Is it possible to earn a living from Android application development, for a freelance programmer?
closed as not constructive by Robert Harvey, Steven A. Lowe, Walter, ChrisF♦ Jun 20 '11 at 12:22
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Android development for money requires filling a niche which people are willing to pay for. This can be difficult, but if you're able to find that niche, then yes you can make a living. Like any creative field, though, there are varied degrees of success and they aren't necessarily proportional to the amount of work you put into your app.
Angry Birds isn't a terribly sophisticated game, but it's the right amount of simple, casual fun and the graphics are colorful, and there's a light plot to go along with it. But if it had been presented differently, maybe it wouldn't have taken off like it did. Even if the developer(s) maybe had put more work into it, thus making it more complex, it would've likely been less popular. They struck the right balance and it marketed itself.
I'm not saying you have to make a game - but there's just as much creativity involved in any other category of app too. You have to come up with the app idea that is unique and useful and execute it in such a professional manner that people are willing to pay for it.
Let's do some simple math. The starting salary of a computer science student fresh out of college (with a bachelor's degree) is in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year. That makes $5,000 a month. So on an average month of 30 days, you need to average $166 a day. Can you make a $0.99 app that sells 237 copies a day (accounting for you getting about $0.70 per sale due to Google's 30% cut)?
When you start out, you'll be learning. It will take time to learn Android development to the point of making commercial-quality apps; this is time where you will not be making money. Then say you strike a great idea and develop it and begin to sell it; it will probably have a slow uptake, so you won't be making enough money to live off of, but you'll be making some. Now assuming that app has no maintenance, you then repeat and make another great idea into an app, and it sells a moderate amount too. Several paid apps later, and probably months (or at least weeks) of hard work later, you can start approaching making a living from your apps. But this is the ideal case, where you have several ideas that all sell at a moderate pace. Great ideas are hard to come by, right?
Do you have several really good ideas? How confident are you that a good number of people will pay for them? How long will it take you to finish development and release them? I wouldn't quit your day job, but by all means work towards self-sustaining apps, and once you reach or near that point, then decide if you can quit your job and sustain yourself. By all means it's not easy, but it does happen.
Also, how's your motivation? I find it pretty difficult to motivate myself to create things for my own benefit, despite working very hard at anything and everything for school or work. So while I have had a couple more ideas for Android apps in the past, they've never come to fruition and probably never will - but I hold onto the hope that one day I'll be bored and decide to go through with them.
(I am speaking from experience; I found a niche, filled it, and am happy with the success but not overwhelmed, and it's not nearly enough to make a living but it certainly helps supplement my college student, part-time-job/summer-internship life and somewhat eases my financial burden)
I think it depends on what type of applications you want to be building and how much of the public your applications will be affecting. But I don't think you could make a very good living creating just Android applications. Applications tend to come out on multiple platforms so I believe it is important to be well versed in many different programming languages and platforms.