How to Build an App for Under $100 without Writing Code


Tara Reed (@tarareed_) is the CEO of Apps Without Code. Her tagline is “I like to build apps without writing a line of code”.


Aaaaand, mic drop.

In this guest post from Tara, she’s going to explain why bypassing her friends opinions was one of the smartest decisions she’s ever made, how she created her app for under $100 without writing a line of code (!!!), and how she patched together her MVP together to generate $35,000 in revenue (to start) and gain entrance into the accelerator program, 500Startups.

Hot damn.

Apart from being a boss as a “non-techie” in the tech industry (golf clap madam), Tara has spoken at TedxDetroit, has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, Black Enterprise, and Entrepreneur (just to name a few), and now consults other wantrepreneurs who are looking to build their dream app without writing a lick of code.


Enter Tara

When I first started launching my startup, Kollecto, I kept my ideas to myself.

I thought, “If anyone finds out about this idea, THEY’RE GONNA STEAL IT”! And we all know that someone else stealing your idea ranks like a 12 on the 1-10 scale of THAT SUCKS!

But here’s the truth – sharing my idea at the very beginning got me my first $35,000 in sales, accepted by the 500 Startups accelerator program, and $300,000+ in investment.


Thing is, validating your idea is the single most important step in launching your app/startup idea. Here are two super important lessons to get you started:

Lesson #1

Lesson #1 is super simple: STOP LISTENING TO YOUR FRIENDS!

I know, I know… “But my friends are awesome. Who is this Tara Reed person anyway, and who does she think she is telling me not to listen to them?!”

Hey, I got nothing against your friends. But I do want to share one of the biggest secrets I learned launching my own startup. STOP LISTENING TO YOUR FRIENDS!

They are the WORST people to validate your app or startup idea.

Seriously, you might have the BEST idea for a startup that could totally make you huge piles of cash, and your friend might be like:


So what happens? You throw away an idea that could have made you serious money. Or it might happen the other way. You might have a not so great, not so profitable idea and your friends are all like:


What happens in this scenario? You waste thousands of dollars and months of time building something no one even wants. My friend Brennan has a great way to describe this. He says “Hell is building fancy stuff that nobody uses.”


Your friends are super duper people, but their opinions are just a few among BILLIONS. Do not rely on them to validate your app/startup idea. To do that, you need to get your idea out in front of actual users. You need honest (hold nothing back) feedback from as many people as possible. Trust me on this.

NOTE: If you’re unsure on how to do customer research that will give you feedback in validating your idea, we’ve written two articles that will help you get that feedback you need to improve your product: How to Do Market Research for Your Business (for Free) and How an Eager Beaver, Noob Freelancer can do Customer Research. You might find them useful.

So what do you do?

Lesson #2

Test and validate your idea by building your 25% project… NOT an MVP.

A lot of folks think Step #2 after coming up with an idea is to build their MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Something like the first version of Facebook:


Or the first version of Twitter:


People think if you can’t immediately build something like this, they should just give up. Well, here’s the truth:


So, before you spend lots of time and money building your MVP, build your 25% project. A 25% project is the fastest, simplest, cheapest way to validate and test your app idea.

Think of your app journey like this:


Maybe you’re at Step #1 right now.

If you try to jump from Step #1 to Step #3, you will waste time and money.

Do NOT overlook Step #2. Your 25% project is the most important step in validating your app.

A 25% project isn’t really an app. It’s what I call an “invisible app” – a kind of preview of the real deal you can use to validate and test your idea, and build a waiting list of real users super excited to start using your actual app!

Oh, and best of all…

You can totally build your 25% project without writing a single line of code. This will save you lots of time and a ton of money you’d otherwise spend on professional developers (who might not understand your vision, anyway).

I built my 25% project for my Kollecto app using a bunch of easy tools, like Strikingly’s super slick (and super easy) web design software.


Check out my video, [The Revenue Formula] How I Used Strikingly to Make my First $35,000, to learn more about exactly how I did this.

I used Typeform to create simple, logic-based surveys:


…and personalized emails:


I strung everything together using simple logic-based tools like Zapier:


And POW! In just a few days, for less than $100 (!!!), I had a 25% project that I was able to share publicly and use to validate my app. Also, I was able to start growing a subscriber list that would later become my first paying customers!

My 25% project actually ended up getting me my first $35,000 in sales!!


Boom. Boom. Boom.

Quick note: Lots of people think this first version of your app (what I call the “invisible app”) has to be PERFECT, but that is not at all true. So I always tell students in AppHacker that your 25% project isn’t going to be perfect and it’s not going to be gorgeous. If you’re doing it right you should actually be embarrassed. Trust me:)


Building your 25% project is the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to launch your startup.

For more info on launching your 25% project and validating your app or startup idea without wasting tons of time and money, check out my brand new webinar, “How to Test Your Startup Idea“.

Final Thoughts

Well that’s it folks. If you have an idea for an app that you’ve been wanting to create for SO LONG (or….you know, the past week), but:

  • You don’t have the capital to hire developers
  • It intimidates you to work with developers when you’re not one yourself
  • You don’t care, nor have the time, to learn to code
  • You want to get this created by the end of THIS month