Wondering How to Find an App Developer?

Having that million-dollar idea for a new app or website is exciting.

But what do you do when it’s time to figure out how to find an app developer? Finding and picking one can be overwhelming, to say the least.

How to Find an App Developer

You’ll likely encounter developers from at least a few of the following five categories:

  • Freelancer
  • Offshore development shop
  • Onshore/Offshore Development Shop
  • Technical Cofounder
  • Staff Developers

In short: You get what you pay for. More expensive developers are more likely to deliver on their promises. Do your research, shop around, and always hire someone who’s subject to your country’s laws.

1. Freelancer

Self-employed and hired on a 1099 (US) form or through a site like Upwork.

Cost: Low to medium

Risk: High


If you’re wondering how you’ll afford a developer — let alone how to find an app developer in the first place — freelancers are generally inexpensive.

You pay for one person’s hourly rate — not a team’s combined hourly rates. A freelancer doesn’t need feedback from coworkers and managers, and so can move quickly.


There’s a huge range in terms of how well freelancers deliver on your expectations.

One might have a great-looking portfolio but not know how to code. That’s bad if you need something that a simple WordPress template can’t handle.

Plus, working alone means freelancers can afford to be messy. Many developers have taken over a project from a freelancer only to find it’s so disorganized that starting over from scratch is actually cheaper.

When a Freelance Developer is a Good Idea

Your project is heavy on visual design and light on functionality. A freelancer’s biggest asset is flexibility).

2. Offshore Development Shop

Often located in India, Pakistan, or the Philippines.

Cost: Low

Risk: High


Overseas shops offer very low rates. They work well with extremely specific technical instructions.


While the cheapest option in the short-term, these cost the most in the long term, and they can put your entire business at risk.

Located in developing countries with little regulation, these companies work their employees too hard, cut corners, and produce unmaintainable code. They will meet the requirements you give them exactly .

If your requirements leave any room for error, you’re going to end up with something that doesn’t work.

Complain and they’ll say, “Sorry, we met all your requirements.” Contractually they’ll be correct, and you’ll be out of luck. And budget.

When an Offshore Development Shop Makes Sense

You’ve already published several apps. You’ve managed teams of developers and have written technical requirements for years.

You would code the software yourself if you had the time.

3. Onshore/Offshore Development Shops

These are either located wholly in the same country or headquartered in your country, with most development taking place overseas.

Cost: High

Risk: Low


Your biggest protection when working with these businesses is that they have a brand to protect within your country.

If they do substandard development and you spread the word, it could seriously hurt their reputation. Just as important, they’re in the same legal system as you. As a result these companies place a heavy emphasis on quality assurance (QA), project management (PM), and business analysis (BA), making sure all your expectations are met.


Having QAs, PMs, and BAs on your project adds considerably to your costs.

When Onshore/Offshore Development Shops Make Better Partners

There’s a lot to be said for having complete confidence that your time and money are put to the best possible use.

Paying more to offset risks isn’t easy for all businesses. But it’s an investment in more sustainable and robust products.

4. Technical Cofounder

Technical cofounders are brought on early in a company’s lifetime. They can focus on code quality while you focus on growth and marketing.

Cost: Medium

Risk: Medium


Cofounders are usually offered a stake in the company, rather than a salary, so they only get paid at the same time you do. In addition to technical skills, they bring vision and their own network, which, when combined with your own, doubles your business’s assets.


A cofounder invests their livelihood in your idea. Working like your life depends on it isn’t sustainable. Building a business together will put even the healthiest friendship to the test. Also, like freelancers, technical cofounders work in a vacuum and are susceptible to writing bad code that costs both of you money.

Why a Trusted Technical Cofounder Could be Right for Business

You know a programmer with a solid technical background. You trust this person with your health, your money, and your life.

5. Staff developer

Hired as an employee.

Cost: High

Risk: Medium


You benefit from everything your employees learn as their careers progress. Since they report to you, you don’t need to worry about scheduling around their other commitments.

You know precisely who’s going to be working on what and when.


If you hire a PHP developer, and then realize you actually need a .NET developer, your options are to pivot your whole project, ask them to learn a new technology, or let them go. This can be devastating to employee morale. You’re responsible for salaries, project management, and working conditions.

Staff Developers are Right for Established Businesses

Your business already has several thousand customers, a solid revenue stream, and an HR department with bandwidth to spare.

Wondering How to Find an App Developer?

Finding the right technical partner can make or break your chances of turning a winning idea into a successful digital product.

Just as in any development project, where there’s no one correct way to build an app, the perfect development team means different things to different businesses.

Whoever you engage for your project, do your due diligence.

Use These Tactics to Vett any Potential Technical Partner

  1. Ask for some client references. Find out what the day-to-day experience of working with the developer(s) was like.
    2. Ask about their QA and testing practice. If they describe acceptance testing or unit testing, that’s a good sign.
    3. Make sure their English is excellent. This is one of those things where it feels like it shouldn’t make a big difference (you’re paying them to write code, after all, not English). But business leaders with extensive exposure to offshore teams consistently see how poor English correlates to poor development.

Original post can be found here.

Innovate with us. Click here to access all of our free resources.
Authored by
Robin Thomas.

Robin doesn’t just know the ins and outs of programming. He’s taught it. As a former Lead Instructor for General Assembly and successful entrepreneur, Robin brings his experience distilling complex technologies to MentorMate serving as the first touch point for clients exploring partnership. Day-to-day Robin counsels clients, estimates projects and leads ideations sessions helping technology newcomers and veterans channel their ideas into action. Robin brings technical expertise, empathy and humor to every project — having served as a mascot for a minor league baseball team (in another life). Past titles include Lead Instructor and API Support Supervisor.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store

Trusted guidance, global expertise, secure integration. We design and develop custom software solutions that deliver digital transformation at scale.