So you’ve had an idea for an app, you’ve done your market research, and maybe even raised funds for development. Now you’ve got to decide who will build it!
There are a few different avenues for you to explore. We’ll lay out the pros and cons of each in this post.
- Option 1: Building an in-house team
- Option 2: Outsourcing to a freelancer
- Option 3: Outsourcing to a local/UK agency
- Option 4: Outsourcing to an offshore agency
This is not to say that any particular route is better than the others. It all depends on the context of what you’re building for who. Your business vision and the chemistry you have with the individual or team you’ve chosen to develop your product.
Ensure that you do your research and go with who you really trust to do the best for your business.
Option 1: Build an in-house team
A comfortable budget for this would be at least £100k. For that, you can hire 2-3 in house employees to work on your app and build your own development team. However, this route is typically favoured by larger companies that already have established employee infrastructure as it’s a time-consuming and admin-heavy process.
- Dedication – You’ll have a small team dedicated solely to your project full-time with no competing priorities, so they may very well achieve more in a shorter space of time.
- Long term commitment – providing that your funds can sustain it, your team members won’t be looking to move to the next project as soon as you’ve launched. They’ll be ready and willing to provide your app with the support and maintenance needed to grow.
- In-depth knowledge of your business and your customers – Employees will have insight into your business and customer needs, mindset, branding, and vision, informing the way they develop your product. Any agency worth their salt will also take the time to understand these things about your business, but they won’t be living and breathing your organization the way an employee would.
- Faster sign-offs/approvals – unlike working with an agency or freelancer, less organisation needs to go into setting up discussions for sign-offs and approvals. These things happen much quicker when you can have an informal chat over lunch or in the meeting room.
- Flexibility – a big benefit to building an in-house team is flexibility with revisions. There isn’t a fixed budget or other constraints that come with working with an agency, so you can spend more time tweaking and modifying your product. But, don’t spend so long second-guessing things that you stop making progress!.
- You have to deal with all of the admin that goes with employing people – HMRC, pensions, PAYE, National Insurance, HR etc.
- You need to actively manage your team to get the best from them. Aside from day-to-day operational management, you’ll be responsible for retention, training, dealing with illnesses, and ensuring the team chemistry is right.
- Higher upfront costs – including training, recruitment, necessary licenses, hardware and many other overheads that will need to be sustained.
- Slower to get started – finding the right people to build your team is incredibly time-consuming. This process will likely take several weeks, and you have to factor in any notice potential employees have to give to their current organisations.
Option 2: Hire a freelancer (or freelancers)
Freelance software development has boomed in recent years, and there’s no shortage of talented and dedicated developers that will take on your project. There are some fantastic sites out there that will match you with freelancers such as Toptal, Guru and Upwork – similar to typical recruitment services.
- Lower rates than an agency – we’ve put this in the pro list as an individual freelancer will charge less than an agency. They have fewer overheads. But, you’ll likely need to hire multiple freelancers to bring your project to completion – UX/UI designers, front-end and back-end, DevOps, testers etc.. This means the costs quickly stack up.
- Speed – an in-demand agency might not be able to start working on your project for several weeks after the discovery. But if you can find a Freelancer with availability, they can jump in and get coding straight away and get your product to market faster.
- All of your eggs are in one basket – if your freelancer has a period of illness or something happens that affects their ability to work, your project will be at a standstill.
- No single freelancer can ‘do it all’, meaning you’ll have to step up to the project management role – app development goes beyond writing code. Someone needs to design the user interface, and someone needs to test for bugs etc. As you bring more freelancers on board, you’ll most likely take on the role of project manager alongside everything else you have to do to grow your business.
- Lack of ongoing maintenance and support – the very nature of freelance work means that your developer might already have another project lined up ready to dedicate their time to once your product has launched. There’s no such thing as a bug-free launch, so it’s worth making an effort to find someone who will still work on your app once it’s launched.
Option 3: Hire a UK agency
Your next option is to hire a specialist development agency, like us! Some agencies specialise in particular frameworks, mobile development or with more complex technologies like AI or VR. Choosing the right agency is a process in itself, but once you’ve found the perfect fit, they should be able to offer you…
- An array of talent under one roof – the agency has already got quality developers, project managers and testers in their team, so you don’t have to scout them yourself.
- Expertise – An agency will likely have more experience in developing apps than you do. An agency team can bring their own expertise to the table – through vetting of developers and PMs, knowledge of the right frameworks and tools to suit your budget/business requirements, and the ability to tell you if a feature is a necessity or a ‘nice-to-have. Additionally, agencies will understand (or take the time to understand) the market you’re entering and your customers’ needs.
- Removes pain of people management – the agency will take on the PM role and deal with people who are off sick or moving on and mitigate the effect on deadlines and quality or consistency of work done.
- Held to a higher standard – there’s a whole infrastructure within an agency that means more accountability for each individual working on your project, resulting in a higher quality codebase.
- No surprise licensing costs – An agency will already have access to all licenses and testing equipment you might need
- Peace of mind – your project manager, will be overseeing the development, ensuring everything is being done when and how it should be, taking this worry off of you.
- Maintenance and scaling in the long term – work on your app doesn’t stop on launch day. Your business will grow, and your app will need to scale to meet demand. Choosing an agency means there will always be a team ready to jump in and work on your app and train others to do the same.
- Cost – Hiring an agency can initially seem more expensive than going with a freelancer, and your budget may even exclude you if you don’t meet the agency threshold -. – for example, here at CookiesHQ, we don’t typically take on any project under £60k
- More people = more variants = more processes, so it may take longer to launch than if you went with a freelancer.
- Availability – in-demand agencies may not be able to start work on your project right away. A few months delay can disrupt a project greatly if you’ve got strict deadlines to meet.
Option 4: Hire an offshore/near-shore agency
Offshore or nearshore development is rising in popularity, mainly due to the temptingly low costs. In countries where the cost of living is lower, developer rates are lower too. There are many benefits to offshore outsourcing, but the disadvantages can be severe and impactful.
Ideally, an offshore agency will bring the same pros to the table as a domestic one – saving you time and energy putting together the best team for your project, taking the Project Management off your hands and offering technical expertise.
- Cheaper development costs – The main draw is, of course, price. The cost of living in Ukraine, China, India etc., is much lower than here in the UK, so agencies charge a lower rate.
- Diversifying development – working with a team on the other side of the globe will undoubtedly give you an insight into a different culture, lifestyle, set of values and business mindset. This can benefit you personally, professionally, and technically as developers in foreign teams can bring that cultural knowledge into your product and make it more appealing to a diverse audience.
- Fully remote management of the project – If you’ve chosen an agency that’s geographically very far from you, you won’t be able to hop on a train to collaborate in person or look them in the eye to get a sense of chemistry.
- Language barriers – communication is the key to any client-agency partnership. Speaking different languages and having different cultural understandings can all impact the success of your project.
- Time difference – if you’ve managed to bridge the language and cultural gaps, you may find that living in different time zones brings a new set of challenges. Waiting full days for a response to an email or scheduling calls during unsociable hours can add extra stress to the process.
- Inconsistent quality of code – offshore agencies tend to have a high developer turnover, which affects the consistency of the coding done on your project. Rather than a dedicated ‘pod’ of developers, it may be that your developers change day-to-day depending on who’s available.
- Legal issues doing international business – you’ll need to brush up on the laws around IP and codebase ownership in the country you’re offshoring to, and be sure that the offshore team fully understands the legal requirements of your app (e.g. GDPR).
- Market expertise – If you’re building a product for a UK market, it’s unlikely an offshore team will have in-depth knowledge of the market and be able to advise you on strategy accordingly. A good tech agency doesn’t just do code – they partner with you to help you strategise and achieve your business goals which requires familiarity with the market you’re entering and your users. It’s all about context.
- You end up with a product that needs to be rebuilt – of course, this does not apply to every offshore agency, but here at CookiesHQ, we have seen some codebases in a very sorry state having been put together by an offshore team. The code has held up just enough to launch but is completely unworkable moving forward. Generally, you get what you pay for. So if those incredibly low bids have tempted you, bear in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Figuring out the best option for your business all starts with a chat…
So, you should now have a sense of all the available routes you can take when it comes to hiring people to turn your idea into a reality. Ultimately, it all comes down to the context of your requirements and the resources you have at hand. For startups and smaller organisations, outsourcing is usually the best way to go with a view to building your own in-house team further down the line.
If you’d like to find out whether CookiesHQ is the right fit for your project, if we could recommend any freelancers to work with or just want to chat through the feasibility of your idea we’d love to hear from you – get in touch using the form below.