Man working on a computer with several app icons in the monitor
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Building a mobile app is often an ongoing project—one full of frequent updates and new versions to keep up with the ever-changing mobile technology landscape. A successful mobile app takes strategy, marketing savvy, UI/UX experience, and plenty of expertise—all of which culminates in the resume of a top-notch freelance mobile app developer to help you bring it all to life.

When it comes to hiring that mobile developer, how much they charge and your project’s budget are probably primary concerns. Whether you’re working with a native operating system or using cross-platform software, starting from scratch or adding new integrations, you’ll need a mobile pro with the right skillset for your particular project. So, how do you budget to work with a freelance mobile app developer?

Defining Your Mobile App Project

There are numerous phases of building an app during which you’ll want to engage a mobile app developer: design, coding, APIs and other back-end integrations, and testing. Well-rounded mobile developers have experience with both design aspects, like UI and UX design, and actual programming, whether it’s API integrations or coding in a specific cross-platform software.

Establish your project’s requirements in as much detail as possible to help you budget for hiring a mobile app developer, and to help your developer provide more accurate estimates. For example, if you have preferences about platform or programming languages, include those. If you need an app coded in Swift 3, for example, you’ll want an iOS developer that’s versed in the latest iterations of the language. If you’re creating a mobile app with Xamarin or PhoneGap, you’ll need a pro who knows how to get your app successfully compiled into each native environment.

Be sure to include other details like:

  • The targeted platform you’re developing for—iOS, Android, Windows, hybrid, or cross-platform?
  • The scope of the project, which outlines the development and design work to be done
  • Any API integrations or other technical specs the developer should know.
  • Your target audience(s) for the app.
  • Design specifications, including fonts, color palette, imagery, any logos, and other brand guidelines.
  • The project timeline, including any milestones.

Now that you’ve laid out project specs, here are a few additional factors that can typically affect cost.

1. Your chosen mobile platform—native, web, or hybrid?

Do you need a native app—whether that’s Android, iOS, or Windows—or are you looking to create a hybrid, web, or cross-platform mobile app? This can affect cost for a few reasons. First, creating a native app locks you into that specific platform. You’re creating a codebase that’s written for that mobile platform, and that mobile platform only. This means that creating a native app for each platform immediately adds to the timeline and budget of a project.

When businesses want apps that can run on multiple platforms, many turn to web, hybrid, or cross-platform options, whether those are web apps that run on any device, or apps created with Xamarin or PhoneGap that compile to run natively on a device. With one version of your app for all OS’s and devices, you’re saving time and money—and it can be easier to update down the road. But you should account for cross-platform apps being a bit slower, and the app will still need to be optimized for each device despite the promise of building once and running everywhere.

Second, many cross-platform and hybrid options use technologies that many developers already know, like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This means it can be more affordable to hire developers for the project because they’re not required to be skilled in specific languages like Swift or Kotlin.

2. App project complexity and deliverables.

Laying out what you need from your mobile app will help you determine deliverables, phases, and the amount of time it will take to complete. Mobile app development projects can take anywhere from a week to six months, or more—it will all depend on what you need in terms of design, integrations, and other functionality. For example, a simple utility app may require no server-side integrations, but a real-time messaging app will need back-end integrations and database support.

Define what the mobile developer will be doing as more simple app development might incur a lower rate and shorter timeline. Are you converting your mobile app’s code to a newer version, like Swift to Swift 3, or updating an Android app to Kotlin? Are you making a few updates or adding integrations for resubmission? Or, are you starting an app from scratch? Will it handle sensitive data and require complex OAuth customization?

scope and cost table outlining requirements based on projects size
3. Developer Experience, Location & Rate

Tip: Not sure exactly how to scope your project or anticipate challenges? You can always engage an experienced mobile developer with UI/UX experience and expertise in various languages and platforms to advise on how to scope your project and what kind of developer you need.

More (and more specialized) experience translates to a higher rate, which can increase the cost of your project. Rates charged by freelance mobile app developers on Upwork vary from $20 to $99 an hour, with an average project cost of around $680. Once you delve into platform-specific developers, rates can change for freelance iOS developers and freelance Android developers. Like we mentioned, hybrid and cross-platform apps, while they do require knowledge of the software, often use more commonly known technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Geographic location and local market conditions can also affect a freelance developer’s rates. Freelance Xamarin developers and PhoneGap freelancers charge anywhere between $10-$60 an hour, depending on location. Another factor is a mobile developer’s reputation. If they are still building their portfolio, they may price more competitively than experienced professionals. Who you need will depend on your app’s complexity—finding the right mobile developer should match your goals for your app with their related experience.

Tip: If you’re creating a new app from scratch, you may need a more experienced mobile developer with the experience to take the project from the beginning and see it through to completion. If you have a smaller budget and are doing more simple updates, you can specify that you need a junior or intermediate-level developer.

Chart depicting typical rates charged by Mobile Developers based on skill level

Wondering how to budget for a freelance mobile app developer for a specific mobile platform? Here’s a look at how you can crunch the numbers for both Android and iOS.