Help me find an app developer
May 5, 2014 11:14 AM   Subscribe

When I post ads to places like Craigslist or Odesk, I get responses from people who have hotel management experience but no reference to software, computers or anything related. Or, from seemingly highly qualified people in India. I would like to be close enough to meet the person I'm paying maybe thousands of dollars for this. I know face to face is no guarantee of honesty, but it feels better than anonymous.

When I've called companies, they say they don't work with individuals anymore because they are not profitable or reliable as clients. Or they give me a quote of tens of thousands of dollars (one developer told me he quotes crazy high prices to chase people away). There is app building software, but I can see that it's too simple for what I want to do. And college students, I've learned, aren't always very experienced or reliable. I'm out of ideas. Any help?
posted by CollectiveMind to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could try Mefi Jobs.

Alternately, are you paying enough? Sometimes (though not always) being unable to find someone qualified to do work means that you need to offer more $$.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:21 AM on May 5, 2014

You're talking about "maybe thousands of dollars" but as this being too complicated for the sort of things that are designed to implement simple things, and the fact that you're only getting qualified responses from India at the prices you're quoting from a place like Odesk which is becoming legendary for undercutting real prices suggests that you're just not offering what a legitimate US developer would charge for this sort of thing. I'm not sure tens of thousands actually sounds that unreasonable for paying an experienced developer for a reasonably complex task, especially if one expects them to stand by that product and continue to fix problems with it, for example.
posted by Sequence at 11:40 AM on May 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

Seconding sequence here. Unless you're going for "show my webpage in an app" type development, $10k for a full mobile app is by no means unreasonable.
posted by Oktober at 11:44 AM on May 5, 2014

What kind of app? Desktop web app? Mobile web app? Native mobile app?
posted by Dansaman at 11:59 AM on May 5, 2014

So, where are you, since you want to meet someone face to face? What companies have you tried contacting? What kind of app are you looking for?
posted by mskyle at 12:08 PM on May 5, 2014

If you're in North America, budget at least $2000/wk (minimum), and expect at least a month of work, no matter how "small" the project is. Does that fit with what you're offering?

FYI, I write apps professionally, and I'm good at it. I wouldn't consider lowering my rate to that level for a project unless I really respected the other person involved AND was getting a signficant (~50%) stake in the company.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:25 PM on May 5, 2014

I run a small US-based consulting company that has done some mobile development, and my first reaction was that you'll need to reset your expectations about cost. Salary requirements for top-rate engineers plus the overhead of running a business (including things like engineer downtime) mean that it's very hard to actually do something for someone for less than $10K.

That said, you might be able to find a qualified individual to do the work for you if you look in the right places. For example, you could see if there is an active mobile development meet up in your community. You could also go down to the local Apple Store and ask some of the people who work there if they know any local iOS devs looking for contract work.

There are also top-notch schools in your state. I wouldn't write off the possibility of working with a smart student. The price will be right, and there are lots of smart young programmers out there.
posted by alms at 12:28 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

The last time I was involved in commissioning an HTML5 "app" (that is to say, a smartphone optimized website that uses LocalStorage so it can function offline), which did zero calculation and merely displayed existing data in a usable manner, it cost >$10K. I forget the exact sum now (it was last year), but I think it was around $14K or so. If I recall correctly, we got a small bit of a price break because we wanted the codebase to be open source (among other things, this meant that the developer could show off his work more easily to future prospective clients and other developers).

Found the guy via the local software dev community (Meetups), and we did a full scope-of-work agreement so that everyone involved knew exactly what was expected (to the extent that we specified exactly how often we'd have to meet in person, and for how long). Perhaps more importantly, this SoW clearly stated that he would not be working full time on our project, but would instead be doing it off-and-on with other projects as he thought best, but included a final deadline that was quite firm (% of fee up-front, but full pay depended on hitting the deadline).
posted by aramaic at 12:54 PM on May 5, 2014

The price to do the work and the risk that it won't be done well or on time or on budget are basically inversely related. The reason it's cheaper to hire on oDesk or at a university is that you're assuming lots more risk about the quality. This is basically a zero sum situation.

There may well be some diamonds in the rough, e.g. great students who simply can't plausibly charge as much as they're actually worth because of their age or credentials or whatever, but unless you've got a fair amount of experience you're not going to be able to identify them. Most professional engineers can't even figure that out - hiring is really hard! But if you don't have experience managing engineers or hiring engineers, you either need to pay for professionals who will walk you through the process or accept that it's going to be a high risk affair.
posted by heresiarch at 2:20 PM on May 5, 2014

My experience is that you will have some challenges in communication and understanding no matter whom you work with and where they are located, just like any type of project that anybody works on, but obviously as a general rule more experienced developers will typically provide a better experience and result. There are good developers all over the world and there are less good developers all over the world. No country has a monopoly on intelligence and experience. A very experienced person in Serbia or Ukraine will likely have a lower rate than a person with commensurate experience in the US. If you want to find someone nearby, then you will pay US rates that are dependent upon the level of experience. If the rates of an experienced developer overseas are similar to the rates of a much less experienced person in the US (such as a student), I would go with the experienced developer overseas if that developer comes highly recommended. I don't think it would be a good idea to have someone learning a whole bunch of new stuff on your dime. Personally I think if you want to go with overseas developers, your best best is with Eastern European developers because they don't seem to have the tendency to over-promise and under-deliver that some other regions seem to have, but that's just my personal opinion and of course a generalization. Feel free to MeMail if you'd like further input.
posted by Dansaman at 4:17 PM on May 5, 2014

In addition to the "you get what you pay for" advice offered above, which is entirely true, you need to understand that the people you are looking for are in incredibly high demand right now. Mobile development is very much a sellers market.
posted by spilon at 2:15 AM on May 6, 2014

Does it have to be a native app? If you can do part of it as a web app, you'll not have to pay as much.

Also, can you present yourself as a funded company rather than as an individual since it sends a different message to the developers you've contacted?

Also, can you learn any of this yourself? Even if you can't make your idea, getting experience will help you identify better developers. If you turn out to be good at part of the process, you could hire for the other parts and save money.
posted by michaelh at 4:26 AM on May 6, 2014

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