Should I Hire a Web Development Firm or a Staffer to Build my Mobile App?

Both outside firms and internal hires have their advantages and disadvantages. We break down what you can expect.

learn more about Ryan Himmel

By Ryan Himmel

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I have an idea for a new mobile application but no development skills to speak of. Should I team up with a web development firm or hire someone? Which could be the most effective option?

Option One: Hiring a web development company
There is no shortage of web development companies and pricing structures will vary greatly. Some web development companies may offer an hourly price, while others will guarantee a project-based price. Although project-based pricing provides for an estimate of the total cost, it is really just that -- an estimate. Project-based pricing largely depends on the scope of work and in many instances that can easily change and is subject to interpretation. You will want to make sure that you have a very detailed and clear scope of work with a wire-frame for all of the pages necessary. Many web development companies will provide an overview of the scope with a few pages to illustrate a specific template to follow. That's not sufficient. Keep in mind that web development companies have other clients beside you and your project will not be the center of their attention at all times.

Despite the drawbacks with a web development company, there are certain benefits. Depending on your project, you might pay less money to a company than by hiring someone internally and paying them a salary with benefits. Second, there's typically less risk. You have a signed contract with a company that is being held accountable for the scope of work. They are bound by the terms of the agreement and their reputation to complete the work and have resources to fulfill their commitments.

Related: 5 Tips for Hiring a Great Web Developer

Option Two: Hiring a staffer
If you’re looking to hire, know that qualified individuals don't often market themselves the same way companies do. You're going to have to do a lot of leg-work in the form of networking with friends and friends of friends as well as getting yourself up to speed with the latest web development changes. This is going to be time consuming and still will not help you easily distinguish between a great web developer and an average one. Resumes and portfolios of work provide a starting point, but it is by no means an acceptable way to evaluate their ability to code. In addition, you will want to make sure you are hiring a web developer who has an understanding of interactive design. Many developers aren't designers and if you can only afford one person, you’ll need someone who can do both. If not, you'll need to hire a designer as well.

You need to test their ability to code in your framework as well as their capability to solve problems and meet deadlines. You might consider a contract period, where you work with the candidate on a freelance basis. This can serve as an evaluation period to see if they meet the qualifications. One drawback to hiring is potential flight-risk since when you only have one developer, you don't have the same security that you do when you hire a web development company.

Although there are some drawbacks to hiring internally, I believe it is still the best long-term solution if you plan on building a long-standing company. If you find the right web developer, you can grow the company together and hire others to build a team. Also, if you want to gain the attraction of investors and other companies, they will want to know that there is a full-time engineering team working on the product.

Related: How to Find Great Candidates by Looking Past the Obvious


Ryan Himmel

Head of Financial Partnerships, Xero Americas

Ryan Himmel is a CPA and financial technology executive who has dedicated over a decade of his work toward providing solutions to help accountants and small-business owners better run their firms. Himmel currently leads financial partnerships in the Americas for Xero.

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