A couple months ago, I released Selector, a simple iPhone app that helps you select between multiple people. In the first week, I garnered an encouraging 12 sales before doing any promotion. So in the second week, I made a demo video, posted on some forums, and handed out free promo codes. But I only got 5 sales the first day and nothing for the rest of the week.
I was feeling pretty discouraged but I figured that if I wasn’t making any money, I might as well try an experiment. So I decided to make it free for a week. Suddenly, my downloads jumped up, a couple web sites mentioned it, and I started getting reviews and ratings on iTunes. And at the end of the week, a total of 13,920 people had downloaded it!
Of course, I didn’t make any money off those 13,920 people, but the nice thing is that people kept on downloading it even after I started charging $0.99. Sure, it was only a few downloads a day instead of hundreds, but it was certainly more than the 0 per day I was getting before.
I’m not exactly sure what made the difference. It might have been word-of-mouth from those people who got it for free. Or it might have been that the increased number of reviews and downloads bumped up the app’s ranking in the iTunes store. In any case, for an indie developer like me, obscurity is a much greater problem than the potential lost revenue. So it was definitely worth making it free for a week.