Friday 20th December 2013
Get Yourself an App Store Presence – Part 2
This is the second part in our 3 part series on ways to establish an App Store presence for yourself. In part 1 we talked about creating your apps completely in-house. In this part we will discuss outsourcing part of your development because you lack the time or a specific skill to do it all yourself (we assume you have a general development knowledge as required to fine tune your app once the outsourcing part is completed). In part 3 we will touch on other ways to get into the app business that require a minimum or no coding of the app yourself.
Happi Papi started making apps in the beginning of 2011. For the first two years we did it all ourselves as previously written about in part 1. By the end of 2012 we had many more ideas than we could possibly realize on our own. We had also started to establish a name for ourselves with stabilized sales as a result. As coding contractors from a large part of the world were (are) fairly cheap we came to the conclusion that we could get a higher return on investment if we outsourced part of our app development rather than doing it all in-house.
As we have discussed, there are three main parts to building an app; idea, design and development. We will concentrate on outsourcing the development part of making an app as that is what we have the most experience from. We could as easily have chosen to outsource the design/graphics part but we are very happy with the style that we have already established. Outsourcing the idea stage of your app production would put you in the “coder for hire” bracket rather than establishing an App Store presence for yourself and will for that reason not be covered here.
Outsourcing the development of your app is relatively easy. There are several good websites that bring app clients and contractors together such as Elance and Odesk. However, before you hire someone there are a few things you need to think through:
- Specifications (the better your specifications are, the less modifications and misunderstanding there will be down the road = less expensive)
- Price (how much is reasonable and how much are you willing to pay to get help)
- Deadline (how likely is your coder for hire to keep agreed upon deadlines)
- Quality (how much work do you have to put in for the project to turn out the way you want – this can be either in the form of fixing it yourself or asking for bug fixes)
- Theft (how do you protect your idea when working with outsiders)
You must outline your app and it’s workflow as clearly and detailed as possible. If you have not created an app before yourself, this is probably the hardest part. A good way to do it is to construct a mock-up that has all the buttons and screens that your app needs. Then you go through every button asking yourself what should happen when this button is pressed, what screen should be shown, does that screen require any buttons/links, where do those buttons lead etc. Once you can navigate your app “on paper”, your specification is ready to be turned over to your contractor. There is a great free app for making app mock-ups called POP – Prototyping on Paper.
It is not often you can say that something is more or less always priced right but our experience with outsourcing app development is just that. By now, Happi Papi has done about 10 outsourcing projects of varying complexity. Only once have we had to shop around due to the price not being right. Before we get into price examples it is important to note that what we at Happi Papi outsource is usually the creation of a skeleton app or app platform. Once we get our project back from a freelancer we spend on average another 3 months fine tuning the app. If you are not skilled enough or prepared to that you, should read the next part in our series on this topic where we, among other things, talk about having a development company create your entire app from prototype to published app.
For now we will assume that you are willing and able to put in the time and effort to take your outsourced project from a skeleton app to a finished product yourself. Having that said, here is a hint as to what prices you can expect: For our outsourced apps we have paid between $400 (remake of existing app) up to $1200 (brand new “create your own story” app for kids). If your app is good, it should be able to pull in $50/day. That means it will pay for this part of the development in its first month. That is a great return on investment.
Deadline & Quality
We will talk about these to items together as they are highly interrelated in an app development project (and in most other projects as well for that matter). It is important to find a contractor that will keep your agreed upon deadlines and deliver a project of high quality. At Happi Papi we always run our projects as fixed cost projects until we are comfortable with a contractor. We pay 10% upfront and the rest once we have reviewed and are happy with the final project. This way all we stand to loose is time if the project is not completed satisfactorily and within the agreed upon time frame (as 10% of the outsourcing cost most of the time comes out to less than $100 for a skeleton app).
Running the risk of sounding a bit prejudice, most good coders on freelancing sites come from countries where enforcing copyright laws is not a top priority. And even if there was a great copyright protection in these countries, how do you as a small indie developer enforce it when dealing with someone half across the globe? The first answer that usually comes to mind when protecting an idea from theft is an NDA. However, in our opinion, putting together and enforcing an NDA – should you have to – is often going to cost more than you stand to loose on the idea itself.
For this reason, Happi Papi has gone another way. We do not require our contractors to sign an NDA at all. Instead we craft our projects in such a way that the “rip-off value” of what the contractor creates for us will be low. For example, we might leave out a key feature and do that part ourselves. We also regularly do not supply graphics with our project specifications. Instead we use place holders and put together the app’s GUI ourselves as one of the last tasks before the project is finished. There are many other things that can be done as well, depending on the type of app you are developing. Try to be creative when crafting your anti-theft system.
Find a Freelancer
Ok, so now you have created a good specification and thought through important aspects such as price, deadlines, quality and theft. Time to find that great coder at an excellent price! Here is how we usually do it:
Create a project at let’s say Elance. Choose the skill set you are looking for in a developer based on the project at hand. Look beyond the obvious iOS/Android coding skills. These are a given. If your app will use facial recognition or physics based calculations look for a contractor who has done such projects in the past. Don’t go too narrow in your scope though as that might result in too few contractors to choose from. Allow 2-4 days for contractors to show interest, more is not necessary. Short list interesting candidates as they come in. When you have a list of 3-5 contractors, contact them explaining that they are just that – one of 5 on a short list. Talk a little with them via email or Skype and then make your selection.
Most contractors want to be paid by the hour as more hours logged looks better on their profile but do not give in to this. Require that they prove themselves by delivering the first project successfully, on time and on budget. You can always show your willingness to negotiate by offering a milestone payment later in the project (if your type of project lends itself to this) or offering to convert the project to an hourly project once it has been completed.
Good luck finding your freelancer. It is our experience that there are a lot of them out there at a competitive price. Not all coders are as good as there profile might show, especially when it comes to English languages skills, but there should be more than enough to chose from. If completing part of your app project yourself is not your cup of tea, stay tuned for the last part of our series on establishing an App Store presence for yourself. In that part we will talk about buying and re-skinning a completed app as well as having a development company (or person) realize your entire project from start to finish.