How to Hire an App Developer: In-house vs. Freelance vs. Outsource

Alexander Makarov

Alexander Makarov

Head of Web Development Department

#Business Automation

#Project management

27 Sep 2021

Reading time: 17 minutes

27 Sep 2021

Getting a job may be scary and difficult, but sometimes it’s even scarier and harder to hire another person. The perspective drastically changes: how much do we need this employee? Do they have enough experience? Will they be able to handle the tasks? Let’s discuss how to hire an app developer and what you should avoid in the process.

Well, you have a project idea, right?

First, let’s discuss the most important issues you have to consider before hiring developers. In this way, you’ll avoid some mistakes and start smoothly. Beginning something new may be challenging: for example, the Telegraph experts state that 20% of startups fail within the first year of existence. One of the main reasons is that they didn’t study their marketplace enough before starting. They didn’t know how to sell their ideas and predict the demand for a product. Thus, before choosing a contractor, make sure that you know what to work on and how to work on it.

Now, let’s talk about some other crucial issues that you need to consider to move on in the right direction.

Make sure that your solution solves the problem

Before starting an application development, you should know for sure that the world needs your product, and the idea isn’t a waste of time. Find out how relevant your solution is to users:

  • What’s their main problem that you can solve?
  • How can you solve it using an app?
  • What features will be the most powerful in this regard?

Pay attention to the age, gender, geography, habits, as well as income of your clients, and even the devices they use. This will give you an idea of who you’re dealing with.

Define the key features of your product

Next, define the required functionality of the solution you’re about to develop. How will your audience use it? What differs it from the competitors’ solutions? This can be determined using simple tools like landing pages, social media surveys, or A/B tests. In one word, you can call it an MVP – a minimum viable product. It’s a basic version of your solution with key features that will help you test your idea on your potential clients without spending too much time and money. Make sure that you envision your product in detail before starting its creation.

Build a well-defined roadmap

To implement a project successfully, you need a plan or roadmap. It’ll help you follow certain stages and move towards the goal. This approach speeds up and simplifies the work. Moreover, a roadmap helps you avoid errors. To create a roadmap, you’ll need a business analyst. This specialist will choose the best way to implement the project. Specialists like marketers will also help you in the creation of a roadmap.

Here’s an example of a simple roadmap:

roadmap example

3 ways of hiring developers

Let’s say you’ve considered all the features of the project. Now, it’s time to engage a developer. Your next step is to choose between an in-house developer, a freelance app creator, or an outsourced team. Let’s discuss each of these hiring models and identify their pros and cons.

Hiring an in-house developer

In this case, you need to hire programmers in your in-house team, and they become a part of your company. Hence, it’s easier to monitor the staff, increase their motivation and increase their qualification.


  • The costs are higher than the freelancers’ or outsourcers’ fees because having a full-time employee includes salary, taxes, software, and other expenses;
  • Each employee has a specific role in the work on a project and doesn’t spend their time on other projects. This will make the process more consistent and clear.


  • A trained programmer can leave the development company. You’ll have to start your search over again;
  • In some cases, you’ll have to pay more because developers will spend all their time only on your project as opposed to the outsourced developers who have multiple customers.

Perfect for:

  • companies that want to launch multiple complex digital products.

Hiring a freelancer

The second option is to engage freelance application developers. You need to know that this type of employee with good management and programming skills is flexible, autonomous, and devotes maximum time to projects. They work with customers on a transparent, contractual basis. They also provide on-demand reports and pricing information. 


  • Freelancer services are usually inexpensive;
  • There are many offers on freelancing platforms, so you can choose a programing expert that best fits the direction you’re interested in, specifics, conditions, geographic location, and other criteria;
  • People that you find on freelancing websites are more motivated: they don’t need to be stimulated, as is the case with a full-time employee;
  • The specialist works for reputation and portfolio, so good reviews are important to them.


  • Freelance mobile developers may be unavailable when you need them;
  • After the completion of the project, the freelancer may “disappear,” and you’ll have to deal with the errors on your own.

Perfect for:

  • Those who don’t need to solve complex development tasks and don’t want to spend too much.

Hiring an outsourced team

Also, there is a way of contracting outsourced developers. An outsourcing company is a professional development team that’s well-versed in creating software products for various business areas. This option has the advantages of both previous variants and manages to compensate for most of their flaws. We have already discussed the difference between hiring in-house and outsourcing app developers in more detail.


  • It’s as reliable as an in-house team because outsourcing companies hire professionals. At least, we can vouch for ourselves with confidence ;).  Nevertheless, you won’t need to spend months (or more) to hire a highly effective team or educate professionals within the company, establish processes, and purchase equipment;
  • Finding outsourcers is as easy and quick as finding freelancers. However, outsourcing companies provide more guarantees; they are reliable, and the workflow is usually standardized and stable. Outsourcing companies work smoothly, quickly, and efficiently. After all, they were made for this!


  • It all depends on the company. Some outsourcers have “templates” for different projects, so there is no individual approach to the client. Other companies set such high price tags that it would be cheaper to hire an in-house team. Some contractors are overloaded with work but don’t want to lose clients. Thus, their development processes are delayed, and communication deteriorates. To make the right choice, you need to carefully analyze the outsourcing company. We’ll tell you how to do this later in the article.

When is hiring outsourced developers a good idea?

There are two main types of outsourcing: full-service IT outsourcing and co-sourcing with an existing in-house IT team. The second option allows you to delegate some of IT operations execution to outsourcers (usually, it ranges from 30% to 90%). Don’t mess up outsourcing and outstaffing – co-sourcing is still an outsourcing model.

Below, a few situations where hiring outsourcers can be especially useful are described.

  • You don’t have enough specialists. Your employees are fully loaded on the project, but the scope’s growing, so you need additional specialists. Or, perhaps, you’re starting work on something new, but you don’t have the opportunity to quickly hire programmers: finding a good specialist sometimes takes 3-4 months. In this case, co-sourcing with an in-house IT team will be a suitable solution for you.
  • There is a lack of expertise within the company. It’s advisable to find outsourcing workers to avoid experimenting and making unnecessary mistakes. For example, you start a new project, and it has a different technology stack. Or, your project has grown and has become highly loaded, but your programmers have never worked with such large-scale tasks. In this case, co-sourcing will work fine as well.
  • Software development in your company is a non-core service. For example, a company is engaged in the design, sales, real estate, and advertising. It’s easier to outsource IT services than to hire in-house programmers. Here, full-service IT outsourcing will be the best choice.

Finding app developers: a step-by-step guide

So, you’ve determined your goals, understood what kind of specialists you need, and figured out how to organize their work. Now, you need to find these people and add them to your team. How to employ application developers to form the best development team? Let’s find this out:

Ask trusted people for references

Perhaps some of your familiar executives have recently looked for developers. You can ask them who they would recommend. This will help you get an assessment of their professional qualities from different angles, rather than just hearing about the programmers’ experiences from them.

Check trusted sites

Company ranking sites can be a great help in your search for a contractor. The information there is based on numerous reviews. You can also see the portfolios of specialists. Clutch-type sites have special ratings of developers in different areas, so you can choose the best one.

clutch reviews

Examine app developers’ portfolio

You can ask potential contractors for examples of their work. This way, you will not only get a description of their work, but you can also see it in action. This will allow you to find a contractor that meets your requirements in terms of design, usability or functional features of the product.

azoft portfolio

Check testimonials

You can get an objective assessment of the developers’ work from people outside your inner circle as well. Look for reviews on the internet and read everything you find about the company. If the company has worked with reputable clients, such as a well-known brand, then that’s a great sign. This means that the contractor is trustworthy. Through this type of research, you will develop an understanding of their style and quality of work.

Discover the technologies they use

At the very beginning of the journey, you identified the platform, functionality, and other important aspects of your product. This is the base for the choice of technologies to use. Your technology requirements should match the contractor’s stack. In addition, they must be well-versed in modern technology in general. 

Talk with the team

An important stage of work on a project is the communication process. You’ll have to discuss details, set tasks, and change parts of the app as you work. Therefore, you need to talk to representatives of several good development teams to choose the one that has the highest customer service level and strong communication skills. If you feel comfortable talking with these people, then the work will most likely be comfortable too.

Ensure compatibility

Try to pinpoint the criteria that the app development team must meet. Cost of work? Experience? Technology stack? Project management? Also, be sure to pay attention to the time zones you live in, because this may negatively affect your communication processes. If each item satisfies you, then the choice is obvious. If some aspects don’t suit you, sometimes it helps to look more.

Most common app development team structure

Each development team is unique, but in any project, there are necessary roles. We have selected the most important mobile application development “characters” who can create your product from start to release.

Team of programmers

These are the people who implement the app. They come up with the architecture of the app, write the code, review it after others, and write automated tests to ensure its functionality. Without written and compiled code, there would be no app. That’s why programmers cannot be excluded. Even if some mobile apps can be created in a simple visual constructor, this is also a form of programming.


These are the people who check if the app is working correctly. This, however, does not ensure that the app will be user-friendly. Testers can write a usability note, but their primary concern is to make sure that the app works according to the project requirements and specifications. In the absence of explicitly dedicated mobile testers in the development team, their functions are usually delegated to programmers.


These are the people who determine how the app will look and behave. The mutual arrangement of elements, the scheme of movement on screens, animations – all this should be thought out by the designer. If the app is large and complex, then there may be more than one designer. Or, for example, one of the designers can focus on drawing the interface while the other can focus on the big picture and think about the concept of user experiences.

Project manager

This is the person who leads this dedicated team. The project manager’s responsibilities are keeping track of the due dates of tasks, reacting promptly if quality problems arise, and motivating the team to work more efficiently. Together with the product owner, the project manager decides when alternatives are possible during product development. However, you can implement small projects with a highly experienced team of programmers and testers without dedicated project managers. In such cases, this role is played by a team lead.

iOS, Android, and hybrid mobile app developers for hire

An important, particular question related to finding a contractor for development services is the platform on which you want to run the app. The choice of platform depends on your audience, budget, and even the geography of the project. Let’s discuss recruiting for different types of platforms.

Hiring iOS developers

To create software solutions for iOS platforms, two main programming languages ​​are used: Objective-C and Swift. In addition, an iOS developer must be familiar with various tools and concepts, such as:

  • Object-oriented programming,
  • CoreDate,
  • GCD,
  • Clean Architecture,
  • Other technologies depending on the project.

Stack Overflow can help you find talented developers: the iOS tag is one of the most popular on the site. It’s important to remember that, according to Stack Overflow research, for 65% of surveyed programmers, a job search is not the only motivation for visiting such sites. Thus, the topic of changing jobs shouldn’t be dominant in the process of online communications with potential candidates. Demonstrate not only interest in hiring a person but also in what they are currently doing. Talk to them about the mobile applications they’re developing.

Hiring Android developers

In hiring employees to work with Android apps, the right technology stack of specialists is also essential. Remember that Kotlin and Java are the most popular programming languages for developing Android apps, so Java expertise is non-negotiable. Android developers also need knowledge of the Android SDK (software development kit), API skills, and an understanding of the back-end.

Here are the frameworks that Android developers might need:

  • Corona SDK,
  • Sencha Touch,
  • TheAppsBuilder,
  • React Native,
  • Xamarin,
  • Appcelerator Titanium,
  • Ionic,
  • Other technologies depending on the project.

Look for a specialist who can productively communicate within a team. This will be useful for the developer when working not only with other technical specialists but also, for example when working with designers and marketers.

Hiring cross-platform developers

Cross-platform mobile development has many advantages: you don’t have to create separate software products for each platform, so the number of developers will decrease. In the case of simple hybrid apps, this will be one person who will create and support the product. However, you need a person who will be well versed in the intricacies of different platforms and a large stack of technologies. They may include:

  • React Native,
  • Native Script,
  • Electron,
  • Titanium,
  • Apache Cordova,
  • Xamarin.

Pay attention to the number of technologies used and the complexity of projects that programmers performed before: you should be sure that this professional will be able to handle your tasks.

Here are the average costs of various development types:

application development cost table

Source: Statista

Mobile app developers rates

The cost of developing apps depends on various factors such as geography, the number of specialists, exchange rates, and the complexity of the app. One common way that product owners from America and Europe use to save money is hiring remote employees among Russian and Indian software engineers. This is a reasonable approach, but it shouldn’t compromise quality, so don’t try to save too much: always choose quality.

Many Russian development companies have become internationally demanded. Thus, choosing outsourcers from Russia is one of the best options because you can save on your budget without reducing the quality of the final product. Cheaper isn’t always worse. It’s important to remember that the US economy is the most developed in the world, so, what appears to be a relatively cheap price in America can be considered a reasonable price in Russia.

We studied the offers of outsourcing companies and freelancers, researched expert articles, compared job offers in different countries, and determined approximate price ranges for the work of programmers in different regions.

app development rates table

Why is Azoft the best option for outsourcing?

Now you know what to look at when choosing and hiring app developers, so it’s time to tell you a little about us. We’ve been providing outsourcing development services since 2002. During this time, we‘ve created over 800 projects for different companies from all over the world including the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, among others. We create custom software, as well as business automation solutions, cloud services, AI-based apps, and other products. We build projects for industries including, but not limited to retail, healthcare, education, and logistics.

Feel free to examine our portfolio and look through our success stories. Read the testimonials of our customers and find us on Clutch. If you have any questions, contact us at info@azoft.com. We will be happy to help and provide you with a free project estimate!



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