How to Become a Mobile App Developer

Mar 28, 2022
Mandy Arola

The first blog of this two-part series is about steps to building your first mobile app based on your own idea, but how do you turn that app into a job? Christopher Cotton shared his advice with our web development students for building your skills while you’re on the job search.

Grow as a contractor

While you can always build a mobile app based on your own idea, you may find it more motivating to build an app for someone else. As a contractor, you're trading time to gain experience. “The more practice you get, the better you become,” Christopher explains. Even though you’re learning, you shouldn’t do this work for free. “You deserve to get paid. I’ve found that people who want you to work for free are often hard to work with,” he shares. But be careful not to overcharge. There can be lots of learning time, particularly if this is your first mobile app. When billing, don’t include the time you spent watching tutorials, only include the time you spent actually working on the application.

A common question for those who are new to freelance is, how much should I charge? Christopher recommends $25-50 per hour and discourages billing by the project. Even with years of experience, you never know how long the app will take to build. Plus, the scope of what a client wants to build often changes as the app evolves.

Another common question is “where do I begin to look for contract work?” Christopher stresses the importance of networking, even in the virtual world. The NashDev Slack workspace is a great place to start. Check out the #Freelance channel and post that you’re working on mobile apps. Share what you’ve built along the way and keep sharing. “Eventually people will come to you,” he states. Also, be sure to mention your work on mobile apps at meetups, even virtual ones. If you hear of someone else working on a mobile app, ask if they need help. 

Christopher recommends checking out the Nashville Cocoa Heads meetup and Slack workspace. There are also several virtual mobile app meetups that are great to explore even though they’re not local. Meetups are always looking for speakers. If you know a meetup looking for one, Christopher encourages you to do a talk. “Learning something and do a short presentation on it.” Don’t let imposter syndrome get in the way!

On the job

If your current company has a mobile app development team, make it known that you would like to join that team. Build relationships with that team. Share the mobile apps you have built. Offer to fix bugs. “When a position opens up, you’ll be in a good place to transfer,” Christopher shares.

What to look for in a junior mobile app developer position

Christopher recommends finding a company that has a small team developing their own mobile app or a mobile development agency, like Metova. These two types of organizations should give you development time on the application and provide mentoring from senior developers. You will want to find a job where you’ll be responsible for part of an application and not just testing to maximize your learning experience on the job.

The job search

Searching for your first development job can take awhile, particularly if you’re searching for a mobile developer position as there are fewer junior roles available. While you’re searching it’s important to keep networking and sharing your interest in mobile apps and the projects you’ve completed. Keep working on contract projects so that you can continue learning until you find the right job for you. You never know, you may discover that you prefer to be a contractor.

These are not the only ways to become a mobile app developer. Christopher shares one last piece of advice, “find your own way. Do what works for you. And keep going.”

Topics: Learning, Web Development