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
$99.76
Apple Inc.
+2.09
MSFT
$44.08
Microsoft Corpora
+0.45
GOOG
$520.84
Google Inc.
+9.67

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Macgo Blu-ray Player 2.10.9.1750 - Blu-r...
Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can bring you the most unforgettable Blu-ray experience on your Mac. Overview Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can satisfy just about every need you could possibly have in a Blu-ray... Read more
Apple iOS 8.1 - The latest version of Ap...
The latest version of iOS can be downloaded through iTunes. Apple iOS 8 comes with big updates to apps you use every day, like Messages and Photos. A whole new way to share content with your family.... Read more
TechTool Pro 7.0.5 - Hard drive and syst...
TechTool Pro is now 7, and this is the most advanced version of the acclaimed Macintosh troubleshooting utility created in its 20-year history. Micromat has redeveloped TechTool Pro 7 to be fully 64... Read more
PDFKey Pro 4.0.2 - Edit and print passwo...
PDFKey Pro can unlock PDF documents protected for printing and copying when you've forgotten your password. It can now also protect your PDF files with a password to prevent unauthorized access and/... Read more
Yasu 2.9.1 - System maintenance app; per...
Yasu was originally created with System Administrators who service large groups of workstations in mind, Yasu (Yet Another System Utility) was made to do a specific group of maintenance tasks... Read more
Hazel 3.3 - Create rules for organizing...
Hazel is your personal housekeeper, organizing and cleaning folders based on rules you define. Hazel can also manage your trash and uninstall your applications. Organize your files using a... Read more
Autopano Giga 3.7 - Stitch multiple imag...
Autopano Giga allows you to stitch 2, 20, or 2,000 images. Version 3.0 integrates impressive new features that will definitely make you adopt Autopano Pro or Autopano Giga: Choose between 9... Read more
MenuMeters 1.8 - CPU, memory, disk, and...
MenuMeters is a set of CPU, memory, disk, and network monitoring tools for Mac OS X. Although there are numerous other programs which do the same thing, none had quite the feature set I was looking... Read more
Coda 2.5 - One-window Web development su...
Coda is a powerful Web editor that puts everything in one place. An editor. Terminal. CSS. Files. With Coda 2, we went beyond expectations. With loads of new, much-requested features, a few... Read more
Arq 4.6.1 - Online backup to Google Driv...
Arq is super-easy online backup for the Mac. Back up to your own Google Drive storage (15GB free storage), your own Amazon Glacier ($.01/GB per month storage) or S3, or any SFTP server. Arq backs up... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

This Week at 148Apps: October 13-17, 201...
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 »
Angry Birds Transformers Review
Angry Birds Transformers Review By Jennifer Allen on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: TRANSFORMED BIRDSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Transformed in a way you wouldn’t expect, Angry Birds Transformers is a quite... | Read more »
GAMEVIL Announces the Upcoming Launch of...
GAMEVIL Announces the Upcoming Launch of Mark of the Dragon Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 20th, 2014 [ permalink ] Mark of the Dragon, by GAMEVIL, put | Read more »
Interview With the Angry Birds Transform...
Angry Birds Transformers recently transformed and rolled out worldwide. This run-and-gun title is a hit with young Transformers fans, but the ample references to classic Transformers fandom has also earned it a place in the hearts of long-time... | Read more »
Find Free Food on Campus with Ypay
Find Free Food on Campus with Ypay Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 20th, 2014 [ permalink ] iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad | Read more »
Strung Along Review
Strung Along Review By Jordan Minor on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: GOT NO STRINGSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A cool gimmick and a great art style keep Strung Along from completely falling apart.   | Read more »
P2P file transferring app Send Anywhere...
File sharing services like Dropbox have security issues. Email attachments can be problematic when it comes to sharing large files. USB dongles don’t fit into your phone. Send Anywhere, a peer-to-peer file transferring application, solves all of... | Read more »
Zero Age Review
Zero Age Review By Jordan Minor on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: MORE THAN ZEROiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad With its mind-bending puzzles and spellbinding visuals, Zero Age has it all.   | Read more »
Hay Ewe Review
Hay Ewe Review By Campbell Bird on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SAVE YOUR SHEEPLEUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Pave the way for your flock in this line drawing puzzle game from the creators of Worms.   | Read more »
My Very Hungry Caterpillar (Education)
My Very Hungry Caterpillar 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Care for your very own Very Hungry Caterpillar! My Very Hungry Caterpillar will captivate you as he crawls... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

2013 15-inch 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pro availa...
B&H Photo has leftover previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros now available for $1599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $400 off original MSRP. B&H... Read more
Updated iPad Prices
We’ve updated our iPad Air Price Tracker and our iPad mini Price Tracker with the latest information on prices and availability from Apple and other resellers, including the new iPad Air 2 and the... Read more
Apple Pay Available to Millions of Visa Cardh...
Visa Inc. brings secure, convenient payments to iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3as well as iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Starting October 20th, eligible Visa cardholders in the U.S. will be able to use Apple Pay,... Read more
Textkraft Pocket – the missing TextEdit for i...
infovole GmbH has announced the release and immediate availability of Textkraft Pocket 1.0, a professional text editor and note taking app for Apple’s iPhone. In March 2014 rumors were all about... Read more
C Spire to offer iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3,...
C Spire on Friday announced that it will offer iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, both with Wi-Fi + Cellular, on its 4G+ LTE network in the coming weeks. C Spire will offer the new iPads with a range of... Read more
Belkin Announces Full Line of Keyboards and C...
Belkin International has unveiled a new lineup of keyboard cases and accessories for Apple’s newest iPads, featuring three QODE keyboards and a collection of thin, lightweight folios for both the... Read more
Verizon offers new iPad Air 2 preorders for $...
Verizon Wireless is accepting preorders for the new iPad Air 2, cellular models, for $100 off MSRP with a 2-year service agreement: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi + Cellular: $529.99 - 64GB iPad Air 2 WiFi... Read more
Price drops on refurbished Mac minis, now ava...
The Apple Store has dropped prices on Apple Certified Refurbished previous-generation Mac minis, with models now available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free.... 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

Jobs Board

*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
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** At the Apple Store, you connect business professionals and entrepreneurs with the tools they need in order to put Apple solutions to work in their Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The Apple Store is a retail environment like no other - uniquely focused on delivering amazing customer experiences. As an Expert, you introduce people Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** As businesses discover the power of Apple computers and mobile devices, it's your job - as a Solutions Engineer - to show them how to introduce these Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.