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So far I have been only publishing free packages to AppExchange. However, since the rumors regarding that Salesforce will require a Security Review Fee even for paid apps, I started considering publishing some paid package to at least cover the cost of the security review fee. Also, one of the users of my free app asked me why didn't I publish it as a paid app. So far there were several reasons why didn't I make any of my AppExchange apps paid, including:

  1. My free apps on AppExchange were merely my pet projects, something I considered to be useful but still missing on AppExchange.
  2. At that time, I didn't have access to the AppExchange publishing console on my projects where I used to be working like subcontractor and I felt I need some experience with that, so I considered publishing my pet projects on AppExchange as a learning opportunity for me to learn the process of publishing an app to AppExchange.
  3. I am a single individual (in Ukraine we have special term like Private Enterpreneur, or literally Physical Person Entrepreneur in Ukrainian) and actually I was always involved in full time projects, so I never had much time to support or evolve my pet projects. All my pet projects I have built on weekends or during late evenings in my free time.
  4. Per my understanding, if you publish a paid app, a support is expected, and I guess that just responses by emails might not be satisfactory and I don't have an US phone number to publish for package subscribers to call me whenever they have issues. Also I am not located in US timezone, so I won't be even able to pickup the phone if someone is calling from US timezone in the time when I am felt asleep.
  5. I have some fears like that the app I publish will not be much popular and will not cover the expenses on Security Review fee, not even saying the cost of development or support. So it would be extremely risky to publish some paid app without even having some confidence that such app will be sold. Currently one of my free app is becoming quite popular and has 5 App Exchange reviews (but not as much popular as the top trending apps which have plenty reviews and I assume millions of subscribers), but when I published it, there were quite a few subscribers of it.
  6. I struggle with ideas. I meant, I have plenty ideas but I am not sure if someone would like to buy it. Also I tried to search over IdeaExchange but the most popular ideas are either implemented or planned to be implemented by Salesforce or they already have some top trending apps covering the missing functionality.

So, I know that fee for free app is kind cancelled temporarily, but I generally struggle with understanding two questions.

  1. How to make a successful profitable AppExchange listing? What makes an app or a component a successful AppExchange listing that brings profit?
  2. Is this even possible for one person to get a profit from publishing paid AppExchange app? Does it make sense instead to make a team or hire a support team? How hard is it to support a paid package on AppExchange?

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First, the bad news. Something like 90-95% of all startups fail or never generate a positive revenue flow. Even big tech firms like Google manage to fail from time to time, and they have virtually unlimited resources compared to you. There's just no guarantee at anything. Starting a business is a huge risk that involves a lot of capital, and that capital must come from your own reserves, a loan against your credit or some asset you have, or from a venture capitalist/investor that will expect a return on their investment. Further, weekend projects along side a fulltime work schedule are very unlikely to make any real progress. You must find a way to commit to the project entirely.

In addition to all of that, you will also likely be required to register as a corporation of some type. A PPE is similar to a more typical structure called an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation), which shields the members of the LLC to some legal problems, but also has regulations that must be followed. In addition to whatever fees you will have to pay to salesforce.com as part of your Partner Program agreement, you will also have to pay taxes and other regulatory fees for operating a business. For this reason, most traditional businesses rarely see better than a 1% profit margin, assuming they reach profitability at all.

However, there's also good news. Once you break the barrier of entry, such projects can become insanely profitable. If you can find that "killer app," you could easily end up with a very comfortable income that may very well last for years or even decades. There may only be a 5% chance of "winning the lottery" and becoming successful, but that's a much better chance than winning a real lottery (gambling), which often has less than 0.000000001% chance of winning. In other words, you may end up being successful, especially if you're committed.

I personally know of a small organization--I used to work for them--that literally had 9 employees and was making a decent amount of money on a product they had on the AppExchange. They only ever had 1-2 developers at a time and were still at least mildly successful. I'm actually not even sure they ever had more than one support person, and that person probably had a "day job" in addition to that. In other words, as a very small partner, it's still possible to be successful.

So, how do you make a successful app? Choose something you're passionate about, and just go for it. Don't make an Enterprise Resource Planning app if that doesn't interest you. While it matters if your app exists in a different form on the AppExchange, you'll find that many apps are also "duplicates" of other apps. If you design your app well, you may gain traction compared to similarly-featured but less functional apps. Don't assume that because your idea has been done that you can't do it better. Give it some serious consideration, and you may be surprised.

Also, coming back around to the beginning, find a partner if you struggle with ideas. Not only can they help you develop the idea, they might even come up with that idea to begin with. Two people are approximately twice as likely to succeed as one person is, so if you can find someone that maybe has an idea, you have the possibility of increasing your success, as well as theirs. Honestly, the support part that you seem concerned about is probably the most trivial part of starting a product. This former employer of mine didn't have a dedicated support team, and you won't either, at least in the beginning.

So, to summarize: starting any business is hard. Most fail. You may too. But if you take the risk, you may succeed, even as a single individual. Finding people to work with you may increase your odds of success. Don't worry about your idea beig unique, just make it the best app it can be, and you may find success anyways. Don't expect overnight success, it will take many months to be successful. Be prepared to put your credit on the line, you will see a downward trend before you see an upward trend.

Try and get a degree or other education in business (e.g. an online course) if you really want the best chance at success, or find someone that can provide this support for you. If you never take a risk, you'll never get the reward. If you do take a risk, you may get rewarded. Make sure you don't take a larger risk than you're willing to lose. Going at it alone is really hard. Find some people to help make your ventures more likely to succeed.

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  • Thanks, this makes sense
    – Patlatus
    Mar 21, 2023 at 8:36

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