I am now about 3 weeks in; I have a relatively well developed idea and an app developer at hand but nothing to physically show for my efforts other than some fag packet sketches. All my efforts now hinged on Austin coming through for me otherwise it was back to the drawing board.

Our conversation began on Whatsapp (its actually where all my conversations happen, basically my meeting room). I Introduced myself, let him know where I got his number and what I was after. Having already experienced a lot of disappointment with developers I had no great expectations. To my surprise this turned out to be a promising first video conference. Austin spoke perfect English which made the experience much easier than the ones I had with the developers on Fiverr (that was just plain hard work). We then started to talk about the finer details of the app, how it needs to work, what the purpose of it was and so on. By this point I had already given substantial thought to the concept and had a lot of great ideas on what it could be. Admittedly, there was still a fair amount that I hadn't fully thought through but that's okay because once you start to walk you quickly learn to run.

Perseverance is a mind set. Eyes on the prize and a step at a time.

Austin quickly proved his worth. He gave constructive feedback about my ideas outlining how better to do somethings or where ideas were not achievable he suggested an alternative solution which would yield a similar result. He was articulate in describing the steps we would need to take as well as directing me on other aspects I would need to consider which up and until now I had not contemplated. There is actually a lot to take in aside from the app itself such as server space to host your app, data allowances for storage, hosting platforms for the apps, the process of listing the app into the App Store and Play Store and terms and conditions. You will also need to prepare all the text and artwork which can be extensive depending on the complexity of your app. This would need to be paired with a user interface so you will need to consider how you want each item to work and their placement as well as how they behave. The magnitude of the task can quickly become daunting so the key is to remember an old Chinese proverb ''the man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones''. With this in mind we agreed to reconvene weekly. Austin would begin setting up a shared work space using google sheets (I hadn't used this before but it's an amazing way of collaborating). The plan was that he would set up an itemised list of what information is required by him and what he needs from me, outline the general logic for each section of the app and set colour schemes etc. The platform would let us both raise queries on any aspect of the app content and keep an ongoing dialogue until the query is resolved much like a Request For Information document (RFI) typically used by contractors but better.

Write down everything. Track your thoughts so know how you got to where you are.

It all then came down to cost. This was a side project for me and as much as I believed in it, I knew I needed to approach with caution financially as it's new territory. Austin was too polite to bring up the fee so it was me who initiated the topic. I knew by this point that he would be a great asset to the project so in my mind I was willing to go slightly above my budget to get him. Fortunately for me, the price Austin requested was only a couple of thousand which is well within my budget and cheaper by a long shot to the quotations. It is worth remembering however there will be a number of other costs associated with the app such as listing and hosting. Depending on your skill set you may also need someone to produce the artwork, create promo videos and other content.

So now with an app developer at hand and a plan of action, I started putting together a library of images that I wanted to base my app around. At this stage, it is important for me to mention that whilst images are publicly on the internet, you should not use them within your app without the explicit permission of the image owner. That being said there's so much great content out there so by all means use it as a base to build from.

Within the next few days I had a much more refined user interface in mind, a colour scheme which suited my concept and an idea of how the user would manoeuvre through the pages. Austin had listed all the main options the user would have and the logic behind each selection which drives the outcomes. In three days I had made more progress than in the last month and for the first time it really felt like everything was coming together.

Always plan for success and don't settle for anything less

Opportunity can present itself at any moment but only if you keep looking. An unexpected lesson I learnt along the way is that you should only bring people on board that will complement your energy. Had I settled for the earlier freelancers, I would have slowly lost enthusiasm. I would have settled for a product that wasn't what I envisaged and would have joined all the other useless apps I had researched. The right people will lay the groundwork for you to plow through and the wrong ones will build walls to slow you down so choose wisely.

After a week of researching, talking to people and mapping out my plan of action I hit a wall. The problem I was faced with is having step A (understanding of the concept) and step C (envisaging the end product but not having Step B, the skill set to create an app. As with most things, I googled the cost of hiring an app developer and much like those self diagnosing medical sites, the results were jaw dropping. It was the equivalent to being told I'll be dead in a week. £80k was the estimated cost of developing my idea, £80,000. This was a huge setback but you can't just give up at the first hurdle. There's always another way.

My first attempt at 'another way' was learning to develop apps myself. Turns out its REALLY hard and that's just to do the very basics. So I started thinking, I don't actually need a team of developers, I just need a developer and I knew just the place to find that one. Fiverr; a platform a friend had told me about a while back where you can post jobs of all kinds, set budgets and freelancers will bid on your project. I hadn't tried anything like this before so I thought why not. Signed up, posted a description of the task in hand along with some diagrams and sketches of my concept. I waited a week and watched as around 12 freelancers from all over the world post bids with a pitch of why they would be best suited. I entered into conversation with 3 of the 12 freelancers and then made my selection based on how well they understood the concept. After this point it all went down hill. There was a lot of 'can't do this and can't do that' followed by 'this will cost more and that will cost more'. This was the very thing I was trying to solve with my app in the construction industry. There was a lot of waiting around for the freelancer to get back to me and after about two weeks of delays and zero progress, I decided to cancel my order as I had lost faith in their ability to deliver. I then tried another freelancer from the same site but again failed to make any real headway so decided to draw the curtains on this approach.

Look far and wide to find people that will be instrumental in developing your ideas

I read somewhere that laying upside down is good for getting the ideas flowing. Maybe its something to do with sending more blood to the brain. Not sure if it works but it was my resting position when I acquired my next idea; which was to approach anyone and everyone I knew that's involved in anything to do with computers. There was a lot of 'sorry.......' until, of all people my younger brother told me he had a friend that's studying computer science and might be able to help. I was wide eyed and eager to talk to this friend so we set a meeting up for the very next day. Sadly, this meeting didn't go as planned as this friend was too busy with upcoming exams and I was too impatient to wait. Luckily, he did put me in touch with a friend of his in Malaysia who works for a multinational company. Enter Austin, the man that was going to put a rocket into my idea and really kick start it all.

This is where I found him

Updated: Aug 16, 2019

So I'm about halfway to being in a position where I can launch my app 'Pocket Estimator' and the thought has only just occurred to me that maybe it would be wise to record my journey for anyone else who has an app idea but isn't sure how to bring it to fruition.

I had just completed a 14 hour stint to complete pricing a project on behalf of a friend/client. My friend had already purchased the property and I had obtained planning permission on his behalf to convert the property from an old bakery into 6 apartments. I had finally completed my estimate by which time it was nearly 3am (work hard play hard right). I was so pumped from all the caffeine and the knowledge in knowing the price of the conversion would eat into my clients profits substantially which could easily sour the investment. This is when I started to wonder, how is there not a way for people to check the cost of their plans (or at least get an estimate) before they make such risky investments. It then made me think of all the past projects I've worked on; many of which were small extensions and renovation projects. How many of these projects came to a swift halt once the quotations came in? How much time and money was wasted on drawing up plans, obtaining planning permission or projects that couldn't be completed because funds had run dry? How many times have builders under priced a job and then stung people with sky high rates half way through?

I started researching. I downloaded any and all estimating apps in the Playstore and Appstore (it's already 3am so why not just keep going). Turns out the few there are, are next to useless and only perform basic functions but would require users to know hourly rates for trades and the cost of materials which makes the app a calculator at best. So I got thinking, domestic projects consist of a small selection of component types. Houses and extensions are all generally constructed in the same way. You typically have a flat roof or a tiled pitched roof, the same can be said for nearly all aspects of your project where the general construction is the same but the finishes vary. There is a huge data base of prices per meter squared for nearly all aspects of a build project available, but unfortunately this is made far too complicated, expensive and is not easily accessible. I now knew there was definitely a gap in the market and I had the an idea that could solve a real issue. By this point I knew I should go to sleep. It was 5am and my idea would still be here in the morning right? Wrong, in my experience if you fail to act on an idea, a vision, or a desire the moment you have them then it will slowly fizzle away and live amongst the thousand other dead ideas that you never pursued.

I picked up an old envelope, turned it over and started to scribble down my ideas. How it would work, what are the functions I would need, what it needed to produce and so on. The process allowed me to think in a linear motion. I wasn't jumping around with my thoughts anymore because any idea was tested against relevance to the structure I had now created, how it would fit in and most important of all how intuitive it would be because I hate apps that are overly complicated to use so I wouldn't want to create the very thing I hate.


#builder #appdevelopment #renovation #property #ideas #estimating