I’m sure you’ve noticed it. Pretty much everyone seems to have an idea for an app. I’ll go to a wedding or visit home or even just open my inbox and there they are, “Idea People.” They heard about the latest billion dollar acquisition, they saw Social Network, and now they have an idea for a product of their own.

There’s just one hitch: they have no clue how to build a product.

Fair enough. It’s not like it’s an easy task. But I get so many requests from Idea People that I felt the need to write something up to at least make their task a little easier.

My Pastry Box entry this month is a series of excerpts from something I’ve been working on called The Idea Person FAQ. It’s designed to help folks who are passionate but inexperienced. Ideally it sets a healthy framework in their heads for the kind of struggle they’re signing up for along with best practices and such.

I’d love to hear what you think (@fictivecameron), and please let me know if you come across any questions from Idea People on a regular basis that I should include. I’d love to take a stab at answering them on behalf of all us folks who’ve built a thing or two.

buddy!

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From the Intro:

I’m a person with a great idea. Not just a great idea. The idea that ends all ideas.  How valuable am I?

Not very. You’re probably a wonderful person with a sweet personality, but if your value only goes as far as sharing the initial idea, you’re in a tight spot. It’s not nothing, but it’s also not a whole lot. This Derek Sivers article reflects the prevailing feeling regarding the value of the idea. And while I don’t completely agree with the article, the sentiment it presents is pretty widespread throughout the industry and you should assume that everyone you meet feels that way.

On the plus side, at least your idea is a good one which means you’ve got a chance of convincing good folks to work on it, it’s just gonna take some work. The whole “good idea” thing is worth an extra beat. Your passion, if coherent, for your idea will be one of the primary things (along with your personality) that will get people interested in working with you.

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I then go on to talk about two paths to finished product.

1. Paying for a product (hiring contractors)

That sounds great, how much does it cost?

No easy way to answer this question, but we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars. Products are extremely complicated to build and good designers / developers these days cost quite a bit. This is especially true of iOS developers who are in tremendously high demand right now and often get priced at $7500 / week. Good work if you can get it.

Yeah, but I just have a quick little app. That shouldn’t be too hard. Right?

There is no such thing as a quick little app. All apps take a long time. Also, never say this to a designer or developer. Let them say it to you. Remember that you don’t know what you’re talking about and they do. This is one of those comments that is considered a red flag by designers / developers. You’ll do well to avoid it. If you wanted to send a positive signal (a green flag?), you could say something like, “I’m committed to keeping this app as simple as possible and am going to rely on your help and your judgment to do so.” That's pretty spicy.

2. Partnering for a product (finding partners who will work with you for equity)

OK. NM. I can’t get all that money. But why do I have to play it so cool? I’m ready to get building. Shouldn’t I just pitch people right away?

You have to understand that as an outsider, you’ll be viewed initially with a big old dollop of skepticism. Believe it or not, talented designers & developers are approached frequently (maybe daily?) with idea opportunities. Idea people also have a reputation for cluelessness about the practicalities of building great products. This is mostly because they’ve never actually built anything before. The result is that they want things faster and cheaper than is really feasible. This leads to a pretty unfortunate work environment that generally implodes before the product gets finished. Almost every designer and developer has a story that resembles this one. Keep that background in mind.

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That's the general vibe. Hopefully, the end result will be a valuable resource for clients, family members, and cocktail party acquaintances alike. Don’t forget to hit me with any questions you may have.

Thanks!

Cameron Koczon, Fictive Kin