TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Shareware Business
Volume Number:11
Issue Number:7
Column Tag:The Business Of Software

How to Make $1,000 Per Week
Stuffing (Virtual) Envelopes

Helpful hints and tips for the aspiring shareware author.

By Bill Modesitt, Maui Software, Maui

Have you developed a killer application, and want to sell it on your own? Have you thought about trying to make a living from writing shareware? Are you ready to quit your job and work for yourself? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then read on.

Having sold the copyrights to my main product, I was wondering what to do next. I was offered a job as a contract programmer, and initially accepted the offer. Prior to doing any work, I searched for a shareware program to accurately track my time while programming. I couldn’t find anything useful, so I wrote my own shareware program, and called it TimeTracker. Well, the job fell through (I really didn’t want to work for someone else anyway), so I posted a shareware demo of TimeTracker to several bulletin boards to see if anyone else liked it. Within a week I started receiving checks in the mail. I knew I was on to something. Approximately 10 months later, I’m receiving close to $1,000 per week in sales from TimeTracker. This article tells some of the things that helped me achieve this volume.

Develop a Program

Developing a program is the relatively easy part - the hard part is getting people to learn about your program and pay for it. If you haven’t written any saleable program yet, keep these things in mind: Keep it simple, small, useful, and as bug-free as possible.

Create a Shareware Demo of Your Program

Even though I call TimeTracker shareware, I post a shareware demo or unregistered version to bulletin boards. While a few people don’t like the concept of a “shareware demo,” the majority of people don’t mind. The Association of Shareware Professionals has “ a policy on no crippled software”. While this idealism sounds good, it doesn’t pay the rent. From what I’ve read, only about 1%-2% of shareware user’s actually send in their fee. For TimeTracker, it’s probably very close to 100%. Very few people have complained about TimeTracker not being “pure shareware,” in fact, most understand the reasoning behind this.

However, your demo should not be so limiting that it frustrates the user into immediately trashing your program. Ideally it should have annoyances instead of being limiting. TimeTracker does two things in the demo version. When it starts up, an annoying alert displays telling the user that this is an unregistered version of TimeTracker. To continue, the user must click on one of three buttons. Secondly, the demo has a time-recording limitation on each document. The user can effectively use the demo version by continually creating new documents, but this is a hassle, and combined with the annoying startup alert, the user eventually realizes it’s easier just to send in the money than work around the limitations.

Distribute Your Program as Shareware

People (and some magazine editors) tend to give shareware authors more of a helping hand than they would a commercial company. They will give copies of your demo to their friends and co-workers, and post it to their local BBS. This gives your product maximum exposure at no cost to you. Be sure to state in your documentation that it’s OK to upload the demo to other BBSes.

Make it Quick and Easy to Purchase

TimeTracker has a built-in order form that’s easy to fill out. When the user starts the demo version, the default button on the startup window is “Fill out order form.” This brings the user to another window where they enter all their information, and method of payment. The order form also computes the total amount for them. Registering the program should be as easy as possible for the user. After the order form is filled out, they can print it and/or save it to a file that contains the information. This file can then be faxed, mailed, or emailed for processing.

Sometimes a demo product can be frustrating to the user because they like the product so much, they want the full-featured version immediately. Upon processing the order, I send the user a “registration code” that matches their name. This number is from a random number generator, using the user’s name as a seed. The user starts the TimeTracker demo, and clicks on the “Register Now” button that is on the startup window. When they enter their name and correct registration number, TimeTracker immediately turns into a full-working version. No disk has to shipped - this keeps overhead way down, and the user receives instant gratification.

Have a Reasonable License Agreement

Surprisingly, a license agreement is overlooked by some shareware authors. The TimeTracker license states that copies may be on more than one machine, provided that only one copy at one time is running. If more than one copy is running at one time, then additional copies must be purchased. Or put more simply, one copy per user. I’m sure many users buy one copy and distribute it for their entire office, but other people abide by the license agreement. It can make a difference.

Post to the World

I have accounts on the Internet, eWorld, AppleLink, CompuServe, and America Online. I have found that AOL generates the most sales, followed closely by CompuServe, with AppleLink dead last. Except for my Internet account, I use the other accounts almost exclusively for posting demo copies only. The more copies posted, the more exposure the product receives. This may seem like a lot of money, having so many on-line services, but if I sell one copy as a result of a posting, it more than pays for one month’s service fee.

To make email correspondence simple, I tell people to use only my Internet account for sending and receiving email, and that I use my other accounts only once a month or so to post new versions. That way I only have to log into my Internet account to check my email.

And don’t forget press releases. While I’ve had limited success with them, it doesn’t take too much time to put one together and send out.

Get a Merchant Account

Getting a merchant account is not always easy, but it’s well worth the trouble. Probably 80% of my sales are from VISA or MasterCard sales. The best place for a merchant account is your bank. Some banks don’t offer this service, so you may have to look around. The type of bank that offers merchant accounts is easy to find - they’re the ones that don’t offer interest on your checking account and have a fee for everything.

I have a merchant account set up at my local bank, and aside from the approximately 4% transaction fee, it’s only $1 per month to maintain. You can get a merchant account at other institutions, but they may charge $60 or more per month, and require you to lease all types of unnecessary equipment. Many banks don’t like to give out merchant accounts for businesses that do mail orders, so it may take some convincing. I told my bank I don’t sell products to just anyone, I only sell to professionals (I assumed anyone who owns a Mac is a professional).

Keep the Price Reasonable

TimeTracker sells for $25 per copy, which seems to be in line with other shareware programs. I have seen some shareware programs for $40 or more that do much less than TimeTracker, and I can’t imagine too many people sending in their fees for it. While some people have told me I could sell TimeTracker for more, especially since it saves them a lot of money, I still prefer volume to an increased price. Also, some company may want to purchase the copyrights to TimeTracker. I can then say, “ and with this product, you’ll receive the database with thousands of users. Think of all the upgrade sales.”

Keep Overhead Low

While I work out of my home/office, I have two separate lines - one for my business and one for my fax. This may seem like an unnecessary cost, but having separate numbers lends the appearance of a more stable, larger company. Since I always encourage communication via email, I rarely get calls. Additionally, a business phone number is almost always requested for a press releases.

Convert Your Program to Other Languages

About 20% of my sales come from Europe, and there’s always the request for a version of TimeTracker in a language other than English. Usually I tell the requestor that if they do the translation for me, I will include a “Read Me” file that credits them for the translation, plus any other information they may want to include, such as an advertisement for their business. If the requestor knows ResEdit, the job is even easier for you. So far I have French, German, Norwegian, and Swedish language versions of TimeTracker.

Conclusion

Working for yourself can be financially risky, and if you already have a job, I don’t recommend quitting right away. It doesn’t take too much time posting your program to various bulletin boards to see how much interest it generates. If you don’t have an account on any bulletin boards, you might find a friend who does and will post your program for you. So go ahead, develop that killer shareware program, and post a demo of it to a few places. You never know what will happen until you try!

 
AAPL
$102.33
Apple Inc.
+1.27
MSFT
$46.67
Microsoft Corpora
-0.39
GOOG
$581.74
Google Inc.
-5.63

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

GarageSale 6.8 - Create outstanding eBay...
GarageSale is a slick, full-featured client application for the eBay online auction system. Create and manage your auctions with ease. With GarageSale, you can create, edit, track, and manage... Read more
ScreenFlow 4.5.3 - Create screen recordi...
Save 5% with the MacUpdate coupon code: 68031AE15F -- Buy now! ScreenFlow is powerful, easy-to-use screencasting software for the Mac. With ScreenFlow you can record the contents of your entire... Read more
NeoOffice 2014.3 - Mac-tailored, OpenOff...
NeoOffice is a complete office suite for OS X. With NeoOffice, users can view, edit, and save OpenOffice documents, PDF files, and most Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. NeoOffice 3.x... Read more
Typinator 6.2 - Speedy and reliable text...
Typinator turbo-charges your typing productivity. Type a little. Typinator does the rest. We've all faced projects that require repetitive typing tasks. With Typinator, you can store commonly used... Read more
PopChar X 6.7 - Floating window shows av...
PopChar X helps you get the most out of your font collection. With its crystal-clear interface, PopChar X provides a frustration-free way to access any font's special characters. Expanded... Read more
Evernote 5.6.0 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
Monosnap 2.2.2 - Versatile screenshot ut...
Monosnap allows you to save screenshots easily, conveniently, and quickly, sharing them with friends and colleagues at once. It's the ideal choice for anyone who is looking for a smart and fast... Read more
Tunnelblick 3.4beta36 - GUI for OpenVPN...
Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. It provides easy control of OpenVPN client and/or server connections. It comes as a ready-to-use application with all... Read more
SoftRAID 5.0.4 - High-quality RAID manag...
SoftRAID allows you to create and manage disk arrays to increase performance and reliability. SoftRAID's intuitive interface and powerful feature set makes this utility a must have for any Mac OS X... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.3 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Sword King Review
Sword King Review By Jennifer Allen on September 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: WEAK, SO WEAKUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Ever wanted to tap on a screen and assume you’ve killed a monster or two? Probably not, but just... | Read more »
Pangea Software Unveil Bundles and iOS 8...
Pangea Software Unveil Bundles and iOS 8 Updates Posted by Ellis Spice on September 23rd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Race Team Manager Review
Race Team Manager Review By Jennifer Allen on September 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: LIGHT RACINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Want to be in charge of a racing team but not be overwhelmed by tactics and options? Race... | Read more »
Kobojo Works with Creative Minds from Fi...
Kobojo has announced details for their newest game, Zodiac – a 2D persistent online RPG. Kobojo has put together a crack team of developers including composer Hitoshi Sakimoto and scenario writer Kazushige Nojima, whose work includes many of the... | Read more »
PlayHaus Review
PlayHaus Review By Amy Solomon on September 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad PlayHaus is a interesting, stylish app for young children, full of cause-and-effect interactions.   | Read more »
Astropolo Review
Astropolo Review By Amy Solomon on September 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Astropolo is a space-themed children’s app with a great sense of style.   | Read more »
New E*TRADE Update Includes Touch ID and...
New E*TRADE Update Includes Touch ID and Home Screen Widget for iOS 8 Posted by Jessica Fisher on September 23rd, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Cupcake Carnival Review
Cupcake Carnival Review By Jennifer Allen on September 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: SAME OLDUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Cupcake Carnival does all the right match-3 things but it’s a format we’ve seen a little too... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: September 15-19, 2...
Expert App Reviewers   So little time and so very many apps. What’s a poor iPhone/iPad lover to do? Fortunately, 148Apps is here to give you the rundown on the latest and greatest releases. And we even have a tremendous back catalog of reviews; just... | Read more »
Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker – Tips, Tricks,...
Hey There, Kittens: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Razer DeathAdder Chroma Gaming Mouse Upgraded...
Razer has announced the launch of their new Razer DeathAdder Chroma gaming mouse. Even if you’re not a gamer, the DeathAdder bears considering. I’m a fan of the hard-wired tracking accuracy,... Read more
Check Apple prices on your device with iTracx
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more
Refurbished 2013 MacBook Pros available for u...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros available starting at $929. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros (4GB RAM/... Read more
New iPhones Score Big in SquareTrade Breakabi...
SquareTrade has announced the iPhone 6 and its larger sibling, iPhone 6 Plus, performed impressively in Breakability testing, and each carries the top Breakability Score in their respective category... Read more
10 Million + First Weekend Sales Set New iPho...
Apple has announced it sold over 10 million new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models, a new record, just three days after the launch on September 19. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are now available in the... Read more
Betty Crocker Launches New Cookbook for iOS
Betty Crocker, a General Mills brand, an established food industry leader, has announced its free digital cookbook app has been refreshed to make cooking with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch even easier... Read more
Apple restocks some refurbished 2014 MacBook...
The Apple Store has restocked some Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs, with prices starting at $769. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free. These... Read more
13-inch 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $949, s...
B&H Photo has the new 2014 13″ 1.4GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $949.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP. B&H will also include free copies of... Read more
Apple offering free $25 iTunes Gift Card with...
The Apple Store is offering a free $25 iTunes Gift Card with the purchase of a $99 Apple TV for a limited time. Shipping is free. Read more
Apple refurbished iPod touch available for up...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 5th generation iPod touches available starting at $149. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free. Most colors are... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.