Carter Thomas has built and sold over 1,000 apps in the last three years while blogging and consulting with developers large and small. His blog has reached millions of readers promoting ambition and thinking outside of the box. When he’s not working on apps, he’s traveling, swimming and giving out high fives.
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Johnny: Entrepreneur on Fire, Episode 800. Entrepreneurs near and far, Johnny Dumas here, and I am fired up to bring you our featured guest today, Carter Thomas. Carter, are you prepared to ignite?
Johnny: Yes. Carter has built and sold over 1,000 apps in the last 3 years while blogging and consulting with developers large and small. His blog has reached millions of readers promoting ambition and thinking outside the box. When not working on apps, he’s traveling, swimming, and giving out high five’s. Virtual high five, Carter. And I’ve given Fire Nation a little insight, so share more about you personally, and expound upon the biz.
Carter: Awesome. Well, thanks for having me. This is super exciting. And yeah, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now. And I kind of fell into it. I had a little bit of an internet marketing background, quit my job, and just said, “I think this app thing is going to be pretty cool.” And as I was doing it, I realized that there was no information out there, and no one was talking about things that worked, things that didn’t. So I started blogging about all the things that I was doing. But some were working, and a lot of it was just like hey, don’t do this.
This is not a good idea. And it all snowballed. And I developed a bunch of different systems on how to make lots of apps and how to teach people how to do what I was doing. And as they say, the rest is history. And now, the blog is really popular. I’ve got a huge portfolio of apps. And I spend a lot of my time just helping people get their apps together and helping everyone else become successful.
Johnny: So Carter, this is what I love about Entrepreneur on Fire. We’re going to get to dive into pre-Carter Thomas, Mr. App. We’re going to get to dive into your aha moment. We’re going to get to dive into your current successes and what just fires you up. But we’re first going to start with a success quote. So take it away.
Carter: For sure. It’s a little kind of played out, but I’m a huge, huge believer, especially the longer I stick around the business, in just measuring twice, cut once.
Johnny: Oh, that is super played out. No. Just kidding.
Carter: Everyone does that, right?
Johnny: Everybody says it, few people do it.
Carter: Yeah. And especially as kind of a self proclaimed hustler, you go into business thinking like I’m just going to throw everything at the wall and work until things start to go. And I’ve wasted so much of my time and so much of my money doing that. And I wouldn’t trade it because you learn so much. But it seems like every day I wake up, and as long as I spend just 30 minutes in the morning just planning out what I’m going to do, that alone has made me hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last year at least. So I definitely subscribe to that more and more.
Johnny: Absolutely. And we’re going to see how subscribing to that, Fire Nation, has brought Carter to where he is. But before we talk about awesomeness and measuring twice before cutting just once, we’re going to tell a story, Carter, of a failure. Of a time that you just fell flat on your face. So let’s be real. Take us to that moment. Tell us that story. And let’s hear it.
Carter: Absolutely. So when I first started doing the app thing, this is back in October of 2011 or a little bit before that, any time you get into a hot new market, you have ideas of grandeur, all you can think about is how you’re going to become a millionaire or something that’s going to go right. And so one thing led to another, and I picked out the app I was going to do. I picked out the project, and I maxed out my credit cards. And I was like this is it. This is my ticket out of this crappy office I’m working out of. It’s my ticket out of this small town in Maine that I’m living in.
Johnny: Well, nothing is wrong with Maine, Carter.
Carter: No, I love Maine. I lived there for 10 years, but it’s very small. Not a lot of app stuff going on in Maine. And I was just like this is it. This is my key to success. And not to get into the full story, but basically, over the course of three months, I spent all of my time and all of my money on this. And it all led to the moment when I was going to launch this app. And I remember. It was October 19, 2011. And I got the notification on my phone from Apple that says your app has been approved. And I was like oh my gosh. I’m going to wake up tomorrow, and everything is going to be different.
Johnny: Money, money, money, money.
Carter: Yeah. A $100,000.00 check coming in. And I woke up the next day, and it said $89.00. And it was like what? And the next day I woke up, and it was $22.00. And then after that, it was like $9.00. And I’ve never in my life been so emotionally just done. And I’ve never felt like such a loser in my entire life because I told everyone that this was like the big thing. And this continued for about a week. And I finally picked myself up. And one thing led to another, and I just kind of started researching. And I started doing the blog and started testing new strategies. And eventually, it started to pick up again.
But that moment when it just all bombed was one of the worst feelings and the biggest strike outs and ego checks I’ve ever had in my entire life.
Johnny: Okay. So first off, I have a lot of things I want to talk about. Let’s get one thing straight for Fire Nation. Maine is the way life should be. Born and raised, Carter, the first 18 years of my life.
Carter: Where in Maine are you from?
Johnny: I am from the southern point of Maine, a little town called Elfred, which is near Sanford and Bitterford. I was a Massabesic Mustang in high school. And yeah, I still go back all the time. My family still lives right there in southern Maine in York County. And Fire Nation, it is the life should be. Four amazing seasons.
Carter: Absolutely. I went to school up in Boden, and I lived in Portland for six years after that.
Johnny: Cool. Yeah, I still own my place in Portland. I’ll never give it up, right in the old port. My condo is just a great little stake for me in Maine, even though I’m across country in San Diego. So love that connection that we have, Carter. And I’d love to do a little bit more of a deep dive though into what exactly was this app? What did it do?
Carter: Yeah. Okay. So that’s a really good question. And for anyone who doesn’t know much about apps, this is like a 30 second just understanding of how I was able to produce 1,000 apps. So when you think about things like websites are a good example, and I was doing this with websites, I was looking at all of these people that were developing websites from scratch. And so they would get hired to build a website. They’d take two months. They’d build one website. I realized that if you went out, and you bought a template for websites, all you needed to do was create new graphics for it.
And I looked at the app business, and I said no one is doing this either. And so instead of going out and finding someone to build me an app, I went out, and I cold called like 400 developers to try to license their code to make a template out of it so that all I had to do was re-skin graphics. And so I finally found this one arcade game, and this guy had huge success, millions of downloads. And he agreed to do this licensing agreement with me. And no one had ever done this before. And so that’s how I decided it because I said, well, now I have a proven model. My costs are way lower. My chances of success are a lot higher for various reasons.
And so I had this kind of – it was called Alpha Combat, it was like a little arcade game that you’d play. Everyone has played something like it. And that’s kind of how it all started.
Johnny: So why did you think that this was going to be something that immediately you woke up, and it was just thousands upon tens of thousands of dollars? Why did you think this was just going to hit the perfect nerve?
Carter: I thought that for two reasons. One is because the only people that were talking about app marketing at that time were people that it did do that. So the only stories you’d read online were overnight millionaires and whatever it may be. So that’s just like the only information that I had available. The second reason I thought that is because, complete transparency, I just thought I was better than other people. I thought I could do it. I was smarter. I knew all the systems. I could be the best at business first time. And I completely overshot myself.
Johnny: So if you could just identify the one reason why this didn’t take off and why this didn’t work, what would that one reason be?
Carter: The No. 1 reason is because of the pricing strategy. And so in an app, you can do a paid or free. And back in the day, that made a huge, huge difference. It still does, but I underestimated people who wanted to pay for an app. And as soon as I made it free a few weeks later, I was getting 9,000 or 10,000 downloads a day. And then I could use the data to monetize it correctly and do all that. But by launching it as a paid app, I totally missed the mark for sure.
Johnny: Got it. Got it. Really huge takeaway. So that’s kind of what I want to do now, Carter, before we move onto what is going to be considered your epiphany, your aha moment, what’s taken you to the promise land. Sum it up for Fire Nation. What do you really want us to absorb from just this complete flop in your life?
Carter: Yeah. The No. 1 thing that I took away from that that I would want to pass on is that it’s very easy, as an entrepreneur especially, to think that you know more than like business fundamentals. And the more that you adhere to business fundamentals and then add your own flavor on top of that, the more you’re going to be successful. And then it’s not sexy, but it works.
Johnny: I love that. And what I would love to add to that, too, Carter and Fire Nation is listen, when you just get incredibly fired up, and you get excited about something, use that energy in a positive way. Obviously, Carter did. He was excited. He was fired up. He was really excited about the opportunity and the possibility about what he was creating. But don’t let the illusions of grandeur set in. Don’t start cashing your checks before the money actually comes in the door. Just take a step back every now and then, take a deep breath and say, “You know what, this might work. But you know what? This might not work.
Let’s continue to move forward eyes wide open and make things happen step by step by step.” It’s when we lose sight of taking those individual steps because we see those big dollar signs down the road that we can really stretch ourselves out to the point of no return.
Johnny: And Carter, this is where we’re going to shift to your story of a light bulb, an aha moment, an epiphany. And again, you told an amazing story with your flop. And I felt like I was there when you opened up your email, and there was $89.00 there. Tell that same kind of in person story for your epiphany moment, and let’s just go.
Carter: Yeah. So along the lines of – fast forward down the road. I have these experiences. I start this blog. And what happens is that a lot of people start to reach out to me, and they’re having similar experiences and over the course of the next year, I’m making apps, but I’m also sharing this information. And I don’t really think much of this. And as the blog gets more popular, the traffic goes up, everything happens. And all of a sudden, I start to realize there’s a lot more to business than just me making money. There’s a lot more going on here in terms of like you have to give back before you can expect anything to happen to you.
And this was something that it seemed to me like almost like not tangential but a little bit outside of the world of business. The idea of if you give, you’re going to get back. And that moment when I woke up one day, and I said if I just start providing a lot more free information, if I start sharing with a lot of people, if I start helping people become successful, I’m going to receive 10X the success that I’m receiving now. And when I felt that, it was like my entire business just exploded. And there’s no real – I’m sure you could do the science and look at all the reasoning and say, all right, here’s what happened, and here’s who did it.
But that moment, there was like – I remember writing a couple of blog posts and just saying like I don’t care if anyone reads this. All I know is that this is going to help one person, and that’s worth it. And once I started writing things like that, everything just took off. And it was just completely an eye opening experience for me. And it really changed the way I do business with a much bigger picture now.
Johnny: There’s a Zig Ziegler quote that I’m sure you’re well aware of, Carter. You probably even used it in one of these posts. Zig Ziegler says you can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. And sometimes, Fire Nation, enough other people is just one person just like Carter said. If you can help one person get what they want in life, then you’re off to the races. You’re starting down the path of creating such massive value that you’re not even going to be able to avoid success, even if you wanted to.
I mean, that’s my biggest takeaway by far, Carter, from that realization, from that light bulb moment that you’ve had. But I would love, again, for you to break it down for Fire Nation. What is exactly the biggest takeaway that you want to make sure that we get from that light bulb in your life?
Carter: Yeah. And I think one of the most important reasons, and the reason why it was such a big moment for me, is because I was coming into this as like a hard core capitalist. Like, I read the Ann Rand stuff. I drank the Kool-Aid. I walked in, and I was like screw all of this altruism. I’m coming here to make money, and I want to get rich, and I want to do this. And what I think I realized is that that idea of giving back and helping people actually is part of business, even though there’s no money necessarily tied to it. It is part of what makes business business.
And it was a huge shift for someone like me who came in just looking out for themselves to realize that is what business is really all about. And so I would write a blog post, or I would give something away, or I would find an app template that I would sell at half the price and three times the quality. And I would get emails from people that were finally saying like, “Oh my gosh. I’m quitting my job now. I can finally pay my rent. This changed my life.” And I think the reason why it’s so powerful is because it might not translate into dollars, it usually does, but I would go to bed at night, and I would wake up in the morning, and I still do.
And those emails are like pouring gasoline on me. And hearing that and completing that loop is what allows me to work 14 or 15 hours a day at max capacity because I know that that energy is coming back to me. And like that’s just how it began, and that’s why it was so powerful. And it all started with connecting with people and helping them and sharing your story and genuinely wanting other people to be successful so they can share with you, too.
Johnny: Fire Nation, those last couple of sentences are truly all you need to just absorb into your mind and to put into practice. Connect with other people in a genuine way and truly want to help them. That is the recipe that the most successful entrepreneurs are finding is taking them to that promise land. And Carter, this is your last story that you’re going to tell. But it’s a story that I’m sure you have a lot of. But at the same time, this one is going to be a specific moment in time. Your proudest entrepreneurial moment.
Carter: Yeah. So actually, back to Maine, a really good friend of mine was living out in Peak’s Island. And he was in med school or applying to med school. And in the mean time, he had started this nonprofit where he would go to Southern Sudan, and he was teaching people first aid and very early infancy training for very small villages. He was just an amazing guy. But he just didn’t make a lot of money. Fundraising wasn’t really his forte. And so I helped him and his brother basically learn the app business, and I helped them get started. I coached them a bit. And that was great. And they went down the road.
And at the end of last year, I was talking to them, and I said, “How can I help? What can I do to help this cause that you have and what you’re doing?” And he said, “We’ve got the nonprofit.” So I took it on myself against – I was with some business partners who didn’t really see any reason to do this because it didn’t make us any money, but I interviewed him, and I took a lot of my time, and I told this entire story. And I really kind of showed that there’s a lot more to life than just business. And then I donated a lot of my money. I donated $10,000.00 to them. And not only – that was cool.
And I donated a lot of money. But he called me the next day, and he gets me on the phone, and he says, “Carter, I just had the best day of my life. I got into med school. I’m with my family. Everything is amazing. And I just read that blog post, and I saw what you did. And that made everything seem like nothing. I can’t believe you did that for me. And more importantly, you just saved 500 people’s lives. What you did, you’re changing their lives. You’re going to allow them to live.” And I’ve never in my life – I never have felt like that. And I put the phone down, and I looked around and said, “That is what it’s all about.
If I can do more of this, hell yeah. I’m going to work all day to make sure I can do that.” So that was probably the most awesome moment I’ve had in terms of business for as long as I can remember.
Johnny: I mean, the hair on the back of my neck is standing up, Fire Nation. I hope that you are really seeing and hearing what genuinely caring can do. And even going back to something that Carter said earlier in this conversation, don’t be afraid to be a capitalist. Don’t be afraid to make money and to bust your hump and to generate massive revenue because what you can do with that revenue when your head is in the right place is amazing. It can literally change lives. I am so excited to be donating $25,000.00 to Pencils of Promise to build a school in a third world country and to actually be there hands on building that school.
I mean, this is the things you can do when you have the success and the revenue is generating, and you’re building awesome things, Fire Nation. This is what Carter is doing. And this is what people like Nick Unsworth, Life on Fire, is doing every single day. And it’s just really powerful stuff. And Carter, that fires you up. A lot of things are firing you up right now for obvious reasons. But share with us, the listeners, the one thing that just really gets you ignited right now.
Carter: Totally. A lot of what I’m doing right now is focusing on the website with the community. And one thing that I always ask my community members, I ask them to give me feedback. And what a lot of people are having a hard time with is scaling. Like, they built the apps. They’re making good money. But they’re kind of looking around and saying what do I do next? And I’ve been very fortunate to make the money I did and to also learn about what to do with it because, a lot of people don’t realize, once you make a lot of money, you walk into this whole new world of well, what do I do with all this?
I don’t want to lose it. How do I structure my companies? How do I invest it? What do I do? And so what’s really exciting about me is that I’m going to create some new training courses and some new information that people can use about like how to structure your business. What do you do? Especially in the app game, how do you make sure your portfolios are all set up correctly? How do you set up the accounting? And it’s not the coolest stuff in the world, but it is going to directly help a lot of people that have been with Blue Cloud for a long time. It’s going to help them get their peace of mind back.
It’s going to help them with their business and grow their business and keep it going. And it’s just really exciting for me because it’s the evolution of the whole picture of the app business. And I’m really excited to put that together and to get that out to them.
Johnny: Love that. So, so cool, Fire Nation. You’re hearing a man with passion and inspiration exuding from his voice. And Carter, we are about to enter the lightening round. But before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors. Carter, welcome to the lightening round where you get to share incredible resources and mind blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Johnny: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Carter: It was just fear, just straight up. I was working at a start up. And I just didn’t believe that I could do it. And I don’t know why. And it just got to the point one day when I just said screw it. And it was terrifying. But yeah, it was just this self kind of – I just convinced myself that I could do it. And one day, I just did it.
Johnny: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Carter: The best advice I ever received was that – it was for networking. This is kind of weird. But it’s like I had a guy who was a top insurance salesman, and he taught me exactly how he networked with people in terms of like here’s how to lunch with them. Here’s how you follow up. Here’s how you ask for what you want. And here’s how you grow your network. And that one conversation quadrupled my business that one year.
Johnny: Love that. Share one of your personal habits, Carter, that you believe contributes to your success.
Carter: Sure. One of my habits is that I think everyone on a daily schedule has a couple of hours where they’re at their peak performance. Some people are morning people. Some people are night people. And I think a lot of people spend those peak hours on the hard work. They spend it on the coding or the writing. And what I do is the opposite. I spend my most passionate and high intensity moments doing things I love. So whether it’s writing a blog post about something I care about, whether it’s calling my friends, whether it’s going for a run, I put all my energy into the moments that I feel the best.
And what that does is it smoothes out the rest of the day so that I just feel so much better when I’m kind of not at my peak state. I can still get everything else done. And my overall level is much higher that way.
Johnny: I mean, Fire Nation, if you can kind of picture your energy, your will power, just your creative juices at a certain thermometer level, it’s going to naturally decrease throughout the day. I mean, that’s just how it’s going to happen. If you spend that incredibly top part, the crème de la crème, that champagne powder part of it doing things like email and social media and the drudgery tasks that we all have to do, you could be wasting the best part of your energy, of your will power, of your creativity on those things. Why not follow Carter’s lead here and just do some amazing things with that time?
Johnny: And Carter, do you have any internet resource like an Ever Notes that you can share with our listeners?
Carter: Yeah. I use If This Than That a lot.
Johnny: Yeah. IFTTT.
Carter: Yeah, which is pretty awesome. It takes a little bit of – it takes a couple of hours to kind of navigate through, but that app is awesome. I really like that. And that saves me a lot of time and helps me produce a lot more.
Johnny: Yeah, Fire Nation. Basically, any task that follow in any kind of a sequence, you can just use IFTTT to make it happen. And Carter, if you can recommend just one book for our listeners, what would it be, and why?
Carter: The No. 1 book I would recommend for business would be The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, which is just – my buddy gave me that when I left my job. And if you haven’t read it, or anyone out there hasn’t read it, essentially, what he talks about is the idea of compounding effort. And if you just do a little bit each day, you can achieve almost anything you want. And I think as an entrepreneur – and if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably like me, and you tend to kind of look at entrepreneurship, and you want to get really fired up and get these huge, colossal efforts dialed in.
And what this book teaches you is that that’s not sustainable. And if you just do 20 minutes a day, but you do it every day, the chances of your success go up enormously.
Johnny: And Carter, have you read The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy?
Carter: I have not, but it sounds like I probably should.
Johnny: So Darren Hardy was mentored by Jeff Olson and was inspired to write The Compound Effect because of The Slight Edge.
Carter: Awesome. I’ll check that out.
Johnny: It will have to be the next book you read. And Fire Nation, I know that you love audio. So if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book like this one for free at eofirebook.com. And Carter, this next question is the last of the lightening round, but it’s a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world identical to earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter, taken care of. But all you have is a laptop and $500.00. What would you do in the next seven days?
Carter: What I would do in the next seven days is I would probably give my $500.00 to the best web developer I could possibly find and build like some unbelievable website that deals with the ability for me to proliferate as much information as I could, specifically content. So whether that’s a blog, whether that’s like a training website, whether it’s anything like that, but I would want to build something that would allow me to amplify any sort of messaging, any sort of education because I think that if that’s the situation the world is in, the best thing you could do is help people, educate, get smarter, do the right thing so that we’re all in a position to succeed.
Johnny: Love that. And Carter, let’s end today on fire with you sharing just one parting piece of guidance, then the best way we can connect with you, and then we’ll say good bye.
Carter: Yeah. I think that the No. 1 piece of guidance I would say is that it’s so unbelievably important to keep a big picture and to like keep your – to not get bogged down with details because when you’re at the beginning stages –
Johnny: Just go ahead and start that over, Carter.
Johnny: Deep breath. You got this.
Carter: Yeah. I think that the piece of guidance I would give anyone listening to this podcast is that you really have to keep a big mindset and keep a big kind of – not get caught down in all the details when you’re getting started in any sort of entrepreneurial endeavor because that’s what kills the momentum of any business. And as you grow, make sure you give back because that helps keeps things going. And that will make all the difference for sure. And if you want to connect, definitely go to bluecloudsolutions.com. All my social media stuff is on there, and that’s definitely the best way to connect.
Johnny: So Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And you have been hanging out with Carter and myself today. So keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com. Just type Carter in the search bar. His show notes page will pop right up. And Carter, thank you, my friend, my fellow Mainer, for sharing your –
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