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BUSINESS IDEA - Is learning to code my own app worth the trouble?

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guitarguru12

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Hello all - brand new to the forum, you can find my intro thread here if you're interested in my background.

So after much mulling, I hit upon an idea for a business that fulfills many of the criteria that @MJ DeMarco outlines - from the bit of market research I've done, it looks like a goer.

This business idea will exist entirely in a subscription-based app. The catch is, I know nothing about app design or coding.

After coming up with the idea, I signed up to Udemy and purchased it's top iOS app design course (entitled 'iOS & Swift - The Complete iOS App Development Bootcamp', if anyone fancies checking it out - it's very good!) in order to learn how to build my app.

In all honesty though I've been hit hard with just how steep the learning curve is. It's going to take some time to get to a level of expertise where I can pull this off, let alone the actual time to build the app itself. Now, I'm never one to shirk from a challenge, hard work or learning a new skill - however, I'd like to reach out to the community to see if there's anyone that has had success in the app realm and whether they took the DIY route as I've begun to, or whether it made more sense for them to have the app professionally designed.

The reason I went for DIY route initially are A) I'm a control freak and like the idea of the app being entirely my own, B) What a great skill to have going forward, but mostly C) I am completely broke and can't pay anyone right now to build the app for me. This can obviously be remedied through finding other sources of income to fund the venture - but I'm trying to keep startup costs as low as possible.


Interested to see if anyone here at the FLF have any thoughts, insights or wisdom with regard to all of this.

Very much appreciated, and looking forward to hearing from you guys
 

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guitarguru12

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Jan 1, 2021
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Additionally - I just read this thread which has some very helpful advice in it regarding apps and what it takes to run them.

How much does it cost to make an app like Tinder?

I'm still fairly blind when it comes to the day to day operations of a matching app (which mine is) - it's early days for me so apologies in advance for any of the newbie questions that may come out of my mouth.
 

codequaza

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Hi guitarguru

I'm a software engineer as well, so my advice will maybe help you.
A) I'm a control freak and like the idea of the app being entirely my own
Well it can be, even if you pay someone to develop it.

B) What a great skill to have going forward, but mostly
It is, but is it really worth it? You should think very well about it.

C) I am completely broke and can't pay anyone right now to build the app for me. This can obviously be remedied through finding other sources of income to fund the venture - but I'm trying to keep startup costs as low as possible.
Well, then you don't have any choice than to build it yourself. Or you may listen to the advice I provide you at the bottom

My advice I can give you.
1. Maybe find someone who is a software engineer and present them the idea, which you've validated. You need to show the developer some customer interviews or some conversations where the user is willing to pay money. You gotta prove that you have a paying market.
For example, if you want to develop a game, don't say: "The gaming market is really big, there are some gamers out there who will buy it". Show him that you've talked with gamers and that they say they're interested in this kind of game! Maybe even with a contract if you've pre-sold the software.
I got approached by an acquaintance to start a business with her. She convinced me since she works in this field for several years, has high expertise, and showed me messages and conversations of her business colleagues, who said that they'll pay for the solution.

2. Don't just learn iOS dev. It depends on what you want to do, but if the app isn't like a really big one and doesn't need a lot of resources, you should consider Flutter or React Native or similar solutions. You can code two apps in one language. For the backend use a Backend as a Service like Firebase.
 

MJ DeMarco

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Your problem is just one of many problems new entrepreneurs face when it comes to execution.

Learn it? Learn enough to hire? Or just hire?

Unfortunately the answer is different for everyone. I got a sense of accomplishment learning new things, so for me, I always like to see if I can learn.

But @TheKingOfMadrid made an interesting point, it would suck to waste 1 year learning something only to have it fail. But then again, if you learn a new skill, you just opened up a new world of opportunity. So instead of looking at "learning" as a short-term answer for your idea, look at it long-term -- what doors could that skill open up?

You know yourself better than anyone. Which means, only you can answer.

Interesting story you might enjoy:
*After 40 mobile games, David Reichelt hit gold with Color Switch
 

thechosen1

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Your problem is just one of many problems new entrepreneurs face when it comes to execution.

Learn it? Learn enough to hire? Or just hire?

Unfortunately the answer is different for everyone. I got a sense of accomplishment learning new things, so for me, I always like to see if I can learn.

But @TheKingOfMadrid made an interesting point, it would suck to waste 1 year learning something only to have it fail. But then again, if you learn a new skill, you just opened up a new world of opportunity. So instead of looking at "learning" as a short-term answer for your idea, look at it long-term -- what doors could that skill open up?

You know yourself better than anyone. Which means, only you can answer.

Interesting story you might enjoy:
*After 40 mobile games, David Reichelt hit gold with Color Switch
I love this response, MJ has the best takes always (lol that’s why I’m here)

the big question is, is this a tool you will use, or are you just filling up your toolbox for it to sit and collect dust?

I know I’m more of an over-preparer. I jump from one thing to the next and end up with lots of half finished ideas and tools that don’t get used.

Big believer in the “minimum effective dose”
 

guitarguru12

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Well - first of all I'm overwhelmed by the responses and the help here. I knew this place would be a good community to get involved with but I had no idea it would be this supportive.

Thank you :
@ibyyy
@MJ DeMarco
@Marco Skin
@TheKingOfMadrid
@Luis Freitas
and
@thechosen1

for your responses. It's funny - the one thing I didn't consider amongst all this was one of the key tenets of 'time as currency'.

One of the big takeaways for me here is actually the idea of momentum. I'm definitely more the Jobs than I am the Wozniak - the actual application of this is not my remit, but the ideas and overarching structure most certainly are. I do worry that with a year of completely retraining in something that genuinely makes my brain hurt (I'm a musician, not a coder...) may just take all of the wind out of my sails for the original idea by the time I come to be able to actually implement it.

My time may well be better spent accruing funds to launch this and/or searching for a partner who can help me implement it technically (if I don't go down the Upwork/gun for hire route, that is).

I may well reach out to a couple of you privately to ask a few more questions in your areas of expertise if that's ok.

Thank you once again for your individual input
 

Martin.G

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Yes, it's worth.

First, you are learning something useful. If you don't continue with your project, at least you know something that you could use in others or with a client.

Second, you don't have to learn all about how to code. Learning the foundation can be useful tomorrow if you decide to hire someone that create your app.
 

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Knugs

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Yes, but...

A) Learn to develop apps // its cheap but takes too long to learn and you will not be good enough to develop quality for a long time. You will also always lack skills as rarely one tech stack will do it.

B) Finance app development with own cashflow // faster but most expensive option. You also have no idea about project management or development. Freelancers will exploit your inexperience and bill you far too much. They will leave you with bugs and you will have to pay ongoing support. (ask me, we have spend 200k on development and paid the price to learn these lessons)

C) Get a good CTO that has the tech-stack// best option IMO even though CTO might take 50% of equity. You save cash, you have expertise that CARES about good development. You have a partner that takes a huge part of work off your shoulders.
 

MJ DeMarco

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One of the big takeaways for me here is actually the idea of momentum. I'm definitely more the Jobs than I am the Wozniak - the actual application of this is not my remit, but the ideas and overarching structure most certainly are. I do worry that with a year of completely retraining in something that genuinely makes my brain hurt (I'm a musician, not a coder...) may just take all of the wind out of my sails for the original idea by the time I come to be able to actually implement it.

Knowledge of self is powerful, congrats on having it.

The best answer has to fit what works with our current and future self...
 

srodrigo

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The reason I went for DIY route initially are A) I'm a control freak and like the idea of the app being entirely my own, B) What a great skill to have going forward, but mostly C) I am completely broke and can't pay anyone right now to build the app for me.
You got great advice already, so I won't repeat what other's said about why it's useful to learn how to code, specially if you are broke. Just one thing: be careful with being a control freak, it can turn into limiting your business and making things go much slower. Being able to trust and collaborate is key, even for a solopreneur.

BTW I fully agree with this:
2. Don't just learn iOS dev. It depends on what you want to do, but if the app isn't like a really big one and doesn't need a lot of resources, you should consider Flutter or React Native or similar solutions. You can code two apps in one language. For the backend use a Backend as a Service like Firebase.
My bet would be on Flutter if you ask me. I've tried it myself for some prototypes and was quite good (although it needs a better ecosystem). Tried RN a few years ago and didn't like it as much, not sure what's its state now.
 

codequaza

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You got great advice already, so I won't repeat what other's said about why it's useful to learn how to code, specially if you are broke. Just one thing: be careful with being a control freak, it can turn into limiting your business and making things go much slower. Being able to trust and collaborate is key, even for a solopreneur.

BTW I fully agree with this:

My bet would be on Flutter if you ask me. I've tried it myself for some prototypes and was quite good (although it needs a better ecosystem). Tried RN a few years ago and didn't like it as much, not sure what's its state now.
React Native has a lot of boilerplate codebases, good UI kits and good performance. It was used by instagram, airbnb etc.
Additionally the language is javascript, which is nowadays used for literaly everything. Frontend, backend, mobile, desktop. If OP uses React Native (and therefore javascript), he'll be able to do a lot of things.
 

srodrigo

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React Native has a lot of boilerplate codebases, good UI kits and good performance. It was used by instagram, airbnb etc.
Additionally the language is javascript, which is nowadays used for literaly everything. Frontend, backend, mobile, desktop. If OP uses React Native (and therefore javascript), he'll be able to do a lot of things.
Sure, I'm not saying RN is not viable. I just liked Flutter more in many ways, and keeps improving more and more.

The most concerning thing about RN was some of those big companies and maintainers you mention dropped RN long ago already. Everything I tried to plug in needed some open source (a.k.a. abandonware) library, even for something like a side menu, which is very common. Transitions and navigation where another thing I had trouble with. So relying on third-parties that come and go, and small developers, was fairly risky for me. Flutter comes with many widgets that perform and look great, so that was a big selling point for me, even being a React developer for a living, lol. It has other drawbacks, for sure. So it depends on your needs.

I need to try RN again when I'm bored enough though.
 

Mike Stoian

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Can't really add anything else of value, so I guess I'll add my story. I was sort of in the same place a while back.

Had a shitty job and an app idea. So I started learning how to code. Most of my friends were coders anyway. Took me months learning before I realised why my idea hadn't been built. The implications were enormous. So 1 year and a half in my learning, I got hired as a developer.

Fast forward another year or so and I'm almost ready to release my own piece of software ( went through alpha and beta and soon it's time for version 1.0 ) . Working from home and not worrying about money gave me the time and energy to code my own stuff. This time I can actually code and it's somewhat quality code, not like it was in the beginning of my journey.

So it depends on your idea. In my case, the stuff I wanted is extremely complex. I would never afford hiring someone else to build and maintain it. In your case, it might be possible to hire some freelancer. If not, expect at least a year of learning before you can do anything decent and get a working MVP. ( times may differ I dunno your specifics )

If you go the learning route:
1 - It will probably take longer than you think. Some devs have a saying: "Take twice as much time as you think it'll take you and then still expect to be late".
2 - You'll likely do a course like the one you mentioned, follow along with it and then at the end you won't have any idea what to do next / how to continue. That's normal. Make a list of functionalities you need, then spread each functionality into small manageable steps. Then google / stackOverflow / youtube what you need to fulfill each step.
3 - You'll realise there's that 1 thing you don't know. Then when googling it you realise you need to know 3 other things before you can understand that one thing. Then google those 3 other things and find another 9 you need to know beforehand. That's again normal. That's why it takes years to learn development and you still have days where you feel like a complete moron.
4 - At any point in the journey though, you can switch to a development career or freelancing. They won't make you happy long term since you are an entrepreneur but they can offer a lot of freedom and money and more importantly development experience which are really useful to create your app/software.
 

404profound

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I'll share my two cents. I taught myself software over the course of two years chasing an app idea. The first few months were brutally discouraging. Many concepts beyond basic web development (html, css, and basic scripting) are inaccessible to beginners without experience. The only way to learn is to code.

Eventually, your code will improve, and you will gain the ability to build more complex apps. Even an app that appears simple on the surface will have many hellish surprises (almost always relating to data management and presentation). If this is a challenge you can stomach, it can be a good way to make a decent living on your way to the fastlane. I went from a 75k salary to a 135k salary in a span of two years, nearly doubling my income. I'm still working on my own app, but it's been a nice boost in savings / lifestyle options on my way there.

The people who succeed hiring other people to build their app generally have their market well-defined, an understanding of the product roadmap, a store of cash large enough to get them to MVP, an ability to evaluate the quality of outsourced talent, an ability to communicate requirements to others, and an ability to provide feedback on approach and quality. If you outsource developers without these key ingredients you will suffer.

At this point I would actually recommend against going the app route if you're looking for timely riches. Myself as a case-in-point, I'm two years in and still working for the man. Software is a long game, and you have to do your work up front to make sure your idea isn't dog shit. There is substantial risk of your app being a flop. But if you play your cards right, I don't have to tell you the potential rewards.
 

aniketd1

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I'll share my two cents. I taught myself software over the course of two years chasing an app idea. The first few months were brutally discouraging. Many concepts beyond basic web development (html, css, and basic scripting) are inaccessible to beginners without experience. The only way to learn is to code.

Eventually, your code will improve, and you will gain the ability to build more complex apps. Even an app that appears simple on the surface will have many hellish surprises (almost always relating to data management and presentation). If this is a challenge you can stomach, it can be a good way to make a decent living on your way to the fastlane. I went from a 75k salary to a 135k salary in a span of two years, nearly doubling my income. I'm still working on my own app, but it's been a nice boost in savings / lifestyle options on my way there.

The people who succeed hiring other people to build their app generally have their market well-defined, an understanding of the product roadmap, a store of cash large enough to get them to MVP, an ability to evaluate the quality of outsourced talent, an ability to communicate requirements to others, and an ability to provide feedback on approach and quality. If you outsource developers without these key ingredients you will suffer.

At this point I would actually recommend against going the app route if you're looking for timely riches. Myself as a case-in-point, I'm two years in and still working for the man. Software is a long game, and you have to do your work up front to make sure your idea isn't dog shit. There is substantial risk of your app being a flop. But if you play your cards right, I don't have to tell you the potential rewards.
Hello all - brand new to the forum, you can find my intro thread here if you're interested in my background.

So after much mulling, I hit upon an idea for a business that fulfills many of the criteria that @MJ DeMarco outlines - from the bit of market research I've done, it looks like a goer.

This business idea will exist entirely in a subscription-based app. The catch is, I know nothing about app design or coding.

After coming up with the idea, I signed up to Udemy and purchased it's top iOS app design course (entitled 'iOS & Swift - The Complete iOS App Development Bootcamp', if anyone fancies checking it out - it's very good!) in order to learn how to build my app.

In all honesty though I've been hit hard with just how steep the learning curve is. It's going to take some time to get to a level of expertise where I can pull this off, let alone the actual time to build the app itself. Now, I'm never one to shirk from a challenge, hard work or learning a new skill - however, I'd like to reach out to the community to see if there's anyone that has had success in the app realm and whether they took the DIY route as I've begun to, or whether it made more sense for them to have the app professionally designed.

The reason I went for DIY route initially are A) I'm a control freak and like the idea of the app being entirely my own, B) What a great skill to have going forward, but mostly C) I am completely broke and can't pay anyone right now to build the app for me. This can obviously be remedied through finding other sources of income to fund the venture - but I'm trying to keep startup costs as low as possible.


Interested to see if anyone here at the FLF have any thoughts, insights or wisdom with regard to all of this.

Very much appreciated, and looking forward to hearing from you guys
Good to read about you. I am in a bit of same state as yours right now. I plan to file a provisional patent for the app idea and then develop it. That way I can get it developed by other coders. After filing provisional I will get a patent pending mark. Another benefit of this plan is that I can directly sell it off to other established companies for a small royalty of around 6 to 7 percent. I refer a book for this, I think by Stephen Key for traversing this path you can also Google to read his blogs. I know it's very very long shot but ideas get copied easily and this is the only way I think to protect them. And we have a few ideas in a short span of life.

I would be really glad if others can throw some light on this plan and tell if it is a good practical idea or not. Also, mention if there are any other options there might be.
 

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