Hiring an Agency vs Hiring Freelance Mobile App Developers

If you’ve been tasked with putting together a team to develop your company’s mobile app, you have a few roads to explore.

  1. Hire an internal team of app developers, designers, QA and project management (read this article I wrote about the cost of hiring an app development team)
  2. Hire a freelance developer and use your internal team to manage the project
  3. Hire a mobile app development agency

These paths are each very, very different. Here I am going to focus on hiring an app development agency, versus hiring freelancers.

Hiring a Freelance App Developer

When your company hires a freelance app developer you get a team of one…a developer. As you probably know, building a mobile app requires more than just someone to write the code.

If you go the freelance road you’ll also need a designer with specific expertise in designing mobile apps (Apple has been known to reject apps with a user interface that doesn’t meet their requirements).

At minimum you’ll also need someone(s) who can test the app, and ideally, review the code.

Without a doubt you’ll need a project manager to coordinate with the stakeholders at your company to create the vision and plan for your app. The project manager must also understand all the roles on your app team, manage the people, and the product.

I caution you from thinking that someone to write the code is all that is needed to develop a mobile app.

Hiring a Mobile App Development Agency

When you hire an agency that specializes in mobile app development, you get the team without the headache.

A smaller agency team may consist of developers, a user interface designer, project manager and QA (quality assurance). Large agency teams will include multiple levels and a wider variety of specialists.

Hiring an agency gives you one point of contact for all things related to the mobile app, and freedom from the complexities of managing the project and the people….do you even have time for another job?

Factors to Consider in Your Decision

1. Budget

If you’ve been given a budget of under $10K, it’s not going to happen via a mobile app development agency. If your budget is that size it makes more sense to look for a single freelance app developer who, as long as your needs aren’t overly complex, may be able to get it done for you at that price.

In my experience as an agency owner, and in talking with other agency owners, you will be hard pressed to find a project possible with a starting budget under $15K (and that is low). Remember, you’re getting a team, and a lot more.

If you are working with a $10K plus budget it would be worthwhile to reach out to an agency, tell them about your project and see if it might be a good fit.

2. The Value of an Agency

The value of working with an app development agency will be experienced by companies that want the team, and their expertise. A company that sees the value of expert consulting, strategic planning, a custom branded and well thought out design, a long term partner for future updates, and so on.

3. Your Timeline

Agency teams are ready to go. Once the contract is signed and the deposit is made, your agency team can hit the ground running. They have systems in place to ensure that development progresses quickly and efficiently.

Compare this to trying to put together a team of freelancers. You could spend many weeks just to find someone with the skills and experience you need. You’ll also need a process to test their skills before handing over your baby.

The freelancer(s) you hire may also have their own backlog of work that could delay their ability to get started, or limit their hours per week available to dedicate to your project.

4. Long Term Vision

With technology changing and evolving as quickly as it is, mobile apps are not a develop once, use forever, product.

Imagine if Facebook were still using their original design, or if Microsoft had never updated Windows.

Chances are, you will not only want, but require that this app be updated, improved and evolve over time. If the demand doesn’t come from inside your organization it will come from outside your company if a new release of your platform’s operating system (Android or iOS) causes your app to break.

Consider the hassle involved in trying to maintain your app with a new group of freelancers each time. Or the risk involved with assuming your original team will always be available.

Your agency team, however, knows the code base and can get started with much more finesse than someone who has never laid eyes on your product. Even if there is some churn within the agency, members of the original team can quickly bring a new team member up to speed on your code-base, without impacting you.

In a Nut Shell

Whether you choose to hire a freelancer app developer, or an agency, will likely be most influenced by the budget you have to work with. My hunch is that you don’t have the time or desire to find and manage a team of freelancers.

If you have a healthy budget, you will appreciate the value an agency team brings to your project and likely need the extra level of service provided.

If you’re with an established company and would like to talk to a mobile app development agency, please reach out and request a call with our team today.

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara MacQueen is the founder at Big Fish - an app design and development studio in Tampa, Florida. She was named one of "25 Mobile Women to Watch" and has been interviewed by local and national media for her expertise in mobile technology and business.
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