One of the most common questions people often ask me is: “How much does it cost to develop an app?” This is one of the hardest questions to answer as each app is different but it all comes down to what functions you’d like to add to your app. If this is your first app, I would highly recommend that you keep it simple and more budget-friendly.
Try not to go over $1000 or even $500. I have two apps created for under $500 that were built from scratch. The best part is, I was also able to reuse the same source code over and over to build newer and cheaper apps. In this article I will show you how that’s possible.
If you have an app idea in mind that is quite complicated, and probably quite expensive, I suggest you save it for the meantime and focus on a less risky option first. Why? By doing so –
- You’ll have less to lose financially
- You’ll get a ton of experience by putting this app out that you can apply to your larger app
If your two app ideas are in the same market, you can use the smaller apps to drive targeted traffic to your larger app on the day of the launch, helping it to rise up the charts, get you more downloads, and a better chance of becoming successful.
One app that I got developed for under $500 is the Ab Fitness Exercises, a workout app that features 40 different abs exercises, complete with demonstration graphics and instructions below the image. Aside from being able to leverage the code, I was also able to create sequels to this app like the Leg Exercise app, which cost under $200 to develop. Now, I have around 10 of these in progress.
How to slash your app development costs in half
There are a number of ways you can keep the cost to develop an app low.
- Purchase source code to customize – One of the quickest and cheapest ways to produce an app is to purchase a source code and customize it based on your criteria. You can add extra features, change graphics, add in-app purchases, ad advertisements, and much much more.
- Work with an individual programmer, not an agency – The way an agency or a team works is like this: A manager hires a number of programmers, then finds clients that needs work doing, and hands the work over to his programmer. The manager will then charge the client, say $1000, keep $500, and pay the programmer $500. The numbers will of course vary from agency to agency, but you get the idea. Individual programmers on the other hand charge a much lower cost because he can keep the entire fee after all.
- Hire someone from countries with lower cost of living – You can almost always get work done at a significantly lower rate if you hire someone from a country with lower costs of living. My favourite areas are South Asia (which features countries like India, Pakistan etc.) and Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Belarus, Russia etc). You can find a ton of programmers in these areas that are much more likely to bid lower on your projects than in places like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.
- If you plan to create an entire product line, tell them! – When you’re interviewing prospective programmers, let them know that you’re interested in using the same source code to develop multiple apps and ask them how much that will cost. Most freelancers apply to a ton of projects and attend multiple interviews every single day that may or may not result in a job at the end, reason why the prospect of ongoing work is very appealing to them. So if you have that in mind, let them know upfront!
- Always post projects on a fixed price basis – I have done this right from the start, but I have seen so many people get burned by paying programmers and artists by the hour, and then going over double the price they could have paid if they had agreed to fixed price. Fixed price jobs will give you a clear insight on how much your app will cost before you even hire a person, so you can shop around to get a better deal before committing to everything. If a programmer insists he only works per hour, MOVE ON!
- Post multiple jobs before hiring someone – For my first app, I got graphics done first as I already knew some talented artists, but needed to find an awesome programmer to code my vision into reality. I posted the project with a budget of $400 and kept getting quotes as high as $3000.I knew I could get it done for a cheaper price so I persistently reposted the project again and again until I found a programmer who not only had a great feedback but also had projects similar to mine in his portfolio (photography apps) and an lower bid. So persistence pays off. Don’t let a lack of bids or significantly higher quotes put you off.
How much can you expect to pay for your app idea?
Planning to develop an app does not stop at the idea. One major consideration is the budget, which again, depends upon how you would like your product to turn out. Consider these:
If your app is super simple with minimal feature, or is mainly content based that will be locally stored (i.e. within the app and won’t involve servers), then you can probably get the app created for under $500. I’ve done this multiple times so I know it’s possible. For beginners, I highly recommend this is where you start.
$500 – $5,000
With this budget you can get a pretty sophisticated app created e.g., a photo manipulation or a voice distortion type. Apps like these always dominate the photography and entertainment charts. The best thing about them is they have a huge built in viral element. Take Fat Booth for example. If you aren’t familiar with this app, here’s the gist: You take a person’s photo, highlight where their eyes and mouth is, and the app will automatically spit out a fatter version of your face. People love to share these photos, be it on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, or share it with their friends via text or email, so these can be more popular than you’d think!
For this budget you can create a super high functionality app, or even a medium sized endless game. Again, I would not recommend you begin here, but these should be the type of apps you aspire to create once you get your feet wet. An endless game is a game that can’t be completed, it has no levels, you play until you die, these types of games are much easier and cheaper to create than something with levels as you will have to design each level, which can get pretty expensive.
For this type of budget, you can put out some highly sophisticated apps or games, you can utilize more expensive components such as 3D gaming (the likes of Temple Run, Ant Smasher, Subway Surfers, etc.) or games with different levels to complete (e.g., Angry Birds, Where’s my Water, Cut the Rope etc.)
If you want to come up with a high-end app that you are sure you can profit generously from and if you have the budget, you can invest in it big-time but my recommendation remains: “It is better to be safe than sorry.”