Starting Your Own Apps: Getting Help

Starting your own app or personal project is super cool. You get to do what you want and how you want to without having to worry about those dreaded client revisions. Working on your own apps give you a reason to wake up early in the morning and to continue coding long after it’s quitting time.

One thing you’ll run into – you can’t do everything. Building your own application takes several steps that normally your clients would take care of or they would give you money to do if for them. This was something I didn’t think about until I got ready to sit down and start my own app, CodeSnipp.it.

Unexpected Expenses

Some of things you need to think of when building your own app:

  • Buying a domain
  • Buying hosting
  • Spending billable time on none billable work
  • Who’s designing it?
  • Who’s doing the XHTML/CSS?
  • Who’s doing the back-end programming?

While the first and third items might not be a big deal, the rest can be better pricey if you don’t have the ability to do it yourself.

For example, I can do the front-end development work, but I didn’t want to design it, I’m not able to do the complicated back-end programming and I don’t run my own server. So how do I pay for all this?

Tapping into your network

If you’ve got lots of extra money to spend, you can stop reading this now and just pay for a designer, programmer and all the hosting you want. But if you’re a regular freelancer like me, you may not have the funds (or want to spend them) on something that may or may not gain any traction at all. You’re definitely not doing this for any real business aspect, so getting loans and VC is a bit much.

If you’ve been doing your network correctly, you should have your own “cool group” of fellow freelancers and clients that are on friendly terms. Your tight knit group is a great place for finding help, without spending money!

Luckily for me, I had a great client who was a startup hosting company. In exchange for free hosting with their basic host package, I gave them a free ad on my site. For the design, I was able to offer a really good designer client of mine a trade: I traded free hours of coding for free hours of design. For the programming portion of the app, well I’m just lucky enough to be living with the best programmer in the world. 😛

Some ways of getting the work you need without money

  • Trade some hours of your work for theirs
  • Offer free ad space
  • If you know them personally, offer to clean their house or babysit their kids (yes I’ve done this before!)
  • Offer them the first beta accounts or a free upgrade to the premium version of your app
  • Tell them your idea and ask them if it’s something they’d be interested in (passionate freelancers are da’ bomb!)
  • Offer them space on your blog via a review or interview

This is NOT asking for spec work

Asking for free work is not the same as asking for spec work. The main differences are that you’re offering something in trade for the work you get, and you’re not really making a profit off what you’re doing (if you end up being the next twitter, cool, but otherwise you’re doing this app for fun). Other freelances love taking on personal projects that they feel has real potential. As a matter of fact, I had several programmers offer to help me for free just because they were passionate about the idea!

Spec work on the other hand, is the practice of doing free work in hopes of getting paid. This is very very bad and I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you guys why.

Fans are your best friends

The reason so many people talk about the power of social media isn’t necessarily tied to revenue. It’s more tied to the fact that you begin to accrue fans and a social circle – and those guys can end up being your best friends and helping you out when you need it the most. Just make sure you hold up your end of the trade, and not be overly picky on the work given either.

Your Thoughts

Have you been working on a personal project? How did you find help on the stuff you couldn’t do?