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The Saturday App Q&A Crowd Sourcing Session

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I’d like to thank everyone who subscribes to my weekly newsletter. I’m going to run through a few questions that have come in recently, and – dear readers :) – here’s the FUN part!


I’d like the amazing, funny, talented and highly accomplished Chocolate Lab Community to jump in, and offer your advice & help to these new entrepreneurs who are taking their first steps in the app world. Please help them out by adding your thoughts in the comments below.

These are questions taken from longer emails, but I think this community can add a ton of value with your insights & feedback.

The best comment (as voted by my lovely Chocolate Lab) will get a free copy of Episode #1 of my Radio Show (value $197).

Here are the questions that need your help:


“I am the very definition of “noob” when it comes to app/website development. Do you think it would be beneficial to develop a website first before developing an app?!


“I have an idea for a quiz app but am utterly clueless as to where to start. I have never written a line of code nor have any previous experience with apps. What should I do now?”


“We have no money to spend. What’s the best way to promote our app by the time we have it available for download?”


“I am very excited to devote my time and energy to learning about app development, however I would like to get started on this and get up and running as soon as possible. I currently do not have the capital to fund this type of venture. Do you have any suggestions for trying to raise money for this type endeavor?”


“One huge question I am constantly battling with over the past 2 weeks with my developer is how to monetize my app. They are huge proponents of the subscription model, whereas I am not. As this is a niche app, I thought it lent itself well to either freemium or one time payment PLUS inapp purchases (e.g. to add various exercise packs on, etc). Do you have any advice?”


“Can you tell me whether re-skinning app business really just buy source code and simple change the graphic? Is there no need to add in new features to make the app better? The original source code I have now lack of features like IAP and fun power ups. Kinda lost here.”

I really felt overwhelmed when I started my business. There were just SO many things I had to figure out, that at times it sometimes felt nearly impossible. I had so many questions and I really struggled at times to find answers.

Do you know the answer to one of these questions?

Would you have five minutes to pay it forward and help out these ambitious entrepreneurs?

If yes, I’m pretty sure they would appreciate it a lot :) Pick a question above that means something to you, and share your experience in the comments below.

Thank you everyone, you rock!

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Elaine Heney is an online entrepreneur, triple #1 best selling author and international keynote speaker. Elaine is an Amazon FBA ecommerce advisor, investor, Hollywood movie producer, online business consultant and CEO of Chocolate Lab Cashflow. Elaine has also published over 300 mobile apps across Amazon, Apple & Google, and enjoyed over 20 million app downloads and over 50 #1 apps worldwide.

{ 17 comments… add one }

  • Dustin McKay February 28, 2014, 10:03 pm

    #4 The best way to fund app development is fear… Fear of having to go and get a real job!!! In all honesty, I just did what ever I had to do, to pay the bills while I got started, that included plumbing (I have a degree in marketing), roofing (did I mention the degree in marketing), drywalling (my brother with an MBA taught me how) and anything else I could do… Finally my wife got so fed up and told me I had 30 days to make it work or she wanted me to go get a real “J O B”. One thing that saved me though was buying artwork, instead of hiring an artist, and learning how to do a bit of the coding myself.

  • Elaine Heney February 28, 2014, 10:09 pm

    Great answer Dustin.

    #4 When I quit my job my biggest fear was that in a few weeks/months time, my old employers would offer me a ‘J O B’ again. This fueled me to not sleep (I don’t recommend this though!) for pretty much the first 3 months of working FT in apps. Basically I didn’t want to be in the position where I didn’t put my best effort in to learning about apps, and then as a result I had to take the J O B when it was offered again, and *forever* kick myself that I had the chance of the life I wanted, and I messed it up. That alone kept me awake and drove me to learn to do things I couldn’t do, to try & save on costs at the beginning and increase my changes of success.

    Heard a good once recently. A guy said we have 3 choices in life.

    1. Employment
    2. Unemployment
    3. Run a business

    I’m definitely a number #3 girl the whole way :)

  • Tina Pruitt February 28, 2014, 10:10 pm

    #1 Website

    Great question, and one that I myself had in the beginning. You DO NOT need to spend time and resources on setting up a website. First, and foremost, is GET YOUR APPS OUT THERE! You can set up a dedicated Facebook page for your apps, and Apple is also cool with this for their website/url requirements when you set up your apps in the iTunesConnect portal for developers.

    If you, at some point, want to put out a website, there are some great resources to do so. I highly recommend using Wordpress platform for your site, and then find one of the many great themes available out there specifically for spotlighting apps and app portfolios. Themeforest is a great place to start for some great Wordpress themes. Grizzly theme is still one of my highly recommended ones as it allows you to show your whole portfolio if you choose to do so. You can do this yourself (YouTube is a great resource if you need support), or hire someone to set up the Wordpress site and install the theme. Lots of resources for that, and Fivver.com has a lot of people willing to do this exact thing for you!

    Good luck with your app business and just start out focusing on publishing your apps – the rest will follow!

    Tina Pruitt
    Best Think Thank Game and App Team

  • Kasa7 February 28, 2014, 10:15 pm

    Build a twitter base long before you launch of your target audience.
    Be yourself… Don’t mention a thing about your app. Follow ppl in your
    Target audience, RT them get to know them… By launch u should have a decent
    Following interested in what you’re app is about.. Then at launch mention..
    “Look what I’ve just done” etc etc… Ask for reviews etc… This is how I got my first reviews & got noticed!

  • Nathan Cook February 28, 2014, 10:21 pm

    4; In regards to funding? eBay! I still work in my normal job and only have a few apps out, looking to expand and speed up getting apps into the store in the coming months. My current work contract ends in 3 weeks so I will be unemployed, as a result I will have time to put my head down and start reskinning in volume I know volume is the key. I have a good collection of source code now and building a inventory of graphics..I have funded my collection of codes by selling things on eBay. It doesn’t take up much time and I sell products which I make myself specifically for GoPro Camera’s. I’ve funded Udemy courses, codes and some services. I wanted to learn as much as i can before outsourcing, outsourcing will start soon as well. Haven’t touched the credit card or bank balance yet. Passed over 800 items for sale on eBay which has been a good earner each week. Now to hustle as Elaine puts it :)

  • Elaine Heney February 28, 2014, 10:21 pm

    Thanks Tina! Definitely agree you need to focus on your resources & learning on apps at the beginning.

    Kasa great comment thanks! Did you find twitter mainly good for reviews, or did it help with getting an increase in downloads as well… getting influential people to RT, etc?

  • Elaine Heney February 28, 2014, 10:24 pm

    LOL Nathan, that’s INSPIRED! 😀 I think I need to take #hustle lessons from you :) Congrats awesome way to fund a business!

  • Nathan Cook February 28, 2014, 10:43 pm

    Thanks Elaine :)
    I get more of a buzz when i see my app ad revenue climb up by a few cents or few dollars at a time than what i do when I see I’ve sold $20-$100 worth of items on eBay a day. (I can only imagine the buzz you must get each day )
    I am looking forward to the buzz I will be getting when my app income increases to a level where I won’t to make 837 trips to the post office to post my GoPro leashes and magnet mounts, as i write this, someone from Austria just bought a leash – now, if only he could download a app as well haha.
    I wonder if I could use eBay to help market apps? Does anyone have any ideas? :)
    Cheers Nathan

  • Todd Smith February 28, 2014, 10:45 pm

    I’m in a helping mood today! (and have been trying to finish getting an app update done with too many “build failed” notifications) Time for a break!

    I’ll try and help on more than one.

    1.) Yes & No. Yes to a simple Wordpress site you could have up and running in less than an hour. That’s including buying the domain, getting a hosting plan & having WP installed, choosing a simple theme, and adding a few pages. There are many options and deals, but Godaddy makes everything I mentioned above easy for a NB.

    No, to paying someone else or spending a week developing a website. You just need a website for use when you submit and app and a place to blog about your adventure!

    2.) Buy some code & reskin a few apps first to get some cashflow. If you buy 2-3 source codes that are different and get a few rounds of reskins in you could have a variety of apps getting into the store. I had plenty of “ideas” for apps when I started out and had 2 programmed from scratch. I spent too much money and about 1.5 years later I haven’t got all of that back yet. Get your feet wet with some quiz source code. There are many different levels / quality of source code you can buy. Once you start being a part of the Indie developer community you’ll know what to look for and who you can trust. Some of the bigger websites and marketplaces are hit and miss because they have sellers that are all trying to sell their code. If you get code from some of your fellow developers that have blogs and also sell code that is usually a better way to go. In fact, Elaine has a pretty nice quiz app source code for sale. Check it out :)

    3.) Honestly for someone starting out or someone that has 100 apps, the most cost effective way I have found to promote is word of mouth and great internal marketing. With an early app of mine that I had build from scratch, I went the more traditional and “by the book” route and didn’t see much return. I had promotional items, an informative website, some ads going, and a great press release that I submitted in a variety of areas. It was learning experience and I understand that down the road if I have a larger app that I’m thinking of branding then I can do that again. However, for games and reskinning the best most [Cost Effective] thing you can do is:

    *Beautiful Icon
    *Good Title
    *Awesome keywords that are translated for all the available languages
    *Killer screen shots. I mean crisp, clean and exciting!
    *Get reviews from friends & family right after launch and be aggressive on continuing to get reviews and downloads from people you know.

    4.) Get money from friends and family or use a credit card (be smart :) I’m not talking thousands of dollars….you need crawl before you can walk. Buying some source code and putting out a nice reskin to see if you like to process and potential is a lot better than throwing 2-3k into having a few apps made from scratch. I learned the hard way!

    5.) Proven monetization methods for niche apps depend on the niche of course! Some apps do really well with IAP’s and some do really well with ads. For an exercise app, I think more packs would do really well. I have a diet app that has an IAP for specific features and they convert really well. So if you build your niche app around a theme that helps or entertains the user then the features should build off of those & encourage the user to buy. I do think as a backup you need to have the best ad network SDK’s installed and have the placements where they make sense. You can always turn them off at the dashboard if the IAP’s are doing well or leave them on to cash in on both.

    6.) Reskinning can be as involved or little involved as you want. Each source code or seller is mostly likely going to have different terms you must follow. It’s usually some or all of the graphics and the sound FXs / music. I never worry about adding new features to an already proven code until it “proves” itself to me by earning money. If the app does well, then I can consider the costs of adding features vs. what I think that will earn me back. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense, but there are apps that need new features and constant updating to maintain and grow a large and happy user base.


  • Tina Pruitt February 28, 2014, 10:55 pm

    Good one Nathan! I started some eBay a few months ago and got off track….I now have the name of someone to outsource selling MY stuff on eBay, so there really are no excuses! GO GO GO!

  • Chris Chidgey March 1, 2014, 9:07 pm


    Since you are a noob – NO. It is super easy for folks with basic experience with Wordpress to get a simple landing page up, but since you probably won’t want to try to figure out redirecting domain servers and uploading themes etc… I would say no. It is not essential or even important – but rather a “nice to have”. If you really really want a website for your app – check out http://launchrock.co/


    Buy some base code and learn by doing. Period. Get going. Read everything you can about what you think will help you the most (for me it is app retention and engagement strategies) – but read while moving your app project forward.


    You can write to all the reviews sites – I have had ZERO luck with that. I think by far – building in viral features (Like us on Facebook for 10 coins) gets the most bang for your non-existent buck.


    So you want someone to pay while you learn? Why would they do that? If you can sell your idea – great. But trying to find money/funding before you feel you have something of value to offer is going about a long-term goal in the wrong order. Maybe you can research and carve out a really cool game idea that could get funded on appbackr, kickstarter?


    I like subscription as well. Recurring monthly revenue is what everyone wants. Niche seems to support subscription as well, while broad supports free w/ in-apps+ads. BUT – really depends: what is your competition doing, what have users (website or competitors’) shown a preference for etc… as both are very viable strategies. In my apps – ads vs in-apps are 50/50 of revenue…..FYI.


    Reskinning came about because 1) it took a long time to develop code, 2) finding a gameplay/platform that users responded to took a lot of experimentation, and 3) it is easy to repurpose code to other topics once built. So just adding new graphics may be all that’s needed to get it by the Apple “spamming the app store” police, unless the idea is really catchy and fun – who is going to download it? Any source code I buy – I am buying for either a specific feature, or to implement new monetization techniques… You may have a run away success – and if you hire a designer and work with w/ a dev to submit – you will learn something, but more often than not, revenue follows value…… ask how much value are you adding to the app/process/user…..

    Best to all – Chris from the AppBusinessPodcast

  • Catalin March 2, 2014, 12:09 am


    You need a website to put the link in the support section, when you publish an app, that being said you don’t need something complicated. a simple site will do. You can setup one in about 1h, even if you don’t know anything about the subject. there are plenty of tutorials around. I’d recommend going with wordpress or facebook pages as someone else suggested.
    Just keep in mind that the site will have very little influence on the success of your app, so better concentrate on the app.
    Here is a tutorial for setting up a site with wordpress: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Jv47_VIBOQ


    Well, you can literally write a book to answer this question :)
    It all depends what your goals are and how much effort (time and money) you want to invest in this ideea. But let’s say, there are perfect conditions (which never are) and you decide to build this app no matter what.
    First, you search the market to figureout if there are similar apps, are they popular, how are those popular apps looking like, what is the functional?
    Make a list of stuff you like and see how it aligns with your ideea, try to learn from those popular apps.
    then, shop around to see if you can buy some code that is similar to what you want to do and get a programmer to extend it and release it (shorter/cheaper/faster). You may also need a designer for the graphics.
    If your ideea is unique and there is no similar source code already available, you’ll have to build it from scratch. again you’ll need a programmer and a designer.
    There is option number three: do all yourself – but chances are you’ll get overhemed and you’ll just give up.

    These are just a few key points, but the ideea is to get a clear ideea on what you want to achieve and just do it, step by step.


    Concentrate all your efforts on: title, keywords, icon, screenshots – this is the stuff that matters.


    Pretty much yes, you need a designer to make new graphics for the app and a developer to adjust the code if needed: add new ad networks, add buttons, etc.
    If you feel that there are missing features, add them, but don’t run for perfection, just get it out there, you can add more with updates. some features are important some are not, some are bringing money some don’t, so instead of spending more upfront spread it out.

  • Alan T March 3, 2014, 2:39 am

    Hello all,

    Many thanks to Elaine for her effort to start this blog post. I believe it will definitely help a lot of people especially the new comer like me. After involving in the app publishing market for a few months now, I think I would also like to share some of my leanings…


    Just like mentioned above, webpage is nice to have but not really necessary to start with. You are in app business and not web business hence you want to put more attention to your app instead. But web does help you in some way with you app business later on. I read an indie developer uses web page and do SEO to drive extra traffic to his app. This is one of many ways a webpage can help you with app business. I will definitely try this out soon :-)


    Clueless? Afraid not. If you type “how to create mobile apps without programming” at Google, there will be tonnes of information avalanched at you. If programming and graphic design is none of your forte, you can contract out these works to freelance site like oDesk.com or Elance.com. If you ask Elaine, her favourite freelance site is oDesk ;-). I personally like oDesk as well due to their easy to navigate around the site. Of course, it will take a while for you to find good programmer and artist. Hence, be prepare to spend at least a few hours a days to look through all the candidates after you posted a job. Just remember this phase when come to hiring freelance “Slow to hire, quick to fire”. If you want to learn more about how to build mobile app, there is a free course you can attend online at http://30dayappchallenge.com/training/


    I read a lot about app marketing but the best is still the old fashion way. Word of mouth is still the best. So, it’s time to use your Facebook, Tweeter or other social media as marketing tool for your new app instead of using it to stalk people :-P.


    Honestly speaking, very rare you can find people willing to fund your app business especially you are just starting out without any portfolio unless he/she is you parent, partner, or very dear friends. For my case, I practice prudence personal finance management and manage to safe a small amount of funds to start app publishing. But like people mentioned above, if you manage to come up with really good idea, who knows, you might just pull off some good money from people to support your app at kickstarter.com. Good luck!


    As mentioned by @Chris & @Todd, they provided a good explanation to this question. However, if your question is trying to find the definite and sure fire way to moniterize then I am afraid that you will have a rude awakening. Many times, a good or so called “proven” monitization method was usually created through trail and error. Hence, there are time you have to try a few method before you can find the sweet spot.

    Thanks to @Chris, @Todd & Catalin for the sharing at question 6.


  • Elaine Heney March 3, 2014, 11:39 am

    Thanks all, amazing replies & help 😀

  • Markus March 4, 2014, 5:26 am

    I’ve been in Apps just about 6 months less than Elaine —- in App-years that is still a long time. I expect to have completed over 500 apps this year :) So in the spirit of giving back, I do have some tips to offer and I hope they can help get some of you started: btw, I already have your radio show Elaine, so no need to enter me in the mix. :)

    There are lots of great answers here already, but I’ll try to add something of value. First, you need to realize my answers are pointed at iOS development… Google Play and Android is different. I think starting with Apple is the best route, as you still earn the most money with Apple. I’m sure others will disagree, but that’s the way it is.

    Free is good. I like the Facebook idea best if you are just starting. Apple is constantly changing their rules, but if you can currently do a facebook/appcompany page, it has the double benefit of being a quickly updatable promotions tool as well. I have Wordpress company websites myself because I have larger needs at this point, including server use.

    You decide to start, and you do it. It is an amazing learning journey. It will take some money. Starting ANY business takes money. But it can be hundreds, not thousands. You will fail, you will learn, you will fail less the next time, eventually you figure things out. If you have NO money, read EVERYTHING on Elaine’s blog and EVERYTHING on Carter’s blog. (bluecloud solutions). Maybe go read some things on raywenderlich.com Do NOT start by developing your own brilliant app idea with artists and coders, trust me, that is a bad idea.
    Save up some money and take Elaine’s courses. Really. If you are just starting, there is no less expensive way to learn all the basics in one place. Honestly, I have signed up for some of them just to see what Elaine was doing…and develop my OWN courses. (lol) But seriously, no fluff, just the important stuff. Now, here’s the important part…. once you have learned from Elaine and Carter how to start, you need to actually START.
    Check out the code from Elaine and Carter. They are mostly games, but games can be a good place to start. Most of the codes will have a detailed description of the features. Make notes, see what features each of them has in common… as in which advertisers, how are they monetized, where do the ads show up, etc. If you don’t understand something, google it – there will be answers. The cheapest way into apps is buying code and reskinning. Carter has good code, but unless it has just come out, it has already been reskinned a zillion times. Go with Elaine’s :)
    A more advanced side-note: The zombie-brain-shooting app on Carter’s site has Angela’s ad library which is worth it’s weight in camel-fat (as they say). Your dev. can strip this out and reuse in ALL of your games.The reason this Library is so cool is because it is built with a failover system to obtain 100% fill-rate on your advertising. Depending on how you (or your dev.) sets this up it will show Chartboost first, if Chartboost fails to provide an ad then it switches to Applovin. If Applovin fails to provide an ad it switches to Playhaven, if Playhaven fails, then it switches to Revmob. 100% fill rate, no missed ad serving, more money for you. Brilliant.

    Elaine has a really good blog post on this, and I totally agree with her. find it and read it. :) We are NOT big companies and our apps are generally NOT Clash of Clans or Candy Crush. Press releases etc. are generally NOT worth the time and effort for us Indies doing small apps. Your biggest tools as an Indie are ASO (App store optimization), and good reviews. Go take Gabriel Machuret’s optimization course at UDEMY, and join AppReview.me to get reviews—- give karma and get karma. :)

    On ASO my secret is: Theme, optimized game titles, keywords, killer icons and killer screenshots… in that order. It’s not really a secret. You will also get 50% to 100% more app downloads by translating to the top 9 languages beyond English. imho,I recommend REAL translators, not Google translate to avoid sounding like a toddler in other languages. btw, this is NOT translating your descriptions, just title and keywords. You can get ALL the metadata (title and keywords), and translations done by Angela’s team at http://angelasappservices.com/ It’s not cheap, but the price is reasonable. I cannot speak for others, but using this service more than doubled my average downloads vs. doing it myself, and I’m not a newbie. You have to decide for yourself if it is worth it.

    4. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO FUND APP DEVELOPMENT? If you have a j.o.b. you can start this on the side and fund everything yourself. A family loan or grant can be good. :) Credit cards are not. I agree with Elaine, grow it as you can…go for break-even, then profits. It will take time. At some point you will realize you need to “scale” because you’ll realize you need to be submitting like 5 apps a week, or more. Everyone has different monetary needs, but don’t dig a financial hole for yourself.
    Side note: Understanding I do mostly game apps – my own opinion is to try and get your app average up to around $20 per app per day. But unless you are really lucky this won’t happen when you start. Try and get your app average to $5 a day, then $10 a day, set those kind of goals. When you start, you don’t understand all the moving parts, so don’t start this business expecting $100 a day or more per app.

    I could write a huge blog post on this. It is kind of too general a question for a quick answer, but some people have already answered this pretty well above. For me it depends on the specific niche as to the best methods.

    6. WHAT IS INVOLVED IN RESKINNING APPS? For Apple iOS: after you have met the iOS developer account requirements and paid your yearly $99 fee….at the simplest, it is buy “good” code, decide on a proven theme, replace the graphics with GOOD art, (maybe the music too), do your best ASO and language translation. Set up your app(s) in the developer portal and on iTunes Connect. Test and upload. Track and tweak. You HAVE to know your numbers and learn from each app you do to do better the next time! The other key ingredient to reskinning success is multiple versions. You want to produce at least 3 different themed versions for each code. How to do this is a whole big separate subject in itself.

    Having over-simplified reskinning this much, there are things you need to watch out for. For example, in each app, how many images and backgrounds are you going to have to replace? I have some code that requires less than 30 images. I have other code that has over 700 images to replace. Still other code has images that have been crammed together and transformed into sprite sheets to reduce file size, but can be a laborious job to replace. And don’t get me started on tile-set type games involving graphic tile editors.

    If someone asked me how to start, i would say find a good quiz-type code to start with, or a photo app code, as the graphic and music requirements will usually be minimal. Don’t count on making much money with your first apps. Your goal is to stay cheap, break even and learn the process. If you have very little money you can learn the process via free online tutorials by googling what you want to find out, or head over to raywenderlich.com. If you want the complete process in one place and can pay something then just take Elaine’s courses. Really. I promise I’m not getting paid or anything – but you’ll learn all you need to know in one place. :)
    BEST of luck to all of you that start this journey.

  • Elaine Heney March 4, 2014, 11:37 am

    Wow huge thanks everyone for contributing these are GREAT! 😀

  • Sean March 6, 2014, 4:30 pm

    Agree. Even though most of this is old news for me (been at it for about four months), they’re still great tips!

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