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I made Session, a productivity timer that makes $5K/month in net profit, AMA!

Hi IH!

Roughly last year, I launched Session—a Pomodoro focus timer app. It's available on macOS and iOS.

Why I built this

The reason I made this is that I didn't find a Pomodoro timer in the market that fits my need. It's either ugly, doesn't have analytics, or restrictive (I hate to follow the timer rule).

Also, I've been wanting to make a native app for a while (I'm a web developer). So I decided to learn how to code Swift, iOS, and Mac development as I go.

The project took roughly 3 months before launch.

Launch

After I put it on App Store, I didn't get any sales for weeks—makes me question whether it makes sense to focus on Session or not.

Then I decided to put it on ProductHunt for launching. Immediately, I got sales. That experience turned my world upside down. I realized I can make $ with my product! And that's a great feeling.

Afterward, Session got promoted in Mac App Store (App that we love) and Setapp found Session on Product Hunt.

Distribution channel

Both distribution channels kept giving me new streams of users without needing me to actively work on it.

It's been a year and Session now made roughly $5K/mo from both distribution channels.

What's next

Now I'm focusing on strengthening on App Store. Compared to similar apps, Session barely got any download from iOS. One way to achieve that now is for me to focus on localization, which hopefully helps make Session rank higher in the productivity category.

Other interviews

AMA

I realized it's pretty rare for an indie hacker to focus on B2C. So, let me know if you have questions!

  1. 4

    The design is straight-up beautifiul. Congrats on the success!

    I haven't used pomodoros in a while, but know people who do. The idea of having analytics built into it is brilliant. 💯

  2. 2

    you'd make 10k if you had android/pc support :(

    1. 2

      I wish! I don't have energy left to work on other platform 😊

      1. 1

        next time use platform agnostic framework. write once run everywhere.

        1. 1

          React native performance is bad though—same with Electron.

          I've had experience with both. Hard to make the app work offline.

  3. 2

    Thanks for sharing Philip and congratulations!

    I have some questions :
    1- What was the launch process (Landing, Twitter, getting first users, PH?)
    2- Do you intend to produce content for user acquisition (SEO mainly) ?
    3- If you repeat the process, would you launch sooner (with less features)?

    Thanks!

    1. 1
      1. I put it on Twitter and barely get any users. So I ended up listed my ideal customer on Twitter, and reached them out one by one via Twitter DM. Some of them still used Session until today! Few days after, I launch on Product Hunt (which Kickstart everything), then Setapp saw my listing and invited me to join (which gives me much more user to the point my server is dead). I also put it on App Store.

      I would say App Store and Setapp is the best distribution channel because I don't do anything else after I put it there.

      What's impressive is my statistic on App Store is really bad, yet I still make $2.5K. It's possible to 10x my traffic (because similar app has more than that) so I bet I can make at least $20K/mo from App Store if I knew how to tweak the App Store algorithm.

      1. I thought about it, but the thing is Session is only on Apple ecosystem. Not sure if it's worth it. What I want to do right now is to collaborate with "focus with me" influencer on YouTube with profit sharing from affiliate ☺️

      2. Absolutely. I spent the last 1 year until today adding features. The usage barely increased compared to day 1 I released it.

  4. 2

    This looks great, thanks for sharing!

    Question: Any tips on running a beta before you put your app on AppStore / ProductHunt? Did you track usage of certain parts of the app or how often it was used? How did you collect feedback from beta-users?

    1. 1

      I didn't track anything (even until now), but I make sure I ask all my beta users individually every 3 days!

      1. 1

        Thank you :) Good luck with growing your app 👍

  5. 2

    Thanks for sharing Philip, and congrats on the growth of Session. A few questions

    • Did you do some market research before you did Session, and what was the process?
    • What are some mistakes you learned from making this app?
    1. 1
      1. Somewhat! I researched on sensortower that similar app on App Store made between $20K-$100K/mo.

      That's where I know it's possible to make $20K/mo (my goal) when I had enough download per month from ASO.

      But the main reason for me to made Session is to learn Swift and make native app :)

      Converting it to business was an afterthought after seeing sensortower's number.

      1. I spend to much time implementing features. Those 1 year I made them, they didn't even move the needle. It's a distraction.

      That's why my focus now is to make ASO better to get more downloads.

      One way I do it right now is localizing Session to multiple languages.

  6. 2

    Hey! Thank you for sharing, I've been following your journey for the last couple of month and Session is a wonderful app!
    I think we are building with similar approach in mind, utilizing SwiftUI and cross-platform development for productivity tools, like in the good old days.

    How is SwiftUI?
    For me it's super frustrating to a point when it feels like most of the screens should be just wrapped in UIKit and use SwiftUI as mainly coordinator, what are yours biggest challenges with it?

    How did you manage to get App Store featuring? Do you have any tips on what to focus on? Press kit?

    Did you consider paid sales and one time purchase?

    Thank you in advance and wish you all the best. It's so good to see you build an app for people and not for businesses ✌️

    1. 3

      SwiftUI

      Coming from web development, Native development is shit. Every major iOS / macOS upgrade, I have to refactor my code because something crashes the new version. Imagine this happened on the browser. XCode is also buggy. Some major update it can slow down a lot / not compiling code for no reason.

      What took me 15 minutes on the web, it could take a day on SwiftUI.

      App store feature

      Pure luck. I don't do anything. Right now I want to get featured again for iOS one. That's why I'm focusing on localization (one variable for App Store Optimization)

      Paid sales / One-time purchase

      By paid sales, do you mean affiliate? Yes. One-time purchase, probably. Still decide to stay on the subscription road though.

      I just can't leave Session like on the web. As I wrote above, I have to actively work on it on a major (or even minor) OS update because it'll crash.

      Thank you in advance and wish you all the best

      Your welcome!

      1. 1

        LOL, same experience with SwiftUI the approach is better for me, coming from React, but the quality is a shame even for beta open-source project, not to say for Apple.

        By paid sales I mean paid advertisement like Instagram/Twitter/Reddit ads. I myself struggle with it greatly and looks like it's a common theme for indie hackers

        1. 2

          I worked on SwiftUI for 1.5 years now so I hear you.

          Yeah, I have considered doing a partnership with youtube productivity influencers as an affiliate program (instead of paid ads).

          $ discount for users, $ commission for an influencer.

          I have a huge feeling that this will work 😉

  7. 2

    Hi Philip, congrats on making such a polished product, I’m a proud user.

    I don’t understand if it’s making 5k per month, or 2.5k like you’re tweet says? 😅

    1. 1

      2.5K is from App Store only! I have revenues from Setapp and direct sales :)

      1. 1

        Thanks for sharing, this makes it way clearer 🙏

  8. 1

    Looks really nice. I will give it a try soon!

  9. 1

    inspiring milestone buddy. Congratulations!

  10. 1

    Congrats on your success. I really believe that you should think of android users too. Just my thoughts though. Keep smashing it. Cant wait to see the future of your product.

    1. 1

      I wish I had the energy :)

      1. 1

        Maybe it's time to outsource some work ;)

        1. 2

          I haven't been able to pay myself a decent salary though! Maybe in near future :)

  11. 1

    Thanks Philip, just downloaded this and looking forward to using it. Lovely UI and feature rich are my first impressions. Recording sessions against different work categories is something I really value. FYI I was intermittently using a pretty clunky and ugly app called FocusBooster, just in case that helps with your understanding of competition. God speed.

    1. 1

      Thanks @jbk. Worked hard on this.

      Did you pay for FocusBooster?

      1. 1

        I did pay for FocusBooster, intermittently month by month when I was in heavy phases of use. In my case, and I'm not suggesting that I'm average by any means, perhaps of 6-7 years of being signed up to it I ended up paying for 12 of those months. The app's awfully designed and built and I always resented it, but it had the session logging features that I wanted that many others did not and I just couldn't be bothered to spend any more time searching for, giving my email address away and trialling other apps.

        For what it's worth I always felt that every pomodoro app i found in the marketplace lacked some fundamental element(s) and failed to take advantage of the opportunity of people wanting to use this sort of structured method of focussed working. Not that I've done any recent scanning of such available apps in the marketplace, but from my initial viewings so far it seems that your app is a good deal superior than others' freemium product.

        Tipping me over to paying for it is the next thing! I like your 'how much is your time worth' on the priving page btw 👍🏼. Where's that magic price point on the annual where people commit without too much procrastination, your pricing is competitive and still has fair margin for you. Re. monthly, perhaps it's just a strategic lever into annual memberships and or a paid method of experiencing the paid plan full features. Anyway, no doubt you've considered all of this anyway.

        Another thought, in case you haven't already, have a read of Cal Newport's book 'Deep Work', it may perhaps provide further validation of features, help understanding and focus of what's important and what's not, and inspire other product mission aligned ideas. Other potentially relevant reads; Focus- Daniel Goleman, Flow-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

  12. 1

    Congrats Philip.

    I love the design. Superb.

    Any tips or lessons learned for launching a new app ?

    1. 2

      Launch early and learn early 😉

      Nobody will remember how bad your product is on initial stage.

  13. 1

    Are you a follower of Glen Allsopp by any chance? (He has a good following in the SEO world)

    Anyways I remember years ago him posting about this on his website. He has since moved on from posting there, but is still active in the space.
    Here is the link to the post. http://www.viperchill.com/simple-productivity-tool/ Maybe reach out to him via twitter. Could be a great connection to have.

    Here is his twitter btw @ViperChill

    1. 1

      Wow that's a long article! I'll read it later tonight. Thanks @chadcoburn 😊

  14. 1

    Hey Philip. Just wanted to say that you are a motivator and inspired me! Keep up the good work.

    1. 1

      Thank you for stopping by @cinode!

  15. 1

    Congrats Philip!
    I found Session on AppStore after trying some of time tracker app, and give a review & rating on AppStore because it has good quality UI. Shocked after you reply with "Bahasa Indonesia" (I thought session come from outside Indonesia) 😅and then followed your journey on Twitter.

    I have some questions:

    1. Will you bring Session to another platform (Android/Windows/Linux)?
    2. How you finally decide the app pricing model for session?
    1. 2
      1. Not anytime soon (if ever). I'm already exhausted just by working for the Apple ecosystem 😁
      2. I looked at similar app and just more or less use their pricing :)
  16. 1

    Congrats man! I just installed your app this morning through Setapp. It's a really great app!

  17. 1

    Thanks for sharing Philip. Good luck and congrats on the growth milestone 👍

  18. 1

    Just dropping by to say hi Philip! Love the story unfolding on Twitter 🧡 Keep on doing you, you're doing great

    1. 1

      Thanks Daniel! Love your story too!

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