Making a mobile app requires solid investments – both in terms of time and money. The cost of making even the most basic form of application is likely to be northwards of $25000, with at least 800 hours of work required for the overall UI designing/development/testing phases. Upgrade your requirement to a more complex mobile application – say, a mobile event app or a speed dating app – and the costs go up significantly. It is always a good idea to seek expert professional help for creating the apps – so that your app ideas do not go to waste.
Moving forward to make an app would require you to make an important choice at the very outset – whether you should hire a development agency for the task, or if working with an individual agent/freelancer would suffice. In what follows, we have compared the two options in detail, and tried to to find which of them is better:
Quality of Service
It’s hardly difficult to find freelance app developers who – at least on paper – seem ideally suited for your project. Portals like Upwork, Fiverr and PeoplePerHour have huge lists of app-makers who have glowing reviews and come with an excellent body of work. What’s more, the rates they quote are extremely competitive. However, authenticity of such endorsements remain a point of concern – with websites offering service providers the option to ‘purchase 5-star reviews’ and fake testimonials. App development agencies deliver greater authenticity in this regard, since reviews on aggregator sites like GoodFirms and Clutch are much more genuine (provided by real clients). Keep in mind that the reviews published on the vendor websites might not be equally reliable.
Continuity of service
Once again, the formal way of operations for app & software companies offer greater assurance. An agency would typically have a formal contract with the list of deliverables and other formal terms. That, in turn, makes sure that there is no uncertainty over the nature of services to be rendered. Indie developers work on a more informal basis – and while their expertise and service standards may be top-notch – there might not be anything to prevent them from dropping off midway through a project. A freelancer might also stop responding after a certain point, which leads to complications.
The cost factor
In terms of expenses, it isn’t even a competition. The charges of freelance app developers can be upto 35% to 40% lower than the fees quoted by app companies. The reason for this is simple enough – there are no employee benefits, or insurances, or social/medical securities payable, when you work with a freelancer. However, the cost advantage of freelance developers can be a double-edged sword – given the uncertainty over their service quality in general. Unless you are really looking to cut corners, do not make the higher costs associated with app companies a deal-breaker.
Niche expertise vs end-to-end service
Search for ‘app developers’ on any freelancer portal, and lots of results will come up instantly. Look for ‘UI designers’ next, and you will come across a different set of results. If you decide to go the freelance way, you will – in all likelihood – end up hiring multiple service providers, each offering a niche expertise. The potential complications are a lot lesser if you do business with mobile app companies, however. These agencies offer end-to-end services – with separate teams for native app development (iOS/Android), graphic designing, software testing, and other tasks. The fees quoted by companies might be higher, but the broad expanse of services they offer under the hood makes it worth the money.
Companies generally have their hours of operations, and a set of legal rules and regulations to abide by. Freelancers, owing to their more informal mode of work, are by far more flexible. Many indie developers can work double shifts to get your project ready on time – and, if they are sincere enough – can provide round-the-clock support. With agencies, you will have to consider the time zone of the vendor company (and corresponding work hours) to ensure effective two-way competition. Of course, most of the time, this additional flexibility is surplus to requirements – since app agencies have the resources to meet deadlines with ease.
Privacy & confidentiality issues
If you are concerned about service confidentiality (as you should be, since it’s a question of significant intellectual property rights), app development agencies are by far the better option. They can sign privacy and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) if required. Freelancers, on the other hand, might only agree to sign a memo of understanding – which does not offer much clarity over data protection protocols. Always check the terms of service of the vendor companies, and hire accordingly. Freelance developers are not likely to have a set standard of operations – and hence, there remains a cloud of uncertainty about how they handle data.
Meaningful collaboration and teamwork
This is yet another problem when you hire multiple freelancers for your mobile app development project. Different contractors will work from different time zones, and the window for them to actually communicate with each other and work as a team will always be very limited. Even if they are from the same geographical location, the very fact that freelancers work remotely is an issue. You can easily bypass this issue by opting to work with an app development company instead. At the agency, the developers, designers, quality analysts & testers, animators and others will always work together and communicate with each other. The end result, not surprisingly, is likely to be better.
Concern over reputation
In every field of work, there is always a risk of coming across sub-standard service providers. However, the risk is a lot less if you hire a software development agency. These companies have their own corporate reputations to worry about – and they are fully aware that bad reviews and word-of-mouth publicity can potentially ruin their business. Freelancers are, in most cases, not bogged down by such concerns. They can dodge the bad reviews by removing an account on one portal, and opening a new account on another (and buying new reviews). When you work with a company, they will take care of your project out of concern for their own well-being. With freelancers, there are always uncertainties.
Building a relationship
When you have a working relationship with the app development service vendor, ongoing tasks like software maintenance and support become a lot easier. In most cases, their service packages do not end with your app being published in the stores (app delivery). They can track reviews, publish updates, and perform all maintenance-related work. The same cannot be expected from freelance developers. As per most of their contracts, the ‘work’ finishes with the app being submitted – and your freelancer might refuse to do any further updates/maintenance/bug fixes. Making a mobile app is certainly not a one-shot game – and once again, agencies score over freelancers.
Legal terminology & paperwork
This is a minor #win for indie developers. Since there are a lot less formalities when you hire a freelancer, you need not worry much about legal terminology and binding contracts. An agency will invariably have its own contract document, the paperwork will be a lot more – and the onus will be on you to check all the terms carefully, before signing on the dotted line. If you are looking to make a very basic app and are okay with a bit of uncertainty, the less paperwork can be an advantage.
While the above points make it pretty clear that the odds are pretty heavily stacked in favour of app development agencies – hiring a freelancer is not necessarily a bad option. For very simple mobile applications with low budget and prompt delivery requirements, working with a contractor can, in fact, be the better option. In general though, agencies offer greater advantages – in terms of reliability, efficiency, and value for money.