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Does it Make Sense to Partner with an App Agency?

Web & Mobile

Mason Carter wrote this article


When you are planning to build an app, especially if you are a non-technical founder, there are many logistical scenarios that can arise and questions that you will need to plan for and answer for yourself.

– How much money can you invest to build this app?

– What are the technical resources that you have at your disposal to get this done?

– Are you working on a fixed timeline and do you have any room for margin of error?

– Have you planned out the scope of your app?

This is just the start of what needs to be taken into consideration to ensure your app makes it into the right hands, as app development is not a one-size-fits-all service and needs can vary based on industry.

But no matter if you are an established business or a startup, it is inevitable that you will arrive at this critical juncture:

Should you build your app in-house or should you work with an outside agency?

Well, that all depends on where exactly you’re at with your business, and what your current resources are.

If you are starting at square one, working with an app development agency is more-likely-than-not more affordable than hiring your own in-house talent.

Some established businesses are better off nurturing an in-house team.

Still other established businesses with dedicated IT resources may still need to augment their technical capabilities from time-to-time, hence partnering with an outside agency.

In this post, we’ll shed some light on what makes the most sense for your app at this juncture.

Have you hired in-house designers and developers before?

This is an important question to ask yourself.

Hiring the right technical talent takes time, resources, and experience.

If you are non-technical, you might not be able to communicate effectively with new hires. And that can result in extensive training costs.

It’s easy to assume that by hiring your own in-house developers, everything will go well, because they are the experts.

They should be able to do everything you want, right?

But, managing a team is difficult if you have no prior experience hiring and subsequently managing technical people, or if you’ve never been a part of a technical project before.

So, I would say if you have a non-technical background and have never managed an in-house technical team, hiring the right app development firm might actually be the more affordable move for you.

Why? Because an app development agency has already made all of the mistakes you could possibly face. They have built a time-tested team. And the best agencies are happy to teach you the stepping stones to what you’ll need to know about setting up your own in-house team in the future.

The right agency will also have the necessary procedures in place to help businesses scope out their apps.

Creating and abiding by a scope is not necessarily something that a new technical hire might understand how to do. And they also don’t necessarily have the project management skills built in.

There’s one other thing that agencies have built-in: their teams can scale easily.

Setting up an in-house technical team can be tricky in the early stages


There are a lot of hidden costs with assembling an in-house team of your own.

I wrote that project management is something that isn’t necessarily built-in with most technical hires, especially junior-level ones. But it’s also more expensive to hire people on a per-individual basis.

What actually leads to the hidden costs (besides having to worry about salaries and insurance) is your own inexperience in managing designers and developers.

After all, if you and your business are non-technical in nature, managing a team of your own is going to be difficult.

– There are many talented developers out there that can program some amazing things. But they need direction. Are you able to give it?


– Forming the right team requires you have some technical knowledge. You need a keen sense of what is going on under the hood of your app. Are you able to do that?

If you can’t act as the compass your team needs and give them direction, this will lead to missed deadlines and cost overruns.

Handing off the technical reigns

Hiring an app development firm allows you to leapfrog building out your own processes, managing a team, and making common mistakes. This is especially the case when an agency has worked on applications that have similar functionalities to yours.

This is because an app development firm will be able to anticipate things that you may not be able to foresee.

– Keep in mind, when you are hiring an app development firm, you are getting senior experience built-in.


– An average developer will cost you between $80,000 to $120,000 per year, and they may not necessarily be senior-level. If you are non-technical, will you be able to tell if they are truly senior-level or not?


– An average designer will cost you between $60,000 to $90,000 a year (again, depending on the market and how good they are).


– You can get really cheap here, but if they don’t understand your vision and on how to execute on it, you’ll be spending a lot of time and money just getting said designer up to speed.

The average team assigned to any app development project Chop Dawg takes on includes 1-2 designers, 2-4 developers, and one project manager.

These designers and developers are working on multiple projects throughout the year, but are focused on primarily one project at a time.

But since they are working together through Chop Dawg, the burden of the cost to ensure their full-time commitment gets split across multiple projects. To hire comparable technical talent in-house could end up costing you a fortune, even if it’s a short-term contract.

Hiring an app development firm also makes a lot of sense if you don’t have experience in planning for an app.

Planning is the most critical part of the process of bringing an app to life. It’s so important that you accurately define the requirements of your app from the very beginning.

An app development firm can work with you to flesh out these requirements before any work starts

One of the questions I had asked  at the beginning of this post was about your margin of error.

With Chop Dawg, we make sure that you don’t spend a single dime until the game plan is in place.

The traditional planning stages go like this: we have you write down what you want the user journey to be on your application, and then we take what you’ve written and scope it out for you. Once we’ve written a proposal for you, we’ll go back and forth together until all of the details are exactly right.

Making sure that all of the details are correct is essential. There is no sense in planning out an application that cannot actually be done. The design needs to fit the programming. The plan needs to be executable. This is where the expertise of an app development firm really comes in to shine.

During the planning phase, it’s our mission to take your non-technical perspective on your idea and making it technically feasible.

Besides planning, app development firms can offer their expertise in project management. After all, the ideal firm has built apps for clients from start to finish time and time again.

They have the knowledge base built-in to anticipate problems, can find additional opportunities for efficiency, save you time, and know what works and what doesn’t.

Working with an app development firm gives you access to a knowledge base that has been built on years of experience. At Chop Dawg, our ten years in business has given us a lot of insight on what works and what doesn’t.

Hiring an app development firm also makes a lot of sense when you are looking to build an app that will carry your business for awhile.

There’s no sense in having the recurring costs of an in-house team when you don’t need to have them.

This is especially an advantage you can create for yourself with app agency that is set-rate like ours.

This set-rate structure also helps you in case any problems are encountered along the way

Even the most experienced designers and developers run into problems along the way.

When you aren’t experienced at dealing with these problems, then this can result in a prolonged development cycle.

If you are assembling your own in-house team, this is where you can run into trouble.

You need to have the experience of dealing with the problems along the way. Otherwise, the cost overruns are on you. But, if you partner with an agency like Chop Dawg, the cost overruns are on us.

When it doesn’t make sense to hire an outside app agency

If this isn’t your first rodeo with building an app or starting a company, you probably have the necessary infrastructure in place. In that case, it might not make sense to hire an app development firm.

Unless you need something specific that your existing team can’t provide.

If you have the experience in managing technical teams, then you don’t need an agency as much. There comes a point where working with an agency long-term is not a cost-savings tool, especially if you need them to maintain your app long-term.

If your business is going to consistently need a technical team without an endpoint, then you may want to considering making the investment for a more permanent technical infrastructure.

We’ve always suggested to our clients that work with us that the agency should serve as a bridge to a more permanent solution. But it all depends if your needs are permanent or temporary, honestly.

If you have room for errors and have the funds to nurture a team for the long-game, then it makes sense to assemble the in-house team of a designer, developer, and project manager from the start.

As long as they are loyal, though. Having turnover in the beginning is a massive risk, especially if they don’t put the necessary processes in place to ensure a smooth transition. With qualified agencies, this risk can also be mitigated.

The right app developer can be a long-term partner

We do say “think partner, not agency.”

Sometimes, a business will build an app with us, let it thrive for a few years almost untouched beyond maintenance, and then come back to us for updates.

But a long-term partnership with a company like Chop Dawg is still different than having a permanent team on-call. The difference is that when working with a company like us, you can pick and choose when you want to invest in technical projects.

When you take on the responsibility of having your own in-house teams, that becomes more fixed. You are accountable for keeping people employed, even when you don’t need them.

If you are trying to decide whether or not working with an app agency is right for you, let us know

Some businesses have first hired us and then they’ve learned how to build teams on their own.

And that’s been great to see. They’ve learned from working with us what it takes to build teams on their own and then they’ve used the money made from their first app to scale and hire more.

Some businesses also don’t need to hire big technical teams to scale. Those are great candidates for working with an app development firm,. This is because they can use their app as an asset but don’t need the full-time team to maintain or scale it.

If you are still unsure of whether or not it makes sense to work with an app agency, let us know.

We’ll be more than happy to go through the weeds with you and help you make the right decision for you and your future app!

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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