Today, it is nearly impossible for businesses to survive without a mobile app. Even the traditional restaurants you love would have an app or have ties with an on-demand food delivery app.
It doesn’t cost a fortune to have an app for your business or brand, nor does it require an in-house team to build one. You can instantly hire freelance app developers online and get your app developed in a few weeks or even days.
However, searching for freelancers “online” will open up a whole new world of uncertainties.
“How much does it cost to hire someone to build an app?”
“How do I find the right app developer?”
“Can app developers steal your idea?”
All these questions are natural and integral if you are outsourcing your app development requirements for the first (or even the nth) time. So, we have compiled the best answers for all your doubts about hiring freelance app developers, along with some tips to follow and pitfalls to avoid.
If you are an aspirant trying to figure out how to become a freelance mobile app developer, do read our guide that covers everything you need to know about becoming a mobile app developer.
8 Crucial Steps to Follow to Hire a Reliable Freelance App Developer
1. List Down Your Needs and Wants (aka Scope)
It is common knowledge that the more the number of features, the more the time and cost it will take to build a mobile app. As a result, you need to clearly differentiate between the needs and wants of your mobile app.
If you can’t afford much, you can develop an MVP app with just the basic, yet essential, features and save huge in terms of cost and time. On the other hand, with a substantial budget, you can develop a full-fledged app, with all the features you desire.
The reason behind listing your needs and wants is to determine your budget and timeframe judiciously and to set clear expectations with the developer. This will also make it easier to find the right freelance app developer having the exact set of skills needed.
2. Search in the Right Places
One reason why many people fail to find reliable freelance app developers is that they are looking at the wrong places. You can start with your friends’ circle, professional social networking platforms like LinkedIn or on freelancer websites like Toptal (discussed later).
You can also rely on your local listings to hire a freelance developer, but that may not be an economical option depending on the region you reside in.
The main advantage of choosing mobile app developers from freelancer websites is the security that comes with them. Most of these websites act as a mediator between you and the developer, making sure you don’t get scammed. Some websites also guarantee instant repayment if you aren’t satisfied with the work.
These websites also make it easier to see the ratings, reviews and previous works of freelance app developers. We will get to all that in detail, shortly.
3. Look Into Their Experience and Previous Works
When on a tight budget, it is natural for you to be tempted to hire a cheap app developer. But the problem is, a developer with low hourly rates will most likely fail to deliver the quality of services you are looking for (of course, there are exceptions).
This is because app development is never cheap, and it will cost a significant amount to develop a reliable and robust mobile application. Many of the low-cost developers you come across may have minimal experience in the domain – which will apparently cost you more in the long run, due to corrections or poorly functioning features.
Freelance websites like Upwork lets you view the mobile app developer profile, including their ratings, reviews and work samples. This will enable you to see whether a prospective freelance developer has the requisite skills and experience, even before approaching them. You can also ask freelancers for references to know more about their expertise from previous clients.
4. Brief Your Requirements, Precisely
Once you have narrowed down your research, contact the freelancer and communicate your exact requirements. It must include, but not limited to the following details:
- The features of the app.
- The flow of your app from a user’s perspective.
- The platforms you are planning to release the app. (iOS, Android or hybrid)
- Your target audience to customise the UI and UX design.
- The timeframe for app development.
If your requirements align with the expertise of the app developer, there will be fewer bottlenecks in the development process. Clearly stating your needs will also help the developer assess the complexity of your app and thereby fix a reasonable hourly rate.
5. Establish the Means to Communicate
One of the biggest reasons why companies favour an in-house development team is the ease of communication. But the COVID-19 pandemic has made us realise that the frequency of communication matters more than proximity.
You can make use of enterprise mobile apps such as Slack, Trello or Skype for Business to maintain a stable relationship with the developer. As the process of app development stretches to weeks and months, it is good to maintain a friendly relationship with the freelancer.
You can also make use of emails or more informal means like the Whatsapp messenger. The key is to stay connected throughout the process. Depending on the schedules of both the parties, you can fix daily, weekly, or monthly timings at which you will review the progress of app development.
A gap in communication can cause many issues. The freelance app developers may lose sight of the project, as they won’t get the feedback required to assure them they are on the right track. Regular communication will also help you to oversee whether the features are developed in the exact way you intended.
6. Enquire Availability and Set Milestones
The freelance developer may be working on multiple projects at a time. Depending on the timeframe in which the project must be completed, discuss the number of hours the developer will be working for your project per week.
This will help in setting well-defined milestones for reviewing the app development progress and also paying the developer. Some freelancers may request for an advance payment (usually 50% of the budget), or you can pay them as each milestone is achieved.
7. Always Set Realistic Expectations
Just like not opting for a cheap app developer, you must not be too strict with time. Quality takes time, and the developer will need to plan, develop and test your app. For that purpose, setting precise milestones can help you to an extent.
As there will be a number of revisions and minor tweaks required, you will need to set a timeframe that includes all such variables. This will help you set sensible expectations and develop an app that is functionally and aesthetically appealing.
Again, to make sure you communicate your requirements the right way and to set realistic expectations, here are some things you can do.
- Share some sample apps (including that of competitors) or design samples, so that the developer can understand your preferences.
- Provide the mobile app developer with a comprehensive Requirements Document that clearly explains your application, including its features, style guide and complexity.
- Request the developer to provide sketches or mockups of how the app will look like on completion.
8. Non-Disclosure Agreements Are Important
Although non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) may seem troublesome, they are worth the hassle. Having an NDA will ensure your app’s concept remains confidential and will give you more confidence to trust freelance app developers. Ideally, NDAs must include terms that restrict the developer from:
- Sharing your code
- Reusing your code
- Using your app’s concept for another project.
- Working with your competitors simultaneously or within a stipulated time.
Here’s an example of NDA.
If you are thinking about outsourcing your app development requirements to a full-fledged team, have a look at our article that explains how to outsource app development.
Questions to Ask When Hiring a Mobile App Developer
To make sure your outsourcing endeavour is fruitful, here are some questions you can ask freelance app developers.
- Can I see any of your previous works?
- Can you share with me a list of clients you have worked with?
- What is your preferred mode of communication?
- What additional features do you think are essential for my app?
- What are the app monetization strategies that I can implement on my app?
- What are your hourly rates and terms of payment?
- Are you willing to sign a copyright agreement or NDA?
- What types of testing will you be performing?
- Will you be outsourcing any of your works?
- Which smartphone do you use?
- Do you offer documentation?
How Much Does It Cost to Hire an App Developer?
The cost to hire a mobile app developer varies significantly, depending on your application’s complexity, number of features, and also the location where the developer resides.
If you are hiring freelance app developers from India, it may cost you around US$15 – 30 per hour on average. Whereas if you are hiring a freelancer from the USA, it may cost you around US$100 – 150 per hour on average.
Here’s how much it costs to hire freelance app developers across different regions and platforms of development.
Here’s how much it will cost to develop the famous app types.
To know more about the cost associated with features and app categories, read our comprehensive guide on app development costs.
15 Top Sites to Hire Freelance App Developers
Toptal is a marketplace that approves only the top 3% percentage of all the candidates who apply. This makes sure you get access only to the top talents at competent prices, without any compromise in quality. Toptal now includes freelance UI/UX designers as well.
2. Fiverr Pro
Although Fiverr is an excellent platform to hire freelance app developers, Fiverr Pro lets you access only the verified pool of freelancers. As these vetted freelancers have a proven track record with app development, you have to worry less about quality.
This platform allows you to hire app developers or teams by posting a request. The developer allocation teams work round the clock to allocate freelance app developers whose expertise align with your app’s requirements. The platform also offers an intuitive dashboard that allows you to monitor the performance of each developer.
Gun.io helps you find app developers quickly, in less than 48 hours to be precise. The platform follows a 7-step process to make sure you get to work with the best professionals. Instead of relying on algorithm-based recommendations, Gun.io connects you with a staff member, who hand-picks the right app developer for you.
People Per Hour, also known as PPH, lets freelancers post their services along with hourly rates. PPH allows you to directly contact app developers (along with many other resources) and pay for only the exact number of hours they worked for you. PPH is also an ideal freelancer marketplace if you are looking for an expert to make minor changes to your app.
Upwork is one of the most prominent players in the industry that brings together millions of freelancers from multiple disciplines. You can post your app development requirements on the platform, and once the developers show interest in your project, you can filter and find the perfect match.
Stack Overflow can be used to hire both full-time and freelance developers. As the website is keen to offer maximum exposure to dedicated developers, you will most likely find the best ones on top of the list. You can also post your job requirements and get notified.
X-Team has an enormous pool of web and app developers. The platform makes it easier to find the right talent as they will screen and select the best candidates suiting your requirements. However, the platform is more apt for those of you looking for a team of developers.
Gigster has its own in-house project management team which acts as a liaison between you and Gigster developers. Unlike freelancers websites like Upwork, Gigster does the hard work for you and finds the freelance app developers, best suiting your requirements. This website is also beneficial if you are planning to build a remote team of developers.
With more than 25 million users registered on the platform, Freelancer offers several resources to choose from and is ideal if you are on a small budget. As the developers compete against each other, you will get the lowest bid possible.
Guru has more than 1.5 million enrolled users and is similar to Upwork. Guru also offers a secure payment system called SafePay.
Upstack offers a global pool of vetted talents, making it easier for you to choose the best from the best. All app developers in Upstack underwent an 8-point hiring process before making their way to the platform. You can communicate your requirements with an accounts manager and get matched with the right developer.
13. Hubstaff Talent
Hubstaff Talent is a freelancer marketplace that lets you connect with solo freelancers as well as agencies. The platform integrates several industry-leading tools to enhance the outsourcing experience. The platform also allows you to pay safely using their secure payment system.
14. Scalable Path
Scalable Path is another platform that offers vetted freelancers for your app development project. The platform doesn’t rely on any automated matching. Instead, a US-based consultant will hand-pick a developer who is technically and culturally proficient for your project.
The platform strives to offer nearshore developers so that you don’t have to face any inconveniences due to time differences.
Although AngelList is predominantly used for hiring full-time developers, it works for finding freelance app developers as well. You can post a job requirement and specify your budget, or you can use the search option to find the right talent.
10 Tips for Hiring a Freelance App Developer
1. Know a Little About Programming Languages
You don’t have to be an expert in programming. You just need to know what is what, such as which programming language is used to develop Android apps, famous acronyms like UX, UI, and so on. Knowing the basics will help you better communicate with the developer and make it easier to understand the progress of the app development.
2. Thoroughly Check the Developer’s Portfolio
As outsourcing your app development requirements involve a substantial amount of money, you need to be triple-sure that you are choosing the right freelance developer. For that, make sure you go through the developer’s portfolio, previous works and see if it aligns precisely with your requirements.
3. Be Clear With the Payment Terms
To leave no room for surprises, you need to be aware of additional costs for overtimes, or any other hidden charges, apart from the fixed hourly rates. This will ensure transparency throughout the process.
4. Assess the Creative Input the Developer Offers
How reliable a freelance app developer is can be assessed from the first conversation you have with the person. If they are keen to offer their inputs about your app’s concept, the better.
5. Developers Aren’t Necessarily Designers
Although developers can offer rough sketches of how your app will look, they will not be as skilled as a UI/UX designer. It is best advised to take the help of a UI/UX designer to create mockups of your app.
6. Extended Tech Support Is a Must
It is nearly impossible for the first version of an app to be bug-free. You need to make sure that the app developer offers an extended tech support period of at least 2 to 3 months.
7. Go for Pre-Vetted Developers
Many of the freelancer marketplace listed in this article offer pre-vetted developers who are qualified for the quality of service they offer. This means such developers will know more than just coding and will also have the expertise to solve issues before they occur.
8. Set up a Test Project
Suppose you are planning to collaborate with a freelance app developer for long-term and want to be 100% sure of their expertise. For that, set up a test project for a nominal budget. This will help you assess the developer without spending much and determine whether the collaboration will work.
9. Always Compare
You don’t have to stick to just one platform for finding freelance app developers. Instead, utilise multiple platforms and compare the best developers from each and then finalise the “one”.
10. Enquire Whether the Developer Outsources His/Her Work
Several freelance developers are known to outsource their projects. This can open a whole new can of worms as communication of progress, and IP protection may become difficult. Make sure you enquire about this beforehand.
10 Pitfalls to Avoid While Hiring Freelance App Developers
1. Going for the Cheapest Developer Available
The reason why this point is being repeatedly highlighted in this article is that it is natural to be tempted to fall for freelance app developers who offer services at incredibly lower rates than the average. But it doesn’t mean the most expensive freelancers will develop the best apps. The key is to put more focus on their previous works and experiences than hourly rates.
2. Hiring a Freelance Developer Who Knows to Code Well and Only That
Let’s face it. App development is not just about how beautifully the back-end is coded. It is more about how well the app’s concept is translated into functioning features that users will enjoy. More than a hardcore developer, you need someone who can relate to the emotions of your target audience and can skillfully fulfil their needs with your app.
3. Not Drafting a Budget
You need to be precise with how much you can afford to develop your app. After that, discuss a budget breakdown with the developer and make sure you stick only to that. Drafting a budget will ensure you don’t overspend.
4. Not Considering the Time Zone Differences
If you are residing in Washington, D.C. and plan to outsource your app development requirements to a freelancer in Indonesia, the time difference between both places will give only a small window for communication, unless one party sacrifices their sleep. Make sure the time differences don’t cause any trouble to your schedule.
5. Not Conducting an Interview Prior to Commitment
If you are in a hurry, you will probably be tempted to skip the interview on seeing that a developer has proven expertise. But that doesn’t mean the person is “perfect” for your project. Apart from being technically appropriate, the developer must exhibit strong communication skills and must gel well with you or your team.
6. Valuing Experience Over Expertise
Experience doesn’t always guarantee expertise. Highly-skilled developers who failed to update themselves with changing trends are almost similar to rookies. Similarly, an experienced iOS app developer won’t probably have the needed skills to develop an Android app.
7. Contacting a Developer Without Defining Your Needs and Wants
Unlike an in-house developer, a freelancer will know the least about your company or your preferences. This means you will have to explain each and every aspect of your app, and also offer a defined list of your needs and wants. This will help the developers assess their own capabilities and see if they are fit for your project.
8. Saving Time Costs You More
App development is an activity that takes time and systematic efforts. If you try to speed up the process, you may end up spending more time and resources on rectification. Be realistic about time frames, and try hiring a team of freelance developers if you are short of time.
9. Choosing Developers With No Prior Experience in Your Niche
A good sprinter isn’t necessarily a good marathoner. The same is true for app developers. Even if a developer has proven expertise in developing an app for a particular niche, say finance apps, it doesn’t mean he/she is capable of developing augmented reality apps. Choose someone who has prior experience in developing apps of your kind.
10. Not Owning the Source Code
Many businesses fail (or more precisely, forget) to include clauses in their agreements that the developer has no right over utilising the code for personal use or for any other client project. Make sure the agreement places you as the sole owner of the entire source code.
The Efforts Are Worthwhile
Finding reliable freelance app developers may seem challenging, but it’s quite worth the effort. With the help of a freelancer, you don’t have to struggle to create an app on your own, nor do you have to hire an expensive in-house development team.
Try the platforms listed in the article and follow the tips discussed, while staying away from the common pitfalls. Instead of just going for a hardcore mobile app developer, try connecting with someone who gels with you and can creatively make your dream app a reality.