Are you a lone ranger entrepreneur? Want to cut your development costs? But don’t have a developer on the team? It’s easy to get carried away with splashing money on a landing page, designing & developing a product without knowing the cheapest mediums to execute.
During the process of developing Peek (A smarter way to meet people at Google Campus), I've discovered a few useful tools & affordable ways to launch a mobile app on a tight budget.
My name is Anthony Francis and here are my top tips on launching a mobile app on a shoestring.
1. Avoid using a digital agency
Here is a mistake I made along time ago: Using a digital agency to build my Minimal Viable Product. Unless you can code or have a great developer as a founder, development can cost you an arm and a leg.
Digital agencies have to pay for developers as well as project managers, so the rates will be more expensive. My alternative is to outsource development to another country using oDesk (A global job marketplace for businesses and talented contractors). In most cases, digital agencies outsource their development to foreign countries to lower their costs. So why is there a need for an agency? The main benefit of using a digital agency will be that they manage the day-to-day product development for you. However, they usually fail to prioritise your project with the attention it needs due to having multiple projects under their belt.
Using oDesk will have its challenges, but you can cut development cost if used in a smart way.
2. Creating a landing page
Your pitch is not as refined as the idea in your head. So you are going to need a landing page that can be changed or iterated quickly as you gain feedback. If you are skilled, you can build, design & manage your own landing page or outsource the development. Here are a few services that can cut costs & time.
Launch Rock - I've used Launch Rock on past projects. It’s a great product to launch a landing page for free within 15 minutes.
Lander App - I've used Lander App for Peek. The service is brilliant! It provides full Google analytics, email marketing tools, integration with popular social networking sites, A/B testing tools & conversation forms. Lander App is a great way to cut costs on developing analytical tools to support your startup. You can use the service for free with up to 500 visitors per month or pay a minimum of $25 a month for additional features.
3. Getting the word out
Once you have your landing page, you will want to get the word out. Finding your customers is going to take longer than you think. You don't really know if people will buy the product you're slaving away on. An easy way to test your assumptions and find beta users is to publish your landing page to these great services.
Betali.st - A big hit amongst tech entrepreneurs. Betali.st allows you to discover and get early access to tomorrow's startups.
Startupli.st – Is a place to discover and follow new startups. Startup list is a great way to engage with your early adopters.
Don’t pitch me bro – Runs demo days in the UK and is a great way to get feedback on your product.
The Founders Hive – It’s my personal favourite. The Founders Hive runs minimal viable product demo days across the UK.
4. Prototype your product.
If you want to avoid building the wrong product, you better build a prototype. The initial idea for Peek was never a networking app but for dating. Getting feedback on a prototype allows you to iron out details that you may not have considered before development. Here are some of the tools I used to wireframe & prototype Peek.
Omnigraffle – An application for easy wireframing and diagraming. Omnigraffle is great for quickly mocking-up new ideas when getting initial feedback.
Proto.io – My personal favourite & great value for money. Build fully interactive mobile app prototypes in minutes.
5. Using oDesk
As mentioned before, you may have some challenges on oDesk. Here are a few tips to lower costs and avoid any major issues with contracting developers.
Have a clear developer brief – If you have gone through the process of getting feedback on your prototype, you should be able to articulate the functionality of your product on paper or slides. You can learn more about producing a mobile app brief here.
Hiring contractors – When interviewing a contractor, ask for a simple “Hello World!” app or a working prototype of your app in the next 48 hours. This will test your new developer’s ability to code quickly and meet deadlines. Also download & play with some of the developers’ apps to gauge on their capability.
Establish a clear timeline with milestones and deliverables - Get your contractor to breakdown each feature with a time & cost estimation. That way you can prioritise features if you think you may go over budget. I would recommend a 10% contingency.
Get a friend who’s a developer – Having a friend who is a developer can offer great value if you need someone to review code, timesheets and making sure you are not getting mugged off.
6. Great tactic for stalling oDesk payments
Here is a tactic when working on oDesk. Payment for contractors are made weekly on oDesk. Try unlinking your payment-processing client every Wednesday to stop payment on the Thursday. That way you can gain more time to review code and ensure your developers are working to the calibre you want.
7. Always keep money in the bank
Don't blow all your money at once. If you can stretch the development, it will not only prevent a bleeding pocket but also give you the opportunity to make minor changes to the product as you gain more feedback from users.
I hope this helps bootstrappers out there. If you are looking for a smarter way to meet people at Google Campus London, sign up to www.getpeekapp.com.
Also, what are your top tips for launching an app on a shoestring? Are there any tools or tips you are using that I've missed here? Let me know below!