Valuable Lessons From a First Project
Hi everyone! The first interview of the site comes from fellow Indie Hacker Taimoor Ahmad, the creator of Ruby Course. As you can probably put together, it was an app created to help people learn Ruby. Let’s get into it!
Tell everyone a little bit about yourself and about your motivation for creating Ruby Course.
I’m 21 years old, I study Computer Science at Ryerson University, Toronto.
My motivation for Ruby Course was to generate a passive income stream by teaching people how to code.
I was inspired by this video by AppMasters
I figured that if this app was making $100K USD per month, I could perhaps make $50 to $100 per month.
Did you have a plan to validate the project and if so, did it work?
I didn’t collect any metrics at the start. My only goals were to:
- Achieve a high rating on the Google Play Store (It’s 5 stars as of today with almost 20 reviews)
- Achieve $50 per month in revenue.
I did achieve a high rating by asking for users to rate the app once they completed their second quiz.
However, I did not manage to achieve $50 revenue per month.
In total, I spent $85 in FB ads.
- The app launched in mid-July
- 0 revenue was made in July
- $5 in August
- $30 in September (halfway into this month)
Who were your primary competitors?
Mostly “all-in-one” learn to code apps: Mimo, SoloLearn, Codecademy, etc.
Mimo is a learn-to-code startup with a professional team working behind it. Codecademy has a lot of brand recognition. SoloLearn has years of code put into it, likely has a team and is even a social network. HOWEVER:
- Mimo is $50 per year and only lets you do about 1 chapter per language before asking you to subscribe
- SoloLearn has a buggy UI and has many unnecessary features. It also requires an account.
- The Codecademy app has bad ratings and requires and account.
Also, there are not so many apps created for learning specifically Ruby. I figured I could target the “Learn Ruby” search.
I once read in a book if you’re not #1 in a category, make your own category.
What was your method of monetization and did it work with your users?
Most of the programming tutorial is available for free. There are no ads inside the app.Instead, the app is monetized using in-app subscriptions (weekly).
Once you open the app you’re asked to subscribe and try the free trial. Once you sign up, you have access to all the content.
At the start, the app costed $5 per week, but I raised it to $10 per week since there is not much content in the app, it can easily be finished within 1 week combining the free mode and the paid part.
What channels did you use to acquire and retain new users?
At the start, I used Facebook ads to advertise the app. My CPI for NA, EU users was approximately 70 cents per user.
When I switched to worldwide advertising, my CPI was 30 cents per user, and I got a lot more 5 star ratings.
What goals did you have with this project?
- Create a passive income stream for myself that could pay my phone bill ($50)
- Create an app with a 5 star rating on the Google Play Store
- Learn as much as I can for my next project
In retrospect, would you have done anything differently?
In retrospect, I would have put money into ads much more slowly. I spent way, way, way too much.
Instead of doing $10 or $15 per day, do $5 per day if you’re a one-man team. If you’re a bigger team, and you can react faster to user feedback and analytics, put more into it.
I learned this concept from a book called “The Learn Startup”, the author mentions that putting $5 per day into ads is like getting a report card everyday.
What was the biggest surprise you ran into along the way?
Facebook ads weren’t worth it at all for getting sales or getting free trial signups. It was however very effective at getting a 5 star rating.
I didn’t get any signups for a long time, until Ruby Course managed to get 200+ downloads and started to get SEO traction combined with its good rating.
I thought that apps just ‘blew up’, that they get a lot of success at the start and then slowly fade away. However, it seems like making money thru apps is all about the long game.
What advice would you give to people looking to make their first app?
On the Play Store the ratings are everything. Make the initial user experience for your app really good. Ask them for a rating after they achieve something (Ruby Course asks for one once they finish their first quiz).
Show the app to your friends and family. Most likely they’ll gladly rate it on the Play Store for you. This is a huge bonus to getting your app traction. SEO is super important.
Have a good app description, copy keywords from another app, and make your own category where that app can be #1. Integrate analytics at launch.
Facebook AppEvents are great for tracking custom events inside your app, and if you use Facebook Ads anyways using Facebook Analytics gets you more features such as CPI, cost per in-app purchase, etc.
After tracking analytics I found out that about half of my users didn’t complete anything past the first quiz, while the other half usually lost interest once they were 60-70% done the free course.
Payments in Android are quite tricky to implement, Google’s documentation on their own API is actually wrong. A lot of people make the mistake of not confirming transactions, leading to customers getting free refunds (you can read the threads on StackOverflow).
I’m going to have a paid screencast on https://taimoorapps.com going over how to integrate in-app payments properly. I’ll also have a paid course on how to integrate Facebook Analytics.
What were the most valuable resources for you during this project?
The AppMasters video on the idea for making a free app with a subscription and free trial model.
I didn’t actually know how to code in Ruby when I made this app, so this book helped me write the tutorial!
What are you working on now and where can people follow you?
My main project is my YouTube channel – I hope that I can get popular enough to reach the monetization goal.
- I’m creating videos on learning how to code, building a brand and a few vlogs here and there.
- I hope that I can provide enough value to people to the point that I can start selling courses and screencasts.
I’m coming out with an article summaries app with a friend, and I’d like to branch out into making more complex apps with social features.