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How to: Make Money Under 20 (App Edition)

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Have you ever played Angry Birds or used Snapchat and wished you could be a mobile mogul like the billionaires behind the popular app phenomenons? I recently caught up with 23-year-old Kyle Parsons who created Skribe, a new app that is a dynamic story-telling platform, to talk to him about what the experience was like and what went into building his app.

In case you're thinking, "I'm in high school, I could never do that," what if I told you that you were wrong, and that you can build an app? Would you do it? What would you create? Young people all over the country are building apps and making money doing it. Although the Internet has basically been conquered, mobile devices are still in Christopher Columbus stage. What do they call that? Carpe diem? Seize the day ladies and gentlemen! This is the my-iPhone-is-an-extension-of-myself generation's time to shine!

Skribe allows you to create posts called "features" that can either be ongoing (live) posts or one-time publish. It also allows your network to follow your live posts so they're notified every time you update it. No matter what kind of feature, you can include text, links, pictures and soon -- videos. Skribe allows you to create an engaging social narrative unlike any platform has been able to before. The Skribe app is also free and currently available for iPhone.

So realistically, what does it take to build an app like Skribe? It took roughly a year for Kyle and a friend to design, code and test the app. Kyle took his own money and sought out a talented coder. The only other costs associated with the project were the $99 it took to submit Skribe to the App Store and some miscellaneous costs like graphics and legal documents, however Kyle noted that there aren't a lot of hidden costs when it comes to app development.

I also wanted to know what the app-building process looked like. I've built e-commerce stores, direct selling companies and blogs, and I wondered how developing an app was different -- and how it was similar to other start-ups. Apparently there are a lot of basic steps that also apply to apps. Define who you are, what you're going to sell, who you're selling it to and how you're going to sell (market) it. But what's different that Kyle said he really loved about building apps is that you can build an product on a computer that you probably already have and within a few months have something that could potentially reach over 50 million people -- and that's just in the U.S.

Kyle described the app-development process like this:

... Straightforward and simple. 'Concept Development -- Build -- Distribution.' Concept development is where you flesh out your idea and build your team. The Build phase is where you build, test, improve and repeat. Then distribution is where you launch, usually through an app store.

But how will Skribe make money? "We've chosen the 'freemium' model and will monetize through in-app advertisements," Kyle says. However, when it comes to building apps, there's many ways to make money such as: pay to download, app upgrades, advertisements and transaction commissions (if your app is selling something). You really just have to figure out what's best for you.

Of course, I also got Kyle to offer up some rockstar advice for those of you who are now thinking about developing an app. First of all, just do it. He says taking the first step is one of the most important parts because this will validate whether or not your idea is worth pursuing, and I strongly agree. I especially love this blurb from our interview about his own experience taking the first step to build Skribe:

In my case I had never created software of any kind [so] the first step was locating and interviewing potential developers. I was a professional in a non-tech-related industry, and had not a clue about how to create an app. I had my concept, and I knew what I wanted to make, but I didn't have the tools, so my journey started at finding the people that did. Talking with these people forced me to completely flesh out my concept. This initial process revealed to me what was and wasn't possible, what was good and bad about my concept, and it opened up new possibilities to me that I would have never considered. The meetings that occurred in my search for a developer grew my knowledge exponentially about the task I was about to take on.

Kyle also stressed the importance of legal provisions, especially non-disclosure agreements. Non-disclosure agreement is a basic contract saying that parties involved cannot release any information that you are sharing with them. I'm sure if you Googled "NDA templates" a million of them would come up, so don't stress out about finding expensive lawyers. "Ideas are valuable," Kyle said. "Keep those NDAs in a holster on your hip."

But by far, my FAVORITE piece of advice Kyle wanted me to share with you all is, "Don't be afraid to kill your baby." Most entrepreneurs (actually, probably all entrepreneurs) become very passionate and emotionally attached to their ideas, so much so that sometimes we don't want to change them or listen to outside opinions. So what Kyle is saying is don't be afraid to change your idea and let it evolve. I don't know of any successful company that is or does the same exact thing as it did when it was a start-up.

I've also compiled a list of sites and resources you can use to start any kind of company on a budget, on my site, along with descriptions on what and how to use them. Click here to see it.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter what grade you're in, how much money you have or where you live, if you have an idea go out and make it happen. Any idea can be a good idea. (Does anyone remember SILLYBANDZ?!) But what makes an idea successful is how you execute it. So go out there, take some risks, fail, and fail again. Whether you want to develop an app or manufacture cheap, animal-shaped rubber bands, as long as you keep trying you're bound to become successful.

So I will leave you with this:

"The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones that do." -- The late, great, Steve Jobs