App Automation – From Idea to the App Store In Half the Time

app automation tutorialOnce you have a few apps out in the app store and your business is gaining momentum, it’s very important to start outsourcing some of the tasks and giving the responsibility to someone else.

I’m a big believer of only doing the parts of your business that you enjoy and are good at, and leave the rest to someone. Not only will that bring you the best results (we are usually pretty good at the parts we enjoy) but it also will allow you to grow and scale your business faster than ever.

One of the biggest reasons I’m able to work on so many apps and get a whole heap more done than others is because I have systematized my business. Everybody on my team knows which aspects they’re responsible for and get it done without me prompting.

The Business System

My assistant Azel is indispensable to my company. She keeps things organized and on track, and is responsible for a lot of the tasks that quickly get repetitive. I can rely on her to ensure that things get done whilst I focus on the higher level strategizing that will help my business to grow to higher levels.

Finding a full time virtual assistant in other parts of the world, particularly in the East can be extremely affordable. I have in the past hired people for $200-250/month full time, but I believe $300-500/month is a good wage to find talented, dedicated, intelligent and hard working staff who speak great English. I genuinely believe that Azel (who is based in the Philippines) does a better job than anyone I could have hired locally here in the US.

Structuring the app business

The best way to train your assistant is to record yourself doing the task and walking them through it. This is easy and free to do. I use Jing. This is a free downloadable software that will allow you to create a five-minute video recording your screen and voice. It will then upload the video to their server and give you an easy URL link for you to provide.

Below I’ll talk about how we have structured our app business to get a game from idea to app store with minimal participation on my part:

1. I have a gameplay idea in mind, for the sake of this example, let’s say I’ve purchased some a source code for a running game. The first thing I need are theme ideas.

I show Azel the game and have her research some popular themes that will suit this gameplay. There are 7 different ways I look for popular and proven gameplay types.

2. Azel will come back to me with 10-20 ideas on different themes we can create our game in, as well as where she came up with the idea. For example, if she found it in the app store, she’ll mention where she found it, which chart, and what position it’s at.

I then narrow it down to the ideas that I like. and then prioritize them in the order I want to release them.

3. Azel will then go back into the app store, and find POPULAR games that are high in the charts and have a similar theme or game play that we are adapting and make a list in a notepad file.

She then goes over to AppStoreRankings.net and pulls out the keywords those apps are using and pastes them in the notepad file. If you’re familiar with this site as a free member, you’ll know after a few searches it won’t allow you to search any longer unless you sign up as a paid member.

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After 30 mins or so (disclaimer: the time frame is completely made up. Honestly, I have no idea after how long as I no longer do it), ASR will allow you to continue searching, so Azel will work on something else in between and come back to it. Once it’s done, she’ll add the file in our Dropbox folder and message me on Skype to let me know it’s ready

4. Once I have the keywords I begin sifting through each game to come up with my own keyword list. To be honest, Azel could probably handle this part as well, but I actually really enjoy it, plus I think the naming and keyword part of the process is so important to your apps’ success that it should be handled by me for now at least. Usually she’ll send me 4-5 theme’s keywords at a time, so I do them all in one sitting.

5. If I don’t have a designer that I’m continuously working with, I’ll post a job on freelancer.com. I have a very vague job posting that works well for me, so I use It over and over again. Azel knows the art style that I like and I have her find and invite potential designers to my job posting.

6. After 24-48 hours, I look through applications and shortlist the profiles I like. I have Azel contact those people schedule an interview in which I tell them more about my idea and get a quote from them, if everything’s fine I’ll hire them on the spot.

7. In the background, Azel will be creating new SDKs for the 5 new games. I have her do all of it in one go as that’s quicker for her, and so cheaper for me. She has all of my passwords. While I wouldn’t recommend doing this as soon as you hire someone, but eventually after some time, if they gain your trust, there’s no reason not to.

Since most of these ad network companies pay out via Paypal, you can always ask when interviewing for an assistant if they have a Paypal account. It’s not uncommon for them to not have one due to country restrictions. If they don’t, this will at least minimize the risk of potential fraud. You may also want to set reminder to regularly check into your accounts to ensure the payment information is as you left it, but please don’t let the fear of this put you off outsourcing it.

Imagine if Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or whoever else didn’t trust anyone on the financial side of their company, and insisted on handling it themselves, we probably would never have heard of them. I highly doubt they’d be as successful as they are today!

Chartboost allows you to create a login with limited access here.

8. Next it’s finding a programmer. If I don’t have someone I’m already working with, I’ll have Azel basically do everything she did in step 5 above.

9. I add Azel into a Skype group chat with contractors and try and keep all conversations with the programmer/designer in that conversation, that way Azel get’s a feel for what happens in development, and she can also answer questions or send files on my behalf.

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She will also check in with programmers daily or as needed to check up on progress. I’ve noticed a significant reduction in the time it takes to get a build back from the programmer with Azel checking up in the morning. This is also a lot more beneficial than me doing it because:

  1. I forget
  2. I sometimes feel a little pushy so would probably avoid it out of politeness
  3. Azel’s timezone is 8 hours ahead of mine, it overlaps much better with my programmers timezone, so after she has spoken to them, they are more likely to get things done that day, as opposed to if I ask when I wake up, and it’s late afternoon in their time.
  4. When I log into Skype, I can simply read the thread and get the gist of a 15 minute conversation in less than a minute (usually while I’m eating my breakfast).

10. Testing an app is fun the first build you get, but it gets monotonous after a while, so I have Azel do some of the testing for me on her ipod touch (I test as well as I have an iPad 2 and an iPhone 5 and often get different results). My plan is to eventually have someone with multiple devices on my team so they can bug test.

11. I then take screenshots of the app in action and send them over to Azel, along with which order I’d like them to be in. She resizes each one and uploads it to iTunes Connect

12. Next, she’ll write a description about the game and add that to ITC, as well as my pre-chosen title and keywords and fill in all of the information and set up the in-app purchases, which we do only if the programmer specifically asks us to do it. Otherwise I leave it up to him.

13. Once the app submitted and live, Azel will log into iTunes/ad networks each day and report our stats in a spreadsheet. This is broken down into daily numbers for every single app as well as the overall downloads and revenue per day, which is shared through Dropbox. This allows me to get a birds eye view of the numbers and how well apps are performing to make an executive decision on whether to make more games with the same theme/gameplay or not.

And this is pretty much it! I’ve tried to be as detailed as possible, but I may have missed something out, if you have any questions, please feel free to leave any comments below :-)

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