Tyler explains how he reskins multiple apps each months, he also goes through the difficult task of hiring good developers and graphic designers at a fair price. He also gives out a nice tip on how to accelerate the reskinning process.

Download: MP3 (28.8 MB)

Podcast Transcript

Yohann Taieb:
Mobile app flipping podcast episode 2.

Welcome to the mobile app flipping podcast, this is your host Yohann Taieb.
My goal is to help you get the most out of reskinning apps. Whether you’re already a full-Time entrepreneur or trying to get a business going, this podcast is for you.
We will be interviewing professionals that are already doing app reskinning for a living. We will also invite source code sellers to get to learn about what they have to offer. And finally, we will talk to industry experts to learn how to become more productive at flipping apps. And now, without further ado, let’s start.

So today, we have an amazing guest, I have with me Tyler Kessler and Tyler has been reskinning apps for quite a while. Tyler, can you say a little bit about who you are and your background?

Tyler Kessler: Sure Yohann, thanks for having me, I appreciate the opportunity. Hmm yeah so…I guess my adulthood started in 2007 when I graduated college from the university of Missouri. I went in
actually into the corporate life like many do as a business student and I became an assistant buyer at Macy’s. I ended up finding my way out to Los Angeles, working for a high end fashion designer, managing all their money and all their stock and you know, just a corporate job.

Yohann Taieb: Yeah, 9 to 5 type of job, right?

Tyler Kessler: Oh Yeah, you know… It wasn’t until the recession of 08, or the crash of 08 and I started questioning everything, kind of like a lot of young people did at that time and I read the book by Timothy Ferriss “The 4-Hour Workweek”, and that book really opened up my eyes to having a lifestyle business. If you know what a lifestyle business is, It’s basically where you are the owner of a company, think of many internet based companies and you really leverage your resources through virtualization of your co-workers, of your independent contractors through services like oDesk, Elance etc…

Yohann Taieb: Okay…

Tyler Kessler: So… I tempted to do a couple of online businesses back in 2008 when I was in L.A, but it never really clicked. I went all in and it was just not making money.
Everything just wasn’t coming together like I hoped, so…

Yohann Taieb: Yeah, you failed, you know…

Tyler Kessler: Yeah…

Yohann Taieb: At least you tried.

Tyler Kessler: Yeah, I have no shame in what I did and I won a whole lot and it definitely got me to becoming the entrepreneur I am today; but after that I actually went a little bit back into building big businesses, so I was leaving the lifestyle business going into the startup world where I’m still building a traditional business. And I got into renewable energy development.

Yohann Taieb: Ok.

Tyler Kessler: Then I helped in… I guess it was in 2011, started a solar installer in St. Louis and we went from 4 employees to about up to 60 now. And I actually left last March that company because it became another 9 to 5 job. After I build a business, I don’t have fun maintaining it, I just wanna build something new, you know…

Yohann Taieb: Got it.

Tyler Kessler: So going up to March 2013, I happened to come across Timothy Ferriss’ blog as I read it all the time, and Chad Mureta wrote a post on app flipping, hmm building apps.

Yohann Taieb: Ah! I see where you’re heading.

Tyler Kessler: Yeah. So I started to get that bug again Where I’m like I need to build a lifestyle business like it’s 2013. I’m older, I’ve seen some stuff, let’s do this again. So I got
Chad’s book “App Empire” and read that in about 2 days, and since I already loved apps and I’ve been an Apple fan boy since the original Ipod came out, it was a no-brainer.
So I’ve been doing app flipping ever since… Well, I don’t wanna call myself just an app flipper. We talked a little bit of my strategy, but I’ve been developing apps since…my first one hit the store on June 14, 2013.

Yohann Taieb: That was not so long ago.

Tyler Kessler: Yeah.

Yohann Taieb: How many apps do you have now?

Tyler Kessler: I have 7 in the store currently

Yohann Taieb: You have a pretty good velocity there.

Tyler Kessler: Yeah! In September, I popped out about 4 or 5 of them

Yohann Taieb: Oh ok! So…You’re gaining velocity, right?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah! My overall plan was to get 30 in the store in the first year.

Yohann Taieb: Hmmm

Tyler Kessler: So yeah, things are definitely ramping up, as things are starting to click and my processes are getting faster.

Yohann Taieb: Good job! I’ve been in the market for like 5 years and I have a little bit over 30 apps so yeah, definitely, you’re going pretty quick.

Tyler Kessler: Thanks! That’s good to hear.

Yohann Taieb: Do you mind sharing some download numbers of your apps?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah. I can and I just wanna give a disclaimer that I’m still very much in the learning process and I kinda wanna talk about some struggles if you don’t mind.

Yohann Taieb: Sure and that’s what this podcast is about, so go for it.

Tyler Kessler: Sure… So my download numbers: I’m at 11,000 downloads to date, which is not great, considering I have 7 apps in the store. I have… I’m looking at my numbers now…
On my first app, has made 347% ROI.

Yohann Taieb: Great!

Tyler Kessler: Yeah it’s great when you look at percents, but look at the low investment of $200. It has basically made a profit of $695.

Yohann Taieb: Yeah, then there’s the time coming into it, you know… You need to know how much time you put in to making that.

Tyler Kessler: Sure. Well, actually that app only took 3 days to develop because it was a reskin. I purchased it through Bluecloud, Bluecloud Solutions website.

Yohann Taieb: Which one was that?

Tyler Kessler: It was the single slot… It’s the number one that they sell.

Yohann Taieb: Ah… Casino Surf machine something?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah, Surf slots.

Yohann Taieb: Got it.

Tyler Kessler: It’s a great starter app for anyone trying to get into app flipping because it has so little assets to it, and it’s really one view. And there’s certainly not much to it.
And everyone’s drooling over slots now, so it was an easy one I got my feet wet with.

Yohann Taieb: Ok so, was that the simplest app to reskin or…?

Tyler Kessler: Oh yeah!

Yohann Taieb: Yeah definitely?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah.

Yohann Taieb: And the most decent return on investment?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah so I’ve actually reskinned this one 4 different times.

Yohann Taieb: Oh ok.

Tyler Kessler: The first one was a $200 investment, the second was a $150 investment, the third one was a $30 investment and the fourth one was a $5 investment.

Yohann Taieb: Haha! So question like, how did you do that? Did you start by hiring people. graphic designers, or you did it on your own?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah… I hired a great… I got really lucky, I’ve used oDesk for the first time, and I got lucky with the graphic designer who was from Pakistan.

He does nice reskin work, nice guy and he communicates really well, so we’ve been working together for the last few months on a couple of different reskins. So he did the first one, but it actually depends on who you are, but I”m still someone who can work my way around Photoshop and Illustrator. Once I understood what was going on in Xcode with all the different assets, the images and the sounds, sound files, I was like ok… I can do this myself. So, he did the first 2, which is why the total costs were that high. But on the last 2, I did them myself.

Yohann Taieb: When you said he did the first 2, he’s a graphic design from what I understand, right? So who took care of the code?

Tyler Kessler: I did.

Yohann Taieb: Ah ok, so you did that part.

Tyler Kessler: I’m a technical person and I’ve done a little light programming previously, but nothing hardcore. Visual basics you know, like Excel…

Yohann Taieb: ok so, enough to drive you through flipping an app on the code side, right?

Tyler Kessler: I’m sorry?

Yohann Taieb: You got enough coding experience to be able to go into Xcode and tweak a little bit of code here and there, change a couple of strings.

Tyler Kessler: Yeah. I spent lots of hours just trying to figure it out because my brain’s wired to enjoy things like that. So I don’t want people to think that you need to go into Xcode and tweak things like I did. But if you’re someone you like to figure things out and you’re a little technical, it’s definitely possible to go into Xcode not knowing a thing about Objective C and you can figure it out.

Yohann Taieb: Ok… Question, what was the name of your reskinning…The game in the app store?

Tyler Kessler: Oh yeah the app? The first one’s called Get lucky slots and was a play on Daft Punk’s album that came out over the summer and the song was get lucky.

Yohann Taieb: So you’re playing with the keywords to try to get some eyeballs on your game, right?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah. And I actually skinned it as a Tron theme, because if you’re a fan of the Tron legacy movie, Daft Punk actually did the entire soundtrack. So it’s kinda putting
the 2 together, I don’t know if they clicked or not, I can’t really prove it with my analytics, but I just went in with my gut on that. It’s actually been a solid app for me and people seem to really enjoy the theme because it’s like a dark slots, kinda glows, it looks cool, so yeah it’s been a success.

Yohann Taieb: So how many months ago did you release that? 3 or 4 months ago or so, right?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah June 14th.

Yohann Taieb: Are you still getting revenues out of this game?

Tyler Kessler: Hmm yes, it gets…I have the exact numbers average days, $6 on average per day.

Yohann Taieb: Oh ok, so you’re still getting revenues out of it.

Tyler Kessler: Yeah, I don’t know how, but I am. people are still downloading it. You know, the key to getting sustainable downloads is really just tweaking the marketing, so I’ve been really on it as far as updating it every 2 to 3 weeks to get the keywords. So Apple allows the meta keywords as you know, and you get up to 100 characters for keywords and I just keep tweaking them and as the demand changes on how people search, I tweak my keywords to hopefully match that demand, so that my app gets more exposure in the searches, I mean app store.

Yohann Taieb: Good job. Now let’s try to get in depth into that reskinning code.

Tyler Kessler: Okay.

Yohann Taieb: How many images did you have to deal with?

Tyler Kessler: I think hmm… Now it’s interesting, I’ll tell you a little thing and I’ll do it a little differently, so the answer to your question it’s about 230 images, something like that.
And a lot of them are duplicates, you just have to resize them, based on retina device that has double the pixels.

Yohann Taieb: Ok, so basically the amount of work for a graphic artist is very small, however you may have different dimensions, right?

Tyler Kessler: It totally depends on the app. I would say that graphic designers… The best way to work with graphic designers is to have someone who really knows the code.
A lot of people use a project manager, you might have your own project manager who is the guy who is going to look at the code, communicate with the graphic designer and tell the graphic designer what file goes with what. Now, a graphic designer can figure it out on his own if they just play with the app and tweak things. But it’s really helpful to have someone who understands the code, who can communicate to a graphic designer. It makes the job like twice as fast at least.

Yohann Taieb: I see… But here you have to have an extra person you know, to hire, to deal with, so that may cost an extra cut.

Tyler Kessler: Right. You don’t have to do it, I’m not saying you have to. I’m just saying that when it comes to reskinning, you have to develop a lot of apps and have a diverse portfolio to really make a business out of it.
And if you aren’t developing fast, you’re not gonna succeed. So either you can hire someone out very cheap to do that, or you can just take some time yourself like I did. I didn’t actually hire anyone, I understand the code and when the graphic designer gets stuck, just make sure that they have someone to help. So I tell my graphic designer “Hey man, if you get stuck on something, send me a message on skype, I’m here and I will fix it. I will tell you exactly what to do.” Because there’s nothing worse than a contractor halfway around the world who gets stuck on something, and then 3 days later, you find out he’s been stuck on something very tiny that you could have resolved for him.

Yohann Taieb: Yeah for sure. But how did you figure out all those things? Was there some kind of documentation or walk-through that was provided?

Tyler Kessler: So hmmm you know, the first broad stroke of guidance I had was the App Empire book which if you wanna get into app flipping, I definitely recommend it, it’s by Chad Mureta.
He just talks about understanding the market, because you can do reskins all day long, but if you don’t reskin for what the market wants, you’re not gonna get the downloads.
So I think Chad’s great at understanding the market. And as far as understanding the code itself, i do like I’ve learn most anything technical and I just do a Google search.
Then if I’m in Xcode and I don’t understand something, I just highlight it, copy and paste into Google, and yeah it takes a long time, hours, and you have to be the kind of person who’s wired, to be technical like that. But I just did it through trial and error and if anyone has ever worked in code, and hasn’t gone through schooling, that’s generally how people self teach themselves.
I wanna stress out the point that this is not the best way to do it. It’s going to be a struggle, you’re gonna hit roadblocks if you try to learn this all yourself. So the best way to do it is is you don’t wanna learn everything because you’ll burn yourself out. You really wanna leverage those resources like oDesk to hire someone, because you can hire someone for like $12/hour who can do it very quickly. I’ve hired a programmer for different reskins where I had tweaks and it cost me $300 to do some pretty significant changes to it. He did it in 3 days.
Something that would have taken me 3 months. So you know, time is money.

Yohann Taieb: Yeah definitely. Hmm, now I’m looking at your “Get Lucky” game and I see that you have so many different languages. How do you take care of localizations like that?

Tyler Kessler: I don’t actually have multiple languages, I don’t have that one localized. I’m not sure what you’re looking at. I wish I did. But you know, there’s not really much text on that game, so I think there’s one pop-up that has one sentence in english and it’s basically the in-app purchase. but if you do wanna localize…Localization is definitely something I’m gonna work towards once my download numbers get higher. I’m at the stage where I have 7 apps at the app store, but I don’t have enough downloads to justify investing time and money into localization.
But once an app proves itself in America which is where the bulk of your demand will come from, or english speaking countries, once it’s proven itself, you can actually see where the rest of the downloads are, and that’s kind of your guide on where to localize. So I know I get a lot from Mexico and Russia on the slots, if my memory serves me right, so those would be the next 2 languages I would wanna localize.

Yohann Taieb: Hmm ok. Now let’s talk about pricing. How much did you pay for the code, do you remember?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah, so I bought an unlimited license for that slot machine back in June and it was $180… I can look it up as I talk here.

Yohann Taieb: Oh ok… So around $200.

Tyler Kessler: Yeah well, let me think about this. I think it was about $140 and the rest was graphic design fees to make it $200 investment.

Yohann Taieb: Ah ok.

Tyler Kessler: And that was an unlimited license. So, what’s so great about the license code which is the key to reskinning is that you don’t write any code essentially.
The code is written for you, it’s all been debugged and ready to go, and all you gotta do is change the images themselves. That’s the idea. Now, once you get an app that gets very popular like the slot machine one, the Surf slots, you’ll see lots of people out there with tons of versions of it. Basically, it’s you app, just reskinned and it’s over saturated a little bit.
So what I did, is I actually tweaked the code myself to make it have less assets. And I actually came out with “Get lucky”, “Get lucky” HD. Really clever I know…
It’s basically the same exact app except it’s like full screen and looks like iOS 7. And actually it looks better and is easier to reskin. And I’m down actually to 30 assets instead of 130.

Yohann Taieb: All right, excellent. So you’re saving time and it looks cleaner right?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah. I was kinda proud of that one being a newbie. So that’s why my third and fourth slots were so cheap.

Yohann Taieb: I see… And would you reuse that code again and reskin some more? Or you wanna stop at 4 or 5 reskins?

Tyler Kessler: I will keep doing it until they stop making money. Because I can make a slot machine in… I timed the last one, it was 2 hours.

Yohann Taieb: Nice! So you keep milking it, huh!?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah! Exactly.

Yohann Taieb: Alright, so that’s pretty much what I wanted to talk about on the reskinning process. Now, is there any book you recommend for someone who’s just starting app flipping and app reskinning?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah. The “App Empire” book like I was saying by Chad Mureta. It was written 2 years ago, some of the techniques are out of date, but the whole philosophy will never get out of date. So if you check out the app book and you understand how to look at the market, and how to know what reskins to make… Because what a lot of people do is they’ll say “oh, i have a great reskin idea!” and they’ll make it and they now put it on the store, and now they won’t do anything, right? But really, step 1 is you have an idea, step 2 is go look at the app store and see “is it hot?”.
So like for my first app, I did the Daft Punk “Get lucky” play, and that proved to be a hit. Daft Punk was even one of my keywords.

Yohann Taieb: Nice. Did you get any trouble with that?

Tyler Kessler: No. Because the keywords, they’re hidden meta tags. Nobody sees them, but when someone types in Daft Punk on the store, it pops up but it doesn’t say Daft Punk in your app.

Yohann Taieb: I know what you mean, however, on one of my apps had an issue with Lumosity, I only had Lumosity in my keywords and they basically slapped me in the face, you know?

Tyler Kessler: Who did? Apple or Lumosity?

Yohann Taieb: Lumosity. They basically sent a “cease and desist” to me and a copy to Apple. So for some reasons, some people can access those iTunes keywords, I don’t know how though.

Tyler Kessler: I would fight that one.
Well I mean all they have to do is search their own name, then if you pop up with it, then they’re gonna say you’re in the keywords, but I don’t think there’s any infringement on this.
I’m not a lawyer, so please don’t take my own advice, but my partner is a lawyer and we’ve talked a lot about this kind of stuff and that seems ridiculous. Because that’s based on Apple’s algorithm. If Apple allows any sort of meta tags like that, I don’t know… Cos I know Apple does ban some keywords like “ABC”… So, that seems the weakest one I’ve ever heard of to be honest with you, but I’m not a lawyer, so you should definitely play by the rules. But if it were me, I would have kept it up.

Yohann Taieb: yeah. Question, what have you been working on lately? Or what are your plans?

Tyler Kessler: Sure. So in September I had an arbitrary goal to have 10 apps in the store. I obviously didn’t hit that, I got to 7.

Yohann Taieb: I know, close enough!

Tyler Kessler: Yeah!

Yohann Taieb: Shoot for the stars, right?

Tyler Kessler: Right. Yeah so… You know, so let me think here, I have 3 in development now for reskin, but I’m actually shifting gears to get into more evergreen apps that I’ll hire a programmer for, and I’m also looking at Christmas and New year’s for app reskinning. That’s as far as I’ll look right now.

Yohann Taieb: Ok. So let me explain to the audience what evergreen apps are about. There are basically 2 kind of apps, the ones that basically you’re gonna hit the store, they’re gonna make a lot of downloads and fade away really quick. And then, you have the evergreen apps that over time, they keep growing.

Tyler Kessler: Right, so like for me, when I think of what’s really working right now in the app store for evergreen, it’s camera apps.

Yohann Taieb: That’s right.

Tyler Kessler: That one, we’re always gonna be taking photos and sharing experiences of our life and these iPhones have been such a great way of doing that even faster.
So I’m looking at the camera category a lot. Another really interesting thing that’s come out with the Iphone 5S is the M7 chip which is a chip that kinda works like a fit bed where it tracks every single movement of the user even when the phone is in sleep. Even when you’re not in an app.

Yohann Taieb: Interesting.

Tyler Kessler: So I think it’s a fit bed killer, but no one’s really talking about it. I’ve seen a couple articles on it, so I’m trying to find new places where evergreen exist.

Yohann Taieb: Those are the niche, got it.

Tyler Kessler: Yeah exactly, so those are the two I’m looking at.

Yohann Taieb: Oh ok. Have you been looking at some skinning code, source code that’s available for those camera apps?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah, a little bit. Hmm, the one that I go to all the time is BlueClouds Solutions with Carter’s blog and website. He’s really kind of the pioneer of selling license code. He’s very interactive with his community. He’s done some cool stuff. Chad Mureta kinda started the game as far as having people who don’t know how to code, develop apps. And then, Carter has really taken it to the next level.

Yohann Taieb: Yeah, he pushed it, that’s right.

Tyler Kessler: That’s really cool stuff what he’s doing there. So, I check out his website all the time and see what he’s got. He actually just came out with one this morning, I think he launches on Saturday morning. It seems to be a hot date for him. As far as the camera apps go, I have an idea for one that I’ve been mauling over for a few months and I’m going to actually put in an oDesk job posting for a programmer. Cos I need a programmer long term, I actually fired my first programmer, because he scammed me.

Yohann Taieb: What happened?

Tyler Kessler: What happened was, without being too technical, he did all the improvements… So I bought the code from Carter, the scratch-off code, and this was not the greatest code on his store. But I had some great ideas to improve it, so I hired a guy on oDesk, and he did everything I asked. From the beginning, he kinda rubbed me the wrong way, and usually if anyone ever rubs
you the wrong way at first, just walk away.

Yohann Taieb: Yeah, red flag, right?

Tyler Kessler: Yeah, but I was a newbie, what did I know? I just went with it and he did all the work and it worked great until you would keep playing the game. And what he failed to do, was deallocate the memory, which means as the views change, you have to dump the memory, otherwise your phone would get cluttered up with all the views.

Yohann Taieb: And then it would crash at some point.

Tyler Kessler: And then it crashed. What I noticed, I compared the code and I’m like “Why is this crashing?” and not knowing too much about memory allocation, I compared the code and he commented out all of the deallocation code and he even put his name next to it, in the comments. And I’m like “What an idiot!”. So I fired him on the spot, I fixed his problem and the code worked great.

Yohann Taieb: Good job!

Tyler Kessler: Yeah. I didn’t get totally screwed, but…

Yohann Taieb: I see…But yeah, I mean hmm…

Tyler Kessler: He was trying to get more money out of me to fix it, you know.

Yohann Taieb: Yeah I see what you mean, but at least you got lucky enough to go look into it, and figured out what was wrong cos not everyone would do that.

Tyler Kessler: Yeah, and I got to stress out again you know, the average person who’s going into this, who doesn’t know, who doesn’t want to learn how to code, and that’s fine…
You can still be successful without learning to code, but it would cost more money to figure that out. So this is just my core, my competitive advantage that I have, being technical.
But let’s say you’re more of a marketing person, for me, I only have $11,000 right now, so my weakness right now is marketing because I’ve been putting so much time into developing apps…
So if you’re the opposite of me, you could have one decent app out there that costs more money, but if you did a better job at marketing it, so anyway, I don’t wanna turn people off thinking
you need to like dig in the code like this, but these are serious risks that you have to consider when dealing with overseas talent.

Yohann Taieb: Ok, well thanks for these great answers you know, you really helped us here and I’m sure a lot of people are gonna thank you.
If we wanna get in touch with you, how can we do that?

Tyler Kessler: Sure hmm, so my website is I have team glass house, I’m a little bit ashamed of my website right now, but it’s actually in development right now, so it will be getting better.
It’s teamglasshouse.com and also if you want to find me on Facebook which I’m very active in the developer community there, I think is facebook.com/tylerlkessler.
Feel free to hit me up there, but hmm with social networking, hmmm, I’m working on building a platform with my analytics, I have all my analytics from all my ad networks going into this system I built. And once I get this system up, I’m actually going to sell it to other appreneurs, and at that point I’ll have more of a social presence, but right now I’m kind of under the radar. That’s kinda where I wanna be right now, but anyone listening, please hit me up and I would love to just talk about apps, that’s what I love to right right now.

Yohann Taieb: Well definitely, I would wanna to have you on the show again to explain to us what your analytics platform does, and how we’re gonna benefit from it.

Tyler Kessler: Sure. Cool.

Yohann Taieb: Well thanks for everything Tyler, and we keep in touch, ok?

Tyler Kessler: Alright! Thank you Yohann!

Yohann Taieb: Thanks for listening to the mobile app flipping podcast. If you find this podcast interesting, please subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review.
Sharing is caring, so spread the word! You can also follow me on twitter, at Yohann305. Also, come to appsfresh.com, you’ll find all the episodes, the show notes, and resources to make you more productive.
See you at the next episode!

Tyler has made a website called appreview.me. It’s a fast and fun way to share app reviews with other app developers. You give a review, you receive karma, then you receive reviews back.
It’s that easy, you can add your entire app portflio and receive as many reviews as you put into it.