Retrospective: What Is My Business Strategy?

In my Review of the Alter v1.0 launch I wrote:

Given that these are side-projects, is my goal of consistent sales feasible? I think yes.

Following that, in my post Niches, Products and Business Strategy, I considered the approach of building a premium, niche app, for success in a crowded App Store:

Find a niche you’re interested in. Think about building a product, not just an app. Expand your approach to include a little more business strategy.

Am I thinking Niches, Products and Business Strategy?

No. I haven’t been working on a niche product; specifically, a premium niche product. What’s more, as I review the Alter project I see that it has lacked critical thinking from a product design perspective[1].

Given that I subscribe to the niche product approach, this isn’t good.

What gives?

Whenever I think about my general strategy for iOS, what to work on and how to spend my time, I do so as-if I were a full-time, independent developer.

But I’m not. I’m working on iOS projects in my spare time[2], and for over a year, I’ve been working on this stuff solo.

So, whilst my thoughts are often consumed by an iOS project and I wish I had more time to do more, there are limitations to what I can do with the time available.

The time needed to build a premium, niche product.

With the time I have available I don’t think this is something I can do. Here’s why:

  • The development is more in-depth (at least, more in-depth than what I’ve been working on).
  • An effective website would (almost certainly) be needed[3].
  • I’ve got questions with unknown answers on how I’d reach and interact with my customers. What I do know is that, along with a website, more effort would be needed. Perhaps the type of effort that can’t be achieved working in the study.
  • It feels like a greater responsibility to customers.

I’d love to work in an independent team making software like this, but with my current setup, I don’t think I can do a good job[4].

Building smaller apps.

Naturally, smaller apps take less time. But I don’t just mean smaller apps, I mean smaller projects. I mean doing less.

If A, B, C and D are required to make a successful app and I think I’ve only got time for A, and maybe a little bit of B, what’s the point? Am I wasting my time?

No, I don’t think so. Here’s why:

  • This is my spare time and I enjoy doing this.
  • Regardless of the specifics of an app, I can still work at making smarter product choices. Better design decisions. I find this challenging and rewarding.
  • I can work on some elements of a more comprehensive approach to selling software[5].
  • I can pick projects suitable for my spare-time that still put some value in the App Store.

Enjoyment, practice and (hopefully) improvement. Not a waste of time.

Acceptance.

Maybe acceptance is the key thing here. I know that I can’t throw a lot of time at this and I don’t expect to be able to make a popular, financially successful app. There are too many missing ingredients.

What’s my business strategy? I don’t have one.

I would like one, but that’s the situation for now. If things change, I can change my approach[6]

  1. It’s a small app but I still think I got the product strategy wrong for Alter. I intend to write about this.
  2. Over the last year my routine has been to spend time in the mornings before going to work. I’m recently a dad, my available time is going in one direction!
  3. Read Building a Showroom from Joe Cieplinski.
  4. This could be extended to: I don’t have enough bandwidth to make, market, and maintain any software, not just a premium, niche product.
  5. For example, with v1.0 of Alter I made a pretty good video. That was beneficial, fun, and I learned a lot.
  6. I suppose self-review (some introspection?) can be flawed in some ways. It’s worth noting that I’ve been here before in a slightly different guise: Hobbyist Developer Struggles with Discipline. That’s ok.
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