Dreaming of starting your own app business? The app market is buzzing, but getting started in this sector requires investments that can range from a modest $5,000 for a basic app to an ambitious $500,000+ for intricate designs across multiple platforms. Beyond the financials, the recipe for success includes a cocktail of skills: adeptness in app development, an eye for intuitive UX/UI design, shrewd market insight, and marketing savvy.

The potential returns are tempting, with profit margins stretching from 20% for more service-intensive apps to 85% for highly successful apps that don’t require much ongoing attention. However, striking that sweet spot of profitability requires navigation through challenges like standing out in a brimming marketplace and adapting to ever-evolving tech norms. Ready to decode the app business maze? Let’s examine the details together.

Considerations Before Starting an App Business

Initial InvestmentEstimated startup costs can range from $5,000 (simple app) to $500,000+ (complex app with various features and platforms).
Skills RequiredApp development (iOS, Android), UX/UI design, market research, marketing, and project management.
DemandHigh demand across multiple industries. Health, finance, entertainment, and utility apps are currently popular.
LocationMostly online. Co-working spaces or tech hubs can provide networking and partnership opportunities.
HoursDevelopment can be time-intensive initially. Post-launch, hours vary based on maintenance, updates, and customer support needs.
Permits and LicensesBusiness licenses in some areas, software licenses, etc. If the app collects user data, compliance with data protection regulations is essential.
Profit MarginProfit margins can vary widely, from 20% for heavily serviced apps to 85%+ for low-maintenance, high-demand apps.
ChallengesStanding out in a saturated market, ensuring user privacy, adapting to fast-changing tech standards, and securing consistent revenue streams.

Benefits of Starting an App Business

Today, more than 7 billion people in the world are mobile phone users. It’s no wonder annual app downloads are rising, reaching 255 billion downloads in 2022. This large and increasingly lucrative market keeps expanding. App revenues are also growing, as more users are willing to pay for access, in-app purchases, and premium features.

How to Start an App Business Checklist

Starting an app development company and building your app takes time. You’ll need design and development expertise, time management skills, and an understanding of your specific app market.

You can keep startup costs low, especially with help from LLC filing services. Some free (+ state fee) LLC formation services can help you avoid some early expenses, but it’s still important to capitalize your startup until the app brings in steady revenue. As you develop your app, pay extra attention to how you’ll monetize it. To turn your app business dream into reality, follow this checklist of startup steps.

1. Create an app business plan

Your app’s company’s business plan is your roadmap to go from concept to release. Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be complex. A few pages can be all you need to keep your app business strategy focused and consistent.

Who are the target users for your app? Do some digging to identify and understand the market. People use apps for productivity, connection, entertainment, and more. What will your app do for them? How will it do it better than anyone else? Develop your unique selling proposition (USP) to get a grasp of how your app stands out.

Who’s on your team? Building your new app may require hiring talented coders, user experience/user interface (UX/UI) staff, copywriters, app designers, or marketing professionals. Those may be contract laborers working piecemeal or full-timers, depending on your budget. You may also consider working with partners who co-own the app business.

How will you build buzz and demand for your app? From a company website and vibrant social media presences to media attention and app conferences, the more visible your app and company, the more you may be able to drive app adoption and revenue growth.

What is your minimum viable product (MVP)? Don’t keep your app under wraps until it’s perfect. Determine the minimum features you need for production, and get your app into the world. From there, you can listen to user feedback, fix problems, and improve feature sets — but your app has to be out there before you can fix it, improve it, and grow your customer and revenue base.

2. Choose a business structure

When starting your mobile app business, the right business structure can be a key part of your success. While a sole proprietorship can be the easiest way to start, its liability and taxation pitfalls can be a poor match for an app company. Instead, consider starting an LLC or limited liability company for your app company, along with an operating agreement.

If you want to go into business with one or more partners, establishing an LLC helps you structure your app company with multiple owners, with shares divided in a way they all agree to. The LLC can also shield your personal assets from liability in the event of legal action, a benefit over sole proprietorships. Structuring your app business as an LLC instead of a sole proprietorship may help lower your taxes and taxable income, too.

3. Determine your app company’s development and business costs

If you’re building a new app, you should count on a development cost of $5,000–10,000. The typical cost range for a quality app can run as high as $250,000, depending on scale and complexity. Estimating startup costs is crucial to knowing how much money you need to get your app off the ground. Here are other factors to consider:

  • Employee wages and/or fees for outsourced independent contractors
  • Development process and team
  • Pre-release quality assurance testing
  • Office space and utilities
  • Technical equipment like computers, smartphones, etc.
  • Administrative fees, insurance, business registration, and licensing fees
  • Google Play and Apple App Store fees, including percentages taken of app sales
  • Website hosting and storage

You can build a quality indie app for under $100,000, and potentially below $50,000. But if your company will build enterprise-level apps, expect costs to exceed $100,000 and possibly even $250,000.

How can you fund your app business’s startup costs?

Your app business plan can be integral to helping you fund your startup costs. Here are some funding sources to consider:

  • Bootstrapping: Savings, investment accounts, and other personal reserves could fund your app. Of course, this route involves plenty of personal risk.
  • SBA loans and other government resources: Federal loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can help fund your startup costs. You may also find an investor through a small business investment company (SBIC) licensed by the SBA.
  • Commercial loans: You’ll need a solid business plan to get a bank loan, with proof your plan will yield returns.
  • Venture capital and other private investment: To interest investors, you’ll often need to offer them a stake in the company. Negotiate carefully.

4. Name your business

What’s a good app business name? The names of top app companies don’t follow a set formula, but they do reflect the values and brands of the people who make these app companies excel.

As you and your business partners decide how to name your LLC, make sure the name you choose is available for government registrations and licensing, domain names, and social media accounts.

5. Register your app business and open financial accounts

Once your app business registrations are complete, get underway on opening business checking accounts, app store accounts, and other financial accounts you’ll need for your business, such as PayPal or business credit cards.

You’ll also need to apply for a dedicated employer identification number (EIN) for your LLC, which helps you open business bank accounts, hire employees, file taxes, and more. Also, get the licenses your state or locality requires. Consider chatting with a local insurance agent about business and liability insurance you may need to protect yourself if things go sour.

6. Market your app business

In the buildup to your app’s launch, don’t overlook a sound app marketing plan. While you build your app, work on generating buzz and developing your marketing strategy.

  • Implement a social media strategy. Share screenshots, articles, and other content that showcases your app and why people will love it.
  • Harness the power of video. Consider demo and explainer videos that help people get familiar with your app and what it can do for them.

Build a company website that spotlights your app and shares details about your app company, vision, and how people can get in touch.

Examples of App Businesses to Start

From tools to travel, health to finance, profitable apps can take many forms, such as:

  • Augmented reality for interior design
  • Health, wellness, and telemedicine
  • Meal planners and food trackers
  • Business bots
  • Map apps
  • Video streaming apps
  • Communications tools
  • Customer relationship tools

Start Your App Business Today

Whatever your app idea, designing it is only the first step. You also need a successful app business model. Create your app development business plan, build a solid team, and implement an engaging marketing strategy. Cover these important steps, and you could be on your way to building the next killer app.

Starts at $0 + state fee

FAQs About Starting an App Business

  • Your timeline depends on factors like the app’s complexity and your team’s resources. Typical timeframes can range from 1–3 months to nearly a year.

  • Apple’s iPhone iOS (and for iPad, iPadOS) and Google’s Android comprise the world’s dominant app ecosystems. Apple’s App Store generates roughly twice as much revenue as Google’s currently does. However, Android app revenue is growing faster. Unless you have a strong business case for focusing on only one platform, consider developing for both.

  • Your app can generate revenue through different monetization models. Here are some options to consider:
    1. Paid app: No free version.
    2. Freemium: Free to download and access basic features, with one-time or subscription pricing for premium access.
    3. Subscription: Ongoing paid access to all features.
    4. In-app purchases: While the customer is using the app, they can purchase add-ons, upgrades, and other expanded features.
    5. Crowdfunding: Gain social traction and startup revenue through one-time or ongoing online crowdfunding campaigns.
    6. Sponsorship: Instead of displaying ads, sponsoring companies provide financial backing, rewards, and other engagement to put their brand in front of their app’s user base.
    7. Advertising: Ads display inside of the app interface.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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