Hiring a iPhone App Developer (in San Diego and Elsewhere)


If you’re thinking of building an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch app and you’re not a programmer then you’re in the hunt for an iOS developer. As you probably know (or will find out soon), finding a developer is a time-intensive challenge. I’ve been developing mobile iOS apps and been an active member of the startup community here in San Diego for the past few years. I thought it would be a good idea to write some tips for the non-developers to make your search process a little easier.

Stop Looking for a Free Developer

Let’s deal with a big misconception off the top. It is unlikely that you will find an iOS developer who will work for free anytime soon. By “free” I’m including the idea that you and the developer will “split the profits” of your app and/or that the developer will work for a percentage ownership stake in the startup. I’m not saying you can’t find a technical co-founder. I’m just saying that by taking the approach that you’re not going to financially compensate the developer it’s going to take much, much longer to find a developer who will take that deal (and it’s possible you may never find one).

There are two main reasons for this. First, it’s simply a matter of supply and demand. There are a ton of app ideas and few people who can build them. So any developer you talk to likely has other opportunities that are being pitched to him or her that pay – and pay well. You’d have to have an extremely compelling idea that would cause a developer to give up $70-$250/hour to work on your idea.

Don't Pitch Me Bro iOS Developer Shirt

I’ve thought of getting a shirt like this.

The other reason why a iPhone app developer is unlikely to work on your idea without compensation is more practical. Even if a potential developer doesn’t need the money, they likely have their own app ideas they want to build. I personally have a file where I write down ideas of apps I’d like to build as soon as I get the time. That file has ballooned to around 20-25 apps that are waiting to see day light. Of course, many of them are probably bad ideas, but who’s saying someone else’s idea is any better? As a developer in San Diego however, it’s rare I go a week without being pitched at least two ideas. So there’s no shortage of ideas to work on for free, but a developer is unlikely to work on your idea when they have an idea much closer to their heart they can work on. Converting their own ideas into reality is probably what got that developer started in the first place – at least it was for me.

3 Things Increase Your Chances of Finding a iOS Developer

When you’re pitching an app idea to a developer, understand that the biggest thing we’re trying to determine is “Is this person for real, or are they going to be a huge waste of time?” To demonstrate that you’re for real, you need to have done your homework. What homework? Here are three things you should do in advance before you’re pitching a developer.

Build Your Wireframes

Wireframes are just simple sketches of the app you want to build. Draw out each screen of the app. Draw how the user will flow from one screen to the next. Jot down the main functionality of each screen. This seems simple, but having this done in advance makes a huge difference in people’s perception of how serious you are.

 2. Do Customer Discovery/Validation

Right now “Lean Startup” is the dominant methodology in entrepreneurship. You should take some time to understand the methodology. Even if you’re going to reject it for some other methodology, you have a duty to know what it’s about and make an educated decision about.

Basically, as a mobile developer, I want to see that this idea being pitched is actually an app that other people want to use. So you should prove the market demand. There is a world of difference between someone with just an idea, and someone with an idea that has 10,000 people who’ve pre-ordered the product. How do you get those pre-orders? Look at the Lean Startup material. Also, by going through this process, you demonstrate to the developer that you’re serious and are someone who is valuable to work with.

3. Lean the Tech

I don’t think that non-technical people have a right to work in the web/mobile startup space anymore than I as someone who knows little-to-nothing about art have a right to work in an art museum. So if you want to pursue an app development project you have a duty to learn about tech. Learning the very basics of web/mobile development is a good starting point. You don’t need to learn enough so that you can build the app yourself (although that wouldn’t be a bad thing). But you do need to learn enough so that you can have an intelligent conversation with your developers.

This will help your project in two ways. First, if you’ve taken the time to learn some of the technology, it shows you’re app developer that you’re very serious about the development project – increasing their confidence in you and the likelyhood they’ll want to work with you. Second – and just as valuably – when you decide to hire someone, the more you know, the less likely they are to take advantage of you. Learning the tech is a great way to protect yourself.

There are plenty of ways for non-technical people to get started. Of course, if you’re around San Diego or southern California feel free to get involved in one of our live classes, or you can take the iPhone Programming for Beginners course online. If you like video courses, there are a ton at Lynda.com. And if you’re more of a book learning you have plenty of options on Amazon.com.

Good luck with your your iPhone/iPad apps!

Julian Bryant