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Ask HN: Is there a way I can make $10,000 before the end of December?
35 points by fadelakin on Sept 15, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 40 comments
I want to earn $10,000 before the end of December. I'm a student and an app developer (iOS and Windows Phone). I took the fall semester off to do some more work but my apps aren't really making much money.

My goal was to develop more apps which in turn would net me more money but I don't think it's a viable plan. I just want to make enough so I can get through school without any problems. That's how I settled on the 10K figure.

What do you guys think I should do? I'm open to any and all suggestions.

Find businesses which require apps. Contract out your services in app development to them at e.g. $100 an hour or $4k a week. This gets you to $10k fairly reliably.

You'll eventually want to raise that rate substantially as $100 is rather below what the market is currently paying for iOS developers, but that's a decent place to start. (This assumes that you're capable of delivering on a level of professionalism commensurate with that rate. Your code should actually work, you should respond to emails, you should not miss deadlines because "lol partied hard last night", etc.)

This seems like it might be based on the assumption that OP is in SF. What about a place like, say, Chicago? Is $100/hr still below market rate for iOS devs there?

If so, well, I'll happily make you an iOS app for $120/hr. Wow. In fact, this is more than "Wow." Either patio11 lives in an alternate world, or I've completely missed the fact that devs have become that valuable outside of SF. I mean, we're talking about someone who hasn't even graduated uni yet. Nothing against undergrads at all -- they're some of the most productive devs -- it's just that the world tends to pay more for grads.

Another question: how should one "find businesses which require apps"? Door to door?

EDIT: The more I think about this, the more absurd this advice sounds. Patrick, would you give a more thorough overview of the steps necessary to accomplish what you're suggesting, from the point of view of someone with zero experience except with the technical and artistic aspects of delivering a product? (I.e. no experience with the social aspects of landing a gig like this.) >$100/hr is roughly nine times what a college student working fulltime can expect to get at an average job, so what you're suggesting is no small feat, especially for an undergrad. What kind of social tricks are involved to pull this off?

I've been earning >$120 per hour, paid in advance, for contract django/flask/linux work.

It's real and you can do it, and listening to patio11's podcast is where I got the idea to be paid in advance for time.

Being paid in advance has solved almost all of my consultancies problems.

Thanks patio11!

EDIT: I work completely remotely with companies that aren't in SF or NYC.

High five.

Chicago is not a wonderland where companies can procure high-quality iOS application development for a fraction of the going rate. If it was, we'd be the iOS app hub of the US.

"The going rate" differs by location. Are you saying there are companies in Chicago willing to pay $100/hr to a lone-wolf iOS dev? It just seems like that kind of work would be farmed out to established players.

I haven't had clients in Chicago but I would be very surprised if that weren't the case. I've done remote dev work (mostly iOS) for clients in Canada, Portland, and Minneapolis that paid better than $100/hr without working hard to increase rates. The one client who made an initial hourly offer started at $100/hr and I negotiated up from there with little resistance.

Remote gigs are a real possibility, even at $100/hr if you're a decent communicator and can get things done. I've had several clients within a day's drive that I've never met because it just wasn't necessary. It does help to be in a convenient time zone. Most clients I'll see once or twice a year.

I've talked to several local companies looking for freelance mobile web devs for interesting projects lately. They all want solo independent devs since (1) they're small and built their companies on reputation and (2) they've had better experiences working one-on-one than with big firms in the past. They all have clients or partners that are large companies.

Don't expect to be able to bill 40 hours a week or have no expenses though.

If I were looking to make $10k quick, I'd cold call local web/marketing agencies and propose having them offer iOS app development to their clients. A lot of them are thinking about it but don't know how to get started.

Our org in Chicago has an iOS dev making ~$100K/year salary (+ benefits, etc). They get offers constantly for $100K-$130K/year. Our lead dev gets exec/manager level mobile offers for $150K-$170K/year several times a month. So not lone wolf consulting from what I've seen, but the money is definitely there in the mobile space.

Feel free to come get coffee if you want more info; I'm in the West Loop off Halsted.

Cool, thanks for the offer! What's the best way to contact you?

I think you can fetch something close to that in Nebraska even, but YOU CANNOT phrase it as $100/hr. The mindset doesn't work. You just need to do that math behind the scenes and give them the flat total of how many hours you think it will take, with some padding for yourself.

I am based in DC, $100/hr isn't unreasonable at all if you can actually deliver results.

You seem too focused on external factors like college student, average salary, etc. The real factors are how much value are you delivering for a company and how can you convince them you are the right person at the company to get the job.

What I'm focused on is finding the company. Even if that sort of company exists, what matters is whether you can find them, and whether they'll give you the opportunity to deliver results. Delivering the actual results is, by far, the easiest leg of that triad. (At least for me, and I suspect many others are in the same situation.)

When new people find it what you do and you say "I make mobile apps" you get a lot of "I have an idea for an app" responses. A lot of these are just wacky personal ideas, but many are people who want an app for their work (their own business or on behalf of their company).

I'm in DC I would expect around $100 for a mid to sr level freelance Dev in iOS or Web. I know for sure because at times have had to sub contract work out.

I get this a lot, and I understand it, because when I was 20 and earning the princely sum of $12.50 an hour it was outside of my experience that any business anywhere would pay $100 for anything which was not e.g. a lawyer. I am now older and, knock on wood, wiser.

There are no "social tricks" involved -- well, not in the sense that you're thinking. You don't need a magic mind control beam to sell things to businesses. Here, I'm a geek like you're a geek. Can you (or J. Random Hypothetical Dev) outline how you would convince me, a fellow geek, that you could successfully program iOS applications? Showing me something you have made would suffice. Talking about the process of building iOS applications in a way which made it sound like you knew what you were talking about would also suffice.

Now pivot from the technical question to the business question. Given that I (or K. Random Small Business Owner) has a business doing $FOO, how does that business make more money or spend less money as a result of having an iOS application built for it?

I know exactly how you'd sell me an iPhone app. You'd ask if any of my SaaS accounts had ever canceled because of lack of an iPhone app. I'd tell you that that happened X0 times. You'd say "How much was their aggregate spend per month?" I'd say "A few thousand bucks." You'd say "So, to a first approximation, an iPhone app being available is going to be worth a few thousand bucks per month to your company within a few months." (n.b. This is just an example rather than a request to get proposals, guys.)

How would you convince e.g. a financial adviser that he urgently wants to have an iOS app written? That might start with "How much do you make on your average customer account every year?" "A few thousand dollars." "How often do you get to talk to them?" "Mostly commonly, once or twice a year." "Do they ever cancel saying 'I don't understand what I'm paying you for." "That's my #1 cause of losing clients." "Wouldn't it be better if you were on their home screen every day?" "YES."

How would you convince a restaurant that they want want a delivery app? Fill in the blank.

How would you convince a plumbing company that they want something their plumbers can use to check-in and check-out of work sites? Fill in the blank.

As to where you find businesses: I suppose you could sell things door to door, but most people don't. One way which works for a lot of people is to throw an event with the local e.g. Chamber of Commerce about some technology topic (maybe an overview of how mobile is changing the Internet, a subject on which you're vastly more educated than the average owner of a firm with $2 million a year in revenue in your local community) and having business cards and a willingness to continue the conversation when people try to talk to you after the event.

Okay, so we've gone from "You can make $100/hr making iOS apps" to "You can make $100/hr making iOS apps if you happen to live in a city that lets you throw an event, figure out which people you need to convince to let you throw that event, have enough public speaking skills (along with presentation skills and "appearance skills") to wow the audience, and you can somehow get local business owners to attend your event."

The overview is really excellent, it's just that I'm getting the feeling "connecting competent iOS devs to business owners" is a huge unsolved problem.

Could I persuade you to throw out some more ideas for how to connect with the right people to land a $100/hr gig?

(I appreciate that this thread is rather not-very-visible, so maybe your time is better spent elsewhere. But I figured I'd at least ask, since the advice would be so valuable.)

You are partially defeating yourself here. Yes there is some legwork to be done with this approach (did you expect to get $100/hr by browsing craigslist?), but these hurdles are more about simply getting out of the comfort zone of a stay-at-home college student and into the comfort zone of a businessperson.

> ...live in a city that lets you throw an event, figure out which people you need to convince to let you throw that event...

The location requirement is basically "big enough to sustain a hotel with a conference room," as that is all you need. Cities do not have a Department Of Permits To Host A Seminar, you can just rent a conference room, VFW hall, or park district room, and pass out fliers.

> ...somehow get local business owners to attend your event...

Mention free donuts. Only half joking here; your seminar doesn't need to be ISO Certified to attract attention and curious business owners. If you read your local library newsletter or village website, you'll probably see dozens of similar talks put on by local lawyers, accountants, print shops, etc, and people attend those. Heck, the library will probably advertise it for you!

> ...presentation skills and "appearance skills"...

This is really what it boils down to. Do you have the confidence to convey the image of a professional developer as opposed to a student. After a decade of experience, I would say this is a greater asset than wizardly technical expertise, and a harder skillset to refine.

Could I persuade you to throw out some more ideas for how to connect with the right people to land a $100/hr gig?

Write up a case study on how you made a business $MONEY using your iOS programming skills, submit to HN.

Contact other iOS freelancers, particularly those who appear to be doing well, and ask if they could provide you referrals for overflow work or work which does not fit their interest (wrong budget, wrong client pool, wrong location, etc).

Cold call or cold email people. Dirty secret: it works.

Work your offline and/or online social networks, asking people if they will warm-intro you to business owners who fit the general profile of "People who could conceivably write very small [+] checks."

[+] This goes against everything in my upbringing and what I believed about the world as a college student, but it is an important lesson for technologists to learn very early in their careers: $4,000 is not a lot of money to many businesses.

Since you're current in college, you can actually use that to your advantage with certain people. You can now reliably cold call certain people all by saying "Hi $COLLEGE alumni! I'm currently in $COLLEGE" and people will talk to you. I'm sure there's a lot of people still local around the school. How do you find the people? LinkedIn or through your college, they always have things to connect with alumni.

You can then ask 'if they will warm-intro you to business owners who fit the general profile of "People who could conceivably write very small [+] checks."'

> I'm getting the feeling "connecting competent iOS devs to business owners" is a huge unsolved problem.

Maybe there could be an app for that?

While it is nice to see well written inspirational advice from Patrick, this particular advice reminds a bit of the advice from the $40 get rich quick book I read as a teenager a long time ago.

The advice was: open a walk-by pizza restaurant in New York. The book went into a bit of detail on all the advantages this particular business entailed but skimped quite a bit on the downsides.

Despite all the upbeat advice here you should be realistic, you will have to sell yourself pretty hard to achieve more than the going rate in your neck of woods.

Personal experience, I worked on a 10k USD data mining project in a Eastern European country last year so 10k is doable even there. However, my take was 1k for maybe 2 months of weekend work. The hustler/rainmaker got most of the money, while some money went to a PhD brought in for prestige. While I could complain that I did 90% of the programming/dredging/analysis involved, I was under no illusion that I could procure the job myself. The amount of BS that was involved in procuring the job was beyond my tolerance level. Now some people can do both: handle corporate BS and do programming but I doubt it is true for most of us.

TL:DR It takes more hustle than programming skill to get those $100/h gigs.

Advice: If you want to be realistic, try to go 50/50 with a hustler, you are unlikely to get to $100 an hour within 4 months by yourself.

It is true that getting the client can be the "hardest" part, but I believe that is only in the beginning. What you really need to do is make local business owners believe that they A. Need an X SOFTWARE for their business immediately and B. You are the one that can and should provide it for them.

If you're the one that convinces them that they need this software for their business, and you provide this service, they're going to immediately come to you.

Don't think about it as getting gigs. This generally implies scanning through existing listings. Try to reach out to your community and hold that free (1-2)hour-long workshop on how (INSERT YOUR LINE OF WORK HERE) is increasing businesses revenue streams.

I agree that the reach out to community approach can work, just doubtful it can work in the 4 month time frame before the end of this year.

It takes a while to build up a reputation.

If you really want to make $10000 be stupid.* Take a simple and successful app and do it better and sell it for less than the other guy. Don't try to be smart, innovative, or creative and hope that it succeeds, just be better. The stupider and more successful the idea, the more chance you have to get your cash by being better.

*@FAKEGRIMLOCK says it much better.

haha, yeah like the Samwer Brothers, they copy existing startups. http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/the-samwer-brot...

To be honest, you probably won't make money with this until December.

That's only about $18/hour if you're working full time.

Does that really matter? At least it's something.

He means you can make that much by working full time.

Oh. Sorry. I'm a bit tired and I'm a bit out of it. While I could make that much working full time, there are no jobs that pay that rate around here. Most jobs I've found around here pay minimum wage. The most I've found for someone like me pays $11.50/hr.

$11,50? I am serious. You get 10Eur/h for cleaning floors in Germany. I can't believe that you'd get $11,40/h for coding an iOS App. No way! Even the cheapest company I know pays 50Eur/h for an iOS dev and they're currently valued between 120Eur/h and 200Eur/h here.

I know some law students, who clean floors, because they don't want to fill their head with useless stuff, when they can get along with 80Eur a day and concentrate on studying instead of work.

You can develop apps on the iphone?

Well, look at craigslist, freelancer websites and hustle hustle husetle.

You can sell your ability to those with an idea who are posting.

However, you will only be studying/schooling/working/looking for work. No GF/BF, not much social time.

Be a freelancer, and the future is in your hands.

Back when I was at university I did a lot of work on rent-a-coder, now vWorker. Initially it was hard to win business, the first few jobs I did were worth almost nothing. After I did those smaller jobs and built some rep I found that local contractors (I am Australian) preferred to hire me over some of the others due to language difficulties. Ended up earning more than $10K from projects, however not in such a short timespan.

In short, sell your skills and make sure to emphasise that you're a good communicator.

How quickly can you throw together a website for a local business that lacks one? Say that you will set one up for a flat fee is they pay for Domain and hosting. Hundred bucks for a few hours right there.

As for app sales, marketing is incredibly important in ios sales. How are people finding your app?

Finally if you are going to school, reach out to alumni.

I am in nearly the same boat as you. I am a college student, who makes iPhone Apps, and I've just recently become a freelancer/consultant.

Here's a tip. $10,000 might seem like A LOT now, but it is really just ($1,000 x 10 projects), ($2,000 x 5 projects), ($4,000 x 2.5 projects/weeks), etc. What I'm saying is that if you break it down, it isn't that much, and it becomes quite easily attainable in 2~3 months time.

First off, look at patio11's comment in this thread, memorize it, and make it your new business mindset from now on. His blog woke me up to the reality of doing business (If you haven't, check it out:http://www.kalzumeus.com/blog/).

Ok, now onto what what you really want to know - how specifically do you make $10,000 in a few months?

1st, have a specific goal and a desire. Check!

2nd, set up a business to do your freelancing through. I set up a sole proprietorship for $52. Now make a website. I used SquareSpace to set up an already-designed website that I modified just a bit, and they provide the whole website-in-a-box package for $10/month. Now set up personal Twitter & LinkedIn accounts if you haven't already. This whole process took me 30 minutes online.

3rd, find clients that are willing to pay you for your services. AHHHH! This is impossible! No one is going to pay for MY skills, right? VERY, VERY, VERY WRONG. You say that you've already made apps. You can already prove that you can make an app and put it in the App Store. You're way ahead of a lot of people. Make a list of 20 local businesses that might like to have an app. I'm talking about locally-owned restaurants, dental offices, ice cream stores, etc. Now, make an overall script of what you would say to them, and modify it slightly to fit the business. Call them up in the morning when you expect them to be less busy, and sell them on the idea that they want an app for their business. I know what you're thinking - UGH... COLD CALLS? REALLY? Well, they work, and they're a great way to get started! They are just the first step! Soon enough, you will never have to do it again! Oh and, things will go wrong. Don't let that stop you, because you'll be the one that is laughing when you have reached $15,000 instead of your originally planned $10k.

Read patio11's example of an ideal pitch, as posted above.

How would you convince e.g. a financial adviser that he urgently wants to have an iOS app written? That might start with "How much do you make on your average customer account every year?" "A few thousand dollars." "How often do you get to talk to them?" "Mostly commonly, once or twice a year." "Do they ever cancel saying 'I don't understand what I'm paying you for." "That's my #1 cause of losing clients." "Wouldn't it be better if you were on their home screen every day?" "YES."

Hey, reach out to me. I might be able to help.

Do you have examples of iOS or Android apps you've made?

iOS or Windows Phone

check out this --> http://www.therightmarketingidea.com <--

This is just ridiculous.


How much money do you have now? Depending on your starting amount, the $10,000 number becomes more or less realistic.

If you have $0, it's not very likely. Your best hope is to find a job and re-evaluate in a couple months.

If you have $10,000, doubling it becomes more realistic, but not exceedingly so. Writing an app costs money (yeah, I know, it's amazing to think that you can't just do this shit for free!) and you still have to live while developing it.

If you have $100,000, that's a 10% growth. Betting correctly on the stock market should be pretty straight forward in this market.

If you have >$500,000, this is cakewalk.

If there were a manual to life, it'd tell you that having money is the easiest, most reliable way to make more money. Social climbing is still extremely hard in our generation, but at the very least computers have made it easier for the intelligent and dedicated.

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