App Journal: Finding a developer and the importance of a good consulting agreement

Jon Henshaw shares his experience of making an app for Coywolf. In the first entry of an ongoing series, Jon describes finding the right developer and why it's important to have a good consulting agreement.

Many agencies and entrepreneurs consider making their own software but they rarely follow through with it. Sometimes it’s because they don’t feel like they have the time or money to pull it off, while other times they believe the risks outweigh the rewards. Whatever the reasons, I want to prove to you that a company of one can do it.

The App Journal series will chronicle my experience creating an app for Coywolf. The entries will be near real-time because I will be writing and publishing what I experience soon after it happens. I want you to come along with me in this journey so you can see what it really takes to make an app and to realize you’re capable of taking the same leap.

Finding a developer

Leading up to the point of needing a developer, I spent several months thinking about the app I wanted to make. I kept notes and drew rough sketches of how it might work, and considered radically different approaches throughout the process. For the sake of brevity, I will discuss those details in future entries when I also share them with the developer.

Criteria for choosing a developer

I’ve worked with developers for well over two decades. That experience has given me a good idea of who I want to work with and who I don’t want to work with. My criteria for a developer includes:

Several months ago I started working with a brilliant developer who I had worked with before but it started to become apparent that he didn’t really have the time to work on my project. Because he was a friend, we had a loose business relationship and ultimately we scrapped the project. It wasn’t a good start and I knew I needed to approach the project in a more business-like and thoughtful manner if I was ever going to get it done.

I spent a couple of months letting different developer friends know that I was looking for someone. All of them were already at capacity with their own projects, but one of them eventually connected me with someone who was a perfect fit for my project. After some email exchanges, we met to get to know each other better, go over the specifics of the software, and to make sure he would have the time needed to commit to the project.

He was a good fit.

Consulting Agreement

As I stated earlier, I originally started the software project loosely. I was working with a friend and I didn’t have a consulting agreement in place yet. That was a mistake and it’s not something I recommend.

A consulting agreement is important for several reasons. It defines the business relationship and helps protect you if something doesn’t go as planned. It also provides parameters for how to resolve conflicts, including the proper way to terminate the relationship.

Perhaps the most important part of the agreement is the stipulation that you own the code. When I sold Raven Tools in 2017, the buyer required proof that every single developer that had ever worked on our software had signed an agreement that clearly stated we owned the code. So if you ever want to sell your software, you better have agreements with anyone who has ever written code for it. And if you’re wondering about the first developer I worked with that didn’t sign an agreement, don’t worry, it was for a different software idea that I ended up scrapping completely.

Example Consulting Agreement

Disclaimer: This example consulting agreement is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

I wanted to provide you with the consulting agreement I used with the developer I’m currently working with. It’s a good example of the type of agreement you should have in place for the developers you work with. However, just as the disclaimer states, it’s not meant as legal advice and I recommend that you consult with an attorney for your own agreements.

Download example agreement (Zip file with PDF and Word versions)

I’m scheduled to have a kick-off meeting next week with the developer and will write another entry if anything noteworthy happens.

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