Making a living as an independent developer is easier than ever, especially if your focus is on mobile apps. People are using their phones for everything from shopping and socializing to mobile gaming. More than ever, users are hungry for new apps to buy and download to their Androids, iPhones and tablets.
Not surprisingly, businesses of every kind are trying to cash in on the app craze. They’re willing to shell out a fair amount of cheddar to software developers to make innovative, custom apps for them. Generally, in order to create and launch an app, conglomerates and organizations contract out massive creative companies for development. However, as a freelance app designer or small boutique firm, you can make money developing applications directly for individual users and businesses.
But before you jump in and start offering your services, check out these five important keys to success as an independent developer:
1. Know How to Find Clients
This may seem like a no-brainer, and finding clients is actually pretty easy right now because so many businesses are looking for developers. However, you’ll want to have several reliable methods of drumming up new work when those inevitable lulls occur.
First, make sure your résumé and any online profiles are solid, up to date and help you stand out from the pack. Post your résumé on all of the major freelance websites. A personal website along with active social media accounts can be a dynamic way to connect with new clients as well.
As you begin to get work, remember that you’re building relationships with these businesses. Repeat clients, referrals and word of mouth can drastically cut down the time you’ll need to spend marketing yourself and looking for new clients, so be professional from start to finish.
2. Budget Wisely
The general rule here is that if you’re in startup-mode, think like a college student. Don’t overspend on things like eating out, expensive entertainment or other luxury items until you have an idea of what your average monthly income is going to be. If you’ve never been self-employed before, be sure to budget your income and try to keep a savings account for when you have slower periods.
3. Promote Yourself Creatively
There are a lot of developers out there trying to do exactly what you’re doing, so you’ll need to differentiate yourself from your competition. Is there an area of app development that you’re particularly passionate about and talented with? Be sure your website and social media accounts highlight these areas where you really shine. The temptation may be to try to be a “jack of all trades,” but honing in on one or two areas of expertise can net you more business in the long run. Don’t forget to include portfolio pieces of your best work.
4. Sign on with a Developer Network
Take advantage of a development platform. IBM, Qualcomm, and other companies like Phone Gap offer these services specifically for the independent app developer with resources and tools to help create mobile experiences and then bring them to market. They provide the hardware and software tools to help you create channels to global markets, differentiated user experiences and business connections to major device makers and mobile operators. One major question though is which software platform will your application be catered towards? Currently Android has broken the half million mark while Apple has significantly more available, it all depends on who your target audience is and what hardware you are comfortable operating on.
5. Don’t Forget to Figure in Selling Fees
Whether you’re programming for yourself or doing work for a business, you’ll need to register with one of the mobile app stores. Most app stores charge around $100 for basic registration. There will also be a cost to submit apps to be sold in the app store. Don’t forget to factor these charges into your bid to the customer. The App Store charges $100 per year; Google Play charges $25; Windows charges $100 for registration, then another $100 for each app submission.
Succeeding as a freelance app designer comes down to effective self-branding, marketing, professionalism and demonstrating your skills as a developer. If your talent and end results have consistent quality, you can look forward to a lucrative and rewarding career.