How to hire someone to build an app

With smartphone ownership rapidly approaching ubiquity, mobile apps are proving to be a goldmine. Annual revenues are projected to exceed $170 billion by 2024. So if you are looking to hire someone to build an app, you are onto something. Mobile apps are a space every forward-thinking entrepreneur should contemplate becoming part of in some way. Yet, an idea is of itself meaningless if it isn’t backed by seamless execution.

For founders with a background in mobile app development, then getting things moving along may be straightforward. The overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs, though, will likely not have a software development background. In that case, you’ll have no option but to hire someone to build an app.

Place an ad and wait for the right candidate to come along. Pretty straightforward, right?

Well, not quite. Especially if you haven’t walked this path before.

The good thing is, with appropriate guidance, every aspiring mobile app entrepreneur can hire a programmer to make an app.

Why is Your Choice of Mobile App Developer Important?

App developers aren’t created equal. There’s huge disparity in technical certifications, specializations and work experiences. Add to that the differences in critical soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and organization.

A wrong choice of programmer could see you grappling with the costly consequences years later. Your engagements will be characterized by misunderstanding, conflict, weak support, tons of rework, and poor documentation. All this will culminate in a disastrous experience for app users, which will all but damage your own reputation immensely.

Irrespective of the meticulousness of the business plan and how exhaustive the research is, an app developer can bring your entrepreneurial dreams crashing down.

There’s a reason why over the years you’ve largely settled into certain brands when buying your household goods. You trust these brands and have proven their price is commensurate with their value. When you want to hire someone to build an app, you have to approach the process with a similar mindset.

Document Your App Idea

Develop a well-thought-out narration of what you expect your app to do. Write it down, as that will be your reference document when explaining your idea to a prospective candidate. It shouldn’t go into too much detail of course, as that will be reserved for the developer you eventually settle on. However, it should capture the requirements and goals in as reasonable detail as possible.

Talk about the problem you seek to resolve, the target audience, the app’s goals, and security measures. Explain the flow from the perspective of a hypothetical end user. Rank app features from the most important to the good to have. Elaborating on your idea should allow the developer set realistic milestones and determine the total cost.

What Type of Mobile App Are You Building?

‘Mobile app’ is a catch-all phrase that covers all applications that run on mobile phones. It’s a term that nevertheless obscures the enormous variation in the types of mobile apps there are. Before you start shopping for a developer, have a clear picture of the type of mobile app you are creating. From the industry targeted, whether it’s free or paid, the countries it applies to, the regulations it’s subject to, whether it includes a payment checkout screen, the number of expected users, and more.

This is important because you want to hire someone to build an app who has proven relevant experience creating the type of app you envisage. If you're undergoing heart surgery, you wouldn't want a dermatologist doing it. An app developer with experience building mobile games may not be the right person to go to if you are creating a fintech application.

Assess the developer’s portfolio to determine they are a good match. Request for contacts of some past and present clients who would serve as references for the developer’s work.

The good thing about vetting app developers is all you have to do is visit the Google Play Store or Apple App Store and download apps they’ve previously done. Experience it for yourself and see whether the developer’s work is up to your expectations. You can also read the reviews to see what users are saying about the app.

Can They Design Great User Interfaces?

Your user interface is the single biggest determinant of whether users will love your app or not. You may have sophisticated world-class functionality that’s head and shoulders above your competition. That won’t matter much if users don’t find your app’s interface intuitive, navigable, easy to understand, and visually appealing. Now, coding expertise doesn’t imply competence in user interface design. Ensure the developer you opt is a U/UX guru as well.

If they are not and you think their coding skills are too good to pass up, consider hiring a different individual for the interface. It might mean additional expenditure but that’s how crucial the user interface is.

How Good Are Their Soft Skills?

Technical skills are your number one consideration when choosing a developer. Nevertheless, you will be working closely with this individual. In a world where the agile method has replaced the traditional waterfall technique, the end of a project isn’t as definitive as it once was. There may be several iterations, cycles, and evolutions as you continually respond to issues raised by test results and user feedback. There’ll be continuous interaction between you and the developer. Soft skills are essential in this regard.

How are the developer’s written and oral communication skills? Are they organized and time-conscious? Are they dependable, adaptable, and flexible? Are they creative and consistent? What’s their work ethic like? Even if you do not have a rapport from the get-go, you should at least have a meeting of minds and be comfortable being in their presence.

How Can I Find Quality App Developers?

The good news is: there are millions of mobile app developers around the world. But that’s also the bad news. The sheer scale of your options can be overwhelming. There are vast differences in skill sets and hourly rates. If you don’t know where and how to look, you are in real danger of making a catastrophic mistake.

There are countless places you can check but as always, it’s best to start with your social and professional circle. That includes family, friends, business associates and college alumni. You can get the most authentic unbiased feedback and advise here. They would not want to jeopardize your relationship with them. If your search for an app developer ends here, count yourself lucky.

For most people though, this may only provide a couple of leads that may not necessarily be fruitful. So the next step is for you to extend your search out there. You must do your best to narrow your options to cut down your search time. A key decision point is whether to hire someone to build your app locally, in-country (or onshore), or offshore.

Local vs In-Country (or Onshore) vs Offshore Hire?

Hiring local would be ideal. It makes face-to-face meetings feasible. However, unless you live in a large city, there might probably not be a big enough pool of app developers for you to find the quality you need at the right price.

Your next alternative is to hire someone to build an app in-country. In a large advanced tech-savvy country like the United States, this easily takes care of the talent depth and breadth limitations local hiring has. Both local and in-country hiring have the benefit of working with someone with whom there’s little to no differences in language, culture, and time zone.

The major drawback of in-country hiring is cost and that has been the primary driver of offshoring app development. The hourly pay of a developer in North America may be more than 20 times higher than that of a developer in South Asia. For a startup, cost is a big deal, so offshoring is a tempting proposition.

If you do choose to offshore, you must seek out developers that have a proven record of top-notch delivery. Offshoring can make it harder to stay on top of things thanks to differences in language and time. There’s also a real risk of misunderstanding due to cultural differences.

What Online Platforms and Sites Can You Use?

There are numerous places on the Internet where you can commence your search for a developer. A simple Google search should provide some useful (albeit preliminary) leads. Nevertheless, you have limited time on your hands so its best if you can simply go direct to websites and platforms that have a reputation for connecting startups with quality developers.

You could post ads on leading job boards like, and (including LinkedIn ProFinder). They are ideal when your goal is to reach the largest possible audience. Giant job boards are the first place people turn to when looking for work. Nevertheless, while your ad may draw tons of eye balls, much of that traffic won't be the type you want i.e. mobile app developers. You'll have a better shot at addressing a tech audience by using an IT-centric board such as and Or you could sharpen your focus even further by advertising your project on developer community boards like GitHub Jobs and Stack Overflow Jobs.

Job boards are most appropriate for onshore hiring. If you are contemplating offshoring development, you can find globally diverse talent on the largest freelance portals such as,,,, and Hubstaff Talent. They aren't the same though. for instance is best for getting work done on the cheap. However, it doesn't have as deep and large a pool of developers as or

There are places to hire freelance programmers too like,, and They do not have the member numbers of but you are more likely to encounter a high concentration of quality applicants on these.

How Long Will It Take?

The hiring process shouldn’t take too long. It could be just a week or two and you have someone you can work with.

The development timelines are a little more nuanced. The primary determinant is the app’s complexity.

On the lower end of the spectrum are the simple apps that can be created from templates and have no backend, since everything is stored on the user’s device. For these, you should plan for anywhere between 70 and 150 developer hours.

At the medium range are enterprise apps and some categories of social networking apps. Here, app data may be stored on both server and device. If you are building these types of apps, plan for at least 200 developer hours but brace for more than 300.

In the most complex category are gaming apps and messaging apps. For gaming, the developer has to take into account multiple scenarios, single or multiplayer capability, and rendering. For messaging apps, it’s the capacity to handle multiple data formats, calls and chats. Complex apps may require over 500 developer hours before they are ready for production.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire Someone to Build an App?

Price is always a big deal but it takes on much greater significance for startups. At the outset, all you have is an idea. There’s no guarantee of success. Unless you are armed with a huge financial war chest, you’ll have to mitigate your risk of failure by minimizing initial expenditure. It’s about spending as little as you can to get the best product possible.

That being said, don’t be lured by developers with low-ball offers. The lowest option may very well be the most expensive in the long run. You may be forced to incur additional costs to redo the app entirely with another developer or grapple with a never-ending series of problems.

With those basic principles out of the way, how much should you expect to spend? Three factors come into play.

First, if you are going for an onshore developer, the hourly rate will be much higher than working with an offshore developer.

Second, what’s the complexity of the application? Simple apps will be completed quickly and therefore the total amount you pay remain low. Complex apps may require in excess of 600 developer hours so your final costs may be huge.

Third, who are the targeted users? Enterprise apps typically cost more per developer hour ($100-$150 for an onshore developer) compared to consumer-facing apps ($50-$120).

Ergo, how much you’ll eventually pay could range from a couple of thousand dollars to more than $100,000.

Consider throwing in a bonus for exceptional work by the developer. It goes a long way in cementing a positive long-term relationship.

Wrapping Up

Hiring a mobile app developer certainly takes good planning. Still, as this piece has demonstrated, it isn’t rocket science. You don’t need to be deeply conversant with the latest coding jargon. Think about what you want and follow these steps to getting the developer you need.

Don't miss these stories: