What is the cost of hiring a freelance developer for your mobile app?

There’s a simple formula you can use to determine what your app’s development costs will come to: hourly rate + time + scale. Using an equation such as this would lead you to believe that a freelance developer would be cheaper than a development team in every respect: freelancers have a lower hourly rate than development companies, freelancers work on a time crunch, and one person is obviously a smaller scale than a team and the resources necessary to run one.

It’s true – on paper, the option of a freelance developer looks better than hiring a development team in every way. There is a reason, however, that so many development companies are familiar with a client approaching them by saying: “I had a freelancer make this app for me, and it just wasn’t what I was hoping for, it didn’t work properly, I need to update it and I can’t figure out how to without them…”

The list goes on, and development companies have heard everyone.

The app lifecycle

If we lived in a world where apps were developed and then their codebase was never touched again, this topic would be null and void – freelance developers would be a more affordable option than development companies. And initially, freelance app developers are cheaper.

Unlike websites that can be updated once every few years (other than content), the top-performing apps are on an update cycle of one to four times a month. When operating on a rigid timeframe such as this, it’s important to have a reliable partner that is available when you need them to be, and has the bandwidth to handle your updates as they are needed.

Why do apps update so frequently? The app lifecycle continuously revolves back into itself:

After the steps of ideation and requirements gathering, and after development, design, testing, and deployment, app publishers need to keep an eye on their app with the use of analytics. By measuring user engagement, you can determine what areas of your app need improvement, and which areas are your strong points.

Tip: When looking over your app’s analytics, keep an eye on the features users engage with most, and leverage these features as much as possible. Talk about it on social media, and make sure that users can access these features as fast as possible. If you notice a feature that users never engage with, it might be wise to consider removing it from your app, unless it is necessary to the core functionality.

After measuring your app’s analytics, you’ll want to take that user data and utilize it in the improvement of your app. As stated above, the top-performing apps update one to four times a month, and this is for a few very good reasons:

  1. Updates are free marketing for your app – they give users a notification that will not go away until they have looked over what your update entails. This serves as both a reminder and a chance for you to highlight the new features that await them.
  2. Users take security very seriously. If your app’s security is compromised, and therefore your users’ data falls into the wrong hands, you will have a serious app abandonment issue.
  3. By updating your app frequently, you show your users that you can about their experience. This will make it more likely to receive positive ratings and reviews. Think about a pleasant customer experience you had recently – most likely, the person helping you was attentive and responsive. This is the same for apps – frequent updates mean happy users.

For more about updating your app, check out our blog, How much does it cost to update an app?

What is the cost of hiring a freelance developer for your mobile app?

Freelancers are rarely available as frequently as your app will need to be updated – often, a freelancer will move from project to project, and have multiple going on at the same time. With your codebase at the whim of their next availability, you could be forced to wait months to update your app.

App developers, on the other hand, make use of development teams so they can always stay on top of app updates and development. Plus, with a larger knowledge base, and the ability to specialize, development agencies are more efficient overall, especially when accounting for robustness and it’s lifetime as a product.

Development is just the beginning

You can expect to spend up to 20% of your app’s initial development cost every year that it is on the app marketplace – be it Google Play or the App Store. With a freelancer, you’ll constantly be playing catch-up as you find someone who is available to do the work for you, as well as dealing with the significant vetting process that is necessary when working with freelance app developers.

For more about the differences between freelance developers and development agencies, check out our blog on the topic.

The Risks And Benefits Of Offshore Software Development

The Risks And Benefits Of Offshore Software Development

We live in an age of burgeoning technology – in an age where rockets are re-useable, cars drive themselves, and watches keep track of our pulse, it’s easy to imagine that developing a mobile application by partnering with an offshore development team would be easy to manage.

With VoIP technologies like Google Hangouts, instant communication platforms like Slack, and project management tools like Trello, it would seem that we’ve reached a truly global era in business and the development of products.

And in many respects, this is true – plentiful and vast industries exist today either due to the existence of global production and supply industries, or rely on the global market that fuels today’s global economy for resources, customers, or both. Many of the rare earth metals that make phones, watches, laptops, or virtually any electronic device come from regions in Africa or Australia – without a global supply line, none of us would have phones – or be reading this blog, for that matter.

What I’m trying to convey is that we do live in the future – it just isn’t to the point where we can collaborate on the level that mobile app development requires, while communicating on a global scale.

The myth of offshore development

There’s plenty of misinformation about offshore development – the main one being the quality of code. A good developer is a good developer no matter where they are or what language they speak (but they’d better know their programming languages) – offshore developers aren’t bad at what they do.

While it’s very true that applications developed by offshore companies can lead to unsustainable codebases, low-grade products, or un-deployable platforms, developers in India or Ukraine can be just as experienced (or inexperienced) as developers in Japan or the US.

The problem isn’t people – it’s the communication of ideas.

Complicated ideas and concepts are difficult enough to understand when they are presented to us in person – just think of how many companies today struggle with disseminating and promoting company culture amongst their own employees – communicating the “feel” of a company’s mission is a challenging task.

And with the addition of different time zones, and distances measured in the thousands-of-miles, communicating the high-level, detailed concepts that are crucial to the decisions of app development can become a nightmare.

So if you’re in the UK, hire a UK development team – and if you’re in Bangladesh, hire a Bengali development team. The most important preliminary step to a successful app is a throughly-vetted development partner; a company that you can trust to deliver a full-fledged product, and trust to understand the mission of your app.

risk and reward of offshore mobile app development

Research the risk & reward of offshore development

The benefits of offshore development

There are benefits to making use of offshore development companies:

  1. Cost: Development companies almost universally charge based on an hourly rate. Developers in countries with a lower cost of living will report lower hourly rates than high-cost-of-living countries. While a developer’s rate in the US may range from $100 – $150, a developer in Asia would range from $20 – $50. If managed properly, this can lead to significant savings.
  2. Quality: “Quality” could just as easily be listed in the “risks” section of this blog. By hiring an offshore developer that lives in a country with a lower cost of living, you stand the chance of getting a high-quality product for a fraction of the cost of a highly-skilled developer in your country.
  3. Cultural insight: This is the most substantial benefit to hiring an offshore development team. If you are targeting a market in Sri Lanka, you should hire a development team from the region. The insight the team will bring to the design choices of your app will help your app feel familiar to your specific audience, and increase its chances of market penetration.

The risks of offshore development

Despite these benefits, there are many more opportunities for the risks associated with offshore development to take hold.

  1. Hidden costs: While offshore development does come with a lower hourly rate, this is more often than not negated by the fact that development will usually take twice as long. The main reason for this is…
  2. Communication: Couple language barriers with high-latency internet connections and having a verbal conversation with your team in a different country, and communication can become a real challenge. Communicating the technical aspects of an issue a developer is working on can be downright impossible sometimes. For systems that require integrated maintenance provided from your own IT department, clear and efficient communication is a necessity.
  3. Management: For many of the same reasons as communication, managing an offshore team can be an organizational nightmare. It is recommended to hire a project manager that is local to your offshore team, and will work to bridge the time difference your development team and your company will experience.
  4. Data privacy, security, and governmental regulation: As unfortunate as it is, it’s necessary to be wary of IP theft when dealing with offshore developers, which makes it especially vital to throughly research your development partner. If a developer in another country steals your intellectual property, there is very little recourse available to you. Security and privacy are two other pressing concerns when utilizing offshore codebases – some countries’ intelligence agencies will work with developers to include backdoor access in order to extract users’ personal data for means of cyber espionage.

Hourly rate, time, and scale

These are the variables to the equation for determining the cost of your app; the more time it takes to develop, the cost rises… the higher the hourly rate, the cost rises… the larger the scale of your app, again, the cost rises.

hourly rate time and scale to develop a mobile app offshore

Consider hourly rate, time and scale

When comparing the cost of developing an app using an offshore developer versus an onshore developer, the key factor is time. While an offshore developer’s hourly rate will usually be lower than an onshore developer, developing an app with an offshore developer is a longer process – sometimes adding two or three times the amount of total hours to develop. This discrepancy in development length is usually exacerbated by communication issues and time-zone differences, and in turn, significantly reduces the savings of the lower hourly rate of offshore development.

By increasing your time to market, your app’s chances of success will lower, and by increasing the chances of miscommunication, your app’s codebase has the possibility of being less robust than an app developed onshore – leading to the necessity of almost immediately updating your app as soon as it hits the App Store or Google Play.

With these factors in mind, the cost of developing an app offshore or onshore usually even out – and while either option comes with their own benefits, the risk of miscommunication is a factor every CTO or team lead should consider when deciding between offshore or onshore app development.