I'm wondering if the shareware concept is dead nowadays.

Like most developers, I've built up quite a collection of self-made tools and code libraries that help me to be productive.

Some examples to give you an idea of the type of thing I'm talking about:

  • A self-learning program that renames and orders all my mp3 files and adds information to the id3 tags;
  • A Delphi component that wraps the Google Maps API;
  • A text-to-singing-voice converter for musical purposes;
  • A program to control a music synthesizer;
  • A Gps-log <-> KML <-> ESRI-shapefile converter;

I've got one of these already freely downloadable on my website, and on average it gets downloaded about a 150 times per month. Let's say I'd start charging 15 euro's for it; would there actually be people who buy it? How many? What would it depend on?

If I could get some money for some of these, I'd finish them up a bit and put them online, but without that, I probably won't bother. Maintaining a SourceForge project is not very rewarding by itself.

Is there anyone who is making money with shareware? How much? Any tips?


Do you currently have a donation link, using say Paypal?

Try that and see if anyone is willing to spring anything for what you are offering for free. If some people value your applications then you know you could charge for them.

13 accepted

Try it, by all means; but don't be disappointed if you don't get anything significant.

  • of those 150/month downloads, how many does actually use it? i think the average download/use ratio isn't higher than 5%
  • of those actually using your software, how many would actually pay for it? if payment is optional, the ratio goes something like 10%. if it's compulsive (limited time, limited functions), it gets lower.

in all, it's usually not worth it just for the money. but the feedback you get is invaluable for knowing the market, and realizing how different is "it does work on my machine" from "it just works".


My home server runs Linux, which represents literally hundreds of man-years of development time, all for free. I get annoyed when somebody wants me to spend $15 for something that looks like they cranked it out in a weekend. On the other hand, if it does something slick and looks well written, I don't mind tossing a few bucks in the donation jar.

Speaking of which: a friend of mine recently wrote a flight planning app for the iPhone. His app makes extensive use of aviation data from my web site (navaid.com), and so he promised me a share of the profits. I wasn't expecting much, but I just got a check for the first quarter's share, and it's enough to buy a pretty nice laptop.


developers might look for free alternatives, the bulk of end users just want a solution that works.

if your solutions works and saves them time or money, i am sure it will sell


Don't expect too much money, but it is still possible.

I have a friend who wrote a small set of tools he used while developing software for cellphones and he charges $25 per license and he makes some pocket change off of it (roughly 200-300 per month). Still a small but nice source of income. Of course, it depends on the market, but it can never hurt.


Not sure if it counts as shareware, but some of the iPhone developers seem to be making quite a bit of money that way.

Now all we need is an equally popular marketplace for desktop applications.


There are plenty of people making good money selling "shareware", myself included, even though the word itself has gone out of fashion. Shareware businesses are called "micro-ISVs" these days.

The people that claim that shareware is dead are usually those that have either never tried to set up a business, or threw something together and put it on a web site, expecting easy money, but discovering that the hard work begins after the application has been developed. If you're willing to do the work to develop and market a polished product to a specific market, there is certainly money to be made.


Yes, people make money at it, but most do not make much. Make sure the donation/contribution is prominently displayed on your website, blog, in the source, on the product.

Most users still want everything for free, so you have to really figure out where/how you can get an audience and revenue.

Limited features in a product is one way, as is trial period.

At a higher level - you need to figure out if you want to pursue the side projects as revenue generating or not. If so, then they require more polish and also thought into marketing, sales, making it easy to obtain and to pay


Additionally - you can put the apps up - and offer them for free/voluntary donation. I would also put up something like uservoice (http://uservoice.com/) and let that drive the features for more development. If people take the time to request changes then they might be more inclined to pay as well.

My on-the-side revenue stream from a small project is pretty small - mostly because the app I chose to write has a VERY small audience/potential user base. But I learned a lot from the process.


"Free" is becoming a legitimate business plan. There are more and more startups building businesses around free, open source software.

They subsequently sell services (training/manuals/consulting) around that software. I do not know if that is possible in your case, however. Good luck! I think there are a lot of us shareware developers who are passionate about our product, and would like to make a living from the software we develop in our free time.


I still buy a fair bit of shareware / low cost software for simple utilities such as file format conversion. Once it is below a certain pain factor, e.g. ?50, and does something that will save me a few hours at work if only on a very occasional basis, I will buy it. More significantly perhaps, is that I have contracted developers of such software to customise it for my specific needs in the past for a higher fee, e.g. $100 per hour for something I can re-distribute. I also donate to open source tools that I use on a regular basis.

My advice; the only way you'll ever know is by trying it out, people here can't really tell you.

Gps-log <-> KML <-> ESRI-shapefile converter

This one would definitely be of interest.


Yes, it is very possible.

For info about people who are making money with shareware, how much, and lots of tips, get the two books by Bob Walsh:

Micro-ISV, From Vision to Reality (2006)

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and The Web Startup Success Guide (2009)

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I've written one of the all-time great Shareware apps: ClipMate (version 1.0 was released in 1991), and have seen it earn six-figure $$$ back in the late 90's, and I've seen it earn much less than that, especially lately...

Can a single developer make it big anymore? I'd have to say no. Not anymore, not if you're supporting a family in the USA, definitely not if you live in nice house and pay property and personal income taxes in New York State.

It's still a great source of income, but I cannot rely on it solely anymore. And yes I've tried diversifying, other products, etc.. The problem is, any app that's capable of earning a good living, will not do so without your full attention. i.e. while you're working to develop the next cash cow, the goose that used to lay golden eggs is annoyed with you, and the eggs are smaller and less frequent.

In short, a lot of formerly full-time shareware authors are doing other things these days.

Note: If I lived somewhere cheap and didn't have all of these grownup responsibilities, sure, I'd still be doing it full-time.


I would forget about desktop apps and develop on platforms like iPhone and Android that have (will have) an app store.


Shareware model is pretty much dead at the moment.

Call it a 'Trial' not a Shareware and you'll do better :).


One thing that I've found that works for developer tools or desktop software is to offer a "Free Edition" and a "Full" Paid Version. People don't like to use "Trial" versions that expire at a certain time or number of uses. The "Free Edition" could show a "nag" screen when run or have feature limitation, then when they purchase the "Full" Paid Version it will unlock all features and remove any "nag" screen. Usually you want to stay clear of "nag" screens, but they still can be useful with desktop apps.

Also, you may find it more profitable to build some type of web service that you charge a monthly subscription fee and/or have a "Free" subscription object that is banner ad supported.

In the end, it really depends on the idea. If you have a great idea, or just plain implement it easy, simpler, cleaner than the competition you could make a lot of money. However, until you build it and launch it, you'll never know.

Plus, it's very hard to figure out what percentage of downloads of a completely Free product will convert to paid users once you start charging. Don't be surprised if 1 out of that 150 downloads per month actually purchase the paid version.


Nowdays I would think about (which I'm planning to do in the near-future) focusing on a very specific/useful/etc. (Web)services running remotely (Amazon WebServices, etc.)! And charging X ?/$ per method-access.

IMO, this is the future for solo-developers as I see it.


Yes it is possible but you not the way you want to do it.

The only way people pay for software able to be made by one person programmers is if you have a nice small program that is either extremely unique or extremely convenient for your users. You have to dig into your tool and optimize it - don't add thousands of options but make it do the job very very well.

OSS - especially community software - sucks here extremely. Because getting around all the inconveniences is 80% of the work and it is not fun. You will see almost no self enlightning progress and then start documenting it. The same you will goes here.

Finally put it out for a small price tag. Most small companies make the big mistake to take a large amount of code and fail. Maybe it's worth the price but many people don't thinks in this way - they only see the money they spend now not the benefits.


I noticed when I download certain freeware/shareware apps the installers ask if you would like to install some third-party web browser toolbar (google, ask.com, etc.). Do the shareware authors get paid to do that?


It is possible, but you should go little dipper into business problematic and strategy. Last few years we witnessed a change of market and change of approach to market. Especially with finance crisis. First try to evaluate objectively your product. Ask questions like: Is it unique? How much do people really need this? Are there alternatives? Think about costumers and their logic.

After that you should try different approaches for placing and selling your product on the market. If one doesn't work don`t be afraid to try different one.


The iPhone/iPad market is thriving especially casual games market. I know because i just paid Plants vs Zombies and i believe it almost sold for 1M copies. However desktop commercial apps are quite dead.