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Finding iPhone Work

I’ve been developing software for quite a while. Most of that time has been spent working for The Man. Places like Nortel, Corel, Alias, Cognos, and IBM. So when it came time to finding work, things were pretty simple. My boss gave me work, and I did it.

I became a freelance/contract developer last year. So now I have to find my own work. I don’t want to work on anything that’s not iPhone (or maybe Android) related. So I scour the boards looking for people who are looking for me. It’s tough. Many people looking for iPhone work fall into one of two camps:

1) People who want to hire you on site, full time.
2) People who want to split the profits “50/50″.

I have no intention of moving away from lovely Ottawa, and even if I did, I would try to find a place even nicer, and try to work from there. So moving to an arbitrary location to do work for a company is not in the cards.

As to people who want to split profits 50/50, I have two problems with that. One, it’s not really a 50/50 split. Remember that Apple gets their cut, so the split is actually 30/35/35. So I would do almost all of the work for 35% of the proceeds? No thank you. Two, I don’t deal in speculation. I have a family to feed and house payments to make. I can’t afford to spend weeks or months of my time working on a project that may not bring in a dime.

So that leaves people who are willing to hire telecommuting iPhone developers who wish to get paid for time spent. Take that group, and then remove all the people who want to pay $20/hour. Frankly, any good developer that charges this much little is doing himself a disservice. Now what you have left is my target market.

It’s not easy to break into.

I figure that once I build up a portfolio of projects, I’ll be able to bring in projects easier. I think that the group of people looking for quality developers who are willing to pay what they’re worth is big enough for me. I just need to build the experience and reputation and repeat clients to continue making a living at this. So I’ve been spending a lot of time looking for projects, and every once in a while I find one.

Right now I’m finishing off a project, and I think I may have finally nailed the last bug. After seeing how much work I put into the project, I’m sure I underbid. But that’s all part of the learning process, I guess. Yesterday I put in a bid for another project, and I’m told that my bid is neither the lowest nor the highest. I like that. Frankly, if I bid the lowest, I probably underbid. If I bid the highest, I probably wouldn’t get the job. So I’m happy with my positioning.

Now I’m waiting for the phone to ring.

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Contract Expires Early

Two months ago I signed a six month contract to do iPhone and Mac development. My first project would be an iPhone one, and my second would be a Mac project that they were pursuing. So the iPhone project is now coming to a close, and yesterday I got called in to the HR department. I was told that other iPhone contracts they were pursuing didn’t materialize, and that they’re giving me two weeks notice.

There was only one other permanent person working on this project (an employee, not a contractor), and he had no Mac/iPhone/Cocoa/Xcode experience whatsoever. I was the prime developer in everything but name. I did almost all the GUI for the whole project, and much of the guts as well. They are quite pleased with my work. So to be dropped this easily is a bit unnerving.

But they said that they’re pursuing other opportunities, and that if one of them gets signed, that I’d be working on a Blackberry project after the iPhone one is done. That’s all very nice and good, and I have nothing against the Blackberry, but I didn’t sign up to do Blackberry work. I love working on the iPhone! While I’ve learned a lot that about iPhone development during my time here, there’s still a lot more to learn. I want to continue expanding my skillset on the iPhone and want to become an iPhone domain expert. That said, learning a new platform like the Blackberry wouldn’t be that bad.

But most of all, I have to wonder why I bothered signing a six month contract in the first place. What good is it to sign up for six months, only to be let go halfway through the term? I’m relatively new to the world of contracting, this being my second contract. So far it’s been quite a turbulent ride, with more downs than ups. I guess this is all part of the learning process.

So anyway, now I’m now looking for work iPhone or Mac development. My resume is here.

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How Much is an iPhone Developer Worth?

The author of this article at O’Reilly says that in his experience, good iPhone developers are making $125/hour doing contract work, sometimes more. And that because of how lucrative selling apps is, many contractors are forgoing contract work altogether in favour of creating and selling their own iPhone apps.

He rightly points out that in this market, ideas are worthless. I’ve seen this in software development before – an idea, all by itself, is worth nothing, and it’s the execution of the idea that matters. The author of this article says: “I am someone who is highly motivated by ideas. So, it pains me to say that the value of an iPhone application idea right now is pretty much zero. A great idea isn’t worth anything under these conditions. There is no shortage of great iPhone ideas, just a shortage of talent to bring these ideas to market.” For someone like me, who doesn’t seem to have a creative bone in my body (kidding!), I think that ideas are worth slightly more than that. But not much.

Which brings me to my point. I see lots of people offer to work with a developer and split the profits 50/50. In this market where a developer’s time is so precious, I hardly think that this would be any motivation for a developer at all. The idea person gets half the profit and the person that does all the work gets the other half? Hardly seems fair. Especially given the fact that the split isn’t actually 50/50. It’s 30/35/35. That is, Apple gets 30%, the “idea person” gets 35%, and the person who creates the app gets 35%. That’s even more unbalanced.

As an experienced developer who’s now doing iPhone development, I don’t see any iPhone devs making $125/hour. Maybe I just don’t know where to look? I’ve been looking for good telecommuting iPhone jobs, and they’re hard to find. I’m starting to be open to finding someone who is willing to offer me a true 50/50 split (that is, 30/20/50). But I still think full time/contract work is what I want.

Thoughts?