Here’s a quick question for you…
What’s a huge obstacle that prevents most people from earning more money?
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?
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.
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.