10 Tips For Outsourcing iPhone App Development

by Josh Grillo

You do not have to be a programmer to create an iPhone app. I’m not a programmer, neither is my wife. Nor do we wanna be. Our skills, just like yours, are probably best used elsewhere.

For our iPhone game, we’ve outsourced the design and development.

The design part was kind of tricky as we had lots of animation in our game. Finding the right designer started easy and then became a nightmare. I’ll explain in more detail later in the post.

If you have your iPhone idea wire framed out and ready to go, the next step is to hire a team to develop it for you. You’ll become the project manager of this team.

It’s not a difficult task and YES you can do this.

To make it easy for you, we’ve created a 10 tips guide for outsourcing the development of your iPhone app.  We broke down the guide into a question and answer style format so it’s easy to understand.

Let’s get started…

#1:  Where Do You Find Developers & Designers For Your iPhone App?

I’ve hired all our designers & developers from these two websites:

Both are fairly simple to use and allow you to post jobs by hourly rate or fixed price. My recommendation is to post your job on both websites. You want a good group of candidates bidding on your project.

#2:  How Much Should I Spend On My iPhone App?

I would not spend more than $3,000 to get your first iPhone app developed. Our iPhone game costs $450 for the design and $1650 for the development. 

You’ll either hire someone hourly or you’ll set a fixed price for the project. Our recommendation is to do fixed price. Set your fixed price bid to the $2-$3k range to attract more candidates.

#3:  Should I Hire A Designer & Developer Or Someone That Does Both?

Personally, I prefer to have a separate designer and developer. Yes, it may be easier to have a company that does it all. Based on my experience, I like working with individuals that don’t work for a big company or agency. This way I can slowly hire them full time as part of my team if I have apps that start taking off.

So to answer the question- Hire a designer first, then a developer. Have them communicate with each other to resolve any design and programming issues.

#4:  What Do I Put In My Job Posting?

Keep it basic. You don’t want to fully explain your app. You just want to give a very broad idea. Give guidelines of how you want them to work and the qualifications they must have to get the job. You’ll give full details of your app later in the interview process.

Here’s a sample Job Posting I recently did. It’s pretty generic, so you can tweak a few words and use it for hiring your designer and developer.


JOB POSTING #1 (Received 12 Applicants on Elance & 9 on Odesk)

Kick Butt iPhone App Animator Needed

We’re an iPhone app marketing company that needs a top notch designer/animator to finish one of our games, then continue on with new games.

Here’s what you need to know.

Your responsibilities:

- Review existing designs and complete animations as needed
- Work with little to no supervision
- Work with developer for alteration of images if needed
- Contribute ideas for making the application better and easier to use
-  Must communicate on Skype during working hours
- English is a must
- A work style that is extremely detail oriented

….You must have iPhone apps in the iTunes store to be considered…..

We’re open to fixed price option as well.  Please PM me with the word “top notch” so I know that you read what I’m looking for.

Skills Required:
iphone-development, 2d-animation, 3d-animation, ui-design


#5:  What Should I Do When Job Applicants Start Applying?

You want to review their profile, answering these questions:

  • Have they worked over 100 hours?
  • Do they have a 4.5 job rating?
  • Do they have apps in the App Store?
  • Are the apps in the App Store decent looking?
  • Do they have good reviews from other jobs they’ve worked on?

If everything checks out, send them a private message asking them to chat over Skype.

If they don’t use Skype, then that’s a red flag for me. I immediately move on to the next candidate.

Have them sign a Non Disclosure Agreement before chatting on Skype. This will give you piece of mind when sharing the full details of your app.  You can download a Non Disclosure Agreement here.

#6:  How Do I Interview & What Should I Ask?

The Skype interview is nothing more than a friendly conversation about your app. Ask lots of questions to get them talking.

Go over the general details of your app. Give examples of other apps/games that may be similar. Don’t send them your wire frame and specs yet. You want to get a good feel of their communication skills first. You also want to feel comfortable working with them.

Things you should think about when chatting:

  • How’s their English or whatever language your speaking?
  • Are they responsive to your messages?
  • Are they asking you good questions regarding your app?
  • How many other jobs do they work?
  • Will they have time for your job?

If your comfortable and ready to move forward with the hiring process, send them your wire frame.

Have them take 5-10 minutes to go through your wire frame and make a list of any questions they have. Discuss these questions over Skype.

Get a time frame as to when they’ll be able to finish the design/development. You can discuss budget more in depth as well.

#7:  Setting Deadlines With Your Designers/Developers

It’s important to set deadlines for your project. My recommendation is to have 3 deadlines with payment attached to each.

This helps get your app completed on time. Also, gives your designer/developer something to work towards.

I live by the 3 strikes your fired rule. If your designer/developer misses your deadline 3 times they’re fired. You have to be very serious with this or you can get strung along for months.

I learned this the hard way with the last designer I hired. He got off to a great start. Designed about 50% of the game and then just vanished.

I would send email after email. Every once in a blue moon he would respond to keep my hope alive. In the end, he was fired and set my game back by over a month.

The reason I kept hope in him, was that he was really talented. I loved his work. Reality is, I needed to get over it. He had no intention of finishing the game.

#8:  What Do I Do Once I Hire My Designer/Developer?

Communicate daily. You can send an email like the following:

  • What did you work on today?
  • What do you need help on?
  • What will you do tomorrow?

Have them send you samples as soon as they finish something. You want to make sure they’re on the right track.

I like to have my designers/developers on Skype as well when they’re working on my game. If I see them on Skype, I’ll do a quick check in, just to say hello and make sure everything is going ok. I want them to know that I’m the boss and I’m serious about getting my game finished on time.

#9:  Random Tips That Will Help You

  • Don’t assume they are working on your app every day
  • Research each candidate thoroughly, just don’t go for the cheapest
  • Try different job postings to see what attracts the best candidates
  • Be strict with deadlines
  • Don’t forget the 3 strikes rule
  • Don’t forget your team is human just like you, treat them as real people
  • Give compliments when good work is done
  • Pay on time

#10:  Here’s What To Do Next

Go over to Elance and Odesk. Sign up for a free account. Get familiar with the websites. You may even consider watching a few videos so you know how the sites work. They’re fairly user friendly.

Post your first job on each site. Don’t worry, it does not have to be perfect. Just go through the process and see what type of response you get. If you don’t like the response, you can always post a new job.

Find a few candidates that you like and take it to the next level using the guide you just read.

Just make sure to take action.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Keith July 2, 2012 at 11:41 am

Hey Josh,

Great article, it really has helped me visualize the process of imagining the idea, planning and executing. I wanted to ask some specific questions, more around how outsourced programmers upload content. Do they upload it on your behalf to your account or will you need to provide your details and upload it there? Additionally, what account do I need with Apple to start hosting apps?

Cheers in advanced,


Josh Grillo July 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm


Thanks for the comment. Here’s the way to do it. Once you hire a developer have them setup all tests of your app with the app called “testflight”. You can find it here. When your ready for your app to be submitted to the app store, do so with your developer account. So you’ll need to pay the $100 (i think that’s the cost) for an apple developer account. Here’s the link for that.. A good developer will more than likely help you with any questions you have and make you feel comfortable in the process. Hope this helps.


Keith July 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

Thanks, this is an area of the process that I haven’t been able to find in any guides and is pretty critical. I didn’t want to sound too inexperienced with the developer and get a better high level view of whats going to happen.

Again, thanks for the speedy reply!


Josh Grillo July 3, 2012 at 4:28 pm

No problem Keith…

Let me know if you need any more help.


james December 5, 2012 at 7:00 pm

in terms of enrolling in the apple developer program, I’m assuming I would need to select the company option when outsourcing or is it still possible with the individual option?


Josh Grillo December 5, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Totally possible with the individual plan. I registered as an individual and outsourced my entire app.


james December 6, 2012 at 12:38 am

thanks for the reply.. any chance you could elaborate on how I would go about doing this i.e would I have to give my password out?


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