10 Tips for Working with a Mobile App Developer Freelancer

I’ve recently decided to get into the mobile apps industry. I had great ideas but little experience in code and app development, which meant I had to find another solution for executing my plan of launching an app. Through the process of looking for a developer, characterizing the app in a proper way, handling ongoing communication, debugging etc., I’ve learned many useful things which I’ve gathered here into a list of 10 useful tips that will help you work with a mobile app developer:

1. Primary research about the industry

Before you approach a freelancer, it’s recommended to know as much as you can about the mobile apps development world. This doesn’t mean – start learning Java, but it does mean being aware of limitations, about platform requirements – Apple or Android, design aspects, off-app tools you’ll need (such as a developer’s website), etc. What I personally did is subscribed to professional magazines about the mobile market, placed alerts in Google with related terms and consulted any person that I know which owns an Android or who’s had experience with app development/marketing (my apps were targeted solely to the Android market).

2. Finding the right guy

Probably the most challenging and complicated part is finding the right freelancer. It doesn’t matter which budget you have or how complicated your app is, if your choice was the wrong one you will suffer the consequences of it throughout the entire project. So how can you avoid hiring the wrong guy? First – don’t be too stingy. It’s fine trying to save money, but don’t be tempted to go with the cheapest developer. Second – look in the right places. I’ve personally limited my searches to two big freelancers’ sites – Elance.com and odesk.com.  They both offer reviews, work background, previous jobs details and funds handling. The funds handling is very important to both sides – you as the hiring side can stop the funds transfer if you’re not satisfied and the contractor can be sure he gets paid for his work. This makes the communication between you smoother than it would be if you would communicate through emails.

3. Defining your Project

When you first approach a freelancer, whether it’s through a quote request or through publishing a job in a freelancers’ site, you need to be very specific with your initial technical requirements and time table. There’s actually a direct correlation between your level of clarity in the project initial definition to the responses qualities, the project progress and the time it will take to finish it. Think this part carefully before any initial communication. Don’t expect the other side to figure out things along the way.

4. Expect bugs

Bugs will happen, they always do. In programming there are always unexpected variables that give you a different picture than what you’d expected. Be prepared for that, take it under consideration in your time table and be patient with the programmer. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to show assertiveness which is definitely a ‘Must’ component when working with any developer, not just mobile apps ones.

5. Time table per feature

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that when you’re handling a programming based project you need to divide it to versions and check each one separately. Take my LOLCats app for example: Its main initial features were – image drawing from an outside source, navigation options, sharing options, performance issues and analytics implementations. Every time I’ve communicated with the freelancer about bugs in the app, I focused our attention in one of these. It’s not that we’ve ignored the other bugs, but it helped us solve the current bug faster and then move on to the next one with a clear mind.

6. Characterization of app

The initial definition of the project will usually give you just the skeleton of the app. The next stage, after you’ve chosen your developer, will be creating a full characterization document which includes all the features, screenshots of the design, things to avoid, things to pay extra attention to and time table for each feature separately. Also, as I’ve mentioned above, flagging the features to different stages/version for QA and review purposes is highly recommended.

7. QA through a real device

There are many emulators out there for testing your app without having to own an actual mobile device. However, from personal experience I highly recommend buying one or at least borrowing one from a friend. The emulators have different limitations such as – checking social sharing features on Facebook or Twitter. Also, performance and data costs can only be genuinely checked on an actual device.

8. Ask for all technical material

Never settle for the closed file of the app. You need to ask the developer to send you all of the project’s folders and classes, including authorization data, unique key numbers etc. For example, in Android, if you don’t have the original Keystore of the app you can’t upload a new version. If you don’t want to be depended on that specific developer with every update you’ll need, make sure you keep record of these things.

9. Be nice!

You don’t know when you’re going to need this developer again and regardless, good personal communication is always the recommended way to go. Give him good feedbacks when you’re pleased from his work, don’t take anything for granted, let him know that you appreciate his work and so on. Believe me; you’ll get a lot better results if you take this approach rather than being the demanding control freak that wants everything now.

10. Leave a tip and a good review

If you were pleased from the developer’s work, don’t forget to leave a tip. Even a symbolic $10 would be enough. If you’re using one of those freelancers’ sites I’ve mentioned above, leave a review. This will increase your chances of getting a good review too, as a client. Don’t forget that just as you pick who you want to work with, contractors also pick who they’re willing to work with and that can give you an advantage on your next posted project.

Guest article written by: Natalie Halimi has been working in the online marketing industry for the past 5 years and has recently expanded her expertise to mobile marketing. Her current two promoted apps – Fail pics and Funny cat pics, are now available on the Google market place.

9 thoughts on “10 Tips for Working with a Mobile App Developer Freelancer”

  1. Developing a new APP is really, but really a pain in the neck. You think you would end the proyect one day and suddenly, you find a bug!…I recommend having extreme patience with your app developer but a lot.

  2. It feels so great to find a right freelancer or your project, and yes I believe in leaving a good review for those who works hard and good 🙂

  3. This article have lots of important information, and very good tips. To be frank i’ve never received any extra $ for the work. But i was always happy if the customer were happy.

    Keep up the good work.


  4. I agree that you really need to test your app on an actual phone and multiple if at all possible. While emulators are helpful they are not perfect. I ran in to this after using one the whole way though then testing it on a phone afterwards I had numerous bugs that had to be corrected. Not that I wouldn’t have had them anyway but it would have saved time doing it right the first time.

  5. I would add to search for testimonials and previous work done. For sure there are many reliable developers out there and good one are no so unpopular.

  6. Really nice tips, and I totally agree, these advices could make an online business more efficient, although some investment is really needed to hire a freelancer for this kind of project, but I guess it’s really worth to do so…


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