So you’ve got a great new app idea. Congrats! Now it’s time to bring your baby to life.
It can be dizzying to sort through your options for finding the right app developer. Should you hire someone to join your company, partner up with an independent freelancer, or work with a specialized firm?
I wish I could tell you one hard-and-fast answer so you can cut the buildup and dive right into the good part. But the answer will depend on your unique circumstances: primarily a balance of your needs and goals against your resources and budget.
You know your circumstances best, but where I come in is to help you understand the pros and cons of the three main options. Then you can weigh everything out and hopefully make the best possible choice.
Let’s get into it.
Option 1: In-house
|● Building your own team for the long haul||● Long-term FIXED commitment (as there is no “pay as you go” option)|
|● More control (but only if you know what you are doing)||● Challenges on the HR side|
Taking the in-house route grants you more control over the entire process, like:
- The type of person you choose
- How well they fit with your company culture
- The way they work and communicate with you and your team
- The way they do their work on a daily basis.
This approach also has benefits for owners who are looking to build teams. If we think about it, simply hiring a single developer in-house may not work as effectively as building an entire team from scratch. Hiring to build an in-house team can work better, as you’re investing in a group of individuals who can work together to achieve your company’s goals. This approach can also provide greater flexibility and control over the development process.
Consider the extra investments and commitments of an in-house team member. You’ll need to have a solid, detailed onboarding process, and you’ll likely need to cover extra costs and overhead, like paying for office space, healthcare, or payroll taxes.
Also, with in house, there is the HR side of things that need to be maintained. For instance, if the personne aren’t working well, you’ll need to find a way to handle the situation. Unlike with a freelancer/agency, you can’t just cut the contract.
Another huge con is that the term “full stack” doesn’t really exist, especially in software development. So if you’re going in house, you’ll need to hire more than 1 resource to build something properly (or at least, take the hybrid in house + freelancer or in-house + agency approach.
Hiring an in-house app developer is a promising route if you already have a team of well-rounded experts and you’re looking to invest in growing your team long-term. Otherwise, the required time and resources may not be worth it.
Option 2: Freelancer
|● More flexibility||● Sometimes risky (unless you can vet them properly)|
|● Quick hiring process||● Less control over company secrets|
|● Can be affordable (but costs depends on the country)||● Less aggregated expertise|
There are tons of platforms and listing services out there to connect you with a suitable freelancer. This contributes to a quick hiring process: you often won’t spend as much time vetting and training freelancers as you would a new in-house team member.
You also won’t need to go through the longer vetting, negotiation, and contract cycles that are more common with larger firms.
This is also a good option for if you’re looking to keep things flexible. Although they may come at a higher hourly rate than in-house employees, with freelancers, you only pay for the work you need, without the risk of being locked into a long-term contract. Plus, who doesn’t love the freedom to call the shots?
Just be mindful that you’ll get what you pay for—if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Checking references and past work can help ensure you’re not sacrificing quality for a lower price.
When it comes to freelancers, there’s generally less quality control over the person you’re hiring, how much you’ll like their work, and the guarantees that are in place to protect your investment.
It can be the Wild West out there. (Not to say that this is always the case, of course.)
Another con is that a freelancer may be juggling a lot of clients. You may not get the level of attention and TLC that you’re looking for, which may hurt your final product overall.
You’ll also face one of the same drawbacks as hiring in-house: a single person can’t offer the scope of expertise that a well-rounded team of developers would.
Hiring a freelancer can be a solid option if budget and flexibility are your main concerns. These benefits may compensate for the lack of quality control and expertise you’re getting access to.
Option 3: Outsourced team
|● Clarity in costs and deliverables||● More expensive than an individual|
|● More personalized attention from leaders (in boutique firms)||● Experience can vary dramatically depending on the type of firm you choose (boutique vs. large)|
With an agency, a big advantage is that you know what you are paying for, as everything will be discussed upfront.
But you also know that you will get what you wanted plus more.
As with any hiring option, you’ll likely have a lot of options to choose from. This can be both a pro and a con.
For example, it’s always great to have options. But the type of agency you choose can mean a completely different experience. (Which is a good thing… if you make the right choice. No pressure.)
When it comes to the overall experience, many app creators seek out boutique firms vs. large firms. You’ll get much more one-on-one attention from the company leaders than you would with a large company.
This brings us straight to a con…
When working with a large firm instead of a boutique firm, you’ll be assigned to a program manager. While this is a consistent point of contact, they won’t have the same knowledge and expertise level as the pros who are running the show.
Generally speaking, you want as much one-on-one interaction with the experts as possible. Trust me.
Zooming out from the type of firm, another general con of hiring an outsourced team is the costs. You’ll likely pay more for support than the other two options.
Hire an outsourced team if you’re concerned about quality and experience over budget: you’ll pay more, but there are more protections in place to ensure that you’re happy with the job. Going a step further: hiring a boutique firm over a large firm will give you more direct access to the most experienced players.
Finding the “Goldilocks zone” of your app development hire
There’s a lot to consider when you’re on the hunt for a bespoke app developer. After all, weak first-time code is a total startup killer. You don’t want to jump too quickly into your decision, and you definitely don’t want to cut corners to save a few bucks.
Regardless of the end result, make sure you put plenty of time and attention into your hiring process. Interview several people and agencies. Be clear about your needs and goals, and make sure your communication is on point.
Whether you’re looking to develop a B2B SaaS product or custom healthcare software, carefully weighing the pros and cons against your unique needs can land you in the Goldilocks sweet spot—the right developer with the right experience at the right cost.