7 Ways to Make Money on the iPhone

Matthew Campbell, May 14th

iStock_000007289301XSmall.jpgSome of you may be interested in iPhone development simply as a hobby or a project to share with friends. However, I get a lot of interest in how to create a business or career doing iPhone development.


Well, being an independent developer working on a platform you love to work on has a huge appeal to many people. But, doing this and potentially quitting your job to do it full time is something that requires more than savvy programming skills. One thing to think about is what your business model is going to be.

Business model means how are you going to make money? Money is the lifeblood of a business and you will need to make sure you have a plan to ensure cash flow so that you can give your products the attention they deserve. So, to spur you on to thinking about the business end of things I thought I would throw some ideas out there.

1.) Consulting – being a consultant means that you charge people for your time and expertise. You clients will get great value from you and you will get a big upfront payout. Some consultants on the iPhone will command $100, $125 and even $150 per hour.

2.) Build an Ad-Supported App – this approach depends on building an app that you own and putting ads in it. It makes money when people click on your ad. If you are not comfortable with charging people directly for money but still want a passive income, this could be an option. However, be prepared to create something a lot of people will want to use frequently.

HINT: Passive Income means money you receive without putting in your time. Think rent money or sales from a product over time.

3.) Sell an App Directly to a Niche - this is my business model. I know that there is a small audience for people who want to organize their wine notes. So, I found out what they wanted, built it and then sold it to them while incorporating their feedback.

4.) Create a Subscription Based App - Soon, you will be able to charge users a reoccurring fee to use your content. This model could fit a content rich scenario such as a [whatever] of the month club where customers pay a low monthly fee to get premium timely content. If you have a rich content assets like game material, music, art or important information this may be a good option for you.

5.) Micro-transactions – Another possibility to think about is micro-transactions. Micro-transactions are very small payments (to you) that users can expand and customize the functionality of their app. Typically, games use this idea (at least in Asia). Using a game as an example, users could buy the base product (say an adventure game) and then buy additional in-game items like special swords or armor or pets. Other apps could mimic this as well.

6.) Try to Hit the iFart Lottery – apps like iFart and others that are simple to create but capture everyone’s imagination can make you an instant millionaire. Of course, for every successful iFart there are twenty less successful flatulence inspired apps. Pay attention to what the top apps do and try and learn from them. Be prepared to try and drop a few apps before you hit gold.

7.) Loss Leader – this scenario assumes that you have a desktop application that you can sell. Essentially, you give the iPhone app away for free hoping to inspire prospects to buy your more expensive desktop app. To keep it in perspective, desktop apps can easily cost $29 a shot. 1Password is a great example of this approach.

That is it for my ideas. What do you think? Any other ideas to make your iPhone business dreams a reality?

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