Hiring app developers has become an important and necessary endeavour for the majority of companies looking to stay relevant in today’s digital era of smartphones and 24-7 internet connectivity.
If you want to stay relevant, be easily discoverable, and have a strong brand presence, then you will want app developers within your team looking after your online presence.
60% of all companies are now outsourcing software development to meet their requirements.
Outsourcing is only one model of bringing tech talent into your company, but is proving to be the most popular model.
In fact, the software outsourcing industry is expected to reach $133.3 billion in revenue in 2025 (Accelerance Global Software Outsourcing Trends and Rates Guide).
This article will therefore explore options for hiring an app developer, as well as:
- Explain which scenarios are best suited for these hiring options, alongside their advantages and disadvantages.
- Where to hire app developers, including key locations and where it makes sense to opt for an offshore outsourcing model.
- How to find the right app developer or outsourcing partners using popular online platforms.
- Key questions to ask to determine whether the app developer is the best suited for your project.
Table of Contents
The App Developer and Their Roles
Technical talent within an organisation are more commonly consulting executives and CEOs, as a result of technology playing a more central role in day-to-day operations and company performance.
Companies are relying on online sales more than ever, with a 58% increase in in-app transactions from 2019 to 2020 alone.
Following the introduction of lockdowns, e-commerce also reported its biggest year ever, and this trend did not slow down in 2021 (App Trends 2021 Report). Gaming and finance apps also broke records in the same period.
So the CTO role has never been more crucial to the success of a company, as the company inevitably expands their online presence with an expanding independence on third party platforms and sales funnels.
App developer responsibilities
A primary responsibility of an app developer is commonly to manage company mobile apps (iOS and Android based apps) or web apps (a modern website), to keep these app’s visibility strong, to maintain the codebases and to keep the solutions relevant.
App developers must ensure that these two critical products – the mobile app and the website – complement the overall sales strategy of a company, that consist of many more components than just the app.
Social media campaigns, analysis of traffic, maintaining up-time of the app and surrounding services, are all jobs the app developer must consider.
These components rely on various APIs and third party tools, such as payment platforms to cater for different demographics, and native mobile API support, ensuring that a mobile app is compatible with the latest iOS or Android features users expect to be supported.
Beyond the infrastructure of an internal app, developers oftentimes rely on third party platforms and retailers (such as Amazon, the App Store or Google Play store, Instagram Shopping, etc), various payment platforms (Stripe, Paypal, Cryptocurrency, etc), and social media platforms to promote their content to a targeted demographic.
To further expand our perspective, the app developer’s development space, consisting of development pipeline utilities, communication and management tools, and deployment strategies, must be maintained and kept secure.
Development tools, libraries and communication tools all evolve at a fast pace, and it is the app development team’s responsibility to stay up to date with such tooling.
App developers are in high demand
Considering the above responsibilities, app developers need to be highly skilled to efficiently carry out their duties. It may come as no surprise then that there is a growing tech-talent gap in the market.
In the US alone, there is expected to be 1.2 million unfilled software development jobs by 2025 (Accelerance Global Software Outsourcing Trends and Rates Guide).
App developers are in high demand, so it is paramount the correct candidates are chosen from the talent pool for a particular job.
So what is the best way of acquiring talented app developers for your project? The first step is to choose the right hiring model for your requirements.
The next section will address this in detail.
Hiring an App Developer: What you need to know
As Iglu has made clear in our other pieces, we are now in a primarily outsource economy when it comes to hiring an app developer.
Outsourcing an app development team effectively tackles the tech-talent gap and can quickly fill high demand positions such as the full stack, frontend and backend app developers.
Outsourcing typically entails hiring a development company that organizes the development team and takes charge of the development process for you.
There are other methods of outsourcing an app developer however, such as hiring freelance developers or individual app developers.
Companies also have more traditional routes they can take, such as hiring app developers full time, or setting up an entire team within the organisation; these strategies also have their strengths in certain situations.
Working with Freelancers
Freelancers are individuals who commonly offer their development services under a contractual agreement under a self employment basis.
What to expect from a freelance app developer
The freelance app developer can equally likely be either a highly experienced software veteran, or an entrant to the app development market – perhaps a student or a graduate looking to kick-start their development experience.
The experience and skill level of a freelancer will ultimately determine their hourly rates – the most common payment method for the freelance app developer.
The mobile app developer (iOS developers and Android app developers) typically require higher rates due to the more full-stack nature of the roles.
Hourly rates vary dramatically between demographics, advertised skills and portfolio, and reputation within the freelance platforms the freelancer is a part of.
An important factor in hiring freelancers is the ability to easily negotiate hourly rates, with the aforementioned platforms providing built-in support for making offers and providing private chats.
As a result of this support, negotiations are notoriously easy and have to be agreed by both parties before work can commence.
These skills stack up and form a high barrier to entry, so it is a fair assumption to make that the freelance app developer must have a profound interest in their chosen profession, whether that is on the web or for mobile.
Nonetheless, freelance developers are often self-motivated and have an interest in their chosen field – regardless of their skill level.
In fact, this attribute is probably the strongest of the freelance developer.
Risks of hiring an app developer on a freelance basis
So far we’ve painted quite a positive picture for the freelancer, so where can things go wrong? There are some risks associated with hiring freelancers – and these should be considered when selecting your candidates.
Perhaps the biggest risk is for the freelancer to lose interest in completing a project, and there are numerous reasons for this, such as poor project management on the freelancer’s side, by either committing to too many projects or by not giving themselves enough time in the day for a particular task.
Scenarios range from the freelancer needing to brush up on particular technologies, frameworks or ad-hoc scripts for a codebase; understanding a foreign codebase or a framework alone can eat into the allotted hours agreed upon and can stretch a schedule.
In the event the freelancer has taken on too many projects, morale and motivation can dramatically decrease and result in development slowing down.
What could have initially been a strong desire to succeed and take on ambitious projects can lead to burnout and a loss in interest in pursuing seemingly impossible tasks.
The key here is to understand the situation of the freelancer you hire – and this article will go through key questions to ask app developer candidates further down to gauge their credibility and reliability.
Freelancer strengths and risks
A very large pool of freelance developers exist on the numerous hiring platforms online, that connect a freelance market on a global scale.
Freelancers can be very cost-effective. Often paid via hourly rates that can be negotiated before commencing work.
Freelancers can be short-term or long-term commitments.
Hiring a freelancer avoids expenses associated with the traditional employment route, including taxation, insurance costs, office space, legal obligations, and other expenses tied into full-time positions.
Risks of hiring freelancers:
Given the diversity and huge scale of the freelance marketplace, language barriers and timezone difficulties can arise. Such issues should be identified and avoided before committing to a freelance app developer.
Can be hard to manage, usually as a result of poor communication or project management skills on the freelance side, or a lack of a dedicated CTO position or project manager on the client side.
There is a risk of project abandonment with freelancers in the event they lose interest in an unfinished project.
In-House Team Model
The second model for hiring an app developer we’ll discuss here is a stark contrast to the freelance model, that instead pertains to committing to a full-time team of developers to work internally within the company.
Hiring in-house entails employing developers on a full-time basis; the developer will be legally employed with the company, receive payslips every month, along with the perks associated with full-time employment (pensions, insurance, etc).
Already, hiring web or mobile app developers in-house is evidently a much larger commitment than the freelance model is – it is notoriously harder to lay off an employee than it is to end a freelance contract, for example.
Poaching: The biggest challenge to hiring an app developer in-house
On the other hand, if the employee is a very valuable asset to your company that you plan to leverage for the long-term – perhaps even having a critical role in evolving the company for the long term – then the internal hiring model makes a lot of sense.
So how do you keep such an employee happy in your company?
Given the very high skill in-house employees should have to make them worth the effort of recruiting and hiring them, surely other companies will be competing in the marketplace offering higher salaries, greater career prospects, and so forth to lure good talent to them.
Targeting employees from competitors in aggressive recruitment drives is known as “poaching” in the tech space. This has been publicised particularly with Apple and Tesla, with the former allegedly poaching employees from the EV manufacturer.
Well, beyond a strong mission statement and company culture that should strongly resonate with your employees, there are some financial instruments to be exercised to keep an employee loyal to a company. Stock incentives, bonuses, company “retreats” (holidays) can all be effective methods of keeping an employee happy.
When it makes sense to hire an app developer in-house
Hiring an app developer full-time is common within larger technology companies (think tech giants like Microsoft, or Tenscent).
Game development companies in-particular require dedicated teams of full-time staff to maintain game engines, build game assets, etc.
Concretely, where software is the heart and soul of the company and their products, there will be a presence of full-time app development positions driving those efforts.
For smaller companies with small teams or lower budgets, the in-house hiring model will not make as much sense:
In-house strengths and risks
In-house model strengths:
The company has full control over the team and their roles. App development efforts can be intimately managed and overseen, making the process more agile.
No communication difficulties to contend with, such as timezone differences or language barriers.
For the right candidates, there are more tools at the company’s disposal to incentivise and keep them loyal to the company.
In-house model risks:
A long and challenging recruitment process to attract and secure good talent.
A lot more expensive than other models, and a much longer commitment period.
Additional challenges in laying off employees, such as maintaining the company’s reputation and avoiding legal disputes.
To read more about the differences between in-house vs outsourcing models for software development, Iglu has published a piece dedicated to the comparisons: In-House vs Software Development Outsourcing Explained.
Like freelancing, staff augmentation is a type of outsourcing to obtain targeted talent to your company on a contractual basis, without being tied into an employment contract.
The difference here is that a client company negotiates with a third party company, the “vendor”, who provides the required talent for the client, either on a temporary or on-going basis.
With staff augmentation, the contracted individuals or team can either work remotely or within your company premises – these arrangements are dependent on factors like location and necessity of being with the client.
Staff augmentation is highly effective at filling talent gaps within a company at a lesser commitment than the hiring model, and with a higher confidence than the freelance model. This extra confidence, or security, should come from a competent vendor who should recommend only viable candidates for the job at hand.
Although this extra layer of communication (compared to the freelance model) is welcome, it does entail more management on the client side, now having to handle the vendor for contractual matters, and the candidate for their day-to-day development responsibilities.
With specialised talent working for a client, it is also possible for in-house employees to learn from these out-staffed individuals and gain additional skills that they can apply.
Staff augmentation strengths and risks
Staff augmentation strengths:
By targeting individuals with particular skills required for your project, you achieve quicker and more efficient development.
Knowledge required for the specific project can be obtained without committing to a full-time position within the company.
There is a reduced cost compared to the in-house model, and more control relative to the freelance model.
Possibility for an internal team to learn from the outsourced individuals and gain valuable skills for the project.
Staff augmentation risks:
Higher costs are associated with higher skilled talent required for specialised projects.
As a more temporary arrangement, staff augmentation is not a good prospect for full time requirements or ongoing projects that require maintenance and evolution.
Communication challenges may arise due to the remote conditions, which can be time consuming for in-house management to resolve.
Hire an Outsourcing Company
The final model to consider is that of hiring an outsourcing company to handle projects on behalf of a client company. This hiring model is the most popular today, and can yield the most benefits if the correct outsourcing partner is selected.
A trusted and experienced outsourcing partner will be able to develop apps and manage the entire development pipeline on their end. They can offer their own guidance in terms of the correct technology to adopt, the resources they need to carry out the project, and reasonable timelines from milestones to project completion.
Hiring an outsourcing company to develop an app makes a lot of sense for smaller companies, or companies where software development is not in their internal talent pool.
Rather than rely on an internal team (in-house or augmented), or an individual freelancer, responsibility of the project is handed to the outsourcing partner.
What is now required for the client is good communication between them and the outsourced partner, to ensure the project is on track and as desired.
Types of outsourcing company
There are a huge number of outsourcing partners available online on a global scale, that range from low skilled to highly professional.
Clients will benefit the most from enterprise-grade partners; highly professional partners that can offer high quality services.
Enterprise-grade outsourcing partners will have the necessary experience to seamlessly integrate into an existing project, and will have the capability to start a new project entirely from scratch.
On the opposite end of the sale are what are termed body shops – low cost services with the lowest calibre talent. Such partners are cheap, but the quality of code and project management will suffer, and there will be higher risks of project failure with such partners.
The key to success with outsourcing is to hire the right company for your requirements. The following sections will explore how to find the right partners, as well as the key questions to ask them in the recruitment process.
Outsourcing company strengths and risks
Strengths of outsourcing:
Cost-efficiency: Often at an hourly rate, outsourcing is cheaper than an in-house model, and removes complexity that the augmentation model introduces.
Like freelancing, there are a huge variety of vendors from all around the world. But unlike the freelance model, outsourcing companies will have a team of talented developers under a legal entity, whose best interest is to provide a high quality service.
Provides the ability to obtain the talent you need for a project on a large scale.
No need for app development management on the client side, only for essential communication in terms of project management and alignment with milestones and goals.
Once recruited, the outsourcing company can start development immediately – they will already have the talent and skill necessary for the project at hand.
Downsides of outsourcing:
As with any outsourcing model, language barriers and time zone differences may still occur.
The recruitment process can prove challenging due to the huge number of available outsourcing companies on the market.
For a detailed pro and con list related to outsourcing, check out Iglu’s accompanying piece, IT Outsourcing Pros and Cons.
Online Platforms for Hiring App Developers
Once you’ve identified which hiring model is best for your company, it will be time to look for suitable partners.
This section breaks down popular online platforms for freelancers, outsourcing companies or full-time hiring.
Platforms for hiring a freelance web / mobile app developer
The following freelance platforms support the entire freelance hiring process, from finding suitable candidates, negotiating and agreeing upon a contract, and a range of communication and project monitoring tools:
Each platform is different, so the reader is encouraged to explore them all.
UpWork: A global marketplace for both freelancers and outsourcing companies, UpWork is one of the largest online platforms for tech talent.
Youteam: A leading platform for the staff augmentation model, allowing you to hire individuals or a small number of app developers. This platform is particularly useful for mobile devices, as mobile app developers will typically require a more specialised skill set.
Toptal: A more professional oriented freelance platform that attempts to only host the best freelance talent, aiming to provide app developers for important projects.
Fiverr: With a focus on freelance app developers, Fiverr is a low-cost marketplace for finding professional services.
Platforms for hiring outsourcing vendors
The following platforms host outsourcing businesses with a focus on ratings and reviews. They attempt to streamline the process of finding the best suited partners while avoiding high risk companies:
Clutch: The go-to platform to find an outsourcing partner. 1 million customers use Clutch each month to find the right outsourcing partner for them.
GoodFirms: Similar to Clutch, GoodFirms also offers a directory of businesses offering software services for a range of categories, mobile app development to SEO software.
ITFirms: A platform that aims to provide enterprise-grade outsourcing partners, for services from mobile app development, web application app developers and eCommerce app developers.
99Firms: Offering a similar prospect to ITFirms, 99Firms advertises trustworthy outsourcing businesses for just about any digital service, from advertising and marketing to UX design.
Platforms for hiring full-time web / mobile app developers
If in-house hiring makes sense for your company, the following platforms provide candidates for full-time employment.
If on the other hand you are a skilled app developer and wish to look for job opportunities, these platforms will give you a wealth of opportunities to browse:
Glassdoor: A UK-based job database that connects job listings to potential clients.
Indeed: Another popular job database that is established as one of the top job search platforms.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is much more than a professional network platform – the feature of job search and recruitment has become one of LinkedIn’s primary features today.
JobsDB: If you are based (or wish to be based) in Asia, JobsDB is the biggest jobs database for Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.
Finding the Right Partner: What to Know
Whether you are looking for an individual app developer or a team, the following information will greatly help in determine whether a third-party will make a suitable partner for your project:
Specific experience of the individual or app development team in question, including technical proficiency in programming languages, frameworks and platforms (iOS, Android, the web, etc). Project management protocols such as communication platforms, and how deadlines are met, and whether the team is willing to go into crunch time to meet deadlines.
Are there notable specialisations of the team relevant for your project? Some specialisations may include AI (Such as iOS’s Core ML API), blockchain integration, or specialise in a specific web framework.
Notable apps the team is particularly proud of or would want at the top of their portfolio, and the reasons for this. To expand on this point, it is worth knowing all the achievements of the company, including technical certifications and qualifications of the app development team.
Community involvement of the developers. Such activities may include conference attendance, hackathons and meet-ups, as well as Stack Overflow contributions.
Code samples that can be provided to be representative of what to expect for your project. The code samples should follow standard conventions of the language or framework in question, and support native APIs where possible (push notifications, fingerprint reading, etc for mobile devices).
Feedback and advice relative to the client’s project, what changes they would make to the plans as they currently stand – are there better technologies to adopt? Is the project too ambitious?
Within this rigorous back-and-forth, the candidate’s communication skills, language proficiency and professionalism will also become apparent.
For negotiating costing, refer to the following rates guide:
Key Technical Questions to ask Candidates
This article has so far assumed little about specific requirements of an app – but this all changes when we get down to the nitty-gritty details of technical implementations.
Whether for mobile or the web, an outsourced partner must be proficient in the technologies you require.
Gauge their suitability with the following questions:
What development methods would you favour for an app project? E.g. waterfall vs agile.
How will the app idea be communicated or storyboarded, and how will components be designed and integrated? And how will source control be managed?
Do particular services need to be relied upon for the app’s infrastructure? Perhaps reliance on a cloud platform (GCP, Azure, AWS, etc) is paramount for the app to succeed. Or a particular database may be much better suited for the app, such as a key-value database where speed is paramount, or a NoSQL database where large datasets need to be stored.
How will monetization be achieved in the app? This pertains to integrating payment gateways and other monetization strategies – perhaps a subscription model would work better for exclusive app content vs in-app purchases.
More generally, what general functionality will need to be achieved in the app, and what are the best approaches to code these functionalities? Are they heavily reliant on a backend service such as a REST API, or can the experience be improved via real-time websocket support?
How are challenges and issues handled? E.g. using GitHub’s Issues feature to track and communicate progress on a pending problem.
How will the app be launched, and are the team capable of carrying out a marketing campaign and initial promotion strategies to capture an early user base? Thereafter, how often will the app be updated, and will issues and additional features be resolved after the initial release? In general, how will maintenance of the app be carried out?
Hire Mobile App Developers with Iglu
With over 10 years of experience in the industry, Iglu has a track record of attracting talented digital specialists from all over the world.
Our Enterprise-grade employees range from senior talents with decades of experience to junior employees for more affordable solutions.
Not only are we experts with the mainstream tech stacks, but we also have specialists in some of the cutting edge app development frameworks.
See our comprehensive list of services for more information and we will look forward to working with you.
In Summary – How to Hire an App Developer
This article has aimed to walk the reader through the entire process of hiring an app developer for their projects.
We have visited the state of the market in 2022, and discussed the most common hiring models for app developers.
In addition to in-house full-time employment there are various outsourcing models that can be better suited for many software development companies.
Freelance, staff-augmentation and company outsourcing all come with their strengths and weaknesses, some of which have been discussed here.
Popular online platforms for hiring both web app developers and mobile app developers have been listed. These platforms offer a global talent pool of software engineers.
We have also listed critical information that the client should know when vetting potential outsourced companies or vendors to work on their project, to ultimately minimise risks and maximise the project potential.
We’ve also included key technical questions to ask the outsourced vendors, which ensure they are capable of carrying out the project.
Enterprise-grade outsourcing vendors are the preferred choice – professional and experienced vendors that will be qualified to meet your requirements.
Choose the hiring model that is right for your requirements, budget and position in the market, and take your time with the recruitment process of potential outsourcing partners.