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Every day I hear from tech startups planning to build apps – and every day they tell me their biggest hurdle isn’t knowing what they want to build, it’s figuring out how best to build it.
Typically this is where MindSea comes in.
I get a phone call from an excited CEO or Co-Founder in heavy research mode. They’ve got runway in place and bootstraps at the ready to get their product developed and into the App Store.
They all ask me the same question:
“Should I hire my own team to build my app, find a freelancer, or partner with a professional app agency like yours?”
Want to know the truth?
There’s no one right answer!
No two startups are exactly alike, and there are pros and cons to each scenario. But here are a few things every startup founder should know before deciding whether to build their app in-house or outsource the project to an app agency:
It might be obvious to say, but building beautiful custom software is hard. It takes a precise mix of technical savvy and creative skill. Choosing the right freelancer or assembling your own awesome in-house team can be worth it, but a bad hire can also be costly. Choosing this route also means you’ll be investing a lot of time leading and managing the project, and long term overhead in compensation and general human resource management – and then you’re limited to the experience on one or two resumes.
An app agency is a whole team of experts who already have the ability to deliver high-quality work together. A single employee or freelancer may not deliver as quickly or on the same level.
Knowing what level of expertise you need goes hand in hand with knowing how much you’re willing to spend to get it. I can’t understate how important it is to determine your budget (that goes doubly if the app is central to your business model, and building it beautifully is make or break!). I tell CEOs to shop around – but not with price as their primary motivator. If you rush in after the cheapest price estimate, you’ll probably get what you pay for. The old adage always applies: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Whether you’re developing a competitive app product, or one with a totally unique proposition – the usual assumption when it comes to time to market (TTM) is that everyone’s in a hurry. But TTM and quality are typically in opposition, i.e.: if you need it fast, it won’t be good.
Rushing or skipping steps in your app development process compromises your results. This is particularly true if you choose a single freelancer or hire your own team to build your app. You’ll be leveraging fewer resources to achieve the quality you’re looking for, so you’ll be compromising speed. The only case where you can often have it good and fast is when you partner with an app agency. Agencies have pre-assembled teams ready to dedicate and focus singularly on your project. You get the bonus value of speed and quality.
If you’re about to build an app, you’ve probably been looking at a lot of app portfolios. And when it comes to app agency portfolios, there are plenty of great looking ones out there. But there’s always more to the story of how an app came to be than what you see in a case study.
An app agency may appear to have the creative chops you’re looking for – but will working with them be a great experience, or a pain in the you-know-what? Positive, communicative and collaborative working relationships get the best results. Ask for testimonials and references to make sure you’re getting more than a pretty portfolio.
Building an app isn’t a one-and-done.
It’s a step-by-step evolution starting with your MVP (minimum viable product). If your app agency rushes in with a price quote for your app wish list without diving in and planning first, they might be doing it wrong. They should be proactive in helping you develop a high-level product roadmap. What’s a roadmap? It’s an iterative plan starting with envisioning the product design for your MVP, and looking ahead to future releases, feature planning and (of course) maintenance and support (because there’s probably nothing worse than an app suddenly becoming broken or buggy when Apple or Google update their operating systems). An app agency should never deliver on your requirements and walk away.
Bottom Line: App building takes expertise, creativity and cohesion – if you need quality, speed, and a grounded-in-your-business-goals outlook for your product, it’s best to partner with a professional in the early stages of planning, launching and growing your digital product.
Are you planning an app? What’s been your biggest hurdle? We’d love to hear from you.
Click the image below to access the free checklist: