How to hire and instruct a freelancer to develop your Android app

There are several reasons for considering hiring a programmer to develop an Android app for you.

1. Time: even if you know how to develop Android apps yourself, you may not want to spend a lot of time programming. The work can be tedious and some tasks can easily be handled by someone else. Especially if you are short on time and you want to spend it on more valuable activities.

2. You don’t know how to program. If using an online app maker doesn’t provide sufficient options to make the app the way you want it to be, then you will need to get someone who can do this for you.

3. You know how to program a little but you get stuck.

Let me explain the last scenario a little further as this is exactly what happened to me! I started out reading books about Java and the Android SDK. I had a little previous experience with HTML, JavaScript and PHP. But when I reached the point that I had to build an “XML parser” for my app I got stuck badly. I Googled and searched the forums (mainly Stack Overflow) and there sure were lots of examples but I just did not know how to proceed. I could have tried more things but then it dawned on me: what if I let a freelancer solve just this problem for me?

So, I went on oDesk and posted a job asking for help writing an XML parser for my Android app. Within a few hours I had over 30 responses. I screened all of the freelancers for cost per hour, previous experience, user ratings and the match between their skill set and my job. Then I chose two programmers to do the same job.

Here is where it became interesting: my description of the job was carefully worded. I did my best to use the right programming jargon to make sure that the contractors would immediately understand what I wanted them to do.

As it turns out, one of the pair had a much better understanding of the job than the other one.. he also took only half the time to finish it! The quality of their work, by the way, was similar.

The smarter/faster guy was a little bit more expensive per or but he was certainly with it! I have been assigning new tasks to him which he handles with ease.

For me, there are two lessons in this story. The obvious one being that it is wise to “test” your freelancers before you commit to one for a longer period of time.

The other lesson is that I was only able to explain the job and evaluate their work because I have a basic understanding of programming. This is key to being able to concisely and clearly communicate your wishes.

Even of you are not an expert (I certainly am not), it is still very useful to have some understanding of programming. Not so you can do all the work yourself; you may well have other, more important demands on your time. But knowing a little goes a long way in helping you plan supervise the work. This can prevent problems with the app itself, development delays and it helps to keep costs under control.

Happy developing/delegating!

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