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5 tips for hiring a iphone app developer on Elance

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Elance has been around for some time.  I myself was always skeptical on outsourcing programming or design to some one that I can not touch or feel.  That last part sounds funny to say but in reality it was always a big fear of mine.  Why should I put my money on the line to pay someone who might not do what they were hired to do?

The answer I have so quickly come to understand is that you have no choice but to trust people that you will never see or meet in person in order to grow as a company.  You might have deep pockets so a few thousand dollars will not be a big loss but in my world of marketing that can make or break a project (hopefully not for long).  I must admit I am a bit of a control freak (maybe a lot of a control freak) and giving someone else the reins on my project seemed very hard to think about.

Would they fully understand my vision? Can they actually do what they say they can? Can it really be that Cheap or is it a scam? These were some of the biggest questions that I had prior to starting my first project on Elance.  The only way to over come my fear was to simply dive in head first and see what happens.  After all Fear is the only thing holding most people back!!  Well I dove in alright and to my surprise the water is kinda warm.

My fears have held me back for so long that I surprised myself and others after I made the move.  Remember the control freak in me?  I have a hard time allowing others to have control over my destiny.  What I have found out so far is that I still have a lot of control as long as I follow a few of the tips I have learned along the way.

 

Will they steal my idea?

bulb-182x300Remember that in most cases you are dealing with another country altogether when you use services like Elance or Odesk.  There is always a chance of someone else stealing your Idea, but that goes for any situation.  Let us not forget the Facebook case, whether it really happened or not someone pitched an idea and another party developed it and took credit.

Would I have any recourse if someone does steal my idea?  Well I still don’t know the answer to that question but after listening to a few podcasts and reading a few blog posts about it I came to the realization that no one would be able to develop my project the exact way I have dreamed it up.  Yes they could copy the concept but the passion and understanding I have of my idea would show up in the final product that would ultimately be better than any copy.  Consider a musician vs. a cover band.  The cover band is never really the same as the musician no matter how many bedazzles you put on your pants (Elvis).  The original will always be better.

That of course is what I told my self but in reality I am not a developer so in order to make the project I would have to take the leap and hire someone.  If the thought of someone copying me would actually stop me from going forward then I will not go far.  In fact the highest form of flattery is when someone copies your work right?  Beyond the fact that most of my thoughts are not original themselves but a hybrid though of someone elses.

I tend to stick to the motto to find a problem and solve it.  If you can eliminate someones problem in a way that saves them time, money or energy then usually you can find a few people who will pay you for that same idea.

So lets get to the topic at hand.  During my first Iphone/Ipad application development process I settled on trying Elance.  The reputation seems good enough and so I signed up in about 5 mins and had my first job created.  Here are the top 5 Tips to make your first or next Elance Job go smooth.

 

1.  Be very specific on the job posting.

It is funny but I did not actually hire someone on my first posting.  I was so anxious to get started  on the project I made the 1st mistake a big one.  I gave so little detail in the job description that I received very little response and the ones who responded required more info in order to give me a real quote.  After all I had no idea how much it would really cost in the first place to complete the job.

From the top the Job title will either scare or invite a business in.  Very similar to a page title on your website if you do not give a brief idea of what the project was for then the audience will not be tailored to your job needs.

Here is the job I posted exactly as I posted it.

Job Title: Iphone / Ipad application
Job Description: I am looking for a iphone application. A mortgage calculator with the following options. -make mortgage calculations -input tax rate and have it calculate monthly payment -properly calculate pmi for fha, rural housing, va and so on.

 

Ok so in my past life I worked in the mortgage industry and this was something that was really missing.  A calculator that was actually made to include taxes, insurance and pmi factors as well as funding fees and loan amounts.  The existing calculators were missing some of the main features that made the home buyer always come up with the wrong payment.  I was able to identify a problem and I am working on the solutions.

So any ways at this point I posted a job and was awaiting the applications for the job.  After a few minutes they started rolling in.  Well I should says questions started rolling in not really applications.  I had several interested parties but everyone of the applications e-mailed me with the same questions.

"Please be more specific on what you are looking for, please send me the wire frames and a full layout outline of the project."

A what frame?  at this point in my online career I have used a designer for all of my website needs so I had not dealt with a wire frame.  If you are unaware, a wire frame is the beginning of the design process where you will have a blank page and blocks to represent where things will go.  The wire frame give a very rough image of the project.  Without wire frames the designer can not create and the developer can not develop.  It was my project and so far all I had was an idea and nothing on paper to outline my thoughts and what I wanted the application to look like.

When you are going to put a job up for grabs be sure that you take the time to fully document your idea and get a wire frame together to help tell your over all story.  The people you hire have no idea what you are trying to do.  Once you have fully though out your project the job title and description need to be very precise and on point.  The more detail you give the more likely you are to find the right person for the job.

 

2. Look for obvious issues with the applicants.

After I corrected my job title and descriptions and added the new job listing I was surprised to see how may applicants actually put in for the job.

Are you serious 18 people/companies really want o work for me!  It was great to see the response.  Of course I put my shinny object blinders on and started replying to e-mails and questions.  After the 4th or 5th chat session I began to see a pattern.  everyone was agreeing with every thing I said, I mean everything.  This was my very first application shouldn’t I get some negative feedback or suggestions to what could be better or work better?

Everyone who is no one will agree with everything you say and suggest because they want your money.  If the project does not work out then they still get something in return for the time they put in.  I was able to see common factors in those would not be good to work with.  Well maybe they might work but for my first project I had to choose someone that I believed would give me the best chance to get to the finish line.

Key things to look out for:

  • 0 jobs completed, while there might be good 1st timers out there do you really want the 1st time to be on your project.  Let them test on someone else.  If they worked in other places like odesk then they should easily be able to send that info to you for review.  I would stick to the more qualified applicants with history and proof.  You will pay a little more for the experience but you will actually get a product completed.
  • Carefully read the reviews of prior jobs.  great reviews mean happy previous clients.  You can see a pattern in the reviews when you see comments like “Client ended job early” or mostly 2-3 star comments verses 4-5 star comments.  The ratings are there for a reason and if you over look them you might fall into trouble.
  • Bids when you give very little data.  I was amazed how many people put a price on the project I first added when there was really no actual info to go from.  How could they create a price if they have no clue how many hours or even what I was really trying to accomplish.  Use your personal experience.  if someone gives you a call to perform a job you will ask questions prior to giving them a fully committed price or at least you should.

These seem so obvious but I over looked them so I imagine others do as well.  At his point you have probably trashed half of the applicants because they have no history, bad reviews or simply have issues with the scope of the project.  Once the list is down to a handful of applicants you can really get to know them and see if they will be a good fit for the job.

 

3. Interview, Interview, Interview

Would you ever in real life hire someone after you read a bio about them and they give you a price they are willing to work for?  The great thing about Elance has to do with contact.  Many of the applicants were standing by ready to reply to my emails and answer questions.  The applicants that were not available I simply passed them over.  I might have missed a few good ones but at this point I need applicants that will respond in a timely manner.  Usually if I do not get a response in 24 hours I will move on.

Elance gives you the ability to contact them several ways.  E-mail, chat, phone call or video chat.  Skype is also a great way to communicate.  The most important part of this is to really interview the applicants.  I was afraid in the beginning to talk to people but after I dusted off the camera I realized this was a great way to

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Questions to make sure you ask about

  • Internet connection?  It seems silly but in some other countries the internet is not as readily available as it is here int he states.
  • What time zone will you be working in.  usually they will work in your time zone but if not it can complicate the communication process.
  • Does the applicant always agree with you?  The best workers typically have or give a few ideas of things you could do differently than what your thoughts are.  This tells you they have a mind of their own and are not just a simple drone who will only follow your command.  Do you really understand everything about the development process?  Chances are you are like me and need help which means that you do not have all of the answers.  In my case the developers I spoke with actually helped me to change a few of my concepts because my thoughts were nt going to work as I thought.  Use their experience. The more you speak with them the more you really understand if they will be a great fit for your project.
  • Create a list of questions that you really need to get answered during the interview to maximize your time and speed up the process.
  • Remember this is an interview where you will choose someone to complete your project and pay them money.  You have the right to ask what ever you need to make a choice.

Just like any job with out a good interview process you will usually higher the wrong person.

 

4.  The bid is negotiable.

auction-300x300Just like purchasing a car you can ask them to rethink the bid.   The applicant will tell you what they are willing to complete the projects for.  It does not mean you have to agree to it.  In fact you can save a few hundred bucks by asking the right questions you will be able to cut off some of the fat in the bid.

The more you go through the process the more you will see most of the bids are a little over priced usually because you are not specific enough for the job.  The more detail you give them the more accurate you can be. In my case I was originally asking for the application to do something that would not really make sense.  The developer I decided to use was able to actually remove some of the cost after we went over the full project and they made me aware it would not work right.

The right developer would be a great help to you and can also save you money.

 

5.  Set the proper milestones.

After you have chosen the developer to use they will give you a set of milestones.  A milestone is a part of the project in which you will give them a portion of the money for the job.  The basic idea it to setup check points to ensure everything is going as planned.  Inmost cases the job will entail at least 3 points.  initial deposit, some type of middle check point, and then a final release.  The really big projects will have several check points.

Here is an example of one of my jobs.

  1. Deposit   Oct 15, 2012    $2,500.00
  2. Completion of Graphic Design   Nov 12, 2012  $2,500.00
  3. Completion of Framework Programming   Dec 10, 2012  $2,500.00
  4. Completion of Functional Programming  Jan 14, 2013  $2,500.00

The idea with this project which is a good sized project is to really keep every one on track.  It is always a bad idea to pay the developer everything up front in hopes they actually follow through.  If you get to check point 2 and the developer is not performing up to your needs then it makes more sense to pull back and move on then to keep going forward.

I have seen good people throw more money at a project that went south in hopes of correcting it only to lose more money.  To put it plain and simple when you are wrong you are wrong.  Accept it and move on.  It is better to lose a little then a lot.

Really good programmers will actually not request any money until check point one. This is a good indication they are legit.  They are willing to show you work and get paid after the fact versus up front.  I would not walk away from some one requesting money up front but you have to make sure you space out the money using milestones to ensure the work is to your satisfaction and you do not lose too much money.

I have projects now that are only based off 2 milestones because they are very low in cost.  You get to set the milestones.  It is wise to ask for their recommendations but overall you have to agree to the terms in order to make it a real job.

 

Other great features of using Elance:

  • Escrow accounts.  You can choose to put the money in an escrow account held by Elance.  This allows the developer to see you have out the money in the escrow account but they can not access it until you release the money.  Keeping Elance between you will help to ensure there is little fraud that can take place. You have full control to release the money so you are protected.
  • Access to developers and other workers all over the world really gives you a great talent pool to choose from.
  • The dashoard for the job makes it very easy to track the work as well as exchange info and keep all of the job details in one place.

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I am working on my 3rd project with Elance and so far I am having great success and developing a few products that are sure to boost my online earnings.  Take these few tips and let me know if they help you in the future to hire on Elance.  I will be awaiting your thoughts.

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