How to create an app to generate passive income

So you’re tired of working your dead-end job, tired of answering to someone else, tired of the 9-5 right? Yeah I hear ya. Great news, I broke out of the soul-suck that is corporate Canada, and today is your lucky day! As an independent app developer (my app portfolio – some less shitty than others) and self-proclaimed machine whisperer, I now have the authoritai to teach you how to create an app of your very own. While working on on my newest app, I noticed myself following a similar process as on many of my other previous apps. So I thought I’d outline my working process for how to create an app in 9 simple steps (not necessarily easy steps). Follow them, more or less, if you too want to master the art of whispering sweet algorithms in thousands – nay, millions! – of machines’ modems globally in an effort to harness their power into your own personal passive income app empire! Mwahahaha…

How to create an app

android studio working environment dark theme code editor - how to create an app
Figure 1. Easy on the eyes, dark themed Android Studio editor with colored coded font

Step 1: Create an immersive work environment

  • put some music on to hone your concentration and minimize outside distractions
  • preferably it’s enjoyable, lyric-less, in some studio-grade headphones, I whole-heartedly recommend the [amazon text=Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Headphones&asin=B00HVLUR86] for the highest quality listening experience for under $150
    • personally I prefer classical, electronic, or metal. has some great stations
  • change your browsers’ and editors’ default white backgrounds and black text (Fig.1)
    • this makes it much easier to focus on for long periods of time
  • Distractions at home? Go to a coffee shop or a park.

Step 2: Decide on your target platform

  • choose your technology sector
    • you’ll be spending alot of time initially getting this thing built so choose an area you’re very interested in
  • some currently great options
    • Android
      • largest global mobile app store, Google Play
      • one time developer sign up fee = $25
      • easy ad integration, AdMob, better pay outs per impression than typical web ad providers
      • typically high CTR, RPM, etc.
        • can make decent money with 10,000s of downloaders
      • currently takes 30% cut of paid apps, IAP, and subscriptions
      • likely decreasing to 15% soon
    • iOS
      • second largest global mobile app store, iTunes
      • developer fees = $99/yr
      • “” ditto Android
    • Web
      • uploaded directly to internet
      • pros:
        • more control over content
        • no need to go through approval process to upload content
        • cheap web hosting fees
      • cons:
        • highly competitive market
        • rely heavily on search engine rankings to generate traffic
        • lower CTR, PPT
          • will need millions of visitors to make decent money
    • Internet of Things (IoT)
      • pros:
        • very low to no competition
        • very diverse market, lots of room to follow various interests and products
        • emerging market, potentially huge room for growth, could soon be larger than smart phone boom was, getting in early could pay off
      • cons:
        • small user base (at the moment)
        • largely as yet unproven sector
        • likely higher initial investment of time and money required
        • often niche hardware dependent

Step 3: Learn to speak computer

  • there’s not really any way around it, if you want to learn how to create an app, you gotta learn one or more programming languages
    • it may seem temporarily tedious; but remember, once you define something and give it a name, you gain control over it
  • computer programming 101
    • basic programming lingo and concepts
      • variables, functions, classes, properties, constructors, etc.
    • data structures
      • Strings, Integers, Doubles, Arrays, etc.
    • operators
      • +, -, /, *, ^, =, !, ++, ==, &&, ||, etc.
    • organization structures
      • objects, parameters, hierarchies, inheritance, etc.
    • flow control
      • if, then, else, while, for, switch, break, return, etc.
  • learn the language(s) syntax
    • Android: Java
    • iOS: Swift (NOT ObjC, trust me it’s a dirty, nearly incomprehensible language)
    • Web:
      • Majors: HTML, CSS, JavaScript
      • Minors: PHP, JSON
  • learn the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
    • you don’t want to reinvent the wheel for every new application
      • APIs teach you how to use code that others have already written
    • no matter how much you hate it in the beginning, documentation will become your best friend over time
  • utilize the most powerful tools to maximize your efforts and best leverage your output
    • industry leaders – all completely free! – but often platform dependent
  • remember, everything you need to know can be easily learned online for free

Step 4: Come up with a golden idea

  • What makes a good idea?
    • something you’re very interested in, if not passionate about
    • something that other people are interested in
    • solves an unsolved problem or improves on existing solutions
    • something that hasn’t already been beat to death
    • something that easily lends itself to global electronic distribution
  • narrow down your idea so it’s easily explainable in a few sentences
  • spend at least a few days researching the idea, making sure to take notes on your findings
    • SEO: Adwords keyword tool is a good starting place
      • keywords, monthly hits, level of competition
    • market saturation:
      • who’s the competition, what are they doing well/not so well?
      • is there room for another competitor or improvement over existing apps?
  • ask people what they think about the idea
    • don’t worry too much about someone stealing it, ideas are free, only the execution of an idea counts
  • don’t waste time on ideas that violate any one of these items, unless it truly dazzles in others

Step 5: Devise your plan of attack

  • determine what the hardest part of developing the app will be
    • take on this part right at the start
    • once solved, the rest of the app should fall into place comparatively easily
    • if you can’t solve it, you haven’t wasted valuable time on other parts of the app already
  • organize the app project
  • think about best monitization strategies
  • don’t forget to plan your marketing campaigns
    • put almost as much effort into marketing as you have development
    • create meaningful plug, medias, and story that will grab your audiences’ attention
    • spam social media for all your worth in order to drum up whatever modicum of interest your friends and followers are prepared to offer
      • find relevant subreddits, spam them, they will generate 100-1,000 times more traffic than your personal contacts will
    • talk about what you’re doing on your blog, come on now, I know you have one
    • patiently court media outlets, affiliates, and any conceivable source that may link/share/spam your app project

Step 6: Execute your plan relentlessly until completion

  • nothing else matters, quit your job and hunker down in the basement with the curtains drawn, you will thank yourself when you’re getting those checks in the mail each month once you’re done
  • caffeine and sugar are your friends
    • terrible for your body, but fuck your body (tee-hee…butt-fuck), this is about creating an optimally productive mind-space
  • eating, sleeping, zoning out, procrastination, alcohol, etc. are the enemy
    • only engage in these activities in moderation when absolutely needed to fuel future productivity
  • code all day long, when you can’t see straight then take a break, then code long into the night
    • if you aren’t motivated to code, then work on your designs, UI, or marketing
  • if you uncover a particularly elusive bug or just can’t solve a certain problem no matter how much you’ve taken to the google, put it down, sleep and hit it again first thing in morning
    • your subconscious has a miraculous way of solving particularly difficult problems with ease once you’re conscious mind lets it go for a while

Step 7: Release your app unto the world

  • This is the easy part, just follow the instructions on your chosen platform’s website
  • release early and often
  • solicit user feedback and make sure to pay close attention to it all, no matter how scathing, in order to further improve your product
  • maintain your app with regular updates, improvements, added features
    • this helps attract new users and holds existing audience for as long as possible, i.e lowers bounce rate

Step 8: Ruthlessly evaluate the successes and weaknesses of your app over time

  • Add insightful analytics implementations
  • record all sales, downloads, costs, profits, etc. for each month
  • quickly adapt to upturns and downturns in the marketplace and the actions of your competitors
    • copy new features released by competitors
    • take advantage of any mistakes your competitors may make
    • notice any missteps and opportunities to seize market-share

Step 9: Carry everything you’ve learned forward into your next project

  • bask in the glory of those sweet, sweet passive income checks rolling in each month
    • take a holiday and do some traveling, you’ve earned it
    • don’t worry about relaxing for a bit, often your best ideas come when your mind has room to wander freely
  • when you do get your next stroke of genius, carry forward all you’ve learned on previous app projects and go even bigger and better
  • shave your neck beard, you disgust me…


Obviously, these steps for how to create an app aren’t meant to be followed precisely in order, but are arranged approximately sequentially. If you find yourself temporarily bogged down on one of them, move to another for a while. It’s important to bounce around between them depending on circumstances, and often they are best utilized in an iterative manner. Success, and keep coding internet friends.

Update: After considering reddit’s collective feedback on this post, it seems many of you are interested in more thorough, in-depth coverage of certain topics – particularly strategies for SEO, marketing, and monetization. So, although I’m by no means an expert on these broad topics, I’m currently putting together stand alone articles that detail some strategies proven most effective in my own experience.

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