This title is a little misleading.
Sure, it took me 6 days to amass 3,626 sales for a total of $101,528, but like any overnight success, it was years in the making. In my case, about 7 years.
In 2013, the jailbreaking days of iOS were in full effect. Inspired, I created and sold an icon set titled 'Greyish HD' on the Cydia store for $0.99. It was the first few dollars I ever made on the internet. I think I made a total of $17, and it was magical.
It wasn't about the $17, obviously; it was how I earned it. I spent time creating something that I thought was cool, then hit publish. After a few days, random strangers I've never met before decided to spend their hard-earned cents on my icon set, oftentimes while I was working on something else entirely. Without realizing it, I just discovered digital content leverage: create something once with sufficient effort, then sell it repeatedly with minimal effort.
Fast forward 7 years later, minus 6 days. I saw some people sharing screenshots of their iPhones after discovering that iOS 14 now allows you to add custom icons to your home screen using the Siri Shortcuts app. This was the first time you can really customize iOS, and it was catching on.
This is something people have been doing for years on jailbroken iOS and Android devices, except this time, you can do it natively on iOS (sort of).
As soon as I noticed the hype, I put together some icons in my own style, downloaded some widgets, and tried it all out. I thought it looked cool, so I shared a screenshot of it on Twitter. Right away, people started asking about the icons in the screenshot. So I quickly packaged them, uploaded them to Gumroad, and embedded them on a Notion site using Super. All of this took about two hours.
The next day, the tweet had hundreds of retweets, thousands of likes, and over 100k impressions. The day after that, almost a million. The next thing I knew, it was everywhere. My icons got published on notable tech sites like Uncrate, Cult of Mac, iMore, 9to5Mac, Creative Bloq, and plenty more. I think at this time I was around the $6k mark in sales.
Then, MKBHD happened. He shared a video about all of this—using my icons for his setup, and linked them in the description. The next thing I knew, I was making $28 what felt like every 28 seconds. My phone turned into the ultimate dopamine dispenser (if it wasn't already). I had to disable notifications.
The day after, sales jumped from $6k to about $40k, and during the time of this writing, sales are at $116,147 from 4,188 customers.
All from one. Single. Tweet.
The right content, posted at the right time, can create unimaginable results. Although there's likely plenty of other variables that went into making this work, there are a few key insights that increased my odds.
Continually putting things out into the world creates proof of work. The difference between where you are and where you want to be could be as little as sharing what you build, or even what you know.
There's only so much we can control once pushing something out into the world, but publishing often will increase your odds at finding something that sticks. They say that fortune favors the bold. In the internet age, the bold are those that aren't afraid to publish their work for the world to see. The internet is a never-ending stream of content, the idea of being annoying or over-sharing is only an idea that you invent to stop you from sharing.
I could have easily ignored the requests for the icons, or directed people to icon sets that already existed, but that would be a missed opportunity. Since I've done similar icon sets so many times already in the past, I was ready for it. Acting quickly is crucial if you plan on riding the wave.
I shared this tweet the day after posting my home screen with details of all the hype, and it created even more hype. It brought another 540,000 impressions and added fuel to an already growing fire. Share what works, and share what doesn't. Transparency is visibility.
Have a clear schedule
A lot of this was happening on a Monday morning. If I were working a more traditional job, or had time commitments that I had previously scheduled, I wouldn't have been able to act on my ideas as quickly as I did. I get that not everyone has the privilege of a flexible schedule, but almost anyone can start to move towards it if they want it badly enough. Freedom of a clear schedule allowed me to take action as soon as the inspiration hit, which was incredibly important to maximize exposure. Inspiration is a productivity-multiplier, but it's perishable—so act quickly.
If I would have asked anyone what to price these at, most would have said $2, or maybe $5. One thing I knew for sure was that the people most likely to buy these were not the same people who were jailbreaking their iOS devices in the past. These are first time iOS customizers, so there's no notion of what an iOS icon set should be priced at.
Do it for the art
If I would have done this exclusively for the goal of making money, I'm convinced it wouldn't have worked nearly as well as it did. I see copycats showing up everywhere. They see success, and try to replicate exactly how it happened, but it won't work. At least not nearly as well. The reasons for this post is not to teach you how to sit on the edge of your seat, foaming at the mouth at the chance to exploit the next big internet trend, but it's to push you to keep working at the things you enjoy, share them with the world, and letting the internet do the rest.
So what came of all this? I suspect this is why most of you are here reading this, so here's a recap of everything that came from last week in numbers, from the time of this writing:
+ 4,188 total icon sales
+ $116,147 in revenue
+ 97% profit margins
+ 6.2m impression
+ 216,800 visitors
+ 5,216 email subscribers
+ 4,620 Twitter followers
+ 180 Super customers
Metrics, 4 months later:
+ 13,705 total icon sales
+ $368,536 in revenue
+ 654,200 visitors
Metrics, 9 months later:
+ 14,915 total icon sales
+ $397,005 in revenue
+ 701,800 visitors
In the same way that creating icon sets 7 years ago prepared me for last week, this whole experiment has likely prepared me for what's to come years from now.
The best part about this is the freedom its bought me, to keep building things that'll create even more freedom. Spending time on things that will buy you time is always a good use of it. When people buy into what ever it is you're selling, they're not only giving you money, but they're contributing to your future freedom.
The market will decide a huge part of what comes after sharing something, so continually increase your odds by building, publishing, then repeating. Try many things once to figure out what you want to do twice. Figure out what you've got stored in your brain that can be of value to others, then share it with the world. You might be surprised of what comes of it.
Thanks for reading.
PS. For proof that I did this in 2013, here's my DeviantArt profile.