How to approach an app development firm
Joshua Davidson wrote this article
You’ve had that great app idea in your head for months.
You’ve been saving up money on the side for years to finally invest in your own product, your own business and begin making something for yourself.
You’re finally ready to reach out to a company like us here at Chop Dawg to help build your dream app (wink wink).
So how do you go from there?
For most of you reading, you immediately jump in, contacting a company like us, not knowing what to expect. Though this isn’t a negative approach in the slightest, most do not realize early on the months of planning that goes into building a large application for the web, for the iPhone, for Android, etc.
An average project can cost $50,000.00 and up, take over six to eight months to build, and months of marketing and support afterward. Let alone, a project can take a month or two to be properly planned and hashed out legally before breaking ground.
You need to understand the commitment in time, resources and labor that you’re about to undertake.
So, how can you prepare ahead of time to automate your selection process of a talented firm, begin planning out the details and most importantly, do the job right?
1) Do your research first
This one should be a given, but more often than not is overlooked. You need to do your research on all of the potential companies you may be interested in working with.
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
Do you want to work with an American team?
Do you want to work with a team of contractors or employees?
Do you want to work with a freelancer?
Do you want to work directly on the project or have people work on it in the background for you?
Start determining early-on, your dream scenarios and situations with who you would want to work.
From there, begin researching companies fitting these scenarios on Google. Take time reviewing their portfolios, their online reviews, their case studies, social media channels, their blogs, their teams, their locations.
As you do your research, you will want to ultimately select a handful of companies.
The biggest rookie mistake is talking to just one company at a time vs. several because, in reality, only a few will ever be a solid fit. This will help you save time and allow you to be much more productive early on.
2) Determine your budget
The pain point for companies in our industry is when asking potential clients their budgets, they say “you tell me”.
Though it is understandable for those in our industries to not know realistic budgets, the reality is, great and respectful companies like us, will not exploit you if your budget is bigger than needed and/or beat around the bush if your budget is too low for their services.
We respect our time as much as we respect yours.
If we think your budget is too low early, we will be transparent and present options early on with other routes to consider.
If your budget is too big, respectful companies like us will be upfront.
Furthermore, following step number one, if you are talking to multiple companies at once, and several say your budget is too large, while another is saying it is just enough, a classic sales technique, you can call out their BS early on and know they don’t have your best interests at heart.
Above all, knowing a budget allows companies like us at Chop Dawg to understand what we can fit into your budget and what can’t.
This is incredibly important since most companies in our industry will tell you, you often will have a larger vision than what is needed for day one, and have a budget constraints is a good thing, as it gives you time to mitigate your investment risk to validate your idea and allows companies like us to work with you to determine which features and functionalities should be implemented day one to fit your budget, while planning out future features and functionalities for future versions.
3) Determine your timeline
Following the same route as budget goals above, determine early your ideal project timeline.
Understand that most projects can take a month or two of planning in advance of starting, with another six to eight months often in project design and development before launching.
This is usually an eight to ten-month window from start to finish if you don’t have any unforeseen delays or additional features added to a scope of work.
With that said, being open to your timeline goals is fantastic.
You can either find out early on if a company you are considering thinks it is realistic, or if they are transparent that you need more time to do it right.
Again, talk to multiple companies at once, and you will see if it is a common theme of time for most companies, or if 1-2 are telling you things too good to be true, which in most circumstances, probably means that it is just that.
When you determine your timeline, also do not just determine when you hope to be up, also determine when you are ready to start.
Many of our clients are securing funding and do not realize companies like us write proposals that expire.
Start too prematurely, by the time you have funding, your proposal and planning process was just hours, if not weeks, wasted.
If you are thinking about starting work six months from now, no biggie, but be open to companies such as us so they can plan your time accordingly and start the relationship off strong.
It’s a win-win always for both parties!
4) Nail down your vision
This is the biggie.
Remember early on, the individual who has the vision is you.
You’re communicating your app idea to us.
More often than not, your app ideas, even if they seem small in theory, are big in practicality.
You know all of the intimate details, you have been dreaming of it. We as companies need to gather all of those details and your long-term vision, otherwise, we cannot be successful. It’s a necessary yet complex planning process.
You need a partner after all.
So what should you do?
One of my favorite exercises that I give every one of our potential clients here at Chop Dawg is to create a detailed functionality list, in their own words, either in Excel, Word or in an email.
The idea is to write your own book of Genesis, practice going as detailed as you can.
Not only will you write down more than you will be able to say in an hour meeting, you will review it a few times and will refine and define before having others review.
That gives companies like us a lot more insight into your vision, and the intimate details we otherwise would not have known or understood early. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy later on during the proposal and scope planning process with companies like us, plus make the process of quotes and discussion a lot more streamline.
Again, another win-win scenario!
5) Protect your interests
Always ask for non-disclosure agreements from companies such as us.
Any reputable company will happily say yes and provide you with one.
This way, your idea being shared with companies will always be confidential, cannot leave those discussions, and most importantly, cannot be stolen by the companies you’re speaking with.
If you plan to ever raise money in the future with investors too, you will have protected your asset, which is your intellectual property, giving you, even more, leverage in discussions.
Any development firm that says no to signing non-disclosure agreements, run. You do not want a company that isn’t acting in your best interest.
Ask the tough questions.
Ask how companies handle bugs, AKA features that do not work after launch.
Make sure you are not responsible for those costs if they happen because to be blunt, bugs will happen, and you should be covered for at least the first calendar year after launch.
Ask them about product backups.
Ask them about how they assist with marketing, legal, advertising.
Ask them about what warranties and policies they provide.
Ask them about what will be in your contract with them.
Ask them about how many of their customers return to them upon a completion of a project.
Ask them about what happens if a delay happens on a project.
Ask them who will be on your project with them.
Companies that care about you, not only will give you the answers that are both fair and protect you simultaneously, they will be transparent and open for discussions.
Don’t get involved in these large business deals where all of the leverage is in the company’s hands, that will cause future legal issues or perhaps even worse, nickel and dimming scenarios to run your own company.
Companies like us at Chop Dawg are always transparent and always discussing routes to put our clients in the best position possible while always being fair to both parties. This is what you want.
6) Take notes and observe
Observe the response time from companies.
How quickly do they respond to your emails? Your telephone calls?
How open are they to hopping on the phone with you? Scheduling a meeting with you?
How are they when you talk to them? Excited? Lethargic?
Do they break things down into easy-to-understand bits of information or highly technical with no level of explanation for you to fully comprehend?
Take note of everything.
Compare them to other companies you’re discussing.
This is critical.
Though a development firm may make sense for you on paper, how do you feel about them as a person? Do you like them? Their personalities? Their culture?
You should always approach the first project together as a long term relationship.
The reality is if you are successful, continuing to work with the same team who understand you, your needs and wrote the code to your baby, will always be your best, easiest, least stressful, and affordable option.
You want to find a partner who cares about you as much as you do.
When you approach an app development firm, you need to approach it as finding your partner in crime.
You are looking for a person, a team, a company who not only can do the job for you at a realistic budget and timeline but cares most importantly about your success.
That they aren’t just in it for the money, but that they are in it to help you, see you grow, build a long term relationship together, and focus on the bigger picture.
Follow these steps and not only will you be in a much greater position to succeed, you will save yourself a lot of the unnecessary hassle and stress most first-time companies outsourcing and entrepreneurs face in the app development world.
Do not be afraid to ask the tough questions and to do your homework. Your bottom line, your money, and your company will thank you for it.