SPI 039: Changing Lives and Getting Paid with Niched iPhone Apps—Success Story, Interview Series 4

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In this session of the Smart Passive Income Podcast I’m super stoked to feature another success story interview, this time with someone who has built a very successful iPhone application business in a very tight niche.

His name is Mike Doonan from Speech With Milo, and what makes him and his apps special is that he’s building apps that are changing people’s lives, and he’s making a good living doing so—to the tune of 5-figures a month!

With how crowded the app market is today (and any market—not just the mobile app market), creating something unique and dominating a specific niche within a niche is a great way to go, just like Mike and his wife did.

I can honestly say that the information in this podcast is the best information I have on this blog about iPhone apps.

In this session you’ll learn about:

  • How an iPad paved the way for Mike and his wife’s app business.
  • How many apps they have how much income Mike’s apps are generating.
  • The top questions you should ask yourself before you begin to build mobile applications.
  • 3 important categories of app design that you need to think about.
  • Finding developers and dealing with costs when building an application.
  • How to post a job description to protect your idea and find the best developers and designers possible.
  • Mike’s (simple but brilliant) strategies for getting his apps found in the app store.
  • Plus a lot more!

Right click here to download the MP3

Items mentioned in this podcast include:

Mike graciously volunteered his story to share, educate and inspire people here in the podcast, and I could tell that he really wanted to make sure he was helpful and honest about the app business too.

He actually messaged me after our call saying that we forgot cover something extremely important that he thought everyone should do when getting into the app business, which was really nice of him.

You’ll hear that important “follow-up” tip at the end of the podcast.

Mike and his wife are getting paid by making the world a better place, and that’s awesome.

Mike, if you’re reading this—I know the entire SPI community here wishes you, your wife and your applications even more success, and I’m so happy that you’re being rewarded for your good deeds.

Thank you all for listening!

Please subscribe to the podcast using the links below and look out for another success story in the next episode that is “out of this world”.

Hint hint. 😉

Cheers, and all the best!

Please subscribe below to the podcast to get automatic updates for your device:

Click Here to Download the Transcript for Session 39 (PDF)

  • http://www.detailedsuccess.com Kris @ Detailed Success


    I love it when people can actually do what they are passionate about and while doing so are also able to help other people.

    I am looking to build a few apps myself in the future so this is perfect. I will start to listen to it right now.

    • http://www.breakingzero.com Brian

      App development and mobile marketing is the hot new frontier.

      We all better rake in as much money as possible before it gets saturated and regulated.

      • http://www.rabbitholeapp.com/jonny-f Mark Dunn

        The iPhone app market is already getting saturated. It was just over a year ago I first listened to Pat’s other great Iphone app podcast SPI 014. Since that time, during most of our lunchbraks, my buddy and I used to discuss ideas for apps, and earlier this year we hired excellent developers off Elance to turn one of our crazy ideas in to reality.

        On 22 May 2012, we managed to get our completed photo tourism app listed on the app store. A week later, I counted how many other apps had been released since that time and was supprised to find over 2000 other apps had been released in a less than a week.

        If you have a good (or bad) idea for an app, I’d still recommend giving it a try, but don’t invest any money that you aren’t affraid to lose. Information on our app can be found at http://www.rabbitholeapp.com

  • http://www.chasingpace.com/ Wesley Banks

    Been waiting for another Success Story Interview; these are by far my favorite podcasts at SPI.

    Downloading it now so I have something to listen to on my long drive to Miami. Pretty excited, especially after I read, “I can honestly say that the information in this podcast is the best information I have on this blog about iPhone apps.”

  • http://www.extramoneyblog.com Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    Excellent and very inspiring.

    Timely for me as I have my first iPhone app under review by Apple. Some of this will definitely come in handy.

  • http://www.beginningiosdev.com Shen @ BeginningiOSDev

    Awesome podcast for any aspiring app developers.

    99 Designs is great but I’ve found Dribble to be particularly nifty for looking for designers. You can browse through different designer’s portfolios and hit up the designers whose style you like best.

    I’ve tried outsourcing some design on Elance, but find that it can be pretty hit or miss down there. Even after just a few misses, things can get pretty expensive in a hurry!

    • http://libeltyseo.com TomL

      Good find there!

  • http://www.nichezilla.com Adam

    This is what it’s all about! Even in a very crowded and often over saturated market there are still plenty of opportunities out there.

    I love seeing these App success stories because it continues to give me hope that once my App reaches development stage I might just have a chance as well.

  • http://hapze.com/ Dennis Rodriguez

    It is great to hear success stories in app business, it is way too overcrowded and you really need to know how to market the app.

  • http://www.olivier-roland.tv Olivier Roland

    It’s not directly related to your podcast Pat, but I was wondering which plugin you use to have this “Click to confirm you are NOT a spammer and have inserted a REAL NAME in the NAME Field above.” field ?

    I have more and more people that don’t use their name and it bothers me, I would like to use this plugin to lower them.

    • Pat

      Hey Olivier, it’s called GASP, or Growmap Anti Spam Plugin :)

      It’ll stop the non-human comments from coming in, and I still get a tiny bit of spam from people who don’t use their name in the name field, but it’s SIGNIFICANTLY less thanks to GASP. Cheers!

      • http://www.des-livres-pour-changer-de-vie.fr/ Olivier Roland

        Hello Pat,

        I noticed you don’t use this plugin anymore. Any reason for that ? 😉

  • http://www.mobileapptycoon.com Thomas @ Mobile App Tycoon

    Awesome interview! Been waiting for this one for a while :) I’m so glad that we finally get to hear an app store success story from someone who is making apps that aren’t just gag apps. Not that there is anything wrong with entertainment apps, but in my opinion, too many people looking to get into the app store have the mindset that they will just create the next iFart and get rich. However, they forget that apps that actually solve a need like Mike’s can do really well on the app store as well!

    Congrats Mike and thanks Pat for sharing his story!


  • http://Www.geemoneytalk.com Ryan Gee

    Hmmm not Seeing this in the podcast section of the app. But maybe it’s just me. On my way to mall to buy daughter her elementary graduation present and I can’t listen to my favorite podcast on the way :!

    • Pat

      Hmm..should be there soon. Sometimes the feed takes a while to update. Try once more!

      • http://geemoneytalk.com Ryan Gee

        Thanks, I got it on my way home. About half way finished with it. I’ll have the second half to keep me company tomorrow on my way to work.

  • http://onlineincomelab.com Trent Dyrsmid

    Hey Pat,

    Thanks for making this podcast happen. I have a gaming app on my drawing board as we speak, so this is going to be really valuable for me to listen to on my next run.


    • tom j ripley

      Are the new way to make a million now your niche site matery is over..

  • http://www.shuckabuck.com/ Shuck @ ShuckaBuck.com

    Boom! Love the success stories from building apps.

    Pat, I heard in an interview you did that the relative life span of an app is only 2 weeks…sounds very risky to me.

    I think if you can come up with something that can stand the test of time, so to speak, you will have a winner.

  • http://www.best-gold.co.uk marie @ best-gold

    I think that there is so much competition in the app market these days that you have to have a really original idea to have any chance of success. Its always good to hear a success story though.

  • http://lifeoflyman.com Lyman Perrine

    This was amazing Pat and really fits in with what I’m doing now. I almost have my first app finished and about to start 2 more! I’ve been wanting to do this for a few years now and decided to just take action and quit waiting for a perfect moment. I can’t wait to do apps full time and less on Internet Marketing :) lol

  • http://kristinboster.com Kristin Boster

    Hi Pat. Still not seeing this on iTunes or the podcast section of your app. Am I just too impatient?

    • http://geemoneytalk.com Ryan Gee

      Try it now. I had the same problem earlier but was able to see it in the app about an hour and a half ago.

  • http://myonlinesuccessdiary.com Phil Jensen


    Just browsed through the pdf transcript and downloaded the podcast…going to listen to it on the ride home. $15,000 to $20,000 a month is awesome.

    I actually have a client that did $280,000 in 2009 and $480,000 in 2010 with their iPhone app….and you probably have the app on your phone!!

    I really have to get into this market!!! Where to find the time!



  • http://bootstrapcafe.com Adam

    Hello Pat, can’t believe I’ve just read this ?! – I literally just published an interview yesterday on my own Blog with a successful iPad / iPhone App guy who lives in my Hometown?

    Appfidelity have worked with people like Lulu Guinness (yes she’s part of that dark smooth drink Family)

    Really weird coincidence …

    Anyway I’ll whizz your post to Gareth right away, he’ll love it – thank you!

    P.S. I’ll try to keep up with you more at SPI now, just been so busy myself

    All the best, Adam

  • Nestor Castillo

    Hi Pat,

    Once again great podcast! Many thanks for providing success stories like this. I have been thinking about creating an app and this gives me the motivation to take more action.

    Can anyone recommend a wire frame application to do mockups/prototypes?


    • http://www.smalltalkofdoom.com Kwin Peterson

      I used Apple’s Pages program for my mockup. In its page layout mode it is dead simple to drag, drop/import and arrange artwork then annotate your screen shots to describe how each button works and how the app flows.

      Big second on the importance of good mockups, by the way; I feel that the clarity of my mockups made it possible for my non-US designer to 1) give me a super accurate bid on the work to be done, and 2) know exactly what to do and bring in the project on time and on budget.

  • http://www.poolfencephoenix.com Mike Roosa

    Excellent interview. Always like to hear success stories. Just wondering what your take is on the Android store. There are less apps there, does that mean more money to be made?

  • http://internetmarketing-advice.net Secret Insider

    Great post, I love success stories, so many ways for people to make money even when times are hard. Even in a market that seems saturated it is possible to succeed if you have the drive, determination and a great idea.


  • http://www.ramblingsofawahm.com/ Allie


    Your blog and podcasts have not only been inspirational but also they feel really actionable lately. Maybe it is just the stage of business I am in or you rock—probably both. :-)

    I’ll be hitting my Taco Bell weekly lunch in about 2 hours and this podcast will happily play in my car.

    Have a great day.


  • Dencha


    Quick question, I have an idea for an app, which route would be best to get started? Hire a designer to design the look of the app (characters/screen functions/etc…) or hire a programmer to start developing the app?

    Since we’re creating mock-up for the programmers would it be best to have all the design ready as the “mock-up” so the programmer has a “visual” idea of how it’ll look and possible how it’ll function.

    Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

    • http://kristinboster.com Kristin Boster

      I’m a developer and I would definitely recommend giving the programmer a design before you ask them to write code. Otherwise, they may take it upon themselves to make a best guess on what you want, which may end up costing you time and money. Good luck.

      • Dencha

        Thanks Kristin for answering!

  • http://www.LimitlessMindset.com Jonathan Roseland

    Great to hear another SPI!! I’m wondering… Is the app world like the open source software world? Is there a lot of plugin components that can be used for development? I’m a Joomla ninja so I would like to think that I could figure out app development on my own… Or would I be better off just hiring a professional? I’ve heard a couple places that Apple is just a royal pain in the @$$ when it comes to applications. However I’d really like to launch and app in the mind power niche, I already have a podcast in this niche that gets downloaded a lot through itunes so it would seem to make sense to do an app there. http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/limitless-mindset-acquire/id497212154

  • http://libeltyseo.com TomL

    This is interesting and I plan on getting into the app game soon as well. Right now I’m busy with clients and making a killing with the Kindle… lol.



  • http://www.freekvdgriendt.be/cv Freek van de Griendt

    Hi Pat,

    Really interesting interview, thanks for the post! Filled with useful information all around.

    I do have a specific question though: in the interview http://www.appannie.com was mentioned as a site for tracking sales, ratings, reviews etc… Other sources have pointed more towards http://www.appfigures.com.
    Could you share your thoughts on the comparison of these 2 sites?

    • Sarun W.

      With appfigures you get only sell report for free account, if you want to see review, ranking, etc you have to upgrade it 4.99$/month, while you can get that for free at appannie. That are what I know.

  • http://inmyhomeoffice.com/ Ian McConnell

    Great podcast and intriguing story… I think Mike would produce a killer course on app development.

  • Ben Loss

    Great podcast, Pat. I recently read Chad Mureta’s book, “App Empire”, and it also had a lot of great practical methods for market analysis, app development and promotion. However, much of his background has been in the gaming apps, which I believe is getting harder to break into that market with a limited budget, given the well-funded competition.

    Mike’s story in this podcast was very encouraging because it laid out the process for developing an niche app and showed that this route can also be very profitable as well. I had previously questioned whether or not this was the case since only 3 of the top currently 25 grossing apps in the app store are non-game apps.

  • http://www.smartlifestyledesign.com Hashim


  • http://www.define-smart-goals.com/ Tom

    Mike and Pat,

    Thank you for candidly sharing your experiences on developing iPad/iPhone apps. Your success is inspirational. A key take-away, in my opinion, is that if you pursue a passion and produce a product or service with value to the end consumer foremost in mind, then the reward (monetary or otherwise) will take care of itself.

    My experience in managing enterprise class software projects, as well as marketing high end commercial software products, has taught me that it is very valuable to create mockups or prototypes and share them with a cross section of the targeted consumer. Take their feedback, update the prototype/mockup and review with them again for additional input. A few iterations will give you confidence that the resulting product will satisfy end users’ needs.

    This investment in upfront confirmation will payback handsomely by not having to redo development efforts to fix problems found after release. In addition, your product will result in happy consumers that provide glowing feedback rather than disgruntled users that you may never win back. This concept is foundational for “Agile Project Management” (or Agile PLM – Project Lifecycle Management) in case you want to look for more information on it.

    Best regards,

  • http://www.craigmcbreen.com/ Craig McBreen

    Hi Pat,

    I’ve been listening to your podcasts for several months and think you offer up some great info with each show. I’ve always been curious about app development and this show was a big help. I didn’t realize you could actually get something out in a couple of months. That WAS a surprise.

    Anyway, solid interview and great advice on planning, wire-framing, etc. Good stuff!

    • http://www.smalltalkofdoom.com Kwin Peterson

      Not even that. From the time I awarded the job to the time the app was ready to submit to Apple was just under four weeks. Depending on the complexity of the app, the skill of your developer, and planning you put into it, app development can be very quick.
      It is also surprisingly thrilling to hold in your hand something that you created out of just an idea–I literally jumped up and down in my excitement.

  • http://Www.colleenconger.com Colleen Conger

    To say that I was excited to hear the backstory on Milo would be an understatement! I have searched the App Store up and down looking for apps to help my 4 1/2 son’s language delay and the Milo apps fit the bill perfectly

    I’m particularly inspired about this podcast as I’ve seen a general lack of good apps to utilize technology to not replace, but to aid in therapy.

    I’m hopeful, too that some of the commentors that are thinking about app creation would look into helping the special needs community (e.g. autism, dyslexia,etc.). What an impact that would make!

  • http://www.ContractsAndWarranties.com Steve

    I realize that I can outsource app development to another country, but I’m concerned that they will take my idea and develop their own app. The extra protection and working with someone in the US may be worth the extra expense.

  • Apps dev

    Definitely, iPhone/iPad apps all the way! :) Its a very fast profitable growing marketplace. But to make apps that sell is the trickiest part (no point spending weeks making an app no one downloads). These videos are brilliant for app marketing & business strategy: http://appempire1.com/aff/?p=Irishnh&w=ael1

  • http://www.sterlingeffort.com Ash @ Sterling Effort

    This is awesome! I’m a software developer and my girlfriend is an animator. We’ve been thinking about making a niche app for a while now but we always figured we couldn’t make that much money from it. Maybe it’s time to start taking a more serious look at our idea. Thanks again, Pat, for another awesome interview. And of course thanks to Mike for sharing his story :)

  • Lea Gibson

    Pat! I found you via podcast looking for a show about entrepreneurship. My initial reaction was skepticism because you came off as “too genuine.” I’m two e-books and 9 podcast shows in and the light bulb has finally clicked. Every time I read one of your articles, listen to one of the podcast, or take you up on a research recommendation, I become more passionate about starting my own endeavors. To say you inspired me would be cliché. You have provided me a road map. A funnel for my ambition. A clarity to see that my dreams are easily obtainable. I say easily because the Hard Work/Labor is always the easy part, it’s assumed amongst entrepreneurs. The hard part for me was understanding which way to go.

    Today, I thank you for putting me on my path!

  • Barry Wong

    Hi Pat,

    I just discovered your website and listened to this podcast. Not only was this interview inspirational but motivating considering Mike is not a programmer or developer.

    Will be adding your podcasts to my playlist!

    Thank you!


  • http://www.e-crm.co.uk/ Doug Spence

    Very inspiring and Excellent!

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  • http://www.handymarketer.com christelle

    Hi Pat and every one else,
    Do you have a good book to recommend about making iPhone apps and the whole business of it? I’d like to try that as a new project with my husband, it could be fun and useful at the same time.
    Thanks, Christelle.

    • http://www.giacomoballi.com/apps Giacomo Balli

      Most of the info you need is in the podcast.
      Team up with a good developer who also knows about marketing/strategy and you’ll be fine.

  • http://www.babydevelopmentapp.com Tarryn

    Great podcast,Pat. Thanks! We’re in a similar situation in that I am an Occupational Therapist and my husband is an online project manager. This podcast really inspired us and got us moving. We’re really excited to be developing our first app focussed on baby development. Just done our landing page http://www.babydevelopmentapp.com We wouldn’t have taken action on this if we hadn’t listened to this podcast so thanks again! And to Mike, of course.

  • http://freexboxlivegoldcodes.org/ Vinod Kumar

    This is interesting and I plan on getting into the app game soon as well. Very inspiring and Excellent!

  • Sharon

    Great information! Thanks again for another great podcast. I was interested in working with elance and was wondering how the app was submitted to itunes. Does the elance developer upload all the files to your host, then you use your apple developer account to submit? I’d love to hear more about that transition from elance developer building, to getting it submitted to apple.

    • http://www.rabbitholeapp.com/jonny-f Mark Dunn

      Hi Sharon, the developers we found on Elance submitted the app for us using our Apple account. We think this saved us having to buy a Mac. We changed the passwords after they did this – Mark

  • http://hacerapps.com hacerapps

    halo every one i am stating some tutorials on Spanish on how to get stater with making apps with little to no coding if you guys need more info visit my site hacerapps.com i stater making apps a year ago because of pat like most of us he influent a lot thanks pat again for being so inspired to us