One of the toughest parts of publishing apps is finding people who have the talents that you don’t. As an app producer (regardless of your background) there are some things I would not recommend outsourcing until you have a very well established team.
1. Market research – choosing your app category and researching competitors
2. App strategy – putting together a plan of what, when and how
3. Hiring – finding great people to work with, who are AAA players, easy to work with and make you feel happy every time you interact with them
4. Monitization strategies – working out the monitization strategies that are working for the most successful apps in your category
5. Analytics – A/B testing, eCPMs, downloads, click throughs, Flurry reports, etc.
6. Metadata – you need to become a keyword ninja and know how to use the various online solutions like a pro
So whether you are a programmer, an artist, a game producer, a landscape gardener, a writer or concept creator, these 6 things need to be on your to do list. These are all the big things that will actually drive growth and profit in your business. If you understand these well, you have probably the most profitable and valuable knowledge a company owner can have.
The rest – creating graphics, coding apps, making a website, etc you can hire people to do. But you don’t want a bad team. You don’t want a team for average players either. You want to put together a team of ROCKSTAR PERFORMERS.
Over the last two weeks I’ve been looking to find some new artists and developers on oDesk. I’ve just hired 3 new devs and artists this week, so they are looking great. Here is what I did to find AAA artists.
Artists / graphic designers:
Finding great artists on Odesk is both easy and difficult at the same time. It’s relatively easy as you can see their portfolios and get an idea of their standard. It’s really difficult as a lot of the portfolios on Odesk are either empty, awful, or average/fine. Here are some examples. What I want to happen, is when I open their portfolio, I say the word ‘WOW’ without thinking.
These are ok, but do they make you say wow?
Then here are some that are really nice… and what you find is that the ones that are bad, or average, are often the same price as artists that are great.
1. I post up jobs on oDesk, sometimes up to 3 new jobs every day. I found if I posted at the weekend I didn’t get as many replies. When I post looking for people in Eastern Europe or Asia during their weekends or outside their working hours, I didn’t get as many replies either. So if you put up one post and don’t find anyone, don’t panic. I put up about 25 posts in just under 3 weeks, and from this found 8-9 great artists, 5 of those which were interested in working with me.
2. Keep things vague AND exciting. Right now I just want to see great art. So I put up something like “Looking for the best games artists on oDesk” and then two or three sentences saying “I want a great 2D artist, have a few small games coming up and this is a great opportunity to join a fun growing team.” In the keywords field, only put ‘adobe-photoshop’.
3. I had a few posts up for $80/90 but I found you get many more replies when you increase the price a little. But remember, just because you have posts on Odesk, you do not have to hire anyone. What people bid bears no relevance for now as they have no idea how big or small your game is.
4. You’ll need to be prepared to spend 30 mins on oDesk every day or two just searching through peoples portfolios. It’s worth it when you find someone incredible.
5. As well as being able to create great art, you need to find an artist who has created the style of great art you need. Some artists are great at fantasy and not that good at kids cartoons. Some are 3D experts and don’t really want to work on game UIs. So be aware just because they have great art, it also has to be the type/style of art that you want for your app or game as well. So – at a more basic level – if you want a games artist, make sure they have done art for games before. Don’t choose someone with lots of well designed brochures in their portfolio. Look for artists that use light and shadow in their work, and which include little details in their art.
Once I find some artists that made me say WOW, I then drop them an email, usually saying I’m developing a kids/arcade/puzzle/etc type game, and I’m looking for a great artist. If there’s a particular style or price or art I want to see, I’ll ask them to send me more art or send me a link to their online portfolio/website if they have one.
If all looks good, then I’ll shortlist again. Usually at this stage everyone on my shortlist is a super artist, so now it depends what art style suits the game I had in mind.
So I’ll usually email one or two more info about the game. I’ll send them a link of a few games with similar art styles. I’ll give them more information about how many graphics I need them to create. I’ll ask them to review all this, and then I’ll get this on a text Skype call.
During the Skype call, I’ll ask them a few questions. You want to get to know them better. What projects do they like working on best? Are they busy right now? Have they made many games? Do they work alone or with a team? What do they like about their job? What type of clients do they like to work for? Give them time to reply to each question so you can get a good idea of them. After that, then ask them if they have any questions for you. Usually they want to know your background, app history, etc.
After all that, you can ask them to send you a price for the work, and also a date when they could start and how many days it will take to complete the work. Thank them for their time & that’s the skype call done. What you were looking for was
1. Great English
2. A passion for what they do
3. A sense of fun. If you can’t have fun making apps then when can you
4. If your gut says they are ok, average, fine, ok, then they might not be right for you. If you feel excited after the call then you are on the right track. You will actually know that someone is an AAA player before you hire them. If you don’t get that feeling, move on to the next person. Do not settle for anyone who is less than AAA. If you want to make a great app which gets lots of downloads, you NEED an AAA player.
In terms of agreeing to work, make sure the know the full scope of the work. It’s also a good idea to ask them to do your screenshots and icon (1024×1024) for iTC as well. Once you both agree on the price, set up a fixed price contract and work out a few milestone payments along the way. As a rule don’t pay an upfront fee. The only exception would be if it was for under $90, to be used more as a show of goodwill than anything. On the flip side of the coin I’m sure a lot of artists have been burned by crazy clients who leave them without payment as well. The best way I’ve found is to agree on milestones. For example for a $300 art project, you can pay $100 after the first characters and one background is done. Then $200 when the remaining app artwork is sent to you and looks great. And then the last $100 when the icon and 5 iPhone and 5 iPad screenshots are sent to you.
One of the best artists I am working with, told me he was positive I would love his work. He did not want to be paid any money until he had completed ALL the work and I was happy with it. That is an AAA player. Great artists will take your ideas, and send you back something much more incredible than you had in mind. They really do add so much QUALITY to your app. Apple and your future customers LOVE incredible art quality. It’s one of the biggest keys in maxmising your downloads.
Once you’ve hired your team then remember you are working together. Communicate daily to see how they are progressing. Answer all their emails before you go to sleep every night.
And most importantly, if they are doing a great job, its really important to let them know that you appreciate their work. Everyone appreciates being complimented for their work. A ‘thank you’ means a lot. You are building a team so look on this as the beginning of a positive and fun long term working relationship.