So you wanna pay someone to create an iPhone app?

Alright, so you have a business and now you want to app-ify it and get in on the iPhone craze, but you don’t have (or want to hire) iPhone developers in-house.  What do you do?  You outsource it of course!

I just happen to come across a string of messages of a group message board.  The topic, the going rate for contracting out iPhone app development, not a developer’s salary.  It was an interesting discussion actually.  Someone asked the group about a craigslist posting that asked for an iPhone app to be created in a month for $3K.  Boy did the the criticism come on as in don’t take it if you’re an experienced iPhone developer.  One person even went as far as saying that the low end is $20K now for developing an iPhone app.

From Inside iPhone blog:

The demand for iPhone developers exceeds the supply and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. The going rate for iPhone developers, at least the developers I know and trust, is $125/hour and up. I have some friends who are booked out at $200/hour for the next few months, although $125/hour seems to be the going rate in my network. At that rate, a full-time contract iPhone developer costs $5,000/week and it may take four to six weeks for an application to be developed. Sometimes it will take less and sometimes it will take more. Add to development the other costs – project management, design, QA, and marketing, to name a few. It’s not uncommon to spend $30,000 and up on an iPhone development project. iPhone applications are not cheap.

Some things to consider before you outsource:

  • the obvious, what is your business model and customer acquisition plan? will you generate enough money to net cash positive after outsourcing iPhone development?  for instance, what is your secret sauce?  an idea is a dime a dozen.  if you are scratching your head, DO NOT OUTSOURCE, you will be wasting your money!
  • read “iPhone Application Development for Dummies” if you want to get an idea of what it takes to make an iPhone app, maybe you can develop it yourself or worse case you can tell if you’re being had
  • if you don’t have one already, get a Mac so that you can test out the code as the project is going along using the iPhone SDK simulator.  for instance, does the project even build?  if you don’t know how to use xcode, someone on your team should learn to at least to compile in xcode.
  • consider hiring a local, smart iPhone app developer to interview your contractors and verify that the code is legit along the way.  it’s better to hire one smart developer to do the checks now than to find out later that the code you have is worth nothing.
  • it takes 2-3 iterations of development to get the prototype right*
  • what is the flow, data design, validation, in-app purchase, notifications, connectivity to web services, etc?*
    • not technical? save yourself some money (and it’s a good exercise) by designing/mocking-up the iPhone screens. where do the buttons go? what fields will be on which screens? etc. pictures are worth a thousand words.  then show your contractor exactly what you want.
  • an iPhone app with a backend is going to cost you a pretty penny,  a whole end-to-end infrastructure has to be built out (not all of it is iPhone app technology related), at that rate you should consider whether an iPhone app is the way to go first, maybe consider web interface first.  both are clients connecting to same backend.
  • build a web mobile app if you need something simple for marketing or website connectivity, go native if you plan to build a business around the app and across iPhone, android, blackberry*, HTML5 is really slick and rumor has it that it could kill native apps, verdict is still out.
  • set aside money for incorporating customer feedback (e.g., updates to the app)*, actually updating your app keeps your users engaged especially if you are rolling out new features, Angry Birds does this.
  • it can take months for your app to get approved to be in the app store*
    • actually more on this, I’ve gotten apps approved in 2-3 weeks, it’s gotten better.  however, some companies spend beaucoup bucks on development and then find out that Apple wants them to tweak/fix their app before approval.  I read an article where one company wasted money on a conference booth because their app didn’t get approved in time (got rejected previously).
  • check out freelance websites like odesk, you can post fixed rate or hourly rate projects for developers worldwide to see
  • if you’ve read down to this bullet, then you deserve to hear my #1 advice, go to a Startup Weekend or iOSDevCamp, pitch your app idea and see if you can find developers to work on your idea for the weekend for FREE, yes I said free.  you might even convince them to keep working on it after the weekend is over.  there you have it, my #1 advice!!!

*Note: These are from the group message board.

If you have any questions about iPhone app development, contact me and I will do my best to answer your question.  Good luck!

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