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The Haystack Method – How to find a Rockstar Developer

haystack method
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Are your games gathering dust because you have no one to make them? Have you been burnt by rogue developers? Is your app development turning into an app nightmare?

Here is the best way I have found to find and hire Rockstar Developers.

In return for this knowledge – which has saved me thousands of dollars, I’d really appreciate if you could share this post. Let’s get the word out about how easy hiring great developers can be!

Welcome to the Chocolate Lab Apps super successful Haystack Method.

haystack method

The Haystack Method is my tried and tested way to find Rockstar Developers. By using this method you will maximise your chances to find developers who are:

  • HONEST: In my experience 90%+ of developers on the big outsourcing sites will try to take advantage of your inexperience. They will charge you too much.
  • FAST: Spending 6 painful months begging your developer to finish your game is not fun.
  • GOOD TECHNICAL SKILLS: Hiring a programmer who can’t do his/her job will make you cry.

  • 7 step system

    haystack method

    Step 1

    Post a job on a freelancing site looking for a developer. Eg. “iOS developer wanted for exciting games project/photo app/utility app.” Keep it short and vague.

    Step 2

    Write out a list of Ad companies you want to use in this app (RevMob, Chartboost, Playhaven, Airpush, etc) and any other pieces of extra code you want use – like multiplayer, Nextpeer, Flurry, appirater, etc.


    Search in freelancing sites for the names on this list and invite those developers to your job. If they have SDKs listed in their profile there is a higher chance they can integrate them.


    24 hours later, log on and review all applicants. Refuse all Skype requests. Delete all Chinese applicants (too many bad experiences).

    s5 Delete any applicants who do not have 0 stars or 5 stars. If they have 1-4 stars someone already had problems with them and you do not want them. 0 or 5 star contractors have no documented issues – yet.


    Email shortlists contractors with one question ‘How long does it take to integrate Chartboost?”


    Delete any that do not reply in 12 hours. Delete any contractors that say over 1 hour. This work takes max 30 minutes. If they all say over 1 hour, delete all contractors. Start again at step 1.

    next steps

    Follow the Haystack Method until you have a shortlist of 3 or more Rockstar Developers. These developers have a much higher than average chance of being honest, fast to respond, and skilled in their job.

    Now is the time to get a little more specific. Do you want to make the world’s best photo app? Or a new racing game? Get your potential contractors to sign an NDA and then you can start to investigate more into their specific skills to see if they match what you want. Compare their best prices and how fast they can do this work. If they look and sound great, then hire then for a small job (under $150) first. See how well and how fast they do it. DO NOT SKIP THIS TEST OR YOU MAY LOSE MONEY! If they prove themselves to be a ROCKSTAR, then if you are happy you can hire then for your bigger job.




    Have you used the Haystack Method to find a great developer? Let me know in the comments.

    ALSO – Do you know someone who is having trouble finding a really good, honest developer? Send them a link to this post.

    PS: SURPRISE announcement coming soon to all Chocaholics on the Express – Sign up today and make sure you don’t miss out on the BIG NEWS!!

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    Elaine Heney is an online entrepreneur, triple #1 best selling author and international keynote speaker. Elaine is an Amazon FBA ecommerce advisor, investor, Hollywood movie producer, online business consultant and CEO of Chocolate Lab Cashflow. Elaine has also published over 300 mobile apps across Amazon, Apple & Google, and enjoyed over 20 million app downloads and over 50 #1 apps worldwide.

    { 16 comments… add one }

    • Peter Smith August 28, 2013, 5:07 am

      Oh gosh. I have development sussed as I am one. But getting hold of good graphics people and knowing what to charge is my issue.

    • Linda Allan August 28, 2013, 10:35 pm

      I really agree with your method of finding a good developer and will do what you said. Very appreciative of all of your help for us.

    • Wilfred September 3, 2013, 2:21 pm

      How do you breakdown your milestone after you hire the developer, designer or programmer? I’m in a position where the programer done his job but not as expected and he is charging me for each minor changes. How do you counter this or prevent this in future projects?

    • Elaine Heney September 3, 2013, 6:03 pm

      I would write out everything I wanted him to do and get him to read and agree to it before he started the job. The more features / sdks to add / ad networks to include, that you can define at the start, the less trouble you will have.

    • hitendra October 4, 2013, 5:53 am

      I follow similar approach and been getting estimates to include revmob and chartboost from 8 hours to 3 days. Insane!

    • @Yohann305 (twitter) November 15, 2013, 6:32 pm

      As a programmer myself, I found the question “How long would it take to integrate chartboost or revmob quite misleading” because a programmer that applies thoughts on the process knows better than just “dumping” the advertising banners within a game.
      It’s actually more involved than that. A good programmer would put thoughts into it and would ask himself “What is the best way of integrating the advertising banners without frustrating users and having a chance of loosing them”. This process requires more work, a better understanding of the game mechanics, and possibly analytical tools (such as Flurry or Google Analytics Mobile) which would definitely take longer than 1 hour. So the questions may actually get rid off the rockstar programmers as well, you can still get honest ones though.

      Now we could bypass this issue by asking this question: How long would it take to add revmob/chartboost interstitial ad on the landing view?

      That’s my sound over-exaggerated for some of you, I understand.

    • Richard Barry December 2, 2013, 10:01 am

      Firstly Elaine, I have just stumbled across your blog & am loving it as I’m at the genesis of this path so thank you for sharing such invaluable advice. I just have one question for you: why should we decline all Skype requests? I know this might be a rudimentary question but I’m fascinated as most of the people I’ve heretofore interacted with have requested chatting over Skype. Cheers.

    • Reality Check December 14, 2013, 6:09 am

      You want to find a rockstar developer? Hire one based on their
      a) LinkedIn profile
      b) Past performance

      Then pay them the their rockstar rate.

      Any other developer you find is not a rockstar developer and you’re deceiving yourself into thinking they are. Part of managing and running a startup is saving up money and resources to pay the right people to get the job done right. If you have any other method, you’re already losing, and you’re losing to another entrepreneur who’s doing it the right way.

    • Elaine Heney January 18, 2014, 6:34 pm

      New comment, lost due to server issues & reposted now:

      Author: Osiris

      Hello Elaine,

      Love your site and information. I’m a little confused tho. Are you are developer yourself or just an investor in apps. I’m sorry if I missed that part.

    • Elaine Heney January 24, 2014, 8:35 am

      @hitendra = yes crazy stuff :)

      @Yohann305 – I’m pretty sure if I asked “How long would it take to add revmob/chartboost interstitial ad on the landing view?” I’d still get 90% crazy replies but I get where you’re coming from :)

      @Reality Check – thanks for the comment :)

      @Richard Barry – Maybe its just me I find them a dismal waste of my time. My haystack question gets a lot more achieved a lot faster.

      @Osiris – I do everything except the coding :)

    • Emilio Ortiz March 24, 2014, 3:19 am

      Hey I wanted to know how to start my own app. I’m reading a book which shows you how to make a lot of stuff and the basics of making an android app. I have great ideas, but even though, would I still need a programmer to make what I want? Please reply

    • Elaine Heney March 24, 2014, 8:43 am

      HI Emilio, its up to you. If you have the skills you can make it. If not… you’ll need a programmer. Only 1 way to find out!

    • PS May 23, 2014, 5:45 pm

      Great tips! So what if you find a potentially great developer but they answer the “how long does it take to integrate Chartboost?” question with “it will take 1 to 2 hours”.

      Do you still delete them?

    • Paul Smith May 23, 2014, 6:26 pm

      Great info! If a potential developer answers the haystack question with “it will take 1 to 2 hours”, do you delete them even their work and ratings looks good?


    • Vikash jha July 6, 2014, 7:27 pm

      I have read your suggestions and its very use full.
      I am a game designer and I want to work with that developer who can handle developing games from scratch on my concepts.
      I am designing my graphics and ideas by myself and want to develop the codes for those games and want to sell it.
      Mostly all developer searching for graphics designer but Now I am searching for one creative developer who can handle all game ideas or I want to learn development from your tutorials.
      I will must buy it.
      Now, do you have any idea how can I start these things.:-)

    • Garrison Whipple July 11, 2015, 1:05 am

      Here’s what I have learned from outsourcing

      -look for developers that have a high job success rate 90% or higher instead of looking at reviews because every freelancer begs their customer to leave a five star review
      -ad networks aren’t that hard to implement instead worry about your campaigns and who you target with them
      -never ever have the same person do your graphics and your coding
      -negotiate prices with your developer to the lowest it can be, truth is they need work and it won’t effect their average hourly rate if you pay them by project
      -work out a way for your developer to deliver the code to you, I have used github and it works great

      Hope this helps you guys

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