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!

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

iShowU Instant 1.3.2 - Full-featured scr...
iShowU Instant gives you real-time screen recording like you've never seen before! It is the fastest, most feature-filled real-time screen capture tool from shinywhitebox yet. All of the features you... Read more
NeoFinder 7.5.1 - Catalog your external...
NeoFinder (formerly CDFinder) rapidly organizes your data, either on external or internal disks, or any other volumes. It catalogs and manages all your data, so you stay in control of your data... Read more
App Tamer 2.5 - Efficiently manage your...
App Tamer tames your processor-monopolizing apps and keeps them from chewing up excessive CPU time and battery life. Powered by a unique AutoStop feature, App Tamer stops each application when you... Read more
MainStage 3 3.4.4 - Live performance too...
Apple MainStage makes it easy to bring to the stage all the same instruments and effects that you love in your recording. Everything from the Sound Library and Smart Controls you're familiar with... Read more
iTubeDownloader 6.5.13 - Easily download...
iTubeDownloader is a powerful-yet-simple YouTube downloader for the masses. Because it contains a proprietary browser, you can browse YouTube like you normally would. When you see something you want... Read more
FileZilla 3.47.0 - Fast and reliable FTP...
FileZilla (ported from Windows) is a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface. Version 3.47.0: Fixed regression loading advanced site... Read more
Transmit 5.6.3 - Excellent FTP/SFTP clie...
Transmit is an excellent FTP (file transfer protocol), SFTP, S3 (Amazon.com file hosting) and iDisk/WebDAV client that allows you to upload, download, and delete files over the internet. With the... Read more
Doomsday 2.2.2 - Play classic Doom on mo...
id Software's Doom pioneered the modern first-person shooter genre. Released in 1993, it was a quantum leap in game engine technology with fluid and - at the time - incredibly realistic 3D graphics.... Read more
Ableton Live 10.1.9 - Record music using...
Ableton Live lets you create and record music on your Mac. Use digital instruments, pre-recorded sounds, and sampled loops to arrange, produce, and perform your music like never before. Ableton Live... Read more
Maintenance 2.6.5 - System maintenance u...
Maintenance is a system maintenance and cleaning utility. It allows you to run miscellaneous tasks of system maintenance: Check the the structure of the disk Repair permissions Run periodic scripts... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Creepy Little Monsters is a cute, monste...
Creepy Little Monsters is a retro throwback that sees you traversing tricky puzzle-platformer levels as a one-eyed monster. It aims to offer a fresh take on 80s and 90s classics of the genre, and it's out right now for iOS and Android. [Read more... | Read more »
Tyrant's Arena delivers intense her...
Tyrant's Arena is an intense midcore multiplayer actioner where you'll compete in tricky 3v3 matches to crush your opponents and earn neat rewards. It comes to us from developer Kroy Games, and it's now available for pre-registration on iOS and... | Read more »
Mobile Games Starter Kit
Over here at 148Apps, we regularly dive deep into the latest and greatest mobile games hitting the App Store, but that’s not always what people are looking for when searching for a new mobile game. Some folks just want to dip their toes into... | Read more »
Unresolved is a hard-hitting narrative a...
Ghofran Akil's Unresolved in an upcoming text-based adventure game that sees you playing as a mother attempting to find her disappeared husband during the Lebanese Civil War. [Read more] | Read more »
Marvel Strike Force introduces new brawl...
FoxNext's squad-based RPG Marvel Strike Force is set to receive some fresh characters from the X-Men and Iron Man series. They'll arrive as part of the game's latest update, which follows a sizable spending boycott on the title due to complaints... | Read more »
Speed Dating for Ghosts is a narrative a...
Speed Dating for Ghosts originally released on Steam back 2018, since then it has received honourable mentions for narrative during the Independent Games Festival. Now it's made its way over to iOS devices where it's available as a premium title... | Read more »
Fast-paced multiplayer title Tennis Star...
Tennis Stars: Ultimate Clash is the latest free-to-play tennis title to hit iOS and Android. It's said to be a fairly casual experience, offering easy-to-learn controls and fast-paced, mobile-friendly matches. [Read more] | Read more »
Super Mecha Champions' latest updat...
Super Mecha Champions' latest update sees the addition of a brand new character called R.E.D. Alongside that, there's news about the current season and a series of Emojis that have been added to the game. [Read more] | Read more »
Apple Arcade: Ranked - Top 50 [Updated 2...
In case you missed it, I am on a quest to rank every Apple Arcade game there is. [Read more] | Read more »
Apple Arcade: Ranked - 51+ [Updated 2.19...
This is part 2 of our Apple Arcade Ranking list. To see part 1, go here. To skip to part 3, click here. 51. Mini Motorways Description: [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

B&H is again offering $100 discounts on M...
B&H Photo has 4-Core and 6-Core Mac minis on sale for $100 off Apple’s standard MSRP, with prices starting at only $699. Overnight shipping is free to many US addresses: – 3.6GHz Quad-Core mini... Read more
B&H Photo drops iMac prices, offers model...
B&H Photo has new 2019 21″ and 27″ 5K iMacs in stock today and on sale for up to $250 off Apple’s MSRP, with prices starting at only $999. These are the same iMacs sold by Apple in their retail... Read more
Flash sale! 11″ 64GB WiFi iPad Pro for $674,...
Walmart has the 11″ 64GB WiFi iPad Pro on sale on their online store today for $674. That’s $125 off Apple’s MSRP for this model and the cheapest price available from any Apple reseller. Choose free... Read more
Sale! Get the 256GB 13″ Silver MacBook Air fo...
Amazon has new 2019 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Airs, in Silver, on sale today for only $999 shipped. Their price is $300 off Apple’s MSRP for this model, and it’s the cheapest price for a 256GB MacBook... Read more
Verizon offers free iPhone 7 to customers ope...
Verizon is offering a free 32GB iPhone 7 for new or existing customers who open a new line of service, no trade-in required. Cost of the phone is credited to your account monthly over 24 months. The... Read more
Sale! 10.5″ 256GB WiFi iPad Air for $549, $10...
Amazon has new 10.5″ 256GB WiFi iPad Airs, in Space Gray, on sale today for $549 shipped. Their price is $100 off Apple’s MSRP for this model, and it’s the cheapest price available from any Apple... Read more
Back on sale! Apple’s new Mac Pro for $5499,...
B&H Photo has the base 2019 Mac Pro (3.5GHz 8-Core Xeon, 32GB RAM, 256GB SSD) in stock today and on sale for $5499 including free overnight delivery to many addresses in the US. Their price is $... Read more
B&H offers $100 discount on base 13″ 1.4G...
B&H Photo has new 2019 13″ 1.4GHz MacBook Pros on sale for $100 off Apple’s MSRP today with prices starting at $1199. Overnight shipping is free to many addresses in the US. These are the same... Read more
Apple continues to offer Certified Refurbishe...
Apple has Certified Refurbished iPhone XS models available for up to $350 off MSRP, with prices starting at $699. Each iPhone is unlocked and comes with Apple’s standard one-year warranty and a new... Read more
Apple AirPods are on sale for $30 off today
Amazon has new 2019 Apple AirPods (non-Pro models) on sale today for $30 off MSRP, starting at $129. Shipping is free: – AirPods with Wireless Charging Case: $169 $30 off MSRP – AirPods with Charging... Read more

Jobs Board

Medical Assistant - *Apple* Valley Clinic -...
…professional, quality care to patients in the ambulatory setting at the M Health Fairview Apple Valley Clinic, located in Apple Valley, MN. Join the **M Health Read more
Geek Squad Advanced Repair *Apple* Professi...
**764652BR** **Job Title:** Geek Squad Advanced Repair Apple Professional **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store NUmber or Department:** 000245- Apple Read more
Medical Assistant - *Apple* Valley Clinic -...
…professional, quality care to patients in the ambulatory setting at the M Health Fairview Apple Valley Clinic, located in Apple Valley, MN. Join the **M Health Read more
Windows/ *Apple* Technical Support Engineer...
Windows/ Apple Technical Support Engineer McLean , VA , US Apply + Be you + Be Booz Allen + Be empowered + Learn More Job Description Location: McLean, VA, US Job Read more
Medical Assistant - *Apple* Valley Clinic -...
…professional, quality care to patients in the ambulatory setting at the M Health Fairview Apple Valley Clinic, located in Apple Valley, MN. Join the **M Health Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.