At some point, every one of us has started a sentence with the words, “I wish there was an app that…”
You can admit it! There are things you WISH you could do with technology, but nobody has created a way for you to do it yet.
That’s what happened to me around the beginning of this year. See, in Social Brilliant, I talk about the best ways to schedule and automate your social media marketing. And while those strategies really do work, there didn’t used to be any tools that did the things I was describing, so you had to do them manually. In this case, those things include saving all of your social media updates and categorizing them, so you can more easily schedule them for the times when they’ll be most effective.
Well, since there wasn’t a tool for that already, I made one! This month, I’m unleashing Edgar on the world, and he does things that no other social media scheduling tool can do – honestly, it’s pretty sweet, you should check it out, I’m just sayin’.
BUT. It wasn’t easy to get from the point of having an idea to the point of actually releasing a piece of software that actually does things. It took time, and a lot of effort!
Like I said, we’ve all had the “I wish there was an app that…” thought before. I’ve met and talked to a LOT of people who have really amazing ideas for tools and software – ones that I seriously hope get turned into real things! But most of the time, they’re thinking the same thing I was back when I first started brainstorming ideas for Edgar:
“How the heck do I turn this idea into a real thing?”
The thing is, you can’t do it alone – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. With the right approach and the right assistance, you can turn your idea for software into a reality – and here’s what you have to keep in mind.
It’s not as hard as you think – for the right person
I’m not a programmer. (Surprise.) So when I was starting to seriously think about building a social media marketing app, I knew I couldn’t do it without a seriously talented programmer – but hiring one was NOT my first step.
Start talking to tech people, and a lot of them. Get as many opinions as you possibly can.
Don’t know tech that well? It’s time to learn! One of the WORST things you can do is to just start looking for a programmer right away and take bids.
Instead, start by making some tech friends. Learn the differences between different programming languages – the one that’s best for what you want to do might be waaaaaay different from what was best for someone else! With the right programming language, you can do pretty much anything you can think of – it’s just a matter of finding the right language and the right person to code with it.
Ideally, the process of procuring a tech person looks a little something like this:
- Familiarize yourself with different programming languages and their uses.
- Begin talking to tech and programming professionals you can trust, or other people who have worked with programmers. If you don’t know anyone like this, hire a consultant – it’s worth it to get off on the right foot now.
- Determine the programming language that’s most suitable for your project and advertise a position. (Because hey, nobody’s gonna do it for free.)
- Accept bids. Do NOT choose someone by yourself.
- Share your bids with other programmers you trust, or a consultant. You need an outside opinion of a potential programmer’s work from another expert – what looks good and clean to you might be problematic for reasons you simply aren’t trained to identify.
- Hire a programmer and get down to business.
Is it kind of a lengthy process, and a bit of a pain? I mean, sure. If you don’t know this stuff, immersing yourself in it probably isn’t your idea of a good time. But if you want to create software, you need a programmer, and that’s all there is to it.
Have a realistic timeline
Being patient isn’t always easy. You got a cool idea, and you want to make it happen now! Every day that you wait before releasing your software is a day that the competition could release the same exact thing!
But you have to be patient.
Edgar is a project that’s been in the works for about six months. Would it have been nice to release it in half that time? Of course – but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near ready!
Even if you have one of the fastest, most talented programmers EVER working with you, creating a piece of software is a process, and not one that ends after the first build is complete.
We’ve been working with and testing and refining Edgar for months, because while the very first version we created worked, we kept discovering ways to make it even better, and it wasn’t worth releasing it until it was just right.
If you’re creating an app, you need to give yourself plenty of time not only to build it, but to test it. To use it yourself, and to allow other people to use it and give you their opinions. To find all the things that work the way you’d hoped and all the things that don’t.
Then and only then can you be absolutely certain that you’re doing the most important thing of all:
Release something that people will actually want to PAY for
You know that there are about a million apps and plugins and pieces of software that you’d totally use for free. There are probably a lot that you already do! But how many of those would you be willing to pay for?
That’s the thing about apps and software – so much of it is free, or has a free version, that a lot of people just sort of expect it. And that means that if you want them to pay for whatever you’re creating, it has to be worth it.
Edgar, for example, isn’t free. There is literally no option for a free version. That’s because Edgar does things that no other tool can do – things that save lots of time, and ultimately, lots of money. There’s an inherent value there, because it’s both something people need and something that directly benefits them and their bottom line.
If it weren’t for both of those things, though, then who knows? It’s one thing to create something people will want. It’s another thing to create something they’ll pay for. Before you ever start with this project, solicit opinions from people. Would they pay for whatever it is you want to create? How much? Why or why not?
Everybody wants to be the next Instagram, or Snapchat, or whatever hot app-of-the-minute gets snatched up by a company like Facebook for a few million. Those companies are few and far between, though, and you can’t depend on being snatched up and collecting a major windfall all at once.
Your idea has to be profitable in the short term, whether it’s software that people buy once or one they subscribe to. Otherwise, you could be stuck running a free ride indefinitely – and from a business perspective, there’s just no point to that.
Want to learn more about building your own app?
There’s plenty more to know – so how about a real-world example? Check out this post for a behind-the-scenes peek at how my team and I spent half a year building Edgar – and as always, if you have other lingering questions, just ask in the comments below and I’ll hit you right back!