10 Things We Learned After Launching Our First Mobile App – With Charlie Ives

Often times the most lucrative opportunities are the ones we know nothing about. Take for example a professional who has done the same thing for a majority of their career that then does a complete 180 and pursues another profession. In this case it would almost be like starting fresh. But what if you are an entrepreneur who has the capacity to hire talent to help you build your business? Charlie Ives and his partner successfully launched their animated emoticons mobile app in the iTunes app store by hiring a developer overseas. Here’s ten lessons they learned throughout this process and how it can help you.

1 – You don’t need any programming experience. My skills revolve around internet marketing, specifically search engine optimization, pay per click marketing, and some minor web development. I personally do not have knowledge of any type of programming and actually wrote zero lines of code for our app. We turned to Odesk to contract a Russian developer who handled the actual development from idea to production. We decided to let the professionals do what they do best for the sake of time.

2 – Hire someone that can speak decent English. One of the biggest ‘mistakes’ was the language barrier between us and our developer. We communicated via email and Skype frequently late at night but often had trouble getting our message across. Because of this, a lot of minor setbacks occurred which made for constant app revisions. It worked a little better when we created a mockup through photoshop as a visual for him to see. In the end, the time difference was totally ok but we wish we hired someone that spoke and understood English a little better.

3 – Don’t expect your developer to think for themselves. Contractors outsourced usually follow your instructions to the dot which can be good and bad. For lack of a better phrase, common sense was missing and a lot of obvious tweaks and changes that should have been done by our developer were not until we brought it up. For example, if an icon is obviously off by a few pixels compared to others then our developer would leave it as is. From our experience this is quite common behavior when working with outsourced contractors.

4 – Creating an app is not expensive. While looking for a developer on Odesk, we were seeing developers charge on average about $20-$25/hour when outsourced overseas, usually Russia, China, & India. The prices were very competitive, however, we negotiated with our developer a flat rate for the entire project where payment would be made at specific milestones. In the end, our app cost less than $3,000 total for the development side of things. Add in a few hundred bucks for marketing and random miscellaneous items needed that was not handled by the developer. It was either hire a more expensive developer with great English or a cheaper one with broken English. We chose the cheaper one.

5 – Sex sells. Our app contained some images that would be considered a little mature for most audiences that merited a rating of 14+ at one point. Upon initial submission for approval we were denied because of graphic images that were not suitable for children. We had to revise the app and resubmit to only wait another two weeks to find out that we were rejected yet again. After a few more rejections and appeals we decided to remove the adult content entirely for now until we find a resolution. We consider it a little bit unfair since there’s way worse app on the market which was brought up to Apple with no success. Bottom line is we can emails daily for people requesting the adult stuff.

6 – Build up the hype before you launch. A big reason for the ‘success’ of our app is that we built up an email list of over 1,000 people who were patiently waiting for our app to be launched. So imagine what happens when you launch an app and have the ability to email blast 1,000 people who want it? Needless to say the official hard launch was a success by our standards. Now our website continues to drive visitors directly to the iTunes app page for downloading instead of email sign up. Also build up a Twitter / Facebook Page if you can.

7 – Treat mobile apps like a business. Mobile apps require constant effort to succeed in the market place. Although the app is out now and fully functional, there is still a lot of improvements to be made such as a new user interface, new design, new features, and more. Also it takes time to listen to your customers and help answer any questions or issues that they have. Ultimately we’d rather spend a few minutes answering emails than receive bad reviews for our app.

8 – Network with other developers. Conversations that start with “I’m an app developer” usually is received with high regards. Lots of doors have opened and has allowed us to talk app development with other app developers about business, strategies, and ideas. As newbies in the app game, we definitely had to ask questions on basic insight and best practices. We didn’t even need to rely on successful developers but rather people that have done it and know the process a little better than we did. Like all things in life don’t expect someone to hold your hand through the process.

9 – You won’t become a millionaire overnight. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t in it for the money but it truly is one of the driving factors. We chose a ‘freemium’ pay model with the additional of mobile ads within the app. A long term goal would be to absolutely kill it and crush all competitors but really the goal for now is to cover the costs of the initial app development and then some plus more. Remember this is a business and you will accrue expenses so treat it like one. Our app is slowly working it’s way out of debt.

10 – Live for the experience. 2 guys with no programming experience. $3000+ dollars invested. 6 long months of development. 4 rejections from Apple. The whole experience? Priceless.