How to Make $30,000 in 30 Days (And Why You Don’t Need a Unique Idea to Make Good Money)

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Here’s a quick question for you…

What’s a huge obstacle that prevents most people from earning more money?

The answer…

Coming up with a good idea.

We often never start projects that could make us money because we want a “perfect” idea. We think that our idea needs to be unique. Or we think that our idea can’t be any good because someone else has already done it.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be hard to think of an idea that will make more money. But if you think that your idea needs to be new or unique, I’m going to prove that mindset completely wrong.

You don’t need to be the first person to think of a brilliant idea. In fact, it might be better if you’re not the first.

Google wasn’t the first search engine.

Facebook wasn’t the first social network.

Even Silly Bandz (those crazy rubber bands that kids love) evolved out of a similar product.

Today, each business stands out as the best in their market despite entering an industry filled with successful competitors.

But you don’t have to be a startup with millions of dollars to make money in competitive markets. In fact, I recently used an old idea to make more than $30,000 in 30 days.

How did I do it?

Keep reading…

Finding a way to make more money

I have wanted to create an iPhone app for well over a year.

Being a big fan of the iPhone, it was a dream of mine and something that I thought would be cool. Plus, I figured I could make a little money from it too.

Right away, I ran into a major problem.

I had no idea how to program an app! I didn’t know a single line of code.

I picked up some books and tried to learn, but the programming language was too difficult for me. So, I put that dream on hold and moved on with life.

It wasn’t until I found Pat Flynn’s blog, Smart Passive Income, that I found a way to make my dream come true.

Pat and his business partner started an iPhone app company and outsourced all the work. I had no idea that iPhone app creation could be outsourced.

(Editor’s Note: You can read more about how to outsource iPhone apps.)

Pat’s side business was bringing in thousands of dollars per month. The more I read about his experience, the more confidence it gave me that I could do the same.

One problem solved. Now I needed an idea.

The creation of Photo365

The idea came naturally to me.

Sometimes the best ideas come that way instead of sitting down and thinking so hard about it.

I had downloaded an app that let me save one photo per day in a calendar.

It wasn’t bad. The person who created it did a great job of programming it himself. I used it for two months, but I felt like the app could be better.

There were no graphics. The only colors were black and white. It didn’t look like the polished iPhone app that users expected.

I looked into the possibilities some more…

There was a free and a paid version of the app I was using. The free version had tons of reviews, so it seemed like something users wanted. Some of the bad reviews mentioned that people wanted a realistic looking calendar. The current app only showed four days in a row. People wanted to see seven days like a traditional calendar.

It looked like there was a market for this type of app and I knew how I could improve the app.

Plus, I knew that there was a community of people who saved a photo a day and posted it on their blog or social media. I knew that if I tried to reach all of the photography fans, then I would probably reach no one … but this idea was targeted enough that it might work.

Time for my next concern…

How did the competition look?

I did a search in the App Store to find similar apps. At the time, the app I was using was the only app available in this niche.

Little competition in a targeted marketed. Perfect.

This meant that I had an idea and a way to outsource the creation of the app.

I decided to call it Photo365.

Outsourcing the creation of the app

I had never outsourced an iPhone app before, so I bought an ebook that Pat Flynn recommended on outsourcing the development of an iPhone app.

It was written by two guys who had been through the process many times and created a six–figure a year business. You can get that ebook here.

Once I knew what to do, I posted my job on Elance.com, sorted through the bids, reviewed each company, and finally settled on one.

It took six months from the day I accepted a bid until my app was available for purchase.

Photo365 goes live

My app was released on Thursday, August 11.

Other than sharing my app with my Facebook and Twitter friends, I didn’t do any advertising or build any hype.

It cost me $2020 to make the app. At a minimum, I wanted to make my initial investment back.

The worst case scenario was that I wouldn’t make a penny back. If that happened, I told myself that I would be alright with that and I would chalk it up as a learning experience.

The whole time, I made sure that I didn’t spend more money than I could afford to lose. Most apps will never make money and simply having an app doesn’t guarantee success.

During the first week, I was featured with all of the other new apps in the Photography category. The App Store is constantly promoting the newest apps, so I knew that most of my sales would come from being seen in the new app category and keyword searches in the App Store.

In the first four days, I earned $904.29. That was completely beyond my expectations!

After that first weekend, however, I saw sales decline each day.

On Wednesday — one week after launching — I earned a low of $65.

I was a bit disheartened after seeing such huge sales figures early on … but little did I know, the exciting part was just beginning.

My big break

One day after earning $65, I got a big surprise and saw that my app was featured in the “New and Noteworthy” section.

In terms of being featured in the App Store, the “New and Noteworthy” section would be a silver medal.

Only 35 apps get selected each week for this category. This section shows up on the front page of the App Store. Not only did I get featured, but I was in the #2 slot.

I knew that this would boost visibility and increase sales, but I didn’t know how much it would impact things.

My sales increased ten times and I went from $65 to $650 on the first day I was featured. On the remaining days, I averaged $1300 in sales.

This was unbelievable.

It gets better…

I thought my amazing week would be the end of my time in the spotlight, but a few days later I received an email from the App Store marketing team saying that they liked my app and wanted art assets.

They couldn’t promise that they would use them, but they wanted them on hand just in case. I re–read the email numerous times. I couldn’t believe it!

I did a Google search and only found one mention of an email like this one. I knew this was a rare offer.

They only gave me 19 hours to respond. I knew the art had to look very professional for there to be any chance of it being used. I called my brother, who is a Photoshop wizard, and had him help me put together the graphics Apple wanted.

I sent the art over and waited until Thursday, when they updated the App store.

Would they feature me?

I don’t remember what time it was on Thursday, but a fellow developer sent me a message online and told me that I was App of the Week!

I quickly checked my iPhone and saw Photo365 right there on the front page. I jumped up and screamed as if I had hit the jackpot! I was the top featured app in the App Store!

That week alone I did over $15,000 in sales.

It was an amazing feeling to wake up and check sales figures every day. I was like a kid the night before Christmas. Every night I couldn’t sleep because of anticipation of the sales reports in the morning.

That week, Photo365 ranked as high as #22 in the entire App Store. That’s an accomplishment usually reserved for large app companies.

Since that day, Photo365 has been App of the Week in over 45 countries around the world.

In total, my app generated $33,232.11 in the first 30 days.

It’s about execution, not ideas

It’s still hard to believe my idea turned into something bigger than I ever imagined.

At the time, I didn’t think that my idea was that great. It had already been done in the App Store and had lots of downloads based on the number of reviews. I just felt it could be improved and give users a better experience.

When you think about your idea for a new side project or a business, it doesn’t have to be something that has never been done before.

In fact, it wasn’t my idea that made this a success.

It’s foolish to think that an idea can bring you a million dollars. A brilliant idea is worthless without brilliant execution.

I read an article recently about the brightest young minds in Silicon Valley. When the journalist interviewed the students, he kept hearing the same ideas over and over.

What’s the lesson?

Even when you’re brilliant, ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is what matters.

I believe it was the execution of my idea that got my app featured.

I took an existing idea and improved on it. I executed better than the competition and the end result was a huge reward.

But I’m not the only one to do this. I want to give you another example of how someone took an existing idea and put his own spin on it.

How to start a toy craze

Silly Bandz are little rubber bands in the shape of animals and other objects. People love wearing them on their wrist and trading them.

Those little pieces of rubber created a business that was making $100 million per year. When it was at it’s peak, Silly Bandz weren’t just popular with kids, but adults and celebrities were wearing them as well.

The product came from Robert Croak, the CEO of BCP Imports.

How did he get the idea?

It came from a trade show in China.

In 2007, Croak and the manager of a factory that produces silicone bracelets (remember those yellow Livestrong bracelets?) visited a trade show in China. The manager spotted some stretchy animal shapes that were sold in Japan as rubber bands.

Croak said,

I liked the way they looked, and I thought if they were done correctly — larger and thicker — they would make a great fashion accessory.

It’s like any entrepreneur: If you see something you like and have the capability to develop it differently, then the sky’s the limit.

But here’s the real kicker: the animal bands weren’t even new to the United States.

The design had won awards and had been selling in the United States on a limited basis since 2002. New York magazine, that year, noted that they could be worn as bracelets.

That’s where Croak saw the potential where the original designers didn’t. He imagined a wider variety of bands where kids could trade them.

He trademarked the name, created them, and kids around the country went nuts.

Croak didn’t reinvent the wheel. The rubber bands were even sold in the United States. But he saw a way to make them better and he executed on the idea.

Who would sell premium tequila?

John Paul DeJoria did something similar with tequila.

You may not recognize his name, but many women will recognize the first company he co–founded: Paul Mitchell.

In 1989, DeJoria started the company that now produces the #1 selling premium tequila, Patron.

At the time tequila was viewed as cheap. No one had ever thought to sell premium tequila. In an interview with Entrepreneur, DeJoria describes how the company started.

I started Patron in 1989 with a friend of mine. I had put my friend Martin [Crowley] in the architectural business. He had a little bad luck in his life, so he would go down to Mexico, buy stone pavers and furniture and come back to the United States and sell it to architects. I said, “Martin, why don’t you bring back a few bottles of whatever the best tequila is that Mexicans drink down there.” So Martin brought me back the tequila and this bottle he found, that was the same bottle as Patron today.

He said, “JP, I have this idea; taste this.” I thought, Wow, that’s smoother than anything we’ve ever had. He said “I can make it smoother. I can send a mixologist down. And here’s a bottle we can put it in, and I’ll design this beautiful label for it. What do you think about going into business together?” We made it a little smoother, put it in these hand–blown bottles. So I bought a thousand cases — 12,000 bottles. And my thinking was, if no one bought it, I would keep it, because Paul Mitchell was doing good. And for 10 years everybody I knew got one — for their birthday, christening, bar mitzvah, any kind of holiday you could think of. “Here’s a bottle of tequila! [laughs] If you’re too young, give it to your parents.”

Patron is a private company, so exact sales figures are not available.

However, DeJoria owns 70% of the company and his total net worth is $4.5 billion, so it’s reasonable to say Patron is more than a small success.

A final example of execution

Let me give you one last example of execution in it’s simplest form.

In the App Store, there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of paid and free flashlight apps. Most of them simply turn your screen white so that you can use it as a flashlight. Some of them decided to get fancy and add a strobe light feature.

Even with so much competition, there is one that has consistently been in the top 25 paid apps. It’s pulling in at least $2,000 every day.

What makes it so popular?

It promises to turn on the flashlight the quickest. You open the app and the flashlight turns on right away. The screen shows an ON/OFF switch just like a realistic flashlight and the graphics are well done.

Simple. Clean. No gimmicks. No ads. And it works.

It’s a simple idea that has been done many times before, but it was executed well and now it brings in thousands of dollars without any work.

It’s your turn. Take action.

As you think of ways to make more money, remember that your idea doesn’t need to be unique.

If others have done it and are doing well, then take that as a sign of a market with customers. If you decide to get into it, make sure you idea is executed well and think about how you can stand out from the crowd.

And keep in mind: it may take many ideas. It may even take years.

Robert Croak said that his overnight success took 20 years. He had some minor success selling silicone bracelets online, but even his mom tried to tell him to get a real job.

Creating Photo365 wasn’t the first money–making idea I’ve had. I’ve tried and failed with many others in the past.

And there is another example close to home… there are many sites about making more money, but James has done a great job with Passive Panda and it now stands out as one of the best.

Benny Hsu inspires people to live a better life on his blog, Get Busy Living.

81 Responses to How to Make $30,000 in 30 Days (And Why You Don’t Need a Unique Idea to Make Good Money)

  1. Bojan says:

    Awesome article there are two underlying lessons/principles that I see being repeated a lot. One is that an o.k idea with brilliant execution is a lot better than a brilliant idea with o.k execution. The other one is that we didn’t see all the failures that most entrepreneurs faced before they had their breakthrough project. It’s easy to be jealous of super successful people but often times we never take into consideration all the hard work and sacrifices to get there. Anyway great article!

    • Benny says:

      Thanks Bojan!

      Execution is definitely more important than a great idea. Ideas are easy to come up with. They float around in your brain, but getting it out there well is key.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  2. Dani says:

    This post gives me hope that the applications we are developing will bring us what we need in the new year! Great inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Renegade Dad says:

    Great article! I’ve been sitting on a few ideas for iPhone apps and digital products. This gives me a little extra motivation to just get it done.

    • Benny says:

      Thanks for reading! I’m glad it gave you a little extra motivation. When I read about Pat Flynn’s success, that gave me motivation. Glad this does for you.

  4. Dave says:

    Benny, what an inspiring post man! Amazing.

    I have also wanted to create an iPhone app for a long time and had some ideas but nothing really clicked and came to life.

    I got to thank you for getting me all excited about creating an iPhone app and I sure hope I will go all the way this time :)

    Thanks!

    • Benny says:

      Hey Dave,

      I understand the position you’re in. I was there too. I had an idea, but didn’t know how to make it a reality.

      Hope to see your app in the store in 2012!

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Great post Benny, I remember back when Pat featured you on his site, killer success story and real proof on the importance of execution and persistence!

  6. Matthew says:

    Excellent lesson, illustrated with two different companies. It’s amazing how many people have fabulous ideas but don’t take the necessary steps to bring them to life (including myself).

    Currently working on a paid newsletter – it’s been done many different ways, I’m simply focusing on a single topic and trying to build up a readership. If this doesn’t work, then on to the next idea.

    Trying to default to action instead of brainstorming.

  7. Oscar says:

    Best inspiring article I have ever read… little long but 100% +1 worthy… it just turned ON! many ideas I had in the past, now it is time to put on some EXECUTION…

    • Benny says:

      Thanks Oscar! It’s a bit long, but I wanted to make it a great article that covered the topic thoroughly. Glad to hear you’re ready to take those ideas and start executing!

  8. Joy Mo says:

    Great article. It’s so true – great ideas themselves are not going to bring you profit automatically. It’s the execution that seals the deal. The willingness to do whatever it takes to get the result you want trumphs everything else.

  9. Glenn says:

    Brilliant post,

    Thanks for sharing your success story, it’s stories like these that keep many people motivated :)

    Nice to hear a mention for Pat Flynn @ smartpassiveincome.com, he is a top guy – if you haven’t been to his site, now’s the time!

    Thanks again,
    Glenn

    • Benny says:

      Thank you for reading Glenn. Pat is a great guy and puts out great content. I don’t know how anyone doesn’t know his blog, but if they don’t, they should definitely check it out.

  10. Zack Lim says:

    Hi Benny,

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring article. I agree with you that Execution is more important than thinking about the perfect idea as there will never be a perfect idea.

    Haha time for some real Execution :)

    Zack

  11. Sonia says:

    That was amazing Benny. All that hard work paid off and you never gave up hope and believed in the product you created. I downloaded it myself and it’s a very easy to use and the interface is awesome. I couldn’t be more happier for a person that worked their a– off to get it right! Go Benny! Go Benny!

  12. Benny,

    Even though I’ve read your story on your blog and I’ve seen it around on others, it’s still great to hear it again.

    I like that you took an existing idea and just made it better. That is what Sony did in the 80s with the Walkman and Trinitron TVs. It’s also what Apple did with the MP3 player and personal computer. Neither company created an entirely new product but they did execute on it better than anyone else.

    Great post!

    - Matt

  13. Mark says:

    Benny,

    I’ve been following your progress on your blog so I know this story already but I must say, I still enjoy hearing it.

    I hope you are still tearing it up with your app.

    Thanks for always being so positive and motivating.

    -Mark

  14. Sirita says:

    What a great article. Its got me thinking of my favorite iPhone app and where it might be improved. Thank you so much for providing all this great information.

  15. Mohul says:

    Inspirational .. thanks for the share!

  16. XuDing says:

    Idea is nothing, execution is the king.

  17. Samantha says:

    Very inspiring and I love the permission to not have to be completely unique, but to take action.
    - Sam

  18. Right on the money Benny! For folks who are already have an established audience another great idea is to create a app for your brand like Pat Flynn did with Smart Passive Income.

  19. Kevin Mzansi says:

    Seriously inspiring! Thanks for sharing the story…

  20. Susan says:

    I work with a publisher and just provide the content for my iphone apps, but I earn 30% per sale. No coding on my end, they help market it, and I pay no costs towards it at all.

    That model is not for everyone and can be limiting in certain ways. But for me it’s the perfect, no-risk way to get started and take it as far as I want.

  21. Shaun says:

    What an awesome story, I love the extra examples you gave too. I tend to get really hung up on an idea needing to be original, but you have proved otherwise. I definitely want to try this, just need to refine my idea the way you have.

    Thanks Benny

    • Benny says:

      Glad the post can give you an extra boost to get started.

      The examples I found further solidified that ideas don’t have to be completely original. Just different to stand out.

  22. Nick says:

    Great, great post. Congrats on the app, too! And thanks for the motivation.

  23. This is great, well done for your successes! I was watching a movie on a plane recently and one of the characters was moaning ‘its too hard, its all been done before’. The other guy replied ‘its the year 2011, of course its all been done before! All that’s left is to make something either a bit different or a bit better’

    It made me laugh and made me pause to consider that pearl of wisdom!

  24. Ron says:

    Don’t worry Benny. I’ve already read all about your 365 app. Congrats on the success!

  25. Tal Gur says:

    Excellent writing. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Andreas says:

    Great to read a similar success story. You hit the nail on the head with going for it with the execution and not getting too caught up with “this has been done before”. Looks are so important in the app store and I must say Photo 365 looks fantastic! I always recommend people hire a designer separately to the coder (unless you happen to get someone who’s amazing at both). I am interested to read more about how come it took 6 months for the app to get together – did you just decide to give your developers plenty of time?

    • Benny says:

      Andreas,

      Thanks for reading! I didn’t plan on giving my developers that much time. It just naturally evolved to that. Originally they said 1.5 month, but I noticed things were going to take longer than that. It’s okay though. Even when it stretched into months, I didn’t impose a deadline for them. I just wanted it done right.

      Hope that answers your question! If you have more, feel free to contact me.

  27. Ridwan says:

    You never mentioned anything about marketing your app. We just completed our first app at our startup and we would appreciate some ideas on how to hire marketers for the app. Thanks.

    • Chris Oliver says:

      I think that’s part of the point that wasn’t touched on. Brilliant execution doesn’t need marketing. It sells itself.

      • Benny says:

        I didn’t do any marketing. I spent $0 on it. The app just got featured without major promotion. I had a few bloggers email me wanting a promo code to do a review, but I didn’t spend any money promoting it.

    • Andreas says:

      If I may way in with some iPhone app marketing tips…

      Depending on the app you may find a good way to market an app is to build up an email list of interested users before. Then, when it comes to launch you email them on the day your app is released. That gives you a big download spike which should help get you in to the top 100 of a category. From there the effect is multiplied by people browsing the category.

      You also increase the chances of your app being featured by Apple.

      Mobile app marketing is a big topic so I can’t really dive in to it fully here but it’s great that Benny wrote this post that I’m sure is helping a lot of people get inspiration to get started.

  28. Eric Timmer says:

    Thanks for the update on how much it was making. I was wondering if you were going to give a 1 month update. As a fellow app maker it’s nice to have an idea of what others are making, especially when an app is featured.

    • Benny says:

      Thanks Eric. I’m assuming you read my update on my blog? If so, thanks! I enjoy reading how other apps have been doing, especially indie developers.

  29. This is a great story and congratulations for taking action and doing something! Most people just come up with an idea and sit there. BTW, I also love Smart Passive Income! Good luck in your future apps!

    • Benny says:

      Thanks so much Ken! My life would be so different if I didn’t take a chance on it. SPI is definitely great! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

  30. Annie Andre says:

    Benny,

    I can’t keep up with all the guest posting your doing.

    I think it’s great that you are sharing all of your success stories. It inspires people to go for their dreams.

  31. Rodney says:

    Awesome read! I agree that an idea doesn’t have to be original for someone to get started in a business. Just take something that already exist, but tweak it some more.

    Burn the business plans, and fire up the Execution!

    • Benny says:

      So true Rodney! I know my problem before was trying to think of something totally originally. That’s why I never came up with an idea.

      Thanks for reading!

  32. Brett says:

    Wow there are some inspirational ideas here. I kind of wish I had got into apps, desktop software was quite a good niche for me for a while, but some of the stories about successful apps are mindblowing.

  33. Jenna Catao says:

    If you love what you do, then there is no success or failiure. Just ups and downs.

  34. Thanks Benny, This is really inspirational.

  35. So, ideas is not everything for business, but great execution will make any ideas like great ideas to everyone. Thank you so much for this inspiring experience of yours.

  36. Igor says:

    Great article! I agree with you. You don’t have to always bring the new idea. You can improve some app you like and make a bussiness from it! Thanks

  37. hey and thank you for writing this article! I really enjoyed it and it makes me feel like I can achieve anything!

    I have been sitting on an idea about a plugin to be made for WordPress because all the free one was to difficult to use and I am struggling to get it to work. So your article had made me think that yes I can do it!

    I also have a friend that is interested in going into iphone apps, so I sent him the link to come and read it as well.

    Congrats on your success for your app, but don’t stop there. You must continue building more apps. Research is key and TAKING ACTION is even more important!

  38. Freddy says:

    Hey benny thnx for the motivation u gave a great idea however i would like some tips in how to execute them because i have no idea on what to do to create an app. Could you help?

  39. Mason says:

    Excellent post! Not many people go to the trouble of providing more than one or two scenarios to backup their claims. I love how you provided your own scenario first, and then built upon your success with stories of others succeeding with the same business model.

    This has definitely given me some inspiration to continue down the path I’m pursuing right now, so thank you for that! Now all I need to do is learn how to write as clearly and convincingly as yourself! :D Keep up the great work, Benny!

    Best regards,

    Mason

  40. Suresh says:

    Excellent post. While getting new ideas is key, execution is also important. Thanks for such inspirational true story.

  41. A HUGE THANK YOU :) . says:

    I dont know what to tell you .. i really thank you man you are the best .. :)

  42. Hassy says:

    This is a nice post!
    I’m an iphone application developer
    confused on making application Ideas.
    I always tried to make new and unique Ideas & failed to make money but this post gives me hope to develop applications what I really want.

  43. Stacey O'Neal says:

    Show me how to start making that money…

  44. Keith Carey says:

    Wow! a very inspiring story of yours Benny! Starting an online business is is not easy but because of your story, it gives me a motivation and willingness to pursuit my dreams in life.. Thanks!

  45. Khalid Kasker says:

    Truly inspirational, Thank you :)

  46. Bill B says:

    Love the story about Patron. I agree that action (even wrong action) is 100x better than waiting for the perfect thing to act on.

    Great blog btw.

    Bill

  47. Shane says:

    Wow, that’s an inspiring story. It’s true, it’s not about having the best idea, it’s about executing the best way on whatever idea you have. Some of the best ideas in history didn’t “go big” until someone else stole/borrowed the idea and executed/marketed it properly. Classic example: Henry Ford and the automobile. Ford didn’t invent the car, he just executed properly and made the car (and his company) the raving success it is. If anyone is looking for an idea, all they have to do is look around and figure out what you use/have/do that you could improve on and then DO IT.

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