You will know if you follow my blog that once I discover an idea that I believe is moving me closer towards my goal of financial freedom, I publish it, not everyone’s modus operandi – I know; however, when I finally hire that celebratory yacht on the coast of St Tropez, I don’t want to be the only one enjoying that sweet joy I want all my friends to be there celebrating their own financial freedom. Anyway, I digress but you must excuse me, I only went to bed at 1.00 a.m. working on Fat Creep™’s next YouTube video and I’m already up at 6.00 a.m.
Last year I made a massive discovery. Something that adds so much value to my life that whenever I meet someone that has not heard of it I plug it like I am on their payroll although I am not. It’s called Weebly.com. Weebly is a drag-and-drop facility that enables a user to build a fully functional website within hours.
When I started understanding the internet, way back in 2007, I used to host my websites via Powweb, however, because I was having to use my own amateur HTML skills it took me ages to update my website and naturally that site would remain not updated for months at time.
Fast forward to 2010, I saw Powweb offering a widget called “Weebly” and I started using that to update Katsonga.com instead and I was hooked. You see, the problem with HTML is that different browsers – internet explorer, Google chrome, safari, firefox and the rest of them – read HTML code differently. This means that the same code will look different depending on the browser being used and sometimes my pages used to look awful in one browser versus another. This wasn’t a huge problem even in 2007 because internet explorer was still the major engine used for web browsing but a website that is not optimized for all browsers is most certainly not acceptable today as internet explorer only has a small portion of the market. Weebly solved this problem for me because their widgets are already optimized for all major search engines.
To add icing to an already splendiferous cake the facility is already mobile enabled. If you go back even six to eight months, most websites appeared all tiny and weird on a mobile device because they had not been optimized to work well on small phone screens. Weebly had already preempted that issue and solved it before it was one.
Now, whilst I think Facebook is fun and everything, you will agree that it can be a massive time vortex – it sucks many to its core and before you know it you’ve wasted a whole hour that you hadn’t planned on wasting, browsing through some random’s photos. Weebly on the other hand adds massive value to a life. It enables a user that otherwise may not have been able, to get their idea out there and possibly make some revenue out of it. Even incorporating features such as Google ads is so simple. Through no extra effort on my part I am receiving my first £10 from Google. You may be thinking that’s a small amount especially given that’s after a few months of use but I did nothing special to receive it and that, to me, makes it a substantial gain, it’s passive income and it will grow over time.
I could go on about the benefits forever, integrating shopping carts, embedding YouTube videos and pictures is very easy. You can add a forum and even an appointment booking system within minutes.
Indeed, if you know a little HTML you can easily adjust the code on the Weebly templates to make them more unique to you. Basic HTML is putsy, I learnt my first bits of code in late 2006 using htmlgoodies and I was able to build a very simple site in three days so it is definitely worth pumping a little time into. If you need any help, they have a super-responsive support team that responds to emails in less than 24 hours.
Anyway, enough said – get your ideas out there, use Weebly. They have a free service but to build something more sophisticated you will need to upgrade for $78 for two years, that’s less than $40 / £27 per annum. This is way lower than the value that these guys are adding to my life right now, but I am not that naive, I know it’s the entry level fee and in two years’ time they will hike that rate up, it’s the model everyone uses but in Weebly’s case I am not going to mind because their very presence will be the reason I managed to get my ideas out there.
Friend, how often have you visited a website that you would not publicize on the front page of a newspaper? Let’s be honest, at some point we all have, even if it was by accident. This week, however, I have developed a renewed respect for cyberspace. I have had to acknowledge that even if one operates anonymously they are not at all anonymous.
What brought this about? On the back of Fat Creep™, essentially my new business and hobby I designed a newsletter. I have been interested in the world of business since before I was a teenager (weird, I know) and I’m always curious about new practices and methods. Last year, I noticed that several emails that I received had a “Mailchimp” stamp on them and I clicked on that stamp to investigate what Mailchimp was. Mailchimp is basically an email marketing resource but it goes far beyond that.
I decided to use Mailchimp although I didn’t realize the full extent of its capabilities. As a starting point for creating a newsletter, I contacted all of my friends including most of my Facebook friends to ask if it was okay to include them. Given my belief that most of my friends would be okay with it (and note, I am one of those people that actually knows every Facebook friend) I told my friends not to reply if my newsletter was welcome to spare them the effort. I made this explicit request for permission in the first two lines of the email to keep things transparent and I sent the request from my private email to ensure that it was actually read. I gave it a week because I know some don’t check their messages daily.
Following my first newsletter, a week later, I had the privilege of a status report and I was astounded, completely astounded at the level of detail in that report! Not only did it show how many emails had been opened but it also reported how many times the email had been opened, whether any links in that email had been clicked, which emails had bounced, which people had unsubscribed from the letter and who had hit the SPAM button! I knew exactly who had done what.
I was pleased that only two people had hit SPAM but given I had requested their permission I was not impressed, they were promptly unfriended on Facebook for irresponsibility. Those that properly unsubscribed I respected because I believe everyone should only receive information that they need and want to receive.
The whole experience, made me realize the extent to which the realm of cyberspace is not private. There is probably nothing less private. EVERY SINGLE CLICK, is recorded. If you are doing anything on your PC or phone that you would not be proud of, stop because you do not know how that click will one day hold you back, or worse be provided as evidence in court to build an image of your character.
Friend, you have been warned – cyberspace is dangerous, very dangerous. Keep it clean, keep it squeaky clean.
A week ago, I decided I wanted an app that helped me with a certain something. I searched for existing iPhone apps that could do this thing but I couldn’t find anything suitable.
So what does a girl do?
I basically spent the whole of last weekend designing my own app. I sat on my computer from 7.30 a.m. on a Saturday until 2 p.m. without so much as a break. My brain was toast. I couldn’t do anymore work so I went to enjoy the day and came back for more work that evening and well into the Sunday!
By the close of play on Sunday I had an excellent proposal for an app; highly detailed with diagrams and everything. One problem: I hadn’t even thought about how I would develop it;pretty dumb, huh?!
Well I didn’t want to get discouraged by the development quotes so I thought it best to get the ground work out of the way and worry about costs later.
I had read that there are now companies and websites that allowyou to develop an app yourself for $500. That’s a really good price but I don’t have time to do this without some serious moonlighting In the latest edition of Entrepreneur magazine they talk about AppBackr. It’s a website where you post apps and get equity funding for the idea.
It’s a great company but I didn’t want to give away any equity, especially since this application is more a labor of love than purely an enterprising venture. Whilst the equity investor would be focused on how they might recoup their money I was entirely focused on how many people this app could benefit.
Also, I thought the suggested costs of development on AppBackr sounded too high.
I know that India is a technology powerhouse so I found a couple of developers online but before I gave them the commissions I told them that I was scared of my idea leaking out. I was impressed by their professionalismbecause both of the developers sent me their Non Disclosure Agreement forms within one day. They were pretty good but I was still worried about things like paying and not getting the app developed on time.
I needed reviews and a proven track record to get comfort but I thought that I couldn’t get any of that stuff in a reliable manner from an independent developer on another continent.
My world changed when I found an article on OSX Daily that referred me to Elance and oDesk.
I read the OSX Daily article in bed on my iPhone on the Sunday night after I had completed developing my app on paper.
On Monday morning, I could still remember the word Elance due to its derivation from Freelance so I went online, liked what I saw, created an account and wrote a short paragraph about what sort of app I wanted.
If you want a fixed price for your job Elance requires you to state your budget range and so I chose to go for $1,000 to $5,000. I had been holding out for a $500 app but my reading had suggested this was not going to happen if I wanted a quality app hence my choice of budget range. You can also get quotes for hourly rates but I was focused on the total cost of my project.
Posting a job is free, however, Elance allows you to distinguish your level of seriousness by paying $5. This $5 means your job will get more attention from developers than those that don’t pay the extra $5.
I was astounded by the response. Within two hours, I had 14 people showing interest in developing the app. By the time I got home on Monday there were 22 offers, by mid-week there were 27 and by the end of the week there was an astounding total of 33! I sent an NDA which I had crafted up myself using the independent Indian developers’ as a base and firm offers to develop my app started rolling in. Given my experience, I would highly recommend Elance.
Given such a wide range of offers, how does one choose a single developer? I used the following criteria:
The initial offer. Some of the app developers in their initial offer to do my job referred specifically to the things I mentioned and gave me relevant reasons for why I should choose them. Others just copied and pasted a generic blurb on what their company does and why they were so good. That seemed like really low effort to me so I rejected those offers quite quickly.
English. You need to be able to communicate. If the developer’s English was of a very low standard relative to what I needed, I rejected the offer.
Track record on Elance. For some developers, the work stream on Elance has become a very significant source of revenue and they do not want to lose this stream of work so they are less likely to mess you about for fear that they will get lower Elance points if you report them or review them negatively or worse still, if they get kicked off Elance
Negative Reviews. People that have used a developer can rate them. Developers do not want to get negative reviews because that will reduce business volumes so they will try their best to be helpful. I rejected one serious contender based on a review that suggested they upped their price for minor changes and were very bad with deadlines. It was just one bad review but it still gave me cause for concern and I wasn’t going to take that risk when I had such a pool to choose from. Competition is fierce!
Depth of experience. Some of the offers you get will be from people who have a very long track record, however, this track record may be website development rather than app development. When you are down to your last three or so ‘contestants’ filter the reviews for words like iPhone or android to see exactly what proportion of these reviews are relevant to the app you want developed. The results may surprise you or help to sway you from one developer to another.
Visual quality of apps. I had two contenders that both appeared great and both had sent me links to all the apps that they had created, however, when I looked at each link carefully one produced far better looking apps than the other.
Size of the company. I wanted my app to be taken seriously and my feeling was that the larger companies would give it less priority than other bigger projects so I rejected the proposal of the largest company;well, their final quote to do the project was outside of my affordability range so that wasn’t even an option for me in the end.
Skills. Elance breaks down the skills a company has into very specific categories and although self rated to begin with, over time, as those skills are tested through various jobs, those skills are rated and given a ranking relative to every other Elance company with those skill., tThis is very useful because you can see whether the Developer is in the top “x”% in the category of skills that you need.
Percentage of repeat customers. This is an interesting stat but I didn’t give too much weight because many people might not require a second job done.
Completion. If you have a strict deadline look carefully at how long the developer says they need to complete the work.
Contactability: all the developers were available to chat on Skype so you could ask more questions. Definitely go for a developer that you won’t have trouble getting hold of.
Other things. In my final Skype interview, I asked the prospective developer a bunch of operational and technical queries like: will I have a dedicated project manager? How often will I get progress reports? Will they upload the product to the app stores for me? Has Elance’s fee been included in their quote? (The developer should really be accounting for this in their quote, or explicitly state that they have not) Has the fee for app stores been included? After the app is live do I get free project support for a limited time to fix any bugs? Will the app be developed in its own native language rather than a hybrid that can read across platforms? Apparently apps made this way are of lower quality.
What happens once you assign the job to a single company? The company breaks up the job into small milestones with expected dates for reaching the milestones and you only pay when a milestone has been completed. You fund the milestone just before it is done so that the Developer knows you have the money but that money is held in escrow by Elance and you hit a release button for the funds to be released once the milestone has been reached. In this way, Elance protects you from unscrupulous businesses.
So, if you have an idea, especially in the technology space on your mind, don’t sit on it – get on Elance or oDesk and post it. I haven’t tried oDesk myself but I can definitely recommend Elance.
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I'm always thinking, debating, considering and revising my views - some of those deliberations will be shared right here.