The Daily Shifts: A beautiful meditation, mindfulness, and personal development mobile app.

Building an app similar to Headspace or Calm: The story behind The Daily Shifts iOS App.
Austin Betzer
Posted on
May 7, 2021
Minute Read

A better path to enlightenment.

Mindfulness, meditation, and personal development are exploding right now. There is more awareness around these ideas than ever before and it’s becoming a massive industry.

According to Grand View Research, the personal development market is close to $40 billion and only expected to grow.


Our client in this case study shares parts of his story that we find very inspiring, but they are also very financially risky. We’re not recommending that you bet your entire life fortune on your app idea. Please proceed cautiously with your idea and consult a professional about your financial situation before doing anything that Doug shares. :)
The Daily Shifts app helps its users build healthy daily habits with growth challenges, daily mindfulness prompts, and instructional tools.

The idea came to Doug as he was going through a rough patch in his own sales career and he started doubling down on personal development.

He noticed that the more he focused on meditation, eating healthy, and daily goal setting he not only felt better, but his sales career started to expand.

After developing a morning routine that worked really well for him and his sales team he started thinking about how he could turn it into a company… Maybe with a journal or a workbook.

And then the idea hit him — it’s a simple, intuitive, and beautiful app that people can use each day to make small changes and small “shifts” in their life.

The Daily Shifts was born.

The target customer and build requirements. 

Through a series of client interviews, testing, and Doug’s own validation with his sales team, a few insights about The Daily Shifts’ target market were discovered:

They are somewhat new to personal development.

There are lots of other personal development apps — like Headspace or Calm — that focus on “power users.” Doug wanted a solution that was much simpler with daily tasks that were easy to complete.

They aren’t “woo-woo.”

Many of the existing products and offerings out there are really… OUT THERE. Doug wanted to make sure that this felt scientific and not too “hippy-dippy.”

Their attention span is short because time is money.

The app HAD to keep a user’s attention. Doug’s target market can quickly lose attention and interest so it was important to keep them hooked in with a great experience.

These insights gave us a few build requirements:

  • The content, materials, and exercises in the app must be simple, and digestible. The idea is to give small paradigm shifts — not an entire life overhaul in a single day. 
  • Doug wanted this app to be the OPPOSITE of hippy. We had to create something that wouldn’t scare off a western, professional, and potentially religious/conservative audience. 
  • The app had to be fun to use and beautiful. The animations and user experience would be key.

How we came into the picture.

This app build was a bit different for us in the fact that we didn’t start this project from scratch — we were brought in after the concept was validated, the initial designs were in place, and some code had already been committed.

Our role was to bring some energy and excitement back to the project and get it across the finish line.

Big Idea #1: Working with existing code.

Problem: Developers usually don’t like working with someone else’s code.

The app already had a significant amount of code committed by the time we came in. Typically, developers don’t like working on another dev’s code — it’s typically not documented very well and might be built in a different architecture than the new dev prefers.

Fortunately for Doug, a good chunk of the app was solid.

Ah-Ha Moment: We can work with this.

After a deep code review, we decided that the code was stable enough to build on top of. WE very clearly documented the structure and set a path to follow that structure going forward.

Breakthrough: A clean code structure and lots of documentation.

Knowing that we weren’t the first group to touch the code base and we wouldn’t be the last, we decided to build this codebase for scale. Everything was well documented and detailed so it would be clean for whoever worked on the project in the future.

Big Idea #2: Iterative development to release a prototype as quickly as possible.

Problem: Budget and timeline constraints.

Sometimes when we work on apps, there is an existing business or a parallel business whose profits feed the development of the new app.

OR, the founder has a significant investment behind them to cover the design, build, and launch.

In this case, Doug was funding the entire project from his own pocket. This meant that we had to be careful of budget and timeline overruns.

Ah-Ha Moment: Can we get a prototype out as fast as possible?

As we got under the hood and committed to the full build, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to get a finished product to market that would meet enough consumer needs to make a viable product.

Doug knew that he needed more money to finish.

With this new knowledge, we switched gears and focused on launching enough features that we could deploy a prototype of the app that would be live in the Testflight App Store.

Breakthrough: Using a prototype to secure investment for the build.

Doug’s story is what movies are made of. Doug used the rough prototype Testflight app build to show potential investors and ended up securing a sizable investment to finish his build and also launch other pieces of his business.

“The main lesson is that I was committed. If I just was like, “Hey, I have an idea for an app,” there’s no way I would have secured funding. I was committed and I had a physical app to show. This showed my investors that I was ALL IN. They saw that I had already put $40,000 of my own money into the company and they believed I was going to make it work.”

Doug Cartwright
~ The Daily Shifts

Big Idea #3: Building momentum and excitement about an idea.

Problem: Building an app is scary.

For many app founders — Doug included — they are taking a pretty big leap by launching an app. Apps are expensive, they take a long time to build, and it’s a big commitment of time and attention.

We’ve seen even the most excited and ambitious founders lose steam on their projects when the project starts to take the twists and turns that it inevitably will.

Ah-Ha Moment: Can we turn this from a good idea from a founder into a viable business concept?

Something that we’ve found is not only helpful to uncover the right features from the app but also helps to build momentum and excitement for the founder is to see what other people think of the app.

Breakthrough: Validation and customer feedback.

A big breakthrough for Doug came when he was able to start seeing survey data and real customer feedback when we had the app in its Testflight version.

It’s exciting and motivating to see that this wild idea a founder has actually is a good idea and ACTUALLY is something that other people would pay for.

Big Idea #4: Building a great relationship while managing budget and timelines.

Problem: The client’s expectations don’t always match a developer’s timelines.

Something we ran into AFTER the app was launched happened when we started making incremental changes to the app structure after it was already live.

This is tricky because, in a lot of cases, the founder might want to make “quick changes” here and there that actually aren’t so quick.

We did experience some tension with Doug as we started tweaking parts of the onboarding process and updating features.

Ah-Ha Moment: Creating a collaborative client management process.

What we learned from this experience is that clients need to be OVER-COMMUNICATED with. With a lot of projects, we figured that the founder might not want to be intimately involved with minute details of their app.

So we would deploy the feature and then send an invoice for the hours.

The problem is if a client is expecting a bill for 3-4 hours and instead receive a bill for 30, there is a lot of frustration there.

Breakthrough: Clarity and transparency about tasks.

The change for us came when we committed to OVERCOMMUNICATING with our clients. Instead of just saying, “We can do that, we’ll let you know when it’s done,” we made it a habit of explaining how a “simple change” would impact code structure within the app.

We started explaining step-by-step what our plan of attack would be for each feature and what our hourly estimates would be.

Small, daily shifts and a new way of living.

Personal development in your pocket.

The Daily Shifts truly is a beautiful and pleasing app to use. We personally love how intuitive and simple to use the app is — users can navigate seamlessly from meditation to breath work to their gratitude practice.

A committed user base.

The app has received almost nothing but positive reviews and great testimonials.

We love seeing the data and the fact that users come back over and over.

The app has not only turned into a profitable venture for Doug but has also become a source of leads for the other parts of Doug’s business with private coaching, workshops, and the soon-to-be release book, Holy Sh!t We’re Alive.

How much does it cost to build an app similar to Headspace or Calm?

So how much does it cost to build an app like this?

A typical personal development app about as complicated as The Daily Shifts should cost between $100k and $150k.

This rough estimate only accounts for one platform (iOS) and doesn’t include any of the actual content within an app like this. This content could include workout videos, meditations, course materials, etc.

If you’re building a similar app, you should expect to pay $25k to $50k for this type of content.

How long does it take to build a personal development app?

If you’re building an app like this, you should expect the process to take 3-5 months from beginning to launch.


If you’re looking to build an app in the personal development space, we hope this writeup was helpful!

If you need a team to help you execute your build, we’d love to help. Schedule a strategy call below and let’s talk about your great app idea.

Austin Betzer
My only passion is helping others solve meaningful real-world problems. I will continue to do just that!