The description that developers need in order to create a proposal is a basic summary of the app, how it looks, user interfaces, and other requirements, even apparently obvious elements should be included, like the app must be written in Objective C for iPhones and it must run on all recent iOS versions from iOS 5.
While every situation is unique and needs to be handled accordingly, the best approach is usually to provide the description of the app without mentioning budget, prices, or schedules. Let the developer provide that information with the proposal. If you disclose too much information, it can affect the proposal. For example, if you mention that the budget is $5000, then very often the proposal will magically be near that budget number, when otherwise it might have been $3500.
After you provide the description, another important indicator will be what kind of questions the provider asks. Knowledgeable and experienced developers will focus like a laser on important issues not addressed in your description. Good developers will make sure they have the information they need to provide a professional proposal.
Once you have contacted several providers and asked for proposals, it should only take a few days for them to respond with a detailed proposal that states what they will do, how long it will take, and how much they will charge. They might even recommend project milestones. Organize the proposals you receive so they are retrievable and note how long it took each developer to respond. You will evaluate proposals pretty much the same way regardless of how you find the prospective developer, so we will cover that after the section on finding developers through freelancer collectives like Guru.
One thing we need to mention, however, is that you want to make sure you are dealing with a first-party developer. In other words, they are the actual developer, and that they will create the app code in-house. A large number of the developer websites are just middle-men who will turn around and outsource the development to an offshore developer, or simply post your app development on sites like Elance or Odesk to hire a developer. If that happens, you are not only overpaying just to give the middleman a cut, but probably doubling the chance of something going wrong with the project as well.
To prevent this from happening, during discussions before or after they provide the proposal, ask very specific questions about who is doing the coding. For example, is the coding being done in-house? Who is on the programming team? Could they participate in a meeting on the project? People who have specific answers to these questions will not hesitate to answer. When you hear hedging or prevarication, then beware.
Now let’s cover getting proposals from the freelancer web sites.
Create a basic written description that summarizes the app in way that lets the potential developer know what the app does and how it looks, so they can provide a proposal
The big advantage of going to a freelancer site like Guru, Odesk, or Elance is that you post the app development job and developers come to you with proposals. The obvious plus here, is that it is less time-consuming.
There is also a downside to this approach too. The bar to signing on to these sites and claiming to be a “developer” is low. You will potentially get several proposals from unqualified developers. This means that some of the time you saved by having developers respond to a single job posting will be spent having to sift through a fairly large number of proposals – many from unqualified providers.
If this is the route you wish to take, you need to do is decide which sites you want to post the development job on. We have already mentioned the most well-known freelance sites: Odesk, Elance, and Guru, but there are some others as well. Dribble.com and Freelance.com are two more you may want to explore. Most of these sites don’t charge to set up an account or to post a job and it takes little time and effort to set up an account. A word of caution: if you post the job on several sites then the number of responses might become burdensome to review. Therefore, it is probably best to look over the freelancer sites then select one or two for posting the job.
Signing up for an account is usually pretty straightforward, and every site has clear instructions for doing so. It is very much like signing up for any other on-line service. Most sites don’t require any financial information, like a credit card number, to create an account. But it will be needed when until you post a job to verify the source of payment.
Start the Elance job posting process
If you stick to using the well-trafficked, popular sites, security isn’t a major concern. You don’t build the reputable, respected business these sites have by ripping people off or having poor security. Make sure, however, to use a secure-style password (i.e. combining some random capital letters and numbers into the password). Of course, there is always some risk in providing financial information to an on-line site; we regularly hear of well-known and trusted companies being hacked. Entering a credit card number in a site like Odesk or Elance is, however, carries minimal risk.
Use a highly descriptive title to attract the right freelancer
Posting a job is also easy. We will use the Elance site to illustrate the process of posting a job. You will find that other sites are generally the same.
Carefully review the information on the Review screen before submitting it. Immediately after posting, most sites will ask if you want to search for and invite providers to the job posting. I recommend taking some time to do that. Search for highly rated providers that have the needed skill set and a job history on the site. Invite or notify five to ten of them. The best providers on these sites frequently stay busy just from invited jobs and rarely have to search the postings for work. Spending a half-hour or so scanning and selecting providers to invite to the job can be time will spent.
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