30 August 2021

How to Make Money from a Free Mobile Application

free mobile app

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GearedApp Team

As of July 2021, 93.4 percent of iOS apps were free to download from the app store. It has become the norm to be able to download nearly any mobile application free of charge. So, how do apps actually make their money?

Here’s our top tips on monetising your app, and how you can make money from a free mobile application.

Why Choose a Free Monetisation Strategy?

Every successful mobile application must be able to bring in some sort of profit, but how they do this may not be as obvious as you would think.

Choosing a paid monetisation strategy where your user pays to download the app sounds like the easiest option, right? People pay for your service, like buying a physical product in a shop.

Well, it may not be as simple as this.

In fact, paid strategies are shown to repel users from downloading your app, cutting off your customer base and decreasing profits. This is why many choose a strategy which offers their app for free whilst also bringing in profit, also known as a free monetisation strategy.

By choosing a free monetisation strategy you are not only able to promote your app to everyone in your market, but you have options in terms of retention and loyalty. Keep reading to find out which free monetisation strategy suits you and your app best.

free monetisation strategy

Free Monetisation Strategies

Freemium Upsell

A freemium upsell monetisation strategy allows any user to download the app free of charge, however offers users the opportunity to pay for added extras within the app, including premium features. This is a great way to gain new customers fast, growing your business rapidly. Once users have experienced the app and like it, they will be far more likely to invest their money into it, which is great for customer loyalty.

In-app purchases

Commonly used in gaming apps, in-app purchases are a great way to convert free customers to paying customers without alienating your audience. Instead of asking people to pay for your app, allowing anyone to download it allows for greater usage and brand awareness. Ultimately, it will mean higher profits once your users are hooked and are purchasing content within the app. This is a great retention strategy, but remember it will only be successful if you have a well-planned strategy on keeping your customers engaged.


In 2019 alone, smartphone advertising expenditure in the UK amounted to £8.79 billion. Suffice to say, digital advertising drives the world we live in. Whether it’s a rich media or banner ad, in-app advertisements allow you to make money from advertising other people’s products. Whichever monetisation strategy you choose, in-app ads are always a great way of bringing in profit. However, be careful not to overdo it – there’s a thin line when it comes to ads and you don’t want your customers getting bombarded and deleting the app. Your app is there to be functional, so make sure ads don’t compromise this.


Crowdfunding isn’t always just for building a product. In fact, you can raise funds to go towards the upkeep of an app, such as your monetisation strategy, especially if the app is a success. Common sites such as Kickstarter work as a platform to raise funds for a project, and if it’s a good enough idea it may build up some traction.


Once your app is starting to succeed, you may want to look into sponsorship opportunities, such as prominent placement of another company or product on your app. This differs from advertising as it is much more reliable, and there is direct communication between you and the company. Sponsorship isn’t always easy to come across, but if your market is niche enough there may be someone out there who is willing to invest. Keep in mind that this monetisation strategy may only work once your mobile application is already driving traffic – your app must be successful enough to attract the right attention.


Similar to in-app purchases, subscriptions give users access to extra content within the app without having to pay to download it. An example of this is Spotify, or YouTube. YouTube allows users access to their app for free, however they can pay a subscription to avoid ads and have premium features. It also means you can give users the option of a fixed period free trial, thus hooking them onto the premium features. Think of how many subscriptions you are paying for right now – Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime? Not only do subscriptions offer a steady income but they increase loyalty with users, meaning it isn’t only an effective monetisation strategy but a clever marketing strategy too. However, it is important to keep in mind that Apple taxes subscription services in the app store. This is something that may need to be factored into your business strategy if subscriptions seem like the best option for you. Even with the tax it may be an investment in your user’s loyalty – this is a decision which may need to come down to business objectives and profit.

free mobile application


Choosing the Monetisation Strategy for You

Choosing which strategy will best benefit you can be tricky. The first step is to remember who your user is and what they want out of the app. At the end of the day, your app will only be successful if your user finds it useful. No target audience is the same – maybe your user will find advertisements too intrusive, or possibly a subscription is too committal for who you’re targeting.

Do your research and be sure to understand who you’re selling to, and you will be sure of success.


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Get in touch today to find out how we can help turn your awesome ideas into a digital reality.