How exactly do you become an app developer?

App Developer

The role of a freelance app developer can be wide and varied, from writing code, to marketing and spending time leasing with clients over their project requirements.

At it’s core though, it’s about developing apps. Building stuff that’s sent off out into the world with the potential to be installed on the phones of hundreds of thousands of people.

It’s a fun gig, and as a full-time app developer myself I can only recommend it as a good way to make a living while giving you the freedom to work wherever and whenever you want.

If it’s something you’ve ever considered but weren’t quite sure where to start then this might just be useful.

Pick a Language and Start Studying

You need to decide what language you’re going to write your apps in and this is determined at least in part by the kind of computer you currently have.

Apple apps (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV) all require that you have an Apple Mac of some kind.

If you have a Mac, then you can start learning Swift or Objective-C and that will allow you to develop iOS apps. If you are starting off though you can pretty much just skip Objective-C and get straight into Swift.

The other main language for native apps would be Java, and you can write Android apps on any computer that will run the Java SDK.

If you have a passing familiarty with HTML or Javascript you might feel more comfortable with developing web apps using something like PhoneGap or Cordova.

From a commercial point of view however, and if you’re in this for the long haul, you really should learn a dedicated native language such as Swift or Java.

So make a decision on your language, look for some beginner tutorials and start learning. Spend as much spare time as you can on reading online, writing code, and just playing around with the code until you know enough to start developing your first basic app.

Develop an App

This is what it’s all about in the end, making apps. If you have an idea for an app you can start working towards building that with your newly found skills.

If you don’t have any ideas, then you need to find one or copy one from someone else and improve on it.

Preferably something you have an interest in and ideally something you would like to use yourself on a regular basis. That gives you an unique insight into the features it needs, and the target market it’s going to serve.

It may seem daunting at first if your app has more than a couple of screens and some fancy features, but anything is possible. Pretty much anything you are trying to do will have done before, and will more than likely have code available online that you can learn from.

Just keep at it. One line of code at a time.

When you’re done, push it up the app store and tell as many people as you can. Take a break and enjoy your newly found status as a published app developer.

Develop another App

See above. Make another app. And if you can, make another one after that. The more apps you can develop and publish to the app store the more experience you will have when approaching clients later on.

Make a Website for Yourself

This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Really only a page or two listing your experience (you’re a published app developer remember?) and how people can contact you. It helps when approaching clients later on when you have your own domain name, website and email address. It makes you appear more professional and gives you somewhere to put your burgeoning portfolio of apps.

Find Work Online

There are a large number of websites where you can start getting paid by other real people to write and update their apps. At this point you should enough experience with app development to be able to engage with clients and understand what people are likely to need from you.

Start small. Maybe fixing simple bugs, or making small changes to peoples existing apps, and work towards quoting for larger more complete app development projects.

It takes time to build a reputation on freelancer sites but in the beginning it can be a great source of fairly consistent work. Most importantly though it builds your experience, both in writing code but also in dealing with clients and gaining confidence that you do know what you’re doing.

The other great thing is that the more freelance projects you do the more testimonials you can get for your own website. Further building confidence with any future clients in you as an app developer.

Some good sites to start looking at include Upwork, Freelancer, and Elance.

Get Experience

Spend the next 6-12 months building up your skills and experience working online. Continue to expand your own portfolio of personal apps and start building out your website further.

Use this time to really develop your skills and start deciding what you want to do in the long term.

Sell Yourself as an App Developer

At this point with all your newly gained app development experience under your belt you’re ready to start working towards something more long term.

Whether it’s running your own app development company (like Infinite Touch), being a freelance developer, or landing a full-time role as an app developer with a hot new start up, the world is your oyster.

You have your own website, a portfolio of your own apps, and tons of experience writing apps and dealing with clients. Now is the time to take all of that and make it something truly remarkable.

Think big. Do what you love and don’t stop learning.

About Andy Dunn

Owner and lead iOS developer at Infinite Touch, Andy Dunn has been a freelance web and iOS developer for over 20+ years. Working with brands like Vodafone, Three, McDonalds and Tesco he lives and works from rural County Leitrim, providing app development services to companies all over the world.

  • Ross McGuire

    Thanks for writing this article, its my new blueprint !

    • Andy Dunn

      You’re very welcome, glad you found it useful 🙂

  • Irina Vasil’evna

    I am working in XPlace . Good conditions for freelancers!It has wide variety of job offers in different specialties and hourly pay is higher than on similar sites! Also the main thing on the site is no commission!