I'm currently designing a streaming music application for Facebook that will be built in Flash. In Photoshop, I've designed it to be exactly how I want it to look and have every feature I can think of planned out. The problem is that my Flash skills aren't anywhere near a useful level and I do not know of anyone to partner up with.
I tried making a few posts on Craigslist offering to pay their services, but I only received canned responses from companies in various parts of the world. I would like to work with somone I can actually meet up with if possible. There are a few web design companies in my area that specialize in Flash, so I was thinking about going to them instead of looking for an individual person.
After the app is up and running, I am hoping that I'd have enough clout to actually convince a web developer to partner up with me, instead of assuming that I'm looking for a slave to perform miracles without anything to show.
My question is, is going to a web design company the smartest choice? I am willing to pay what's considered fair in the industry for good work, but I don't have an unlimited budget. Will the web design company be familiar with making Facebook apps, or would I be better off finding an individual on a site like Elance? Also, can I expect better work from a freelancer if I choose one that charges a higher rate?
You should look not for a general "web design company", but for a company that specializes in Flash application development. While many companies can design Flash animations, ads, or simple games, it takes more specialized skill to build Flash applications that do more than the basic stuff. Fewer shops & freelancers actually have such advanced Flash development capabilities. Seek them out.
With regards to choosing a freelancer – you should base awarding the work not solely on how much they charge, but based on their portfolio of prior work. i.e. What kinds of applications have they built before and do they meet your own definition of quality?
Once you find somebody that clearly knows what they are doing, the price will be secondary. In general, the good people will charge you a higher rate, but price is certainly not a guarantee of quality. Check references and prior work.
It's going to cost you a lot of money+time to develop+iterate+maintain an app that confers "clout". Then when you find a partner (which you must, because this is your core competency), the partner is going to rewrite it from the ground up.
Your money+time would be better spend rounding out your mock-ups, brainstorming, and networking with potential partners. The partners you want will care more about you (your skills, experience, attitude) than about your prototype app anyway.
If you insist on building a prototype in flash before finding a partner, do it on the cheap, and consider it a part of the brainstorming / fleshing-out exercise rather than a software development milestone.