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iPhone rent-a-coder

A few times I get e-mails asking about iPhone development projects. Some of these are about they having an idea for an iPhone application and want someone to develop it. Others are promoting their training services on marketing my apps or even on the development side (seriously, why do I need to attend an iPhone development boot camp? I’m qualified to train one). Strangely one company asked how much do I charge for putting their advertisement on my apps.

For those contract or subcontract offers usually we couldn’t come to terms due to many differences between what I’m willing to do and what they expect.

Some of things that concerns me are:

  • I’m doing this entire iPhone thing as a side job in addition to my normal boring run-of-the-mill full time job in an IT department. Currently it’s not yet financially feasible for me to do this full time — since I haven’t won the Top 10 iPhone Apps Lottery yet.
  • I find writing apps to someone else’s specs (or worse, mood) is just as psychologically rewarding as my regular job. That is, more towards fulfilling the lower-level parts of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and I prefer to do something else when my passive income can pay for all of my physical needs. Naturally if I’m writing code for someone else in my spare time, I expect a higher rate of return than my day job for it to be worth doing or I’d rather implement my own ideas.
  • I’m generally also open for other revenue streams such as advertising and promoting my other apps in their app. Unfortunately advertising-supported applications need to be about 1000x bigger (in terms of user base) to be able to compete with a similar paid application. The advertising model isn’t going to work with niché-type applications geared toward a specific segment of the audience. I know this because I put advertisements in the free versions of my apps and my apps tend to be focused for a particular use case. No, I don’t have fart apps up to this date and I don’t have one in the pipeline.

Whereas these are what I found whenever someone approaches me to write their iPhone app

  • They want a full-time person working for their app and for the app to be completed really quick. They also want the same person to support the app and provide a very fast response/turnaround time for support queries.
  • They have a terribly low budget to fund the development and support of this app. Probably the expectations come from the similarly low bid rates in the Rent-A-Coder project auction site. To be fair, they probably also bid their projects at that site and only contact the likes of me for “testing the waters”.
  • A lot of these people want the application to be available “for free” and but don’t even make an effort to convince me that the revenue stream offered by advertisements will be good. One of this is a regional “foodie” app and the user base is outside the US. Any real iPhone developer will tell you that the US of A accounts for about half of the total downloads for an app, whether free or paid. Furthermore Nokia is still reigning outside the US and the Jakarta middle class tend to prefer RIM’s Blackberry from the iPhone (of course real upper class only use Vertu).

From the looks of it, it seems that freelance iPhone development only fits for first-world clients in the US or Western Europe hiring developers in 3rd world countries such as Pakistan which probably survive on under $2 a day and developing on hackintoshes running the bootlegged version of Mac OS X. But of course there are exceptions — large non-IT companies like Bloomberg which derives revenue from other things can probably afford to provide their iPhone app for free and yet contract a real software consulting firm to do it at a reasonable price.

What do you think? Are you a part-time iPhone/Android/Blackberry/Symbian/J2ME developer and experiencing a similar issue? Perhaps you have a different take on things? Feel free to post a comment and please indicate whether you’re a developer and on what platform(s).



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  • Karthik Janagiraman

    I Agree with you, I was approached by a advertising agency for placing an Ad in my application which is already running iAd and Admob, And the rates given by him was even lower than what i was getting from Admob. I am an independent developer and this is my part time as you said and cant agree with you more!

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