How much does it cost to hire an app developer in 2017?

ThinkMobiles Team 17/03/2017

It seems that in 2017  every brand and every business has its own app. Probably even your local coffee shop has an app to order a frappuccino at your doorstep or collect discounts. Every IT-entrepreneur making a fortune from a hit app once in awhile. So we’ve decided to dissect the ever-actual issue of how to hire app developer again.

We’ll be talking about general tips, like how to hire a mobile app developer and where to find app developers, as well as choosing between software companies and freelancers. We’ll also touch on typical mistakes in hiring developers to create an app and post-hiring stage. Here we go.

How to find an app developer – General rules of thumb

So at one moment you have a “Eureka!” moment and come up with idea for a great app that will bring you glory or tons of cash. You should also examine that idea thoroughly, btw. But you’re no geek and not a computer guy. So you google something like “who can create an app for me” or “who can develop my app idea”. Cause Google knows everything. Or, if you’re a bit more familiar with the market, you’ll type “ios/android developers needed” probably.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of app developers for hire around the globe. Of any possible kind, skill set and price range. It all comes with certain downsides and cautions too, of course. So before you start your quest, here are 3 chief principles you should stick to.

  1. Know the basics. Learn what programming languages are there in use for mobile apps. Find out what are the platforms and what would be your target platform(s) to make an app. Check what are the rates and how much it would cost you to hire an app developer (even approximately). Who would be users of your app? These types of things.
  1. Check experience. You wouldn’t want a doctor, fresh out of university, with no experience yet to conduct your knee surgery. Same with your business – if you hire someone, better hire a developer who knows his stuff. It does not necessarily need to be a top-expert, though should be able to provide the portfolio of past works. You can even ask for samples of his/her code.
  1. Build relationship and communication. Seek someone reliable, seek a developer interested in your business and outcome of your common work, not just in development. Sounds all cliche, but it is so. You’ll have to get along, to build a relationship with to get your app going. Language or cultural barriers, for example, or many other things may get in the way.

Where to find iOS and Android app programmer

Anything goes here, really. From your personal connections, friends on social media, to niche job boards, colleges. Or even making a public contest to win for your project (it has be truly worth it, though). As you start exploring how to find an app developer, you’ll see the places for finding them as well.

You can find app developers in specialized online directories for developers, like They Make Apps, job boards like Get Apps Done. Looking for iOS developer? Try iPhoneDevSDK forum. Trying to find Android developer? – check Android Forums or AndroidPit. More general communities if you need app developer – Koding, Topcoder, NewAppIdea, Polycom. Also, checking official groups of Google, Facebook, Apple, Windows developers.

Looking for app developer also possible through web services like LinkedIn, Indeed, Upwork, and even Reddit. Real skills, app projects or code samples of developers could be tested on Gitlab and Github open source repositories. Clutch if you want an established software company. Your job is to search everywhere.

how to find an app developer on linkedin

How much does it cost to hire app developer

Type of application Details Hours (iOS) Hours (Android) Rates (avg.)
Simple app Templates, dropdown menus, stored on device 70-150 80-160 $50-100
Database app Backend, stored on server, integrated 150-200 170-220 $50-100
Messaging app Various data formats, chats and calls, stored in cloud 500+ 600+ $70-120
Enterprise app Business features, stored on device and/or server 200+ 250+ $100-150
Social networking app Themes, photo editing, backend, stored on server 300 300+ $70-120
Gaming app Single player/Multiplayer, Unity 3D, rendering, stored on server 400+ 500+ $70-120

Tips for hiring a developer

After you know how to find an app developer and where, the fun begins. Meaning there could arise plenty of circumstances and mishaps bending your app idea. But do not let it grip you, instead try to hire an app developer as suitable and promising for your project as possible. Here’s what you could also do.

Assess developer’s portfolio and dig into their clients/projects. You can even ask for a list of their current and past clients directly. Check the website if such exists. Check UI/UX aspect of apps they have done – how nice-looking and user-engaging they are. UX is the half of your app success, they say.

app developer for hire, portfolio

Study the creative input a developer (or development company) provides on your initial app concept. Does he/she/they seem to express interest beyond their assigned tasks? Based on your first interactions, do you both seem to get along fine? App development is a lengthy activity, so search for friendly partners.

Few extra tips

Consequently, define how will you communicate during the development process. Are there differences in time zones? What medium would you use – email, Skype, phone, etc. During what hours would you be able to speak? Would it be possible to call anytime? In what way would you be able to supervise the progress of work? All these details matter.

Find out what are developer’s fees and payment terms. First, you probably have a budget that you can not exceed. So you’d better uncover any hidden fees, overtimes, additional costs beforehand. No one needs surprises in costs. Secondly, don’t go with the cheapest option. You need a good decent product, not an average one or full of bugs, it’s obvious.

At some point you’ll eventually come to decide – do I go with software developing company or do I hire freelance app developers? There’s no right answer here, it all depends on your preference, budget, app specifics and desired time of delivery. Switch for a moment from reading to video, and check some great suggestions on where to start by Evan Carmichael.

hire app developer

App development companies

Finding and choosing app developers for hire has no clear evaluation process to follow. This is a service, not a ready-made product that you see. Whether iOS developer needed or do you need Android developer, opting for software making and outsourcing company means reliability and more resources at hand.

Such companies, in most cases, have the experience of creating hundreds of mobile apps. A clear asset, too. So what to look at before deciding who can make an app? Portfolio, first and logical. Find their page with projects, case studies, own products and study it. If there are app similar to one that you have in mind, that would be nice. Download some of their apps and try it yourself.

Things to check:

Check their team size and structure. Usually app development companies have a Team page or something like that, or LinkedIn page where they list their job titles. If you need iOS developers for your app, check how many of those company has. You might also find how many developers are there working (front-end, back-end), designers, project managers, partners. This way you’ll be able to see what services you’re going to pay for.

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Pay attention to technology stack in their use. What technologies does a company list? Java, C#, React, PHP…? Do they use the same stack for most of projects or tend to be project-specific? Which of those do they recommend for your app idea? Are there similar apps built with a proposed technology?

Also, check their history and reviews. Many of them boast of years in business, experience, number of top-customers, number of developers employed, etc. So it should not be hard. But also try to find out how many repeat businesses (equals to happy customers) do they have. Check Google, Yelp or Clutch for customer reviews.

Experience, price, team, feedback… weigh it all and you’ll see a clearer picture of how to move on.

Freelance developers

The second option to hire someone to build an app is freelance developers. This could be more tricky but cost you less. Opting for freelance Android / iOS developers works fine when you precisely know what kind of app you want. And if you can manage the person all the way, and make all the decisions on design, functionality, testing, etc.

How to hire a mobile app developer in 10 questions

Use sites like Upwork, Toptal, Guru, Freelancer, ProFinder, Fiverr, etc. to find and hire a freelance programmer to build an app. All of them have certain rating system, past works and reviews of projects by developers. Talk to few app programmers, leave out those who avoid your questions or force their tools/solutions upon you.

In short, these are ten fundamental questions to ask to hire app developer:

  1. Can you provide a list of past and current customers?
  2. Can I see examples of your work? Links to Apple, Google, Blackberry app stores.
  3. What is your preferred platform?
  4. What are my app monetization options?
  5. How are we going to communicate during the development?
  6. What additional features for an app would you recommend? Can you do it?
  7. How will you conduct the testing?
  8. Can you submit the app to app stores?
  9. Are you ready to sign a copyright agreement?
  10. What are your fees and payment terms?

More elaborate thoughts on how to know if your candidate developer is good in the following clip from OneMonth guys.

hire app developer

Now, are there any peculiarities to hiring app developers for two most popular platforms – Android and iOS, apart? Not many, but let’s clear it out.

iOS developer for hire

Consider, that iPhone app developers are in high demand. They can be choosy and cost you more than average. Thus, hiring iOS/iPad developers is what you should do only (we can not stress this enough) if your app is mostly or fully for Apple market. Seek candidates in specialized communities, like:

  • iPhoneDevSDK
  • MacRumors Forum,
  • Cocos2d
  • iOS Developer Forums
  • Stack Overflow

Study their online activity, anything from blog posts, Twitter to shared code contributions on Github. Ask what libraries and components would they use to build your app. Also, Upwork has a monthly feature of best iOS developers – with job success ratings and hourly rates.

How to Find an App Developer on Upwork

Android developer for hire

Same with Android app developers for hire on Upwork, by the way. But what specifics should you look for with these guys? First, Android applications are based on Java, look for skills in this programming language. Second, Java only is not enough. Good knowledge of Android open source ecosystem and libraries is the upside.

Any experience with Java Native interface? Great. Can you candidates handle all the constant new Android versions (4.0, 4.4, 6.0 and up) and their APIs? Are they familiar with intricacies of publishing an app to Google Play? Can they help in promoting it there? This is all vital. Seek Android developer for hire in places like:

  • Toptal
  • GDGs – Google developer groups, tech talks, code sprints, etc.
  • Guru
  • Upwork
  • Android conferences, hackathons, meetups.

Explaining your app idea

Say, you’ve decided to hire app developer and found someone to build your app. Now you have to communicate your idea for an app in every detail as clear as humanly possible. The better a developer understands and follows your requirements, the better response you get. So that you’ll be able to evaluate the chances.

When presenting your concept to your developer, give a brief context. Meaning to explain a  problem to solve with an app, your goals behind the idea, target audience, etc. Do not fear to talk extensively about it and get his feedback. For instance, if an app will work with payments, discuss what security measures will be in place. Refine the idea together.

hire app developer


A background behind the overall idea is important as well. It helps the developer to give you better suggestions. For example, whether your background refers more to coding or to sales/marketing, feedback would differ. Regarding target customers, elaborate on both geographic and demographic aspects of your ideal client. You may also describe the idea from customer use case side. From a standpoint of a target user, explain the entire flow of your mobile application.

Go through app’s features separately, one by one. Elaborate in greater details, so that  developer abide by established timelines and pricing. Describe how each feature is tied to another, stress the must-have features, separate most important ones. In addition, decide which features would be implemented in initial app version.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them

Around half of mobile apps earn less than the cost of their development. Sounds disheartening, right? Why that happens? Most of app creators set aside $0 (zero) for marketing, while believing it is necessary at the same time. It could be poor quality, bugs, crashes, or bad design.

But most cases of failed apps prove that key is not-solving-a-problem. Until someone is ready to pay for your app, business opportunities are low. First off, you can venture on MVP. Not as “most valuable player”, but as minimal viable product. Develop a MVP of your app, with limited features, to gather feedback on the idea.

As you post the job ad on Upwork to hire app developer, for example, you’ll get dozens of offers right that day. So how one does make a right choice? One option is to learn what and how NOT to do when looking for app developer.

6 dos and don’ts in hiring:

  • Only taking cost into account or going with the most expensive company/developer

Quality does not come with the cheapest price, and optimum price is not the sole factor of success. This also doesn’t mean the most expensive team will make you a top product. Seek balance and decent people.

  • Hiring someone who knows nothing or a little about your business

Check if the company has ever delivered an app like yours to avoid frustration. You’ll see many developers not understanding requirements clearly but still fighting for your project.

  • Not drafting a budget for an app

This is too obvious. Also, ask your developer for a quote to avoid overspending.

  • Hire app developer who is keen to code right away

Mobile apps are elaborate and complex, no need to rush. Without technical specifications and division of tasks, starting to code is useless.

  • Going with the cheapest bidder

Sure, developers from India or Pakistan will offer you $15 per hour rate, or even less. Do you think you’ll end up with quality end product and nice UX/design?

  • Not considering user experience

Many agencies may have good programming skills, though may lack in actual experience with customers. Age, sex, area, industry….it all matters greatly.

Post-hire stage

This, actually, defines how much your app will cost you in the end – $1000 or $5000. Remember how specific you’ve been when initially explaining the idea? It gets ten times more intense as you start doing actual things.

Mocking up drafts or prototypes in every detail, from colors, fonts to positions, transactions, bugs on so on. Every tiniest thing counts and must be covered to hire app developer properly. Unless you want an app to succeed, of course. Use Photoshop, Microsoft Word, Paint or whatever to communicate your idea.

app prototype to hire an app developer

Together, outline the user flow – when user click this button this happens, etc. Analyze similar competitor apps to take the best. Go through every screen. Always pay attention to design and interfaces.

Pay in intervals for every stage/iteration done. That way you have better control options as your development progresses. Good way to go to build positive relationship would be throw a bonus for nice results, why not. If you feel your project requires NDA, make the developer sign NDA contract. Don’t let anything slip.

We hope this material will help you find and hire app developer. Good luck!