Developing apps is complex and time-consuming. What lessons did I learn as a first-time Appreneur?
Get a work-life balance
I’m not someone who follows sport or has hobbies that extend beyond being a family man, but getting an app business off the ground requires the kind of commitment that could monopolise your time if you let it.
I’m always looking to steal time back so having technology available allows me to work like an opportunist, tackling tasks when the family has an early night or while I am out and about so I can be productive without losing quality family time.
Venture Capital funding isn’t the only option
If you were to ask me if I am looking for an investor, up to now I would say definitely say “no way”, but of course, I can’t tell you what I’ll say as the business continues to grow. An investor who shares your dream and gets what you are doing can be a powerful asset, but if you can build your business by having customers buy or subscribe to your product that is even better.
You can save money by doing things yourself, but it will take much longer
My background is as a business analyst rather than having much technical expertise, so I started out with an idea of what I wanted, but not much plan of how I was going to get it. I started off using some software called ‘Balsamiq' to draw how I wanted the app to work, which forced me to answer questions that I hadn’t thought about, from fitting all features into the menu system, how each screen interfaced with the next one, and so on.
This process went on for months, but when I’d completed my drawings I took them to a developer and said “make this.” It all seemed great, and he was full of praise, until he asked the question “how do you administer the app?” and I realised I’d have to go right back to the drawing board. It is a pretty steep learning curve.
The customer knows best
Hearing from your customer is always a good thing, even (and sometimes especially) when they say things you might not want to hear. I had spent months designing and developing MoppedUp to cover everything in the cleaner/client relationship, but when I told people early on what the app would do, one of the first things people would say is “Great, I need a new cleaner.” At the time this was a feature I hadn’t intended to include, but I would have been stupid not to listen, so added the ‘Find a cleaner’ function in the next release. The great thing about smartphone apps is the wealth of data that allows you to analyse how people are using the app, so it was interesting to see that 95 per cent of new users select that option after downloading.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
When I came up with the idea for MoppedUp, I wanted to take it all the way through from concept to the app store, true to my original vision. I was very careful selecting companies to help with the development, searching both in the UK and overseas, and I insisted on getting NDAs signed for my own peace of mind. I eventually found an overseas supplier who I could collaborate with while continuing with my ‘I own it’ approach, and actually quoted a third less than the price of the UK-based companies. I found it very difficult to take input from third parties, but I learned that it is important to trust in the expertise of the people you work with and by doing so I could get my product quicker (and a little bit slicker) without losing ownership.
I have now expanded this approach to use a Virtual Assistant firm to help with the day-to-day running of the business, a talented copywriter for creative input and I’ll even use Fivr for a number of random tasks – there is a wealth of talent out there, you just have to find the right people you can trust.
MoppedUp is a new app that enables cleaners and clients to communicate in a smarter way.
Image source: Shutterstock/Lenka Horavova