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EXECUTION From no Money and no Coding Skills to AppStore

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MarcoSto

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I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 28, 2018
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Hey fellow entrepreneurs,

"Dear Marco Stojanovic,

your app has been approved for the AppStore."

BOOM! I received this mail 3 days ago. 1,5 years ago, I had no money to pay a developer, nor the coding skills to create the app I wanted to build. My only companion at that time was the goal I was committed to: Build an empirically validated habit building app that you would use yourself and make money with it.

You all probably know that inspiration cannot carry you for 1,5 years, right? Right. On the other hand, it helps getting the engine started: I learned to code relatively quickly and managed to somehow cobble together a first, very basic version of an app that could track psychologically relevant habit data.

Coding in 3 Months - eeeeez

Because I always get asked how I learned to code: Here is how. I learned Swift and used xCode to create iOS-Apps. I really stared from zero - to experience in any coding language whatsoever. I learned the basics with three apps (iOS): TapCoding, Learn Swift, Code Swift. They might be outdated by now. I don't know if they are updated for swift 4.2. Then, I did two long courses on udemy, one by devslopes and one by Angela Yu. The latter is the best iOS programming course in the world and only costs like 10 bucks - nobrainer. I always coded along and made all of the example apps myself until they worked. After that, I started my app and if I needed help, I would search stackoverflow or youtube. Helpful youtube channels for me were letsbuildthatapp (basic and advanced stuff) and swiftguy (basic stuff). Add a lot of coffee, tears and wine - et voilá: You are a programmer.

I used the first version of my app for a psychological study. So I combined business (validation for product) and science (study for my phd). I installed the app on the phones of 91 students and they could choose a new study habit they wanted to develop. Some chose to learn for a certain exam, others to write their exam papers or stuff like that. Things, you would need some self-control and motivation to maintain over the long run. You can find the most important results of the study in this thread I did earlier this year. The most important result: It worked. With each habit repetition, the students acted more automatically and thus had less motivational problems during the learning activity. Students told me about As they received and exam papers they handed in 2 months before deadline. Neat...

So I had a dataset with data of 2500 habit repetitions that proved my product actually created value. That was about 10 months ago. Little did I know that the real journey through the desert should just begin. I now had to make a polished version with more features to have a chance to make it into the AppStore. They have a lot of criteria your app has to fulfill in order to make it into the store.

The Desert of Despair is REAL

The app I used for the study had a poor codebase and poor design. I just distributed it via apples the beta-testing program, which has lower minimum standards for admission than the AppStore. I had to start from scratch again. It was one of my toughest phases ever.

I expected to be done with the polished version of the app in about 3 months. I was more advanced as a programmer that at the time I made my first app and I basically already made the app once. Easy, peasy lemon squeezy, right? Well, no...wrong. Difficult, difficult, lemon, difficult.

Building something that needs to appeal to actual users - not people participating in a study in exchange for course credit - is a whole different story. The colors, icons, animation speed, app icon, onboarding, reward system, control elements, navigation etc.etc. all have to be optimized for actual user experience.

I greatly underestimated what I did not know yet about product development and blindly walked into the desert - unprepared. There where weeks I would work on a feature just to delete it entirely a few days later. I coded every day. I made 0$ every day. And I actually did not do anything for my phd thesis that waited to be written. I went hardly to any parties of friends and would rather sit home alone to be able to stress out about the stalling app development process. Don't happy, be worry.

One thought that kept me going was the image of the desert MJ described so well in his books. At that time, I learned that it was real and that probably every entrepreneur that creates something worthwhile will have to go through it at some time. Probably several times during his/her journey.

I think, actually going through the desert makes you really part of the entrepreneurial community. It's tough, but you can share your story with fellow entrepreneurs, as I'm doing right now, and can better understand others that are going through it themselves.

I wish there was this one magic trick that kept me going. But there isn't. What made me endure it, was probably my strong working habit, which is: Go into a café after your morning routine and work. This reinforced my belief in the power of habits when inspiration, motivation and self-control are not at your disposal.

Be prepared for the desert, take it with humbleness and know that you are not the only one.

Back to now. This story reads as though I already passed the desert. Not quite. Grow - Habit Builder is in the AppStore, yes, but having a working product does not make you earn 10k/monthly (which is my goal for this app). The marketing grind is just about to begin. I probably have just arrived at an oasis in the middle of a huge desert that I still need to cross...

I will let you guys know how it's going on another execution thread when I did some marketing and my app is making some more money.

Give and Take

If you want to check it out, you can do so on growhabitbuilder.com or directly on the AppStore. I would love to hear from you guys what you think about it. If you want to help a fellow entrepreneur, you can leave a review on the AppStore - that would be awesome.

I like to share my expertise and like to give back to likeminded entrepreneurs. So if you want a free 20-min habit coaching via skype, google hangouts etc., feel free to contact me. I do this regularly from time to time and don't sell anything. Just to network, talk to interesting people, make a good impact and put my knowledge to use.

Keep up the good work,

Marco
 

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ExaltedLife

Silver Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Nov 10, 2015
332
676
272
27
So how are things, 5 months later?
 
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MarcoSto

MarcoSto

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 28, 2018
46
85
117
32
Germany
Well done Marco. How are you planning to monitize it?
Thanks :). I'm already monetizing with a freemium model: You can built 2 habits for free. If you want more, you can get a subscription at 5$ monthly or 25$ yearly. The free tier is quite generous as all users contribute greatly by generating data. On the long run, the data is going to be very valuable as I can use it to train AIs to predict how long long-term goal achievement will take if you complete your first 5-10 repetitions. That is how I plan to develop the app further. But for now, the subscription is converting pretty cool. But I dont have the traffic yet to make the big bugs. But with some exposure and a conversion rate that is somewhat near of what I have now would be awesome.
 
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MarcoSto

MarcoSto

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 28, 2018
46
85
117
32
Germany
Congratulation Marco!
This first step is definitively a great achievement!
Thank you :). There is definitely still a long way to go marketing wise - the app biz got pretty crowded over the last few years. But the market is still growing 20-30% per year and I will just focus on my niche and try to own my tiny little realm :)
 
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MarcoSto

MarcoSto

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 28, 2018
46
85
117
32
Germany
So how are things, 5 months later?
I have a small user base that uses the app very diligently and have a few downloads every day. The first yearly subscriptions were sold and now I'm playing with different marketing tactics (mostly outsourcing via fiverr). No big bucks made, yet. But I have solid prove of concept. 20% of the daily active users convert so subscribers. Just need to get more downloads. I have a good connection to some of my users as I offered mini-habit coachings via skype on reddit/getDisciplined. That was very good for honest user feedback and finding spots for tweaking. Currently, I'm writing an ebook on the approach the app is based on. It's called: "Psychometric Habit Building: A Guide to Achieving Long-Term Goals". Once this is finished, I will heavily promote the ebook. After that, I will make a udemy course on psychometric habit building.
 

ExaltedLife

Silver Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Nov 10, 2015
332
676
272
27
I have a small user base that uses the app very diligently and have a few downloads every day. The first yearly subscriptions were sold and now I'm playing with different marketing tactics (mostly outsourcing via fiverr). No big bucks made, yet. But I have solid prove of concept. 20% of the daily active users convert so subscribers. Just need to get more downloads. I have a good connection to some of my users as I offered mini-habit coachings via skype on reddit/getDisciplined. That was very good for honest user feedback and finding spots for tweaking. Currently, I'm writing an ebook on the approach the app is based on. It's called: "Psychometric Habit Building: A Guide to Achieving Long-Term Goals". Once this is finished, I will heavily promote the ebook. After that, I will make a udemy course on psychometric habit building.
I'm interested in helping with marketing if you want to pm me. I have experience using habit apps. I mentioned one in a post - Fabulous.
 

Danczyk

Contributor
Feb 20, 2019
56
65
113
Belarus
Thanks :). I'm already monetizing with a freemium model: You can built 2 habits for free. If you want more, you can get a subscription at 5$ monthly or 25$ yearly. The free tier is quite generous as all users contribute greatly by generating data. On the long run, the data is going to be very valuable as I can use it to train AIs to predict how long long-term goal achievement will take if you complete your first 5-10 repetitions. That is how I plan to develop the app further. But for now, the subscription is converting pretty cool. But I dont have the traffic yet to make the big bugs. But with some exposure and a conversion rate that is somewhat near of what I have now would be awesome.
That's great. I don't know how much you make but the most important point from your story is that you are capable of progressing from start to finish while many people twice your age are still struggling to focus their attention to one goddamn problem. I know how intimidating it can be to learn to code (learned web development myself).
 

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MarcoSto

MarcoSto

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 28, 2018
46
85
117
32
Germany
That's great. I don't know how much you make but the most important point from your story is that you are capable of progressing from start to finish while many people twice your age are still struggling to focus their attention to one goddamn problem. I know how intimidating it can be to learn to code (learned web development myself).
Yeah...it was pretty hot in the coding-learning-desert from time to time. But there were cool spots, too. When a feature fiiiinally worked for example :).
But now I'm in the marketing desert I guess :D....at least the product is live :). It already did a lot for my personal brand as it is very rare in the psychology scene to have an own app and an advertising company while pursuing one's phd.
 
U

User62861

Guest
Svaka cast! (Well done!)

This is something I was considering for a very long time now. The thing that stopping me is fear of losing so much time that maybe won't work at the end.

Did you have this fear?

p.s. I do logo (brand) design. Love your logo, but you should make the circle of G more round. If you look it closely you will see it's not a perfect curve. Maybe you think it's not a big deal, but trust me, you will look MUCH better and professional. Whenever you save some money or start earning really solid profit from the app, consider a new design more unique design. If you type ''G arrow'' in Google, you will see so many logos that looks almost the same.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

404profound

Platinum Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 27, 2017
1,339
2,760
662
Desert of Desertion
Hey fellow entrepreneurs,

"Dear Marco Stojanovic,

your app has been approved for the AppStore."

BOOM! I received this mail 3 days ago. 1,5 years ago, I had no money to pay a developer, nor the coding skills to create the app I wanted to build. My only companion at that time was the goal I was committed to: Build an empirically validated habit building app that you would use yourself and make money with it.

You all probably know that inspiration cannot carry you for 1,5 years, right? Right. On the other hand, it helps getting the engine started: I learned to code relatively quickly and managed to somehow cobble together a first, very basic version of an app that could track psychologically relevant habit data.

Coding in 3 Months - eeeeez

Because I always get asked how I learned to code: Here is how. I learned Swift and used xCode to create iOS-Apps. I really stared from zero - to experience in any coding language whatsoever. I learned the basics with three apps (iOS): TapCoding, Learn Swift, Code Swift. They might be outdated by now. I don't know if they are updated for swift 4.2. Then, I did two long courses on udemy, one by devslopes and one by Angela Yu. The latter is the best iOS programming course in the world and only costs like 10 bucks - nobrainer. I always coded along and made all of the example apps myself until they worked. After that, I started my app and if I needed help, I would search stackoverflow or youtube. Helpful youtube channels for me were letsbuildthatapp (basic and advanced stuff) and swiftguy (basic stuff). Add a lot of coffee, tears and wine - et voilá: You are a programmer.

I used the first version of my app for a psychological study. So I combined business (validation for product) and science (study for my phd). I installed the app on the phones of 91 students and they could choose a new study habit they wanted to develop. Some chose to learn for a certain exam, others to write their exam papers or stuff like that. Things, you would need some self-control and motivation to maintain over the long run. You can find the most important results of the study in this thread I did earlier this year. The most important result: It worked. With each habit repetition, the students acted more automatically and thus had less motivational problems during the learning activity. Students told me about As they received and exam papers they handed in 2 months before deadline. Neat...

So I had a dataset with data of 2500 habit repetitions that proved my product actually created value. That was about 10 months ago. Little did I know that the real journey through the desert should just begin. I now had to make a polished version with more features to have a chance to make it into the AppStore. They have a lot of criteria your app has to fulfill in order to make it into the store.

The Desert of Despair is REAL

The app I used for the study had a poor codebase and poor design. I just distributed it via apples the beta-testing program, which has lower minimum standards for admission than the AppStore. I had to start from scratch again. It was one of my toughest phases ever.

I expected to be done with the polished version of the app in about 3 months. I was more advanced as a programmer that at the time I made my first app and I basically already made the app once. Easy, peasy lemon squeezy, right? Well, no...wrong. Difficult, difficult, lemon, difficult.

Building something that needs to appeal to actual users - not people participating in a study in exchange for course credit - is a whole different story. The colors, icons, animation speed, app icon, onboarding, reward system, control elements, navigation etc.etc. all have to be optimized for actual user experience.

I greatly underestimated what I did not know yet about product development and blindly walked into the desert - unprepared. There where weeks I would work on a feature just to delete it entirely a few days later. I coded every day. I made 0$ every day. And I actually did not do anything for my phd thesis that waited to be written. I went hardly to any parties of friends and would rather sit home alone to be able to stress out about the stalling app development process. Don't happy, be worry.

One thought that kept me going was the image of the desert MJ described so well in his books. At that time, I learned that it was real and that probably every entrepreneur that creates something worthwhile will have to go through it at some time. Probably several times during his/her journey.

I think, actually going through the desert makes you really part of the entrepreneurial community. It's tough, but you can share your story with fellow entrepreneurs, as I'm doing right now, and can better understand others that are going through it themselves.

I wish there was this one magic trick that kept me going. But there isn't. What made me endure it, was probably my strong working habit, which is: Go into a café after your morning routine and work. This reinforced my belief in the power of habits when inspiration, motivation and self-control are not at your disposal.

Be prepared for the desert, take it with humbleness and know that you are not the only one.

Back to now. This story reads as though I already passed the desert. Not quite. Grow - Habit Builder is in the AppStore, yes, but having a working product does not make you earn 10k/monthly (which is my goal for this app). The marketing grind is just about to begin. I probably have just arrived at an oasis in the middle of a huge desert that I still need to cross...

I will let you guys know how it's going on another execution thread when I did some marketing and my app is making some more money.

Give and Take

If you want to check it out, you can do so on growhabitbuilder.com or directly on the AppStore. I would love to hear from you guys what you think about it. If you want to help a fellow entrepreneur, you can leave a review on the AppStore - that would be awesome.

I like to share my expertise and like to give back to likeminded entrepreneurs. So if you want a free 20-min habit coaching via skype, google hangouts etc., feel free to contact me. I do this regularly from time to time and don't sell anything. Just to network, talk to interesting people, make a good impact and put my knowledge to use.

Keep up the good work,

Marco
I think we're living the same life, except you're in grad school and I'm not anymore lol.
 
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MarcoSto

MarcoSto

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 28, 2018
46
85
117
32
Germany
The desert of despair... I'm here at the moment but I'm almost past this next hurdle just gotta keep pushing on.

You've done great so far keep it going.

Good job!
I think we entrepreneurs should get used and more or less comfortable to living for quite some stretches in the desert of despair - that seems to happen repeatedly during our journey :D

I hope you get through it well or hit an oasis at least soon ;)
 
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MarcoSto

MarcoSto

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 28, 2018
46
85
117
32
Germany
Svaka cast! (Well done!)

This is something I was considering for a very long time now. The thing that stopping me is fear of losing so much time that maybe won't work at the end.

Did you have this fear?

p.s. I do logo (brand) design. Love your logo, but you should make the circle of G more round. If you look it closely you will see it's not a perfect curve. Maybe you think it's not a big deal, but trust me, you will look MUCH better and professional. Whenever you save some money or start earning really solid profit from the app, consider a new design more unique design. If you type ''G arrow'' in Google, you will see so many logos that looks almost the same.
Hvala!
Yeah. I outsourced the logo on fiverr and noticed right away that it was not 100% round :D. But that was one of those things that I had to ignore to finally get launched. Otherwise, I would still not have an app in the store. It had some bugs when I launched it and might still have some. To get ahead, I adopted an evolutionary mindset: Make something -> feedback -> adapt. Repeat cycle as fast as possible :)

Of course I constantly have this fear that it somehow will not work out how I planned. But on the other hand, I plan my projects in such a way that even if I "fail" I fail in a way that still has some wins. For example, my wins so far are: My personal brand has gained incredibly in value as it is very uncommon in the realm of psychologists to have made one's own app. On the other hand, I acquired the skill of coding. That alone would give me +20-30k yearly income if everything failed and I had to take a job as an employee for some time.

But yeah. Of course I constantly fear that downloads will never go up, that nobody will read my ebook, that nobody will buy my udemy course, that my fellow psychologists laugh at my approach (psychometric habit building). To fight this fear, I try to get good numbers. So far, I did this via the study I conducted which showed that the approach helped a lot with building study habits. Furthermore, I did some habit coaching with interested people all over the world and showed them how to use the app to build good habits. That worked very well for around 50% of the participants which I think is a good success rate.

I really feel you. Today, I woke up far too late, had less downloads after a spike, found out that 3 marketing tricks I tried in the last few days did not work and that the traffic was dirty (just getting link clicks and no downloads). On days like this, it is tough to keep writing an ebook that is to support app marketing, but on the other hand: You just have to be right once and I did not put so much effort into the app just to give up after 4 months.
 
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MarcoSto

MarcoSto

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 28, 2018
46
85
117
32
Germany
Nope, my app has nothing to do with my graduate studies actually. But I did a masters in organizational psychology and statistics.
Ah, get it. Hey there, colleague :). What is your app about then? And what do you work as now? I feel organizational psychologists have such a broad field of possible work places.
 

404profound

Platinum Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 27, 2017
1,339
2,760
662
Desert of Desertion
Ah, get it. Hey there, colleague :). What is your app about then? And what do you work as now? I feel organizational psychologists have such a broad field of possible work places.
I haven't released the app idea to anyone yet, but as soon as it's released I will be sure to make a detailed thread :)

I currently work in team performance consulting / process improvement. I'm also a six sigma black belt so I get looped into a few different things. My research was originally in behavioral regulation, proactive coping, and stress / burnout... how ironic.
 

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MarcoSto

MarcoSto

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 28, 2018
46
85
117
32
Germany
I haven't released the app idea to anyone yet, but as soon as it's released I will be sure to make a detailed thread :)

I currently work in team performance consulting / process improvement. I'm also a six sigma black belt so I get looped into a few different things. My research was originally in behavioral regulation, proactive coping, and stress / burnout... how ironic.
Yeah - looking forward to reading your execution thread.

Haha...yah...one of those "Do as I say, don't do as I do."-spots we psychologists encounter from time to time :D.
I feel pretty guilty whenever I skip a habit repetition :D

Did not know six sigma, but it looks pretty appealing. Data driven improvement roxxxx...
 

404profound

Platinum Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Aug 27, 2017
1,339
2,760
662
Desert of Desertion
Yeah - looking forward to reading your execution thread.

Haha...yah...one of those "Do as I say, don't do as I do."-spots we psychologists encounter from time to time :D.
I feel pretty guilty whenever I skip a habit repetition :D

Did not know six sigma, but it looks pretty appealing. Data driven improvement roxxxx...
It's interesting how much psychology underlies operations. I've seen organizations fall apart because the wrong leader was in place bringing down morale and commitment. I reckon that trend will only continue as the world turns towards self-employment.
 
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MarcoSto

MarcoSto

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Apr 28, 2018
46
85
117
32
Germany
It's interesting how much psychology underlies operations. I've seen organizations fall apart because the wrong leader was in place bringing down morale and commitment. I reckon that trend will only continue as the world turns towards self-employment.
100% agreed!
 

Danczyk

Contributor
Feb 20, 2019
56
65
113
Belarus
This is something I was considering for a very long time now. The thing that stopping me is fear of losing so much time that maybe won't work at the end.
Haven't you lost enough time considering? Even if it doesn't work you get a skill or two which are very useful for your future.
 
U

User62861

Guest
Haven't you lost enough time considering? Even if it doesn't work you get a skill or two which are very useful for your future.
Yeah probably. Maybe I'm just lazy or already spend a lot of time on PC doing design work.

My decision would be much easier if my job isn't already screen based.
 

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