How Do You Make Money From An App? Here’s How

App Monetization

In today’s digital age, mobile apps have become an integral part of our daily lives. From social media platforms to productivity tools and gaming apps, there seems to be an app for everything. But have you ever wondered how these apps make money? In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various strategies that app developers can use to monetize their mobile apps successfully.

Understanding Mobile App Monetization

Before diving into the specific monetization models, let’s first understand the concept of mobile app monetization. In simple terms, it refers to the process of generating revenue from a mobile application. While some apps are paid upfront, the majority of apps are available for free download. So, how do these free apps make money? Let’s explore the different ways in which app developers can monetize their creations.

In-App Advertising: The Most Popular Monetization Strategy

someone holding their phone

One of the most common and effective ways to monetize a mobile app is through in-app advertising. This strategy involves displaying advertisements within the app and earning revenue from third-party advertisers. There are several types of mobile advertisements that app developers can utilize:

1. Banners

Banners or display ads are typically shown at the top or bottom of the screen. While they are relatively easy to integrate, their click-through rates are often low, resulting in lower revenue for app developers.

2. Interstitial Ads

Interstitial ads are full-screen ads that appear at natural transition points within the app, such as when the user opens or closes the app or during breaks in messaging or content. These ads can be more intrusive but tend to generate higher click-through rates.

3. Native Ads

Native ads are seamlessly integrated into the app’s user interface, making them appear as part of the app’s content. These ads blend in with the app’s design and are often considered less intrusive, resulting in higher user engagement.

4. Offerwall/Incentivized Ads

Offerwall ads incentivize users to take specific actions within the app, such as interacting with ads, filling out surveys, or sharing content. In return, users are rewarded with in-app currency or unlocked features. This strategy promotes user engagement and can lead to higher revenue.

5. In-App/In-Stream Video Ads

Video ads play either during natural pauses in the app or on-demand. Rewarded videos, in particular, offer users in-app perks in exchange for watching the video ad. Video ads, especially rewarded videos, are highly engaging and can generate significant revenue.

6. Push Notification Ads

Apps can send push notification ads to users even when the app is closed. If users click on the ad, they are redirected to the advertising offer. However, it is crucial to obtain explicit consent from users for push notifications and allow them to opt-out if they choose.

In-app advertising is a popular monetization strategy due to its ease of integration and the potential for significant revenue generation. However, it is essential to strike a balance between generating revenue and maintaining a positive user experience.

Affiliate Income and Referral Marketing: Partnering for Profit

3 people talking

Another effective monetization strategy for mobile apps is affiliate income and referral marketing. This model involves promoting products or services from affiliate companies within the app and earning a commission or revenue share based on user actions. Here’s how it works:

  1. Publishers display ads or provide information about affiliate products or services through in-app ads or “in-app stores.”
  2. When users click on these ads or make purchases through the app, app developers earn a commission or revenue share.
  3. This strategy requires integrating specific app elements to showcase affiliate offerings, but it does not require additional coding.

Affiliate marketing programs, such as Amazon Associates, offer app owners the opportunity to advertise a wide range of products and earn commissions on qualifying purchases. This strategy is particularly effective when the app’s target audience aligns with the affiliate company’s target audience.

In-App Purchases: Unlocking Additional Value

someone buying something from their laptop

In-app purchases are a popular monetization method in mobile apps, especially in gaming apps. This strategy involves offering users the option to purchase virtual items or premium features within the app. Here are two common types of in-app purchases:

  1. Consumable Virtual Products: These are virtual items that expire or are consumed after use, such as power-ups, extra lives, or in-game currency.
  2. Non-Consumable Products: These are virtual items that remain permanently accessible to users, such as ad-free experiences, additional levels, or special features.

Apple users can make in-app purchases using their Apple ID payment methods, including Apple Pay, credit cards, or store credit. Android apps route all payments through Google Pay, and Google prohibits publishers from selling digital goods outside of the platform.

Subscriptions are also a form of in-app purchase, where users pay a recurring fee to access premium content or features for a limited period. This monetization method is particularly popular in non-gaming apps such as cloud services, video/audio streaming platforms, and digital news portals.

Subscriptions: Unlocking Premium Content

The subscription model allows app developers to offer a free version of their app with limited content or features, enticing users to subscribe to a premium account for full access. Subscriptions can be billed on a monthly or annual basis, providing a recurring revenue stream for app developers. This model is commonly used in industries such as health and fitness, entertainment, utilities, and educational apps.

It is worth noting that Apple charges a significant commission (up to 30%) on subscription-based apps, which can impact revenue for iOS app developers. However, the subscription model can be highly profitable, provided the app offers valuable content or services that users are willing to pay for.

Freemium Upsell: Offering More Value

The freemium upsell model is widely used in both gaming and non-gaming apps. It involves offering a free version of the app with limited functionality or features and providing users with the option to upgrade to a paid version for enhanced benefits. This model is particularly successful in wellness, fitness, nutrition, and educational app segments.

By offering a basic version of the app for free, app developers can attract a larger user base. Users who find value in the app can then choose to upgrade and enjoy additional features or remove ads by making a one-time or recurring payment through the app store.

Sales of Goods and Merchandise: Expanding Revenue Streams

Mobile e-commerce applications enable businesses to sell their goods online, but other types of apps can also market and sell branded merchandise. For example, apps with dedicated audiences can sell branded merchandise like toys, t-shirts, or phone cases. This monetization method works best when the app has a large and dedicated user base.

LINE FRIENDS is a prime example of an app monetizing its fun visuals and devoted fan base. By leveraging Amazon’s self-service Merch on Demand program, app owners can create and upload their artwork, and Amazon handles manufacturing, sales, and payments, providing a hassle-free way to generate revenue through merchandise sales.

Transaction Fees: Facilitating Commercial Activities

Apps that connect businesses with consumers can generate revenue by charging transaction fees or commissions for facilitating commercial or financial activities. For instance, apps that enable online bookings for travel, fitness, or doctor appointments can charge service and transaction fees for each completed transaction. Cryptocurrency and stock trading apps can also generate revenue by charging small transaction fees.

Sponsorship: Partnering for Success

If your app caters to a specific niche with a substantial user base, you may consider sponsorship as a monetization strategy. This involves partnering with a company whose target audience aligns with your app’s user base. The app’s design, ads, and content are updated to promote the sponsor’s brand. This strategy can help app developers generate revenue through sponsorships or monthly sponsorship fees.

Crowdfunding models, where users can contribute funds and vote for desired features, are also relevant in sponsorship-driven monetization.

Choosing the Right Mobile Ad Networks and Tools

When implementing in-app advertising as a monetization strategy, it is essential to choose the right mobile ad networks and tools to maximize revenue. Here are a few popular options:


AdMob, Google’s mobile ad network, offers a wide range of ad formats and integration options. It provides an intuitive platform for managing ads and offers ad mediation to connect with other mobile ad networks.


AdX, Google’s advanced advertising platform, provides access to a large pool of advertisers and ad networks. It offers real-time bidding, allowing publishers to sell ad inventory to the highest bidder. However, AdX requires a high volume of quality traffic and approval from Google.


AppLovin is a mobile ad network trusted by thousands of apps. Its MAX mediation platform offers a wide range of bidders and networks, maximizing revenue potential. AppLovin supports various ad formats and platforms, making it a versatile option for app developers.


OpenX is an industry-leading ad exchange platform that connects publishers with advertisers and ad networks. It offers advanced targeting capabilities and allows publishers to set rules for ad display and pricing.


Smaato is a global real-time advertising platform that helps publishers maximize ad revenue. With a vast network of advertisers and ad networks, Smaato offers various ad formats and targeting options.

When choosing a mobile ad network or tool, consider factors such as revenue potential, ad formats, integration ease, and compatibility with your target audience.

Latest Trends in App Monetization

The mobile app industry is constantly evolving, and new trends in app monetization continue to emerge. Here are some key trends to watch out for:

  1. In-App Subscriptions: Subscriptions are becoming increasingly popular, especially in non-gaming apps. App developers are offering premium content and features through subscription models to generate recurring revenue.

  2. In-App Purchases for Virtual Goods: The sale of virtual goods within apps, such as in-game currency or power-ups, remains a lucrative monetization strategy, particularly in gaming apps.

  3. Personalized Advertising: With advancements in data analytics and user tracking, personalized advertising is gaining traction. Advertisers can target users based on their interests, behavior, and demographics, resulting in more relevant and engaging ads.

  4. In-App Rewards and Loyalty Programs: Many apps are incorporating rewards and loyalty programs to incentivize user engagement. By offering in-app perks for specific actions, app developers can increase user retention and generate additional revenue.

  5. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Monetization: AR and VR technologies present new opportunities for monetization. Apps can offer premium AR/VR experiences or charge for virtual goods within these immersive environments.

How to Make Money from a Free App: Final Tips

Here are some final tips to help you effectively monetize your free app:

  1. Understand Your Target Audience: Identify your app’s target audience and tailor your monetization strategy to their preferences and behaviors.

  2. Test and Iterate: Continuously test different monetization methods and analyze user feedback and engagement metrics. Adapt your strategy based on what works best for your app and audience.

  3. Balance User Experience and Revenue Generation: While generating revenue is essential, prioritize providing a positive user experience. Intrusive or excessive ads can drive users away and harm your app’s reputation.

  4. Stay Updated with Industry Trends: Keep an eye on the latest trends and changes in the app monetization landscape. Embrace new technologies and strategies to stay ahead of the competition.

  5. Seek Professional Guidance: If you’re new to app monetization or need expert advice, consider consulting with mobile app development companies or industry experts who can guide you through the process.

By implementing effective monetization strategies and staying attuned to industry trends, you can generate revenue from your free app while providing value to your users.


Turning a mobile app into a profitable venture requires a strategic approach to monetization. Whether your app is a game, a productivity tool, or a social platform, there are multiple paths to generating revenue. In-app advertising, affiliate marketing, in-app purchases, and subscriptions each offer unique advantages and challenges. Choosing the right mix of these strategies depends on understanding your audience, your app’s functionality, and the overall user experience you aim to provide.

In-app advertising remains a popular choice, offering a variety of formats to fit different types of apps and user interactions. From banners to video ads, the key is to integrate ads in a way that complements the app experience rather than disrupts it. Affiliate marketing and referral programs can also supplement your income, especially if you can forge partnerships that resonate with your user base.

In-app purchases and subscriptions offer a direct way to monetize content or features within your app. These models not only provide a steady stream of revenue but also help in building a loyal user base willing to pay for premium experiences. However, success in these areas demands high-quality content and continuous updates to keep users engaged and subscribed.

Beyond these established methods, exploring new trends like augmented reality (AR) ads, personalized advertising, and in-app rewards can set your app apart in a crowded market. Staying updated with the latest technologies and user preferences is crucial to adapting your monetization strategy over time.

Most importantly, the balance between monetization and user experience is delicate. Your efforts to make money should never compromise the value or functionality of your app. A user-first approach, where monetization methods are integrated seamlessly and respectfully, will foster trust and satisfaction among your users, encouraging longer engagement times and, ultimately, higher revenue.

As you navigate the complexities of app monetization, remember that success doesn’t come overnight. It requires patience, experimentation, and a willingness to learn from both successes and setbacks. By staying informed, listening to your users, and adjusting your strategies accordingly, you can find the perfect formula for making money from your app while providing value and entertainment to your audience.

In conclusion, monetizing your app is an ongoing journey. With the right strategies, a focus on user experience, and an eye on the latest trends, your app can thrive in the digital marketplace. Remember, the goal is to create a win-win situation where your app not only becomes profitable but also delivers genuine value to its users. Embrace the challenge, and let your app’s unique qualities guide your monetization choices towards long-term success.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much money can you make from an app?

The amount of money an app can make varies widely based on factors like its monetization strategy, user base, and market demand. Some apps make only a few dollars a day, while others can generate thousands or even millions of dollars annually. Revenue can come from in-app purchases, advertising, subscriptions, and other strategies.

Do app owners get paid?

Yes, app owners can get paid through various monetization methods, including in-app purchases, advertising, subscriptions, and affiliate marketing. The specific amount depends on the app’s popularity, the pricing model, and how well it retains users.

Do free apps make money?

Absolutely, free apps can make money. Most free apps rely on in-app advertising, in-app purchases, subscriptions, or a combination of these to generate revenue. Even though the app is free to download, users can spend money within the app or generate revenue by viewing ads.

How can I make money by creating an app?

To make money from creating an app, consider these strategies:

  • In-app purchases: Sell virtual goods or premium features.
  • Advertisements: Display ads from third parties within your app.
  • Subscriptions: Offer monthly or yearly access to content or features.
  • Sponsorships: Partner with brands for exclusive content.
  • Affiliate marketing: Earn commissions by promoting other products.

How much does an app with 1,000 downloads make?

The revenue from 1,000 downloads can vary greatly. For apps relying on advertising, it might earn between $10 to $1000, depending on the ad format and engagement rates. For apps selling in-app purchases or subscriptions, revenue depends on the percentage of users who make purchases.

How much money does an app with 1,000 users make?

For an app with 1,000 active users, earnings can vary based on monetization strategy. If you charge for subscriptions or in-app purchases, and if even 5% of users spend money, your earnings could be significantly higher than from ads alone. The exact figure depends on your pricing and conversion rates.

How much does it cost to create an app?

The cost to create an app can range from a few thousand dollars for a basic app developed by a freelancer to over $100,000 for a complex app developed by a professional agency. Factors influencing the cost include the app’s features, platform (iOS or Android), and whether you’re building it in-house or outsourcing.

How much can an app with 100k downloads make?

An app with 100k downloads has the potential to make a significant amount of money, but it depends on the monetization strategy. For example, if it’s ad-supported, earnings could range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands. Apps with in-app purchases or subscriptions could make even more, depending on user engagement and spending.

How many apps make a million dollars?

Only a small percentage of apps make a million dollars. Success at this level often requires a combination of a compelling app, effective marketing, strong user engagement, and a solid monetization strategy. It’s estimated that less than 1% of apps reach this level of financial success, highlighting the competitive nature of the app market.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Fabian Blank; Unsplash – Thank you!

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