I set out at the beginning of last year to produce a thing that would make money. That didn't end up happening, but I'm still happy with the outcome of this past year. Even amidst the planning and execution of a cross-country move, I still made time to develop one of the apps that I've been wanting for my own personal use, gave my first talk at a conference, released some new code, blogged in a more substantive manner, and have been reading and thinking a lot about the kind of projects that I would find fulfilling. I didn't make a single dollar online (unless you count Craigslist), I and didn't read as many books as I had hoped to, but the desire to make something significant has not waned.
Software development has always been a hobby of mine, but I'm going to think about this year's continued goal of a profitble endeavor more in keeping with Neven Mrgan's concept of "Focused Dabbling". I plan to work on apps that fill the needs that I have, because I think other people will find them useful, too, but also just because I enjoy working on them. Effectively, this means my projects are immediately profitable in two different ways: the enjoyment found in the building of the app and the utility of using it after it has been built.
In light of these positive side-effects, it wouldn't be the worse thing in the world if I ended up paying money out-of-pocket to fund them, but wouldn't it be great if they at least broke even because other people enjoyed them, too? Some moderate level of profitability would ensure that I'm not losing money on these joy endeavors. That's partly why another goal of mine is to only produce apps that have a clear revenue model up front.
With more and more apps being shut down due to lack of revenue (cf. "Don't Be a Free User"), I don't want to further that trend by building something that's unsustainable. Part of this is acting out of self-preservation to avoid producing a popular service that I have to pay to run myself, but I'm hoping it also means the users using these apps will have a clear need for them and are willing to put money on the line to prove it. This should make for better customers than your typical free users, who never contribute any value back into the products they use but have high expectations for them just the same. Money is a great equalizer, right? Forcing users to pay puts them all on equal footing from the perspectives of cost and support.
Now that I have a few apps in the pipeline, the challenge is going to be effectively executing on those concepts by fleshing out their revenue models and determining the best way to market them. Marketing is a completely new field for me, so I have a lot of learning still to do, but I'm enjoying every minute of it.
I do want to say a big thank you to people like Neven Mrgan and Maciej Cegłowski for continuing to inspire me to pursue my own passions. Hopefully I can repay them one day by inspiring someone else to do the same.