How to Outsource App Development – Stay Cost Effective without Losing on Quality

how to outsource app development

To outsource app development, or build in-house? That’s the question app makers have asked since time immemorial. Okay, since the dawn of apps but you could say the question holds.

The answer is, sometimes, you will have to outsource app development for the overall benefit of your business. Unless you have that fantastic combination of idea, coding skills AND plenty of time, it’s hard to build a full-scale business-ready app AND run the business too. So you will benefit from outsourcing app development to a skilled team while you handle more pressing matters that require specifically your vision and energy.

Safe to say then that you want to know how to outsource app development. More precisely, how to find the right app developers to outsource to, how to coordinate with them, and how to ensure that they build an app that meets your quality standards.

Before I built a full-stack app development agency that employs over 100 app developers, designers and the works, and serves 200+ clients across the globe, I have worked as a freelancer, hired freelancers and hired app development agencies. So I speak from experience when I say that outsourcing app development can be a significant advantage for your business, if you do it properly.

Here are the top questions app founders and business owners ask while considering outsourcing app development:

  • Should I outsource app development?
  • How to choose the right app developers to outsource to?
  • Freelancer or app development agency?
  • What is a prototype? Do you need one?
  • How much does app development outsourcing cost?
  • Outsourcing overseas?

This post will answer all your questions and more. I will share with you things I have learnt from working in the mobile app industry for as long as there have been apps. So brace yourself and dive right in.

1. Should you outsource app development?

Like I said, coding a feature-rich app is a painstakingly long process with no space to skip a beat. It’s a tremendous undertaking and as a business founder, you might find yourself splitting a tight schedule between far too many tasks that need your undivided attention.

In such a scenario, you’ll find yourself saving a great deal of time and sanity if you can outsource app development to a skilled team of developers.

App developers – whether freelancers or in an agency – are dedicated to building high performance apps, are well versed in the latest app development technologies and where needed, can even help you with the development and rounding off of your idea. As long as you do your research and choose the right developers to outsource to, you’re set. Which brings us to the next critical concern – how do you choose the right app developers to outsource to?

2. How to choose the right app developers to outsource to?

The crux of the matter lies in this phase of your app development. Choosing the right professionals is critical to the success of your app. Knowing what to look for, and attracting the right contenders for the spot is important.

At the outset, have a clear idea of your scope. ‘Scope’ is a fairly well-defined idea of everything you want your app to do. Take the time to map out every feature in your app. This map can be flexible, but you must be at least 80-90% sure of your features list. When you talk to potential developers about your project, knowing what you want helps you find out if these developers have done similar work in the past. It also tells the developers that you know your stuff and hence take you more seriously. This helps weed out non-serious developers who aren’t up for the challenge your app is.

Begin with, as in all things, a preliminary online search. Look for the developer’s portfolio/website. Does their work look impressive? How experienced are they? Have they worked in your industry before? Do they have notable testimonials or feedback? Can you get references to any of their past clients to get some real feedback? Answering those questions can help you narrow down to a list of select candidates.

After that, the best way to choose your app developers to outsource to, is interpersonal interviews over a series of phonecalls or video conferences. Talk to them about your idea and gauge not only their technical prowess but also their passion for your idea. Do they have subtle creative inputs to offer? Do they get your vision? Even if they haven’t done something like this before, do they sound excited to learn and pick up new skills?

It’s important to understand that no two apps are the same. They may not have, and need not have built a similar app before. As long as a developer has the skills and a passion to learn, they will get the job done.

3. Freelancer or app development agency?

This is one of the top questions on every app entrepreneur’s mind – should I hire an app development agency or a team of freelancers?

If cost is a big factor here, you may lean towards hiring a freelancer or building your own team of freelancers. There is great talent in the freelancers’ pool, with the caveat that finding it can be a real treasure hunt. Vetting freelancers, hiring the right talent and growing your team can be a difficult process. However, if you are the kind of person who enjoys scouting talent and building teams, you might be up to the challenge and even come out with a winning team. If time is of the essence, this might prove more difficult and ultimately a more expensive detour in terms of your time.

Hiring an agency on the other hand may look a tad more expensive upfront, but comes with a degree of cushion against pitfalls and risks. App development agencies usually have a gamut of services to offer you, from design and development to marketing and more. You have a project manager who handles the complete development cycle and saves you the time and energy spent coordinating with different team members. Moreover, the agency has already vetted the developers and hired the best talent, so you don’t have to.

Another big advantage to hiring agencies is that they are more capable of helping you scale your app as your business grows. After six months, your app may be handling several times more traffic than before and you may need to add features or make upgrades. Being able to track down a freelancer months or years after app launch can be tricky. Hiring an agency makes more sense in the long term app maintenance and scaling.

4. What is a prototype? Do you need one?

If you’ve been thinking seriously about building an app for some time now, you’ve probably heard the term prototype tossed around often. What is a prototype and do you need it for your app? Yes, you do.

A prototype is the closest you come to having an actual app to show to users before actually diving into the coding process. A prototype is a design flow that shows how the app is likely to look and work once ready. It can be simple, ready in a week, or more complex, depending on your liking. It offers several advantages.

Having a prototype helps you map out your idea more clearly and see where you are going with this. It helps you validate your idea by showing it to other people and gathering initial reactions/feedback.

A prototype helps you communicate your vision more clearly to the development team, helping you get a more precise estimate and also make the development cycle more efficient, preventing extensive reviews and communication gaps.

You can have a prototype built by a designer or from the app development agency itself to start off before you delve into development.

5. How much does app development outsourcing cost?

Depending on the place you outsource to, the cost of outsourcing app development varies greatly. You could be paying anywhere between $60,000 to $120,000 in the US depending on the complexity of an app. In a country like India or Middle East, you could get a complex, feature rich app in under $60,000 and a simple one for as low as $10,000 to $20,000.

app development hourly rate


6. Outsourcing overseas?

Depending on your budget and preferences, you can choose where you wish to outsource to. Finding a truly trustworthy app development agency overseas is profoundly possible, albeit it involves a careful vetting process. The competitive economies in these countries push developers to work harder to compete with companies in developed nations. If you choose well, you could walk away with a truly hardworking, skilled team of developers at a fraction of the cost.

If you have the requisite funding, choosing developers from the US or UK sure give you a certain advantage. There’s less vetting involved and friendlier federal laws apply. With that exception however, talent is universal and you really have your pick when the world’s a stage.

Some more things to know before outsourcing app development

Know a few technological basics

You don’t need to know everything about Azure, Python, React, Flutter or whatever latest technology is making the waves. But it is a good idea to do some homework about what kind of technologies your competitors are using, what you expect your app to do and where you see it 6 months from now. This will help you choose well, guide well and coordinate with your developers well.

Talk to more than one person from the team

When hiring an app development agency, talking to just one person, usually the business manager, isn’t enough. Try to talk to a few of the developers and the potential project manager. This will help you better understand your compatibility with the team. You will also be able to better judge how coordinated and together the team is.

Do checkout directories like Goodfirms and Clutch

From searching, shortlisting and checking out reviews and ratings, directories like Goodfirms and Clutch can be hugely helpful in finding the right app development agency to outsource to.

Wrapping up

Outsourcing app development is the perfect way to balance your workload and run your business efficiently. No matter how brilliant you are, your time is limited, and valuable. Invest it in growing your business while a team of experienced app developers build your app. Just be sure to choose wisely and do your research. Knowing what to look for in the right developer and taking the time to communicate and coordinate with them can help you build a fantastic app that propels your business and keeps you free of the task of building and maintaining an app. With some research and careful selection, you can even outsource overseas and find a talented team of developers who produce excellent results at a fraction of the cost of building an app in the USA.

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Hiral Atha is the Founder and CEO of MoveoApps. She started coding even before she entered high school and today, she helps clients develop impactful mobile apps for their business. With over a decade of experience in mobile, she leads a team of young and experienced developers. When not leading an ambitious app development project, you’ll find her playing board games with her 6 years old son and piquing his curiosity in computer programming.

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