One of the biggest challenges that every developer has to wrestle with is the question of how much they should sell their app for, especially if they are monetizing the app outright instead of through advertisements or through in-app upgrades and the like.
The tough thing is that there’s a lot of both the “science” and the “art” to pricing and there’s a lot of “gut feeling” associated with it too. In many ways I feel that the developer, his/herself, is too close to the project to be able to do this with much objectivity when it comes down to it.
But it still has to be done. It’s unavoidable.
Asking myself the question of value for my app or what I think it is worth is a tough question to answer. Because I built Desk for myself as the original motivation I can easily say that the app was and is “priceless” for its ability to serve my own needs first and foremost.
In other words, I wanted the app to exist and so I set out to build it. And soon after it was “born” in a form that made sense I was very, very satisfied. The very next emotion, almost instantaneously, was to share that joy and satisfaction with others.
This meant that I had to begin to refine the app in a way that was “market ready” and able to help more users than just myself. I have a distinct and unique pattern of writing and so building an app that was “market ready” meant that I had to loosen my tight grip on the app itself and my odd workflow so that it would be able to encounter many more forms of writing and workflows.
And consequently, to make it “market ready” also meant that it had to be able to weather the storm of being “on the market”; being sold as a product which means that I had to put a price tag on it, something that was much less than “priceless.”
So where does one start? To the Mac App Store I headed and I jotted down all of the apps that were similar in nature and that had similar features. I took a look at the mean and the median prices. I did all the “math” and then figured that my app probably was somewhere in the middle.
That was essentially my “science”; next came the “art” of the price, which is simply just a feeling about how it might perform and how I felt about the app holistically. And I matched this feeling (i.e the art) with my so-called scientific research and landed on a number.
How do I know that it’s the right price figure? Honestly, at the end of the day it’s just a guess, a gut-feeling, and one that I needed to sleep on to get comfortable with. I knew that I would never be completely comfortable with the price but I had to start somewhere.
And, just as I expected, the day that I launched the app publicly I instantly began to regret my decision; not because it wasn’t the right price but because emotions are so volatile the moment they are tested against the wide open public and what you thought was firm footing now becomes akin to sand.
That first day I kept wondering about how many would sell and how many people would think that my price was outrageous. Every comment on social media, every tweet that was sent to me about the pricing was like a dagger in my very soul; I wanted to crawl into my bed and hide under the covers as I literally couldn’t handle emotionally the tweets that literally seemed to be delivered in the form of a guttural yell (they sound so angry…):
WHAT THE FUCK?! $30?!? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR GODDAMN MIND?!?
Perhaps I was. Who was to know? Regardless, I wanted to cave so badly:
No one likes me. They hate me. They think I’m stupid for pricing it that way. They think I’m an egotistical, sadistic, and bloodsucking developer. I’m so ashamed. Why would I do that? Ah… My life is over…
It’s hard to describe on paper the feelings and emotional roller coaster that one experiences when launching an indie app into the wide world. I’ve experienced it a handful of times and it does not get easier. If anything the critics and pundits get louder (and more bold) with their public cries of defamation: “How dare you try doing something again!”
I know that it is useless to respond but I often will respond and I instantly regret doing so. I can’t seem to help myself. I have a lot of anxiety about shipping products and I’m insecure as the next person when it comes to sharing my work with others. I want it to be perfect (it never is – it’s always embarrassingly-imperfect) and I want people to see it as I see it (impossible).
I simply want to be understood. I want the app to be understood. We all want to be understood – as creators, as hard workers, as people.
I want to make a meaningful living, not just financially but also (and more importantly) in the ways that I want to live a meaningful life, one full of passion, very little regret, and full of purpose and resolve.
It’s not about the app. It’s not about reaching my modest goals for the project. It’s about making it count. We’ve all got one shot at doing life right or, at the very least, doing our very best to make it all worth something in the end. You know, we’ll all be dead before we know it.
I received some incredible words of counsel and encouragement from the biggest competitor in the space the other day. I think he got it. In fact, I know he got it. I emailed him privately a little later that day and thanked him for the public support.
You know what he told me? He told me that I priced it “right” and that the result could very well be something that would amount to a “meaningful living.” If there was one guy who could be trusted with that type of advice it would be him.
Thanks to everyone who’s supported me through the years and the many projects that I’ve shared publicly. If you don’t mind I’ll continue to share them – it’s how I make my finite life very, very meaningful.