spend your time creating apps and marketing them. And you don’t have to come up with new, innovative ideas. If you can improve on existing app ideas, you can make money.

Many people are joining the app gold rush with a get-rich-quick mentality and unrealistic expectations. Maintaining an optimistic perspective is important, but so is understanding that you will have to put in work. My goal in this post is to help you think like a business owner, and show you the map I’ve used to find “the gold.” This is not a one-time app lottery, and you can’t treat it as such. If you think of this endeavor as a long-term business, it will grow and become a sustainable source of income.

Still interested? Then let’s get started!

Step 1: Get a Feel for the Market

As with any business, your success will be directly related to your understanding of the marketplace. The App Store is the marketplace of the app business, so in order to understand the market, we have to study the App Store. This seems rather obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many developers I meet that don’t understand this concept. They don’t watch the market, follow the most successful apps, or try to figure out why those apps are successful.

In order to become a great app supplier, you must first become an app addict. That means spending at least 2-4 weeks researching the market while downloading and playing with tons of apps (give yourself an app budget of $100 to start). This training period is an investment in your expertise, which will become the lifeblood of your success. The more hours you rack up playing around and studying successful apps, the better you’ll be able to understand their common traits and what users desire.

So, how do you keep pace with the market? The best way is to study Apple’s cheat sheet constantly. The App Store displays the top paid, top free, and top-grossing apps (the apps that make the most money, including free apps), almost in real-time. Apple provides the same lists in the individual app categories.

These charts are golden because they tell us volumes about the market. The best part is this information is freely accessible to anyone, at any moment (unlike the market info for basically every other industry).

Review these charts frequently, and keep a notebook of potential trends you spot. Doing this repeatedly will educate you on successful app design, marketing, and various pricing models. The research you’re doing is simple, costs nothing, and it’s actually fun!

Here are some questions to ask while you’re researching successful apps in the market:

  1. Why is this app successful?
  2. What is its rank and has it been consistent?
  3. Why do people want this app? (Look at the reviews.)
  4. Has this app made the customer a raving fan?
  5. Does this app provoke an impulse buy?
  6. Does this app meet any of my needs?
  7. Did I become a raving fan after trying it?
  8. Will the customer use it again?
  9. How are they marketing to their customers? (Check out the screen shots, icon design, and descriptions.)
  10. What is the competitive advantage of this app?
  11. What does this app cost? Are there in-app purchases? Advertisements?

Most developers will build an app and expect tons of people to find and download it right away. That rarely happens. You have to figure out what people are interested in and the kinds of apps they’re downloading first, then you build your app based on that insight.

Once you’ve put in the necessary 2-4 weeks of research and feel you have a decent grasp on the market, it will be time to look back on the trends you discovered and explore some ideas for potential apps you can develop.

Step 2: Align Your Ideas with Successful Apps

How do you know if the market wants your app? Again, you’ll need to look at the Top Apps chart. Are apps like the one you want to create listed there? If yes, you’ve got a potential winner. If not, keep looking. It’s that simple.

Don’t hate; Emulate! When you follow in the footsteps of successful apps, you will have a better chance of succeeding because these apps have proven demand and an existing user base. This takes the guesswork out of creating great app ideas.

I can’t stress the importance of emulating existing apps enough. It’s easy for people to fall in love with their own idea, even if the market doesn’t show an appetite for it. But this is one of the costliest errors you can make.

Unfortunately, developers make this mistake all the time. They focus on generating original ideas and spend a lot of time and effort creating those apps. When it doesn’t work out, they go to the next untested idea, instead of learning from the market. Often times, they repeat this cycle until they run out of money and dismiss the app game. This doesn’t have to be your experience.

A personal example of how to successfully emulate competitors is my Emoji app. First, I took a close look at what the market offered and downloaded all the major emoticon apps. I liked what I saw, but noticed that there was a lack of variety and limited functionality.

Screenshots from a competing Emoji app. The app (left) is opened once to provide the user with instructions on how to enable the Emoji keyboard (right).

I wondered how I could improve upon these existing apps, given that the Emoji keyboard had a limited number of emoticons that couldn’t be increased. I was also curious how profitable these apps could be if they were only being used once.

I kept brainstorming until it hit me. I couldn’t add more emoticons to the Emoji keyboard, but I could include unlimited emoticons within my app that people could send as images via text message or email.

I created an app that not only enabled the Emoji keyboard, but also contained an additional 450 emoticons within the app itself, which could be shared via SMS, e-mail, Facebook, and so on. The app was used constantly since users had to return to the app to send an emoticon.

Screenshots of my Emoji app.

The Emoji app was developed in two weeks. It followed the freemium model, meaning free with an in-app purchase option. The app hit the number one spot in the App Store’s productivity category and the number 12 spot in the top free overall category within six days, raking in nearly $500 per day. Bingo.

Whenever you decide to look into emulating an app, ask yourself these six questions:

  1. Why are people purchasing this?
  2. Can I do something to emulate this idea and take it to another level?
  3. What other ideas would this app’s demographic like?
  4. How many other similar apps are in the market? (Visit to find out.)
  5. How successful and consistent have they been?
  6. How does their marketing and pricing model work?

Step 3: Design Your App’s Experience

You’ve studied the market, you see an opportunity, and you have an idea that could be profitable. Great! Now it’s time to turn those thoughts into something tangible.

To convey your idea properly, you can simply draw it on a piece of paper. Maybe it will look like a 3-year old’s artwork, but it will still convey what you’re trying to do. Some people like putting this together in digital form, using Photoshop or Draft. Whatever you’re most comfortable with, and whatever will give the programmers the details they need, is the way to go.

For your viewing pleasure, here are the rudimentary drawings (a.k.a. wireframes) for my first app, Finger Print Security Pro. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be pretty!

And here’s how the app’s final design turned out:

To make the design process easier, I look at certain apps in the App Store and reference them to show my programmers what I’m looking for. For example, I’ll say, “Download the XYZ app. I want the ABC functionality to work like theirs. Take a look at the screenshots from this other app, and change this.” I take certain components of apps that I’d like to emulate, and give them to the programmer so that we are as clear as possible.

Highlight menu vs. Facebook menu

Notice any similarities? Highlight’s menu (left) emulated the style of Facebook’s menu (right).

The clearer you are, the fewer misunderstandings and problems you will have once it’s time to hand off your drawings to a programmer. The idea is to convey what the app will look like, where everything will be placed, and what happens if certain buttons are selected. This helps the programmer know what you want and will be a useful blueprint when designing your app. Do not be vague or ambiguous. You should know what every part of your app will do. If you don’t, you need to develop your idea more thoroughly.

You have to consider your design to be final before you can begin the coding phase. Inevitably, you will have ideas for additional features once you start testing the initial versions of your app. But if you decide to make major changes after a substantial amount of work has been done, it can frustrate your programmer. It’s like telling the builder who just installed your fireplace that you want it on the other side of the living room. The news will not go over well. Most people don’t realize this is what they are demanding of their programmer when they ask for big changes. That’s why it’s important for you to take your time and carefully plan every aspect of the app before you submit it for coding.

Step 4: Register as a Developer

You now have your idea drawn out. Before you go any further, you need to sign up as a developer with the platform for which you’re looking to create apps.

Don’t be intimidated by the word “developer.” It doesn’t mean you have to be the programmer. It’s simply the name used for somebody who publishes apps. All you have to do is set up a “developer account” so you can offer your apps for sale in one of the app stores.

Here are the links for each platform and a brief overview of their requirements.

Apple iOS *— Registration requirements include a fee of $99 per year and accepting the terms of service.

Android— Registration requirements include a fee of $25 per year and accepting the terms of service.

BlackBerry— Registration requirements include a $200 fee for every 10 apps you publish. You must have a BlackBerry World App Vendor Agreement in place with RIM (the creator of BlackBerry) to distribute apps.

* For your first app, I strongly suggest developing for Apple iOS, rather than Android or Blackberry. Simply put, Apple users are much more likely to spend money on apps. You will increase your odds of making a profit simply by developing for the iOS platform.

Also, don’t forget to go over the App Store review guidelines. Apple enforces these rules during the review process, and if you don’t follow them, your app will be rejected. For instance, you might remember seeing a plethora of fart or flashlight apps on the App Store awhile back. As a result, Apple has decided to no longer accept those types of apps. Knowing these rules can save you a lot of time and effort. If you see any of your ideas conflicting with the guidelines, reject them and move on to the next one.

Step 5: Find Prospective Programmers

Coding your own app, especially if you’re teaching yourself at the same time, will take too long. The likelihood of you getting stuck and giving up is very high. It will also be unsustainable over the long run when you want to create several apps at the same time and consistently update your existing apps. After all, the goal is to get your time back and escape the long hours of the rat race. Therefore, programmers will be the foundation of your business. They will allow you to create apps quickly and scale your efforts.

Hiring your first programmer will be a lengthy process. You’ll need to: post the job, filter applicants, interview qualified candidates, have them sign your NDA, explain your idea, then give them a micro-test… all before coding begins! But while this process takes time, it is time well spent. Making great hires will help you avoid unnecessary delays, costs, and frustration in the future. You’ll always be looking to add new talent to your team, so learning how to quickly and effectively assess programmers is an important skill to develop.

Let’s get started. The first part of this step is to post your job to a hiring site.

Top Hiring Resources

These websites allow programmers to bid on jobs that you post. As you can imagine, the competition creates a bidding frenzy that gives you a good chance of getting quality work at a low price.

Here are a few of my favorite outsourcing sites:

oDesk— Its work diary feature tracks the hours your programmer is working for you and takes screenshots of the programmer’s desktop at certain time intervals.

Freelancer— This site has the most programmers listed. They claim that twice as many programmers will respond to your ad, and I found this to be mostly true.

Guru and Elance. Both of these sites have huge lists of programmers.


Below is a template of a job posting, followed by an explanation for each of its components:

Click the image to enlarge.

Enter the skill requirements—What programming languages do they know? For iPhone apps, the skills I list are: iPhone, Objective C, Cocoa, and C Programming.

Give a basic description of your project—Keep it simple and skill-specific. Tell the applicants that you will discuss details during the selection process. Do NOT reveal the specifics of your idea or marketing plan. Use general descriptions, and request info on how many revisions (a.k.a. iterations) their quote includes.

Post your ad only for a few days—This way programmers have a sense of urgency to quickly bid on your job.

Filter applicants—I always filter applicants using these criteria:

– They have a rating of four or five stars.

– They have at least 100 hours of work logged.

– Their English is good.

Compose individual messages to all suitable applicants, inviting them to a Skype call for further screening. Most of these programmers will overseas, which can present issues with communication and time zone differences. Therefore, a Skype interview is an absolute must before you can continue. Disqualify anyone who is not willing to jump on a Skype call.

The Interview: Essential Questions to Ask Programmers

Don’t give away any of your ideas during this initial conversation. Whenever the topic comes up, say you’ll be more than happy to discuss everything after they sign the NDA (if you want a copy of the NDA template I use, see the bottom of this post). Here are the questions you should ask each applicant before committing to anything:

– How long have you been developing apps?

– How many apps have you worked on? Can I see them?

– Do you have a website? What is it?

– Do you have references I can talk to?

– What’s your schedule like? How soon can you start?

– What time zone do you work in? What are your hours?

– What’s frustrating for you when working with clients?

– Are you working with a team? What are their skills?

– Can you create graphics, or do you have somebody who can?

– Can I see examples of the graphics work?

– What happens if you become sick during a project?

– What if you hit a technical hurdle during the project? Do you have other team members or a network of programmers who can help you?

– How do you ensure that you don’t compete with your clients?

– Can you provide flat-fee quotes?

– What’s your payment schedule? How do you prefer payment?

– Can you create milestones tied to payments?

– Do you publish your own apps on the App Store?

– How do you submit an app to the App Store? (Can they verbally walk you through the process, or do they make you feel brain challenged?)

Finally, mention that you like to start things off with a few simple tests (creating/delivering your app’s icon and a “Hello, World!” app) before coding begins. You need to tell them this upfront so they aren’t surprised after they have provided their quote. Most programmers are happy to get these tests done without a charge, but some will want a small fee. In either case, be clear with this requirement and have them include it in the quote.

During the interview, pay attention to how well they are able to explain themselves. Are they articulate? Do they use too much techno babble? Do they speak your native language fluently? Do they seem confident with their answers? How is their tone and demeanor? If you have any issues or worries, you may want to move on to somebody else. But if you can communicate with them easily and your gut is telling you “Yes,” you’ll want to proceed to the next step.

In either case, thank them for their time and mention that you will follow up with an NDA agreement if you decide to move forward.

Step 6: Sign NDA, Share your Idea, and Hire Your Programmer

You must protect your ideas, source code, and any other intellectual property. These are the assets that will build your business, so you need to have each potential programmer sign an NDA before you hire them. Yes, it’s rare to have an idea stolen, but it does happen (read the bottom of this post if you want a copy of the NDA that I use).

As you’re going through this process, you will be getting feedback on your programmers’ responsiveness. For instance, if it’s taking too long for them to sign the NDA, it might indicate how slowly the development process will move. Buyer beware!

Once the NDA has been signed by both parties, you can share your idea and designs with your programmer. At this stage, it’s critical to ensure they have the skills to complete your app. You do not have any wiggle room here, especially on your first app. Either they know how to make it or they don’t. You want to hear things like, “I know exactly how to do that” or “I’ve done similar apps, so it will not be a problem.” You don’t want to hear things like, “I should be able to do that, but I have to research a few things” or “I’m not sure but I can probably figure it out.” If you hear those words, switch to an app idea they are confident about or run for the hills.

After you’ve found the best programmer for the job, you can commit to hiring them. Establish milestones and timelines during the quoting process (break up the app into several parts), and decide on a schedule for check-ins that you’re both comfortable with (ask them directly how they like to be managed). You will need to periodically review their work, from start to finish. Most applications go through multiple iterations during design and development, and I won’t release partial payments until I’m fully satisfied with each milestone.

Step 7: Begin Coding

Rather than jumping haphazardly into a full-fledged project, I prefer to gradually ramp up my programmer’s workload by starting with a couple smaller tasks. You need to assess their graphics capabilities, implementation speed, and overall work dynamic (e.g. communication, time zone, etc.). If you’re underwhelmed with their skills, you need to get out quickly. Remember: Hire slow, fire fast. It will pay off over the long run.

Here’s my three-step process during the coding phase:

1. Icon—Ask the programmer to create and deliver the icon of your app. You will probably have several ideas for icons, so pass them on and ask for a finished 512 x 512 iTunes Artwork version of the icon.

2. Hello, World!—Ask the programmer for a “Hello, World!” app. It’s a simple app that opens up and shows a page that displays “Hello, World!”, and it will take them 10 minutes to create. The idea here is not to test their programming skills, but to determine how they will deliver apps to you for testing. This app should include the icon they created, so you can see how it will look on your phone.

3. App Delivery—When the programmers are ready to show you a test version of your app, they have to create something called an “ad hoc” (a version of your app that can be delivered to and run on your iPhone, without the use of the App Store). This ad hoc version of your app needs to be installed on your phone before you can test it. The initial installation was a bit cumbersome in the past, but a new service called TestFlight has simplified the process. I ask all programmers to use this service even if they have not used it before. They will be able to figure it out, and you’ll be able to install your test apps with a few touches on your phone.

The first version of your app is finished and delivered, and you’re now staring at it on your phone/tablet. Give yourself a pat on the back — you’ve made serious progress! But don’t get too caught up with yourself, because now it’s time to begin the testing phase.

Step 8: Test Your App

If you were having a house built, you’d want to make sure everything was in working order before you signed off. You would check major things like the roof and plumbing, all the way down to minor things, like crown molding and paint. You need to do the same thing with your app.

To start, your app must perform as expected. Pull out your initial design document and go through every feature. Never assume that something works because it worked last time you tested the app. Test each feature every time, especially before the final release.

Most importantly, don’t be the only tester. Your app makes sense to you, but it might not to others. You need to get everyone you know, from your 12-year-old nephew to your 75-year-old grandmother, to test your app.

The time you spend on testing is crucial because you will see how consumers use your product, what features are intuitive, what they don’t understand, and their patterns. They will have questions that won’t occur to you because you designed the app and everything about it is obvious to you.

Hand the app to them and say, “Hey check this out.” Don’t mention that it’s your app, what it’s supposed to do, or how it works. Give as little information as possible and watch as they try to understand and navigate through your app. This experience will be similar to the one your real user will have, because you won’t be there to explain things to them either.

Watch them testing your app and ask yourself these questions:

– Are they confused?

– Are they stuck?

– Are they complaining?

– Are they using the app the way you intended?

– Did they find a mistake or a bug?

– Are they having fun?

– Are they making suggestions for improvements? If yes, which ones?

Get them to talk about their experience with your app. They will be more honest if they don’t know the app is yours. Don’t get offended if you hear something you don’t like; their feedback is priceless. Assess each response to see if there’s a problem with your app, then ask yourself these questions:

– Would other users have the same issues? If yes, how can I fix them?

– Should I move things around?

– Should I change colors to improve visibility?

– Would adding some instructions help?

– Should I improve navigation?

Testing and debugging will take several iterations, like the design and development stages. This is all part of the process. Don’t forget to use TestFlight to save lots of time with the mechanics of installing test versions of your app.

Just remember: If you keep tweaking things and adding features, you might unnecessarily increase costs and production time. You need to get the app on the market quickly and in a basic form to test the concept. Only redesign during this phase if you feel you have a good justification for it. Otherwise, add the idea to your update list and move forward with development (I keep an update list for each app and refer back to it when the time is right).

Step 9: Post your App to the Market

At this point, you’ve had all of your friends and family test your app, taken the best feedback into account, and wrapped up any final changes with your programmer. Congratulations – it’s time for you to send the app to the App Store for review!

It’s a good idea to have your programmers show you how to submit your first few apps. Do not give out your developer account login information to your programmer or anybody else. The best way to have them show you how to submit your app, without having to giveaway your login, is to do a screen-share over Skype or GoToMeeting and have them walk you through the process. As your business grows, you might want to delegate this task to someone on your team.

Below is a screencast on how to upload an app to the App Store. As you’ll see, it’s a fairly confusing and tedious process. Best to leave this task to your programmers:

The amount of time Apple will take to review and approve/reject your app will depend on whether you’re submitting on behalf of yourself or a company. If you’re an individual, it will usually take 3-7 days. If you’re a company, it will likely take 7-10 days.

The real fun begins once your app is approved and available for download…

Step 10: Marketing Your App

The App Store is filled with thousands of great apps, but most developers are not skilled when it comes to marketing. Meanwhile, many poorly designed apps rank highly because their developers have figured out the marketing game. How do they do it?

You really need to focus on a few key areas to effectively market your apps, which will allow customers to discover and download them. Understanding how an app’s basic elements are marketing opportunities is essential to being successful in the app business. Your job is to create a seamless flow from the icon all the way to the download button. Let’s take a closer look at these components, which you can adjust at any time from your developer account:


The first thing users will see when they are checking out your app is the icon — the small square image with the rounded corners to the left of the app title. It’s also the image that users will see on their phone after they install your app.

The icon is important because it’s how the users will identify your app. It needs to look sharp, capture the app’s essence, attract the users’ attention, and compel them to investigate your app further.

Great app icons are clear, beautiful, and memorable.

Many developers create icons as an afterthought and focus all of their effort on the app itself, but the icon is the first impression you will make on the users. The old expression “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” applies here. Make sure you have a quality icon that represents your app and makes the users believe it has value.


Over 80 percent of searches in the App Store are related to an app’s functionality, rather than an app’s name. Therefore, it is critical that you help users find your app when they perform relevant keyword searches in the app store.


Each word in your app’s title serves as a keyword, much like keywords in search engines. You can think of the title as your URL. For instance, if you type “angry” into the App Store search field, the Angry Birds apps will return as a search result.


Having a compelling description for your app is like having a great opening line — people are more willing to learn about you once you’ve piqued their interest. The first chunk of your app’s description needs to be packed with the most relevant information customers should know.

If applicable, use statements like “Top App 2012” or “One of the Most Addictive Games in the App Store.” Follow it up with a call-to-action, such as, “Check out the screenshots and see for yourself.”


Screenshots are great marketing tools because they give users a visual of what they will experience. Think of them as the trailer for your app. Here are a couple examples of effective screenshots:

Nike+ GPS screenshots.

Free Music Download Pro screenshots. Note the use of captions to explain the app’s features.

Many people shopping for apps won’t read the description, but will instead scroll down to the screenshots. The screenshots need to convey the main functionality of the app without showing too many details that may confuse users. If your screenshots are cluttered, it will be as ineffective as a realtor trying to sell a house with messy rooms. The brain gets overwhelmed and buyers have more trouble seeing the product’s true value. Therefore, the screenshots you include should be clean, appealing, and informative.


Unlike your icon and title, keywords are not something the users get to see. When you submit your app to the App Store, you’re allowed to provide keywords relevant to your app. When users search for one of the terms you entered, your app appears in the search results.

For example, if you type in the word “kids” or “game” on the App Store, you will find that Angry Birds is one of the search results. The terms “kids” and “game” are not in the app title. The makers of Angry Birds most likely chose those keywords to associate with their app.

A good example of effective keyword usage is an app I created called Flashlight. Since the name is Flashlight, we came up with keywords, such as “bright,” “help,” “light,” and “camping.”

One time, I added the term “phone” to the keywords of my free prank fingerprint app. This seemingly minor change propelled the app to the number one top overall free category, which moved the company’s income from $1,000 per day to $3,000 per day. This is the power of refining the marketing components for your app. Simple changes can dramatically increase your revenue.


The App Store organizes apps into specific categories to help users find them more easily. In addition to the top overall rankings of all apps, each category has its own top rankings and, therefore, generates a certain amount of visibility based on these charts. Users looking for certain apps often browse through these category charts without looking at the top overall charts. For instance, an app that doesn’t show up in the top 200 overall might still be in the top 10 of a particular category.

When you’re submitting your app for review, make sure to select the most relevant category for your app. On the other hand, many apps can be classified into more than one category. You have to choose one, but you can always change the category during an update.

One of my apps, Alarm Security, wasn’t performing well, and I was trying to bring it back up in the rankings. I initially tried changing the name and keywords, but it didn’t move much. The one thing I hadn’t tried was switching it out of the Entertainment category. The app contained various alarm sounds (like loud screams and gunshots), so I assumed users would use it more as a goof than as a tool. I was wrong.

Once I moved the app into the Utilities category, the number of downloads skyrocketed. After five days, the paid downloads had tripled, and it was only because of a category change.

Just as your app will always need certain refinements due to consumer demand and competition, so will your marketing. For most of my apps, I have changed the icon and screenshots three to five times and the title and description between 5 and 10 times. I change keywords almost every time I update apps. I always switch the categories when it makes sense. Keep an open mind and continue to be inspired by your observations during your market research.

Finally, there’s a simple rule of thumb I follow for making changes: Tweak once per week, then measure. You have to allow ample time to see the effect of any changes you make. Measure your results, then make adjustments based on your data in the following week. Your goal is to increase traffic and revenue, all while improving your users’ experience with the app.

Bonus Marketing Tactics


After you’ve taken care of the basics, your best marketing tool will be offering a free version of your app. It will generate traffic and visibility that you otherwise wouldn’t get.

Free apps create the most traffic because they have the smallest barrier to entry. It takes five seconds to download, and it’s free. Why wouldn’t you push the button? Once the free version of your app gains some traction, you can use it to advertise the paid version of the same app. This is like getting those free food samples at the supermarket. If you like the sample you tasted, you might buy the whole bag and become a long-term customer.


Nag screens (pop-ups that remind users to check out the paid version of the app) have been the most critical marketing tactic for my business. You might worry about annoying users with these ads, and that is a valid concern, but you need to think of nag screens as adding value for your users. If they downloaded your free app and they are using it, a percentage of your users will be interested in buying the paid version of your app. For those who don’t, a quick pop-up message is a small price to pay for using the free version.

You have to accept this and not shy away from this type of marketing. If you’re still on the fence, consider this: When Apple launched its iBooks app, it used a nag screen within the App Store app. If you had an iPhone at the time, you may remember seeing that pop-up inviting you to download iBooks. Well, you were nagged by the one and only Apple.

Basic nag screen (left) vs. Advanced nag screen (right). Advanced nag screens typically have three times higher click-thru rates.

When adding a nag screen, explain to your developer what you are looking for, and reference specific examples of other apps that have nag screens. Be sure you can change the nag screen without submitting a new update to the app store. To do this, tell the developer you want your nag screen to be dynamic. This will allow you to change your marketing message redirect your app’s traffic within seconds. This is an absolute must. Your nag screens will lose a huge part of their effectiveness if you cannot change them on the fly.

How do you assess the effectiveness of your nag screen? All you have to do is keep track of how many times you show a particular nag screen and how many users click “Yes” to check out the app(s) you’re promoting. This is called your click-through rate, and the higher the percentage, the better.

Final Thoughts

This is the first time in history when so many of us have the tools and access to knowledge that can quickly lift us out of the rat race. Your background, gender, race, education, and situation are irrelevant. All you need is the desire and a game plan.

You don’t have to wait till “someday” to fulfill your dreams. You can start right now…

Contest and Bonuses

We’re throwing a contest for any readers who are ready to dive into the app world. Whoever comes up with the best idea for an iPhone app (as decided by me and my team) will have 100% of their development costs covered. That’s right: You won’t need to spend anything to have your app made – all it will cost is your time and effort. This will be a great learning experience for the winner, so if money is all that’s holding you back, we want to help you get started.

Here are the details:

– You have 1-week (ending Monday, April 30, 2012 at 9am EST) to research and design your app idea. Your app should try to fill a void in the market or improve upon apps that are currently available.

– Once you’ve decided upon your idea, post a comment below with a detailed explanation of the app you want to develop. Bonus points if you can show us (with a drawing, video, etc.) how your app will function. More bonus points if you show us the research you did to prove your app’s potential for success.

– You can only submit one (1) idea (one entry per person), so make it good!

– Up to $5,000 USD of your development costs will be covered. 100% of all revenues earned will go to the winner.

– Winner gets a 1-hour phone call with me (Chad) at any point during development or marketing.

For those who are worried that someone is going to steal your idea and make a million dollars with it– you don’t have to enter the contest! Just remember: my success in the app store came from emulating successful apps. In other words, borrowing proven ideas and trying to make them better. If someone else can succeed by taking one of my ideas and improving upon it, that’s only fair game. Don’t let the fear of losing prevent you from trying to win.

Contest deadline has passed; Winner (Alex K.) has been contacted. Thanks, all!

Finally, for those who’d like a copy of my NDA template (along with the checklist I use when hiring a new coder), email a copy of your receipt for App Empire, my comprehensive book on app development and marketing, to bonus (at) The book goes into depth on advanced marketing and monetization techniques, including how to put your business on cruise control (automate).

We look forward to seeing what you guys come up with! Talk to you in the comments 🙂

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

Leave a Reply

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)

953 Replies to “How to Build an App Empire: Can You Create The Next Instagram?”

  1. Tim, I love this article it’s very well laid out and informational. I look forward to creating some apps and generating income this way. I haven’t read every comment made, so this may have been asked already and my apologies if it’s redundant. I was wondering if you could tell me what the benefits and pitfalls of offering a free app vs. an app with a monetary value are?

  2. Hey Guys,

    I have read Chad Mureta’s book a few times and started my own app company 3 months ago. I’m really excited to say that my first app hit the store 2 days ago.

    Check it out on my website, hope you like it 🙂



  3. Fantastic post , very interesting. Tim, it’s so good that you have people who open up and share so much here that can help us to explore more and more . Thank you for keeping introducing the beautiful minds and updating us with the new thing … hats off to you.

  4. Great read. I was actually looking up how to create an app/game daughter cause she keeps getting frustrated with a certain game she is playing. Now I know how to possibly make money off it. Thank you very much.

  5. Looking for more advice on PR / MKTG / Adv. for my first app. Does anyone know of any more contests like these? Are Chad and Tim revisiting this appreneur phenomenon anytime soon??

  6. Hi Tim,

    Great article, and beautiful response 🙂

    I work with a lot of people who are new to the industry and I wanted to say congratulations to all those out there who are giving it a go. You are 10 steps ahead of all the sceptics.

    Developing mobile app games is awesome and a lot of fun. Always make sure that you work with a solid developer (and I mean seriously solid) and get a funky artist on board and your app will turn out great.

    Here’s the tricky part: Marketing.

    Now there are a number of ways you can do this. I would always start with the basics,

    – Basic landing page/blog (website)

    – Social media (facebook, twitter, Youtube…)

    – Create an interesting video

    Once you have the basics in place, start to build a following, if you haven’t already got one. People love info on apps.

    I would start doing this about 3 months prior to the release of the app – this would be your pre-launch marketing.

    Prepare yourself for the launch with a media release. It helps if you know a few people in the right places – hence the pre-launch marketing…

    I always send a media release to the top 100 app and tech review companies in the world to get a bit of traction.

    Most of them won’t pick up your app, but for each one that does, you’ll be happy that you did it.

    A couple of the little review companies may pick up your app and once the big boys see it around they generally want a piece of the action.

    For the release of my next app – yet to be disclosed – I have partnered with a very well known App Publishing company in America to push it out.

    That might not be available for your first app, and trust me, it wasn’t an option for me at first either.

    But once you start to grow your reputation in the industry the opportunities will emerge from the wood-works.

    The main thing is, once your app is 2-3 months off, don’t stop talking about it.

    Some people will get annoyed, but they were never going to download your app anyway.

  7. Yeah I’ve never received the NDA template either. I’ve e-mailed Chad a few times, hopefully we hear back from him.

    Sounds like a lot of app developers disagree with Chad’s assertion that the app store itself is the best marketing. Is there a comprehensive guide to app marketing out there somewhere? Or has anyone else succeeding in marketing apps just through the app store itself like Chad recommends?

    1. Okay, I got the bonuses. I think he may not be checking bous at app empire. Try e-mailing the support address on his website and he’ll give you the NDA and checklist.

  8. Chad, I would like to propose something to you as well as ask a few questions. I just discovered this page and I think I have an idea you might be able to help me with.

  9. Great article and awesome book. Some really important things not mentioned here or in the book regarding what is needed from a programmer once you choose to fire them and move on to the next?

    As a beginner I didn’t know much about source code and specific details needed in order to move on. Can you please expand on the subject of Source code and how to have a back up app in case something random happens?

  10. Chad,

    I’ve come up with a great idea but I dont want it to leak out and maybe you could help me get started. This app could be the next big thing in the medical industry. There are apps out there but this is taking those apps a step further. I believe there would be a high demand for this and I really need your help. If you could email me so I could explain some details I would be truly grateful.

  11. Hi – great article!

    My question is how can I trust a freelance developer not to publish the app under his own name once it is completed?

    They know most people won’t bother suing – especially if they’re based in another country.

    If you think the idea is a winner then isn’t it better to pay extra to have a company make it for you in your own area?

    Be great to hear thoughts on this…many thanks!

  12. Hey chad,

    I was wondering what if you have an idea for an app that is similar to a social network. How do you test that if your the only one with the app?

  13. hi dear chad, i really liked this article, i translated it to my own language (persian) and i wanna publish it as a little book, of course i will add some contents about you and your biography and your glories..

    whats your comment?do you let me to do it?

  14. I bought Chad´s book on Amazon and read it in 2 days using the kindle app on my 5 inch tablet. It is solid advice and I’m moving forward.

    Thanks Tim for having valuable guest posts like this. Seriously!

    Thanks Chad for helping me understand the App Business with an 80/20 Mindset.

    I love everyone! =)

  15. I think this is one of the most vital information for me.

    And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The

    website style is wonderful, the articles is really nice

    : D. Good job, cheers

  16. I am currently working on a project for my high school economics class in which we are supposed to make a business/ product. I was interested in creating an improvement on the Emoji app by adding a favorites page. I know this is essentially what the recently used page is for but your recents aren’t necessarily your favorites. I was curious on how much it will cost to make the app and if it is possible to pair up with an existing app to improve it (or would you suggest making a whole new one?) Also if the application is free where would my profits be coming from. How much is apple taking away if its free? Thank You!

  17. Hi Chad,

    I recently purchased your “App Empire” book from Amazon & emailed you the receipt to “” so I could receive a template of the NDA.

    Is this offer still available?


  18. Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning

    this article and also the rest of the website is also really good.

  19. Can someone explain whither we should patent or register our apps. A lawyer told me app were protected by release in the app store but I wasn’t sure. How do we protect our idea? Or can anyone copy us because I see so many of the same apps in the app store?

  20. I’ve noticed that fixing credit activity must be conducted with tactics. If not, you will probably find yourself endangering your ranking. In order to reach your goals in fixing to your credit rating you have to ascertain that from this moment in time you pay your entire monthly dues promptly in advance of their planned date. It is really significant for the reason that by certainly not accomplishing this, all other activities that you will decide to try to improve your credit rating will not be efficient. Thanks for giving your ideas.

  21. Hi Chad, or anyone in the team….. I have an app idea that would involve not only the users but big name companies to participate. I really have no idea where to start because of it dealing with the large companies. Is there anyone on your team or yourself with the experience to give me some insight. Perhaps it could even be a team deal. I don’t know. But please let me know. I know this contest is over but hoping someone will still see it. Thanks.

  22. Read this article, bought his book, registered as a developer and now have 5 live apps (outlandish apps). We just had our biggest one go live about 10 days ago. Diet meets craving management. It’s called Diet Piggyback. Thanks Tim and Chad! You’ve changed me life.

    1. Hey bro, thanks for sharing this, it is motivating.

      I also read the article, bought the book, got my mind blown, and I am currently working on my first app (totally different niche than your).

      Congrats on Diet piggyback! I downloaded the app and loved it (I follow the Slow Carb Diet as well), the app is simple and effective. I also gave it 5 stars because I really liked it (my nickname is 4H craver). Well done!

      One question, which route did you choose in terms of developer? US or overseas? Any tips you recommend? =)

      Thanks Todd!

      1. Jose,

        Thanks for the comment! Yes this article / book is great. It honestly opens up a lot of doors and some are better than others. You’ll make a lot of mistakes (I do everyday), but its worth it. Have detailed wireframes, clear thoughts you can convey to your developers.

        Keep costs low!

        I used for finding dev and GD’s for small stuff. Probably have done 12 projects on there. I have also heard odesk is good.

        I wanted to stay in the US to keep language barriers and time zones from adding extra time frustration….but ended up going outside US because most devs are big companies and want too much money for simple things.

        Once you find someone you can trust it goes faster. Would love to help answer some of your questions I wished someone would have answered for me. Find me on twitter or email from within app: More tab: scroll down: support and feedback!

        I really appreciate the download and review! I want to get feedback from those familiar with slow carb and cheat days. Spread the word!!

      2. Thanks Todd, I really appreciate your openness!

        I will talk to you on Twitter and retweet your stuff, also, one of my clients works in the Healthy Lifestyle niche, I will talk to her about your app, and if she likes it, we could mention it to followers on Twitter and include it in future posts later on.


        Seriously, Thanks Todd!

  23. I want an app that allows people to quickly save products they are looking at online. The app will be able to sort the products by price. You can easily share this list of product with your friends. Therefore, when you are wondering what to get one of your friends for a special occasion, you can pick something from their list at the price you want. I want this app to be called Wishlist. I think we have all been in a situation when we didn’t know what product to buy for our friends. This will not only solve that problem, but it will be a way of easily keeping tracking of things you want to buy either soon or in the future. You can choose for your products to be kept private if you want. THIS NEXT PART IS KEY. I have seen an app that is similar to this. However, I read one customer review that complained of too many clicks. Judging from the description, I would agree. I want users to easily be apple to copy a url of an Amazon web page for example, paste it into Wishlist and have Wishlist do the rest. (Sort the items by price and so on) I don’t know if this is possible with the URL but I think that it is. I am open to other ways to make the app “seamless” with few clicks.

    1. I like this idea! I think girlfriends would love it, they always have a hard time when choosing presents for me.

  24. Hey Chad. Great article btw

    I had a question about hiring software developers and designers. I used the sites you suggested to post jobs and i’ve been getting only people that reside in China and India and such. There are alot of contractors that i would most definitely consider, but i would like to know how safe you think it is to work with someone that’s thousands of miles away as opposed to someone that is in the states?

  25. This is where unique and sophisticated pull up banner stands

    may be just what you need. Similarly some banner stands requires a designing team for adjustment.

    These are just a few of the measures you can take to minimise

    the adverse impact your business has on the environment.

  26. I read “App Empire” and was inspired. I recently began my first project. I am however stuck on choosing a back-end server. I require a server that has port 2195 enabled for push-notifications. I tried Go-Daddy but their servers do not provide this service.

    1. Who are the providers I can contact?

    2. Is there a certain server type I should be looking for?

    Please help, I have tried contacting IBM and other server providers, but they don’t seem to be able to help me much as I do not know exactly what I’m looking for/need.

  27. Hey Chad great article! I have a question, I have to sign up for an iOS developers account my programmer said to make any profit on an app I would need to enroll in a “company account” is that true? Thanks


  28. When someone writes an piece of writing he/she maintains the thought of a user in his/her brain that how a user can understand it.

    Therefore that’s why this piece of writing is amazing. Thanks!

  29. Hi Chad,

    I ran into this article late one night after arriving home from my restaurant exhausted from working all day and dealing with all kinds of daily restaurant problems, and thinking that I have to wake up in four hours to do it all over again. Although, this article is over a year old, it is truly informative and gives good places to start if one is serious about developing apps. I have had my mind on this business for a very long time and this article has given me the inspiration to move forward. I know that this does not mean I will become the next billion dollar app man, but still it gives me a sense that I can accomplish it. You come across as very sincere and open, it shows your lack of greediness with the information. Even though at the end you trick us into buying your book, which I did by the way. That alone shows your intuitive marketing strategies. I praise your work.

    I have one question. When a programmer who lives in a different country signs the NDA, how are you protected in that country by it, and is it customary to request it notarized with obvious government identification to insure the person signing it is who he says he is?

    Again thank you for the article and may you continue in your success.


    PS: Best place to practice your Salsa moves is in the heart of South Beach.

  30. I just emailed the address provided in your article to request a copy of the NDA (with the receipt for your book as requested) but the email bounced back. Any update on the email address or how to get a copy of the NDA?

    Great article thanks for posting. I listed the job spec for my first app on elance last night and really excited to get things rolling! Thanks.

  31. I am truly glad to glance at this website posts whikch carries plenty of useful facts, thanks for providing these kinds

    of data.

  32. I just tied to email my receipt for App Empire from Amazon to your email address listed above and it bounced. How can I get a template for the NDA?


  33. Thanks for the detailed description on creating an app. Empire. That was pretty cool of you Chad to do such a thing. I’m really really really interested in creating an app and being successful at it. But my problem is $! How long before you actually see profits?

  34. Hay

    Thanks a lot to join me in your team I wanted to join your team to build app team and earn and make money

  35. Great article! Thanks.

    Question for Chad (and/or anyone else):

    I’m currently watching the App Store’s Top 50 in Free and Paid sections in both the “All Categories’ section and the Entertainment section, and also referencing

    I see apps moving up many places at once.

    But other than those featured on AppOdTheDay I can’t see why the jump happens.

    Is there anywhere else I can look to get this info?

    Any Tech Blogs I should watch?

    Also, I’m wondering if maybe I should only be watching the Top 10 instead of Top 50. Opinions?

    Many Thanks.

  36. Hi Tim, Chad and 4H Blog Family!

    I want to share something with you today. I did what Chad says in this post, and today I published my first App (and I am very happy!)

    About 5 months ago, I read Chad Murrieta’s post for the second time, and decided to get things done.

    I bought his book (it is excellent and invaluable!) and then read other 9 books that had lots of positive on Amazon in about 4 weeks. After reading these 10 books I can honestly tell you the 2 ones I advise you to read are (Classic 80/20, as usual):

    1- Chad Murreta´s “App Empire”

    2- Ken Yarmosh´s “App Savvy”

    I can honestly tell you, after having done it, that Chad knows what he is talking about. He changed my entire mindset about the app business and the book is priceless.

    The road was harder than expected, but it was fun and challenging. After reading the 4 Hour Workweek, I started working as a Freelancer, and now, I just finished my first App with a team of designers in India hired via Elance. I have seen both sides of the coin as a Freelancer (virtually) and in person in my previous jobs I worked in the US and India (I am from Mexico). I learned a lot and enjoyed every moment of it (and will enjoy what comes next).

    It has been quite a ride, harder than expected, took longer than expected, and it was a lot more fun than expected.

    One key thing I learned is:

    It´s not just about making an app, you gotta plan your marketing in advance and include it in the app´s DNA. Reading many of Tim´s posts (and watching several of his interviews on Youtube) on Book launches, marketing and 80/20 thinking (along with all his books), has been HIGHLY valuable.

    In summary, plan your work, and work your plan (80/20 style!)

    I am here today, because I want to share my story with Tim and Chad (as a way to thank them) and with all of you in order to contribute to this great forum (I read hundreds of comments in this post before getting started) so you get started in this journey.

    My app is called Pixacat, it is a Photo Editor for Cat Lovers. I would really really appreciate it if some of you take a few minutes to download the app and rate it (it helps a lot!). If not, no problem; I will still think you are all awesome.

    Rating the app is easy, just tap on the “little gear” in the top left corner on the app´s home screen, and then hit “Rate us in the App Store!” button.

    You can get the app by clicking on my name above this comment (don´t want to break Tim´s rules, so, no links in the comments).


    Thanks for listening and for being space where possibilities can be created.

    Jose Lira.

  37. Hello,

    My name is Samuel Jost. I am 17 years old with an app idea. I have another friend working with me as well and we have met with huge entrepreneurs including the founder of Siri. We have also met with app developers but cannot seem to find “the one.” If any of you are still using this website, please contact me if you’re an app developer or know of any good ones. [Moderator: Email removed.] Lets talk. 😀


    Samuel Jost

  38. I am doing a 9-5 job from last 7 years and really want to start my own startup. I understand this article is dated way back in 2012 but I really want to know if this theory and the whole concept still can be applied now in 2014?

    I dont have lot of original ideas to develop iOS apps but really wanna know if app emulation really will help me?

  39. I know this is an older post, but to not comment would be just wrong. This story is absolutely inspiring, and is getting me fired-up!

    Thanks Tim & Chad,


  40. I’ve read your article and found it very helpful burial don’t trust any of the app writers I’ve contacted can you recommend someone or something

    I’ve the idea and what it needs to do



  41. Good way of explaining, and good post to take information concerning my presentation topic, which i am

    going to deliver in school.

  42. This is a wonderful and insightful article. Was introduced to the App world less than 48 hours ago and I think with such details I am nearer to achieving success in the internet business. Thanks Tim

  43. conduit is horrible! what a waste of time. i spent hours designing my app then upgraded my plan like they said. they took my money i sent from payal and even though i chose to pay monthly, they added reoccurring payment option automatically without my consent. i realized this immediately because they are not to be trusted. when i cancelled the reoccurring payment in my paypal back office, they cancelled my upgrade and locked my app. then, rather than fixing the problem, they sent me excuses. now i am disputing the transaction in paypal. i dont want to do business with them anymore and they turn me off to mobile applications all together. good job! conduit should do everyone a favor and find another line of work. its important for me to spread the word to everyone about how they do business and treat their customers so i will be taking the same amount of time i worked on my mobile app (24 hours) and posting this to every blog i can find. please like and share so we can stop this behavior.

  44. I want to jump in the app market ASAP I’m 25 yrs young And I know that the app market is the fastest growing industry in history I have so many app ideas that can filled a gap on the market place How can I team up with your team? So we can both profit

  45. I have a question regarding privacy/safety policies and terms/conditions if you are designing a social networking app, for example. Are these things the programmer can usually handle or would you need to seek outside legal advice? If so, any suggestions on cheap outsourcing? (where to look, what skills to require, etc)?

  46. Very well written article! I would love to jump into the App business, and feel like this article really opened my eyes to a lot of things and unanswered questions. How do I submit the receipt for your book in order to get the template for the NDA form? Will I be receiving it in my email?

  47. Hi Chad, Excellent post indeed and thanks for sharing info, i learn a lot so I have questions. I have about 20 educational apps including free apps but they are failed to sell. I got average 5 paid apps daily which is not quite good as I plan. I also advertise through fb and iad workbench and admob but the result of download the same every day. I do not understand why people do not buy it. They download free apps 50 copies every day but they do not buy paid apps at this point I do not get it why.

    How do you market your apps? fb? iad workbench? whatelse?

    How much budget do you have spend for promo yr apps?

    I sometime spent 20$ to promo per day but I got download only 7 copies which is not worth it, so far I do not advertise any more cause waste money.

    Can you tell me how can i improve to get people more download?

    I also do not understand why people do not leave feedback on the app store after they download?

    Sorry to ask you many questions!

    Many thanks to you and your teammates!


  48. Great info!…even many years later. I’m attempting to learn Swift to give myself a base, though it’s good to know how to accelerate the process from Idea to App with what you wrote above. Many thanks for this post!

  49. It’s interesting to see that the steps you’ve pointed out are still so relevant today. I believe that “Step 1 : Get a feel of the market” or in case of enterprise apps ” The need of the app” is basically the backbone of the app. Hiring the right resources to visualize, design, develop and eventually help you launch your app on the App Store plays a very vital roll as well. Creating a great user experience and solving a gap in the market sets your iPhone app on the path of success!

  50. To system inny niż programy, które poznałeś wcześniej – prowadzi

    Cię za rękę krok po kroku, aby rozliczenie stałosię dziecinnie proste.

  51. Awesome post guys! Thanks. However, this post along with most of the comments are from 2012. How timely is the info? For example, is Apple the best place to start as a developer?..or has android and windows made significant headway in the last 2 years?

  52. great article….Todays cell phone software usually are with a hike, and many other folks are utilizing it regarding small business objective. It is very important to offer the best designers so we’ve knowledgeable and skilled workers that are professionals in mobile app development.

  53. I read the article. ..the whole. ..I really find it interesting and it gave me many more ideas of how to built and do marketing for my app..but the biggest problem is that I am from India where I don’t find a proper place to learn it..can someone refer me a book to learn this programming language? ? I have basics in c and c++.


  54. Is it still possible to receive the NDA? Tried forwarding my receipt to the email, but I receive a failed delivery notification.

    Very informative read 🙂

  55. Great article! I am reaching out to you today, because I am searching for an app partner-someone who has an existing programing team and can help me create my amazing app. I have had this idea for years and have yet to see anything like it. I am working on choosing a programmer and it is surprisingly dofficult! This is the next big social app that everyone will need to download. I would love to discuss this with you further [Moderator: email address removed]

  56. Hi Chad, I was really inspired by this article. My boyfriend comes up with the most awesome APP ideas. As I saw a person mention before about if you had to have a company to build the APP. You mentioned you can do it as a sole proprietor, but would you recommend that or is it best, tax wise, and other reasons, to do it as a corporation or other entity? Does this go under technology? or is the a web developer or APP developer industry to register under?

  57. Hi Chad,

    I’m not sure if your still receiving notifications on this post but I am a young developer and I’m sure you e heard this before but I believe I have stumbled upon the app of the future. A complete game changer. If you are receiving these please contact me. I’d like to speak to you about making this idea come to life


    Christian Doyle

  58. Excellent explanation about Build but i have some question

    You didn’t mention the app features?

    What about free apps?

    How are revenues processed?

    Where does the money go?

    How do I claim it?

  59. Hi chad,

    I hope it’s not too late to get a reply🙈, but i have been wanting an thinking very hard to come up with an app idea for a very long time now. Now i have two ideas that i’ve really thought about and done my design and taken notes. Now i’m stuck! I’ve recently went to get quotes online from elance and i didn’t know it would cost so much to make first of all and a few freelancers asked me software technical questions of what i would want to use to make my app. I mean i don’t know much about platforms,frameware etc. Does this means if you don’t know the technicality behind designing an app does this means there’s no point in trying to get your idea made? I feel stuck Financilly and mentally on how to move forward. Also when working working with someone that’s not face to face how is the best way in getting them to sign a NDA? And how much would you reckon to be the price estimate for an app social network app similar to instagram? And also estimate for gaming apps, please and thanks looking forward to your reply.

  60. Hi all, Was hoping to reach out to Tim, but after reading his contact page and seeing how many people try to contact him on a daily basis i thought I’d reach out here first.

    I’m fairly new to the 4HWW Blog and this article really caught my attention. This is something that I’ve been wanting to dive into for years and I’m finally ready to do it. My question for you is: Seeing how long ago this article was written, do you think the content is still relevant today. One of my concerns with dedicating myself fully to this endeavor as I plan to do is that the market actually is now saturated… What do you think? Do the principles still apply? Or has the game changed too much since this article was written?


  61. Wow. I can’t believe I’m reading this now in 2015 still a lot of valuable information.

    I don’t know if you still check your comments for this article Chad, but if you do quick question.

    If you are paying programmers to build your app, what if you found a bug on your app say 2 months after the programmers finished the app, do you need to get back in contact with them to fix it, or could you find someone else? And if you do, how much is fair price to pay for a bug fix?

    Thank you,


  62. Worth reading,Developing an android or ios application is not a back-breaking process,I got a completely developed application pleasing my requirements in four to five working days and was also provided with tutorials plus source code.

  63. Hi Chad

    I’m an aspiring appreneur. You mentioned that we could use sites like odesk to find potential hires. These hires, could you make them permanent employees or will you have to keep finding new applicants for every app?



  64. hey Tim I want to create an app that can be used for checking for medical checkup dates,personal blood pressure check on the go,info,of any kind,posts and tags upload and download photos,music,talk through messages or calling through internet.Is this possible?

  65. Hi Tim, Thanks for this sharing. Very inspirational post.

    It is right that there is growth of mobile phone sales globally.

    There is a tremendous opportunity and growth in the mobile app world.



  66. Hi Chad,

    Thanks for all this info! I purchased App Empire and tried to send the receipt to the email provided above ( but it did not go through. Is there perhaps another email I can send the receipt to? I would love to have a copy of the NDA and checklist for hiring coders you mentioned. Many thanks!



  67. It’s a useful article. In my opinion, you can search for app development outsourcing companies in Vietnam or India for cost saving.

  68. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and all the great information. My body is breaking down faster than the one or two days a week I’m off it gets to regenerate. I’ve got a couple of good ideas that I hope I’m able to perservere long enough to get to market. Thanks again!

  69. The empire takes time to be built and maintained. The first thing, however, is the cost of app development. We once tried to make a research on the topic like [Moderator: link removed.] and our idea cost ua like 200,000. In case of Instagram, I am even scared of pronouncing sums like that.

  70. My friends and I have a great idea for a phone app, but we aren’t sure where to start. I like your point about getting your app tested and not telling the person what it does. This sounds like a good way to test how user-friendly it is and how clear the purpose is.

  71. Hey Tim and Chad!

    Inspiring article and valuable information for all those articles readers. no one can ignore the importance of apps business because now the world becomes smart and global through the internet and smartphone. you may design and can download almost all types of games and apps either these are for the mature user (high-quality lasers) or child lasers games.

  72. Hi, Chad.

    very good your guide. I was looking for mobile apps for real estate and I found your website.
    I work in digital marketing and this article gave me an insight.