You have a great app idea. And you’ve decided to build it. You have a basic objective for what it will do, and maybe even a wireframe and UI design ideas. Ready to hire someone to build your app?
Now you’re faced with a tough question: how much will it cost? And how complex do you need it to be? Something fully functional or an MVP? And which operating systems do you want it to work on--Android, iOS, and Windows? Which tools do you use to build it?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. The cost of hiring someone to build an app can vary widely based on a number of factors. You could be looking at a few thousand dollars. Or many times that.
Let’s take a step back to look at which factors go into that price.
Factors That Influence App Costs
What do you want from your app? Your answer to this question will play a huge role in pricing your mobile app and its development.
For example, an app that has a single screen and serves one function will be a lot cheaper than something that completes a wide variety of tasks.
A cross-platform app that works on both Android/Google and Apple iOS will be more expensive than an app that’s developed only for one platform. If you want a Windows-compatible app on top of that, you’re looking at even more money. Even if you’re only looking at a single platform, you may find differences — iOS apps tend to be 10–15% more expensive, according to Django Stars. Therefore, an iOS developer is in greater demand.
Django Stars also points out that it takes longer to test Android apps, so that can change the price, too. Especially if you are paying Android app developers by the hour.
Will your app integrate with other data sources? Accessing APIs or pulling data from elsewhere makes the project more complicated. The same is true of things like adding a shopping cart, user sign-in capabilities, high-powered graphical features, and more.
Custom animations, branding, and other visual elements means more programming languages, which can add to the price, as well. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may need a developer that’s familiar with:
- HTML5, for web apps (or web-fronted mobile apps);
- Java, for Android apps;
- C++, for Android and Windows Mobile apps (especially heavy-duty ones);
- C#, for Windows Mobile apps;
- Objective-C, for iOS apps; or
- Swift, for iOS apps.
These are the most common languages you’ll see in mobile programming, though you may find that you need others from time to time.
In short, pretty much every decision you make about what your app does, where it works, and how it looks will affect the price of mobile development. Generally, more complicated answers to all of those questions will increase the price.
But how much are we actually talking about?
How Much Does It Cost To Hire An App Developer?
The short answer is that most apps will cost at least $25,000. Based on our research, a simple app on a single platform will start in that cost range.
As for the upper end, there’s really no limit. A high-powered app that works on a wide variety of phones and includes custom functionality and looks could cross into seven-figure territory. Paying over $1,000,000 for an app certainly is not unheard of.
If you need things like back-end server development, lots of API functionality, encryption, a content management system, complex user interfaces, you could be looking at even more.
We haven’t yet talked about one of the most important determining factors in the cost of building an app — whether you hire a freelance developer or an agency. Let’s discuss that now.
Freelancer Vs. Agency App Development
If you do not have the ability to build an app in-house, you will need to hire someone to handle it for you. You have two main options: large app development agencies and freelancers (or small boutique agencies).
Both have advantages and drawbacks, but either can you lead you on the path of glory to the app store. Here are some of the important ones to know for each.
Hiring an app development agency or company
In general, app development agencies have higher hourly rates for their services. They may not even take requests for smaller apps. But if you are willing to pay $100,000 or more, an agency can give you a lot of benefits.
You will be working with a larger team. The team will include designers, user experience experts, front-end and back-end developers, and a dedicated development team for everything you need to complete your project. These professionals have experience in building a wide variety of apps, and that can make all the difference in the quality of the end product.
You might even have a project manager to route all of your requests through, which saves you from having to contact different employees individually. Agencies often have defined project management processes that make things more efficient for everyone.
That larger team may also be able to deliver your app more quickly than a smaller one. And when you are talking about a process that could take over 1,000 hours, even a small amount of added speed can make a big difference.
Hiring a freelance mobile app developer
However, there are some big benefits to working with a freelancer, mobile app developer or boutique agencies, too. First and foremost, it can save you a lot of money. Because there are fewer people involved, the overhead costs are diminished — and those savings get passed on to you.
Having direct contact with the mobile app developer (or even the agency’s principal) gives you a greater feeling of control over the project. And you can often expect very quick communication when things aren’t passed through an account manager.
Remember, though, that freelancers often do not have a defined project management process, which could mean more time spent on your part trying to get everything worked out.
And it is important to understand that not every freelancer will be able to handle the entire design and mobile app development process on their own. If you need a designer, a developer, and a UI/UX expert, you may end up spending a lot more time trying to round up freelancers for each part of the development process.
Is A Mobile App Development Company Or An App Freelancer Right For Your App Project?
Deciding whether to use a freelancer or an agency for developing an app largely comes down to preference. Do you want the experience, prestige, and efficiency of a large agency? Or the cost savings and closer relationship of a freelancer or boutique agency?
In many cases, the answer will be determined by your budget. It is worth exploring all of the options and deciding which benefits are most important to you.
Do you have $500,000 to spend on an app with top-end encryption and a sophisticated back-end server? Or are you trying to get up and running with basic functionality and a shoestring budget?
How To Save Money When Hiring Someone To Build An App
As you can see, pricing out app development is difficult. The complexity of your app and the type of app developer you use can create a lot of variability in the overall app cost.
But there are a few things you can do to make sure that the app development process is as cost-effective as possible.
1. Know exactly what you need
If you want an accurate bid on your project — and no fees for making last-minute changes — you need to know exactly what you are looking for.
Will your iPhone game let people sync their progress between devices via Facebook? Does your stock quote app require multiple sources of quotes, or just one? Will you be storing customer data on purpose-built servers or on an existing cloud-based solution?
Use the answers to these questions to create a mobile app requirements document before you hire someone to build your app.
Of course, you will not always know all of the answers. And lots of things will come up during the software development process that you were not expecting. The agency or freelancer you decide to work with will help you figure it out.
But going into the process with as much knowledge as possible will save you both time and money.
2. Focus on necessary features
You can always add functionality to an app later. But once you have paid for a feature, there is no going back — the money is already gone. Even if you do not end up using that feature.
So think carefully about what you need. Do you need push notifications? Adding those to an app could result in an extra 100 hours of work and $5,000 tacked onto your bill. Is it worth it?
What about in-app purchases? You may be looking at 30 hours or more and at least $750. That can be a lot for a small project.
Even things you might think would be taken for granted — like ensuring that an app works in both portrait and landscape mode — can add $1,000 or more to the cost of the project.
If you don’t need any of these features, you can save a lot of money by adding them later. Keep in mind that some features may add more complexity than you realize (as Tim Bornholdt’s discussion of Muenster and provolone cheese illustrates).
3. Choose the right freelancer or agency
You might think that one app development agency is the same as any other. Or that any freelancer with app development experience will be able to efficiently complete your project.
But working with the right provider is crucial. An experienced developer that has worked with clients in your industry can be the difference between an over-budget project that produces mediocre results and a fantastic experience.Do not rush to choose a freelancer or an agency. Take time to check out portfolios, solicit bids, and ask lots of questions. You can also use a freelancing platform that vets freelancers — Toptal is a great example of this type of platform to hire app developers. They only work with experienced, talented tech professionals so you do not have to worry about hiring someone who is better on paper than they are in real life. Others include Upwork, Freelancer.com, and Fiverr. You may also find a great hire on a site like Stack Overflow, which is a tech community where professional app programmers gather.
Conclusion: When Hiring Someone To Build An App, Start With The Basics
Creating a mobile application is a highly involved, often expensive process. But it can be the key to your business success (or a new business in itself). Yes, it could cost you a six-figure sum. But if you have seen a poorly made app, you know what the consequences of skimping are.
Like any other business or tech process, it is crucial to start with the basics. Figure out exactly what you need with specifications and the skill set to get it completed. Come up with a ballpark budget. Work with experienced professionals.
If you know what you are getting into, you will get the most out of your budget, whether it is $20,000 or $2,000,000.
Have you worked with a freelancer or an agency to develop an app in the past? If you have, we’d love to hear from you! What was your budget? Did you get what you were expecting?