How To Hire A Mobile App Agency For Your Startup

If you’ve ever tried to hire a mobile app agency or freelancer for a project, you’ve experienced the headache that came with filtering through hundreds of potential partners. You’ve seen quotes that range from 10 dollars an hour to 500 dollars an hour. Hiring an agency for your startup can be a challenging and tedious process. But yet, it doesn’t have to be. I will show you how to filter through the requests to hire an app agency that fills your needs. Using the techniques and strategies below you’ll learn how to dismiss unqualified agencies and negotiate to get the best deal. But first…

What Are You Building?

Before you hire a mobile app agency, you need to do some homework. It’s up to you to define the core functionality of your product. Knowing this, your target demographic, the art style, and your app’s brand allows you to compile a vision. You will need this vision to create a project brief. Potential agencies will reference this brief. The more details you put in this brief, the more leverage you’ll have in negotiations. Just be careful that you don’t put too many constraints on the brief, as it may stifle the design and development process. Once you’ve created the brief, you’ll need to define the type of people you want to work with.


There are thousands of mobile app agencies in the world. You’ll need to determine the type of agency that is best for you and your team. To do this, you need to be introspective. Make a list: What are the types of people that you enjoy working with? What are the specific reasons you enjoy working with them? Is it their attention to detail? Their sense of humor? These qualifications are essential because you will collaborate with this mobile agency for the next 3 – 12 months.

Once you’ve nailed the soft qualifications, the next step is to write down their technical and creative skills. Hiring a mobile agency with the wrong technical specifications will be a disaster for your mobile application. If you’re building an iPhone app, make sure that they: know the following technologies:
– The current iOS development language Swift or Objective-C
– Core Data or Realm
– The latest iOS platform (currently iOS 10)
– Core animation or another animation library like Material Motion

Android Applications have different requirements
– The Android development language: Java
– The latest version of Android (Android 7 Nougat)
– Realm or another database technology
– A solid grasp of the android animation engine or Material Motion

If you want to build a web application, they need to know how to use javascript frontend frameworks. Some of these include:
– React
– Angular
– Ember
– Vue
– Backbone

If you want to hire a mobile app agency for their design expertise they should
– Conduct regular UI experiments with potential customers
– Use prototyping tools like Invision, Principle, and Framer
– They must know the difference between UI, UX, and graphic design
– Experienced in designing applications with different form factors (the web, mobile, tablet)

Often the most overlooked requirements are the backend requirements. Every application doesn’t need a backend. If yours does, it’s important that the mobile agency that you hire has a solid understanding of your application at scale. Here, specific technologies matter less than the process used to bring it to life. For instance, an agency must have a deployment pipeline. A deployment pipeline outlines how new code will get from the developers to your users.  A good deployment pipeline catches issues before they’re sent out to the public. An outstanding pipeline monitors your application in real time.

Now that you have the core qualifications for your mobile application, it’s time to start shortlisting agencies.

Finding An Agency

I’d suggest looking for agencies in your geographical area. Face to face time can be invaluable especially in the early stages of design and development. You may have more piece of mind if you can set up a meeting with your team and review their progress. One of the limitations of hiring a local mobile agency is that you may live in a place where it’s scarce. Or the local mobile agencies may not meet the requirements to build your app. If this is the case, then find an agency in a big city like New York. The prices might be a little higher, but they’ll build you a better product.

Google Them

Do a google search for the agencies around you and in the major cities. Visit their websites and review their value propositions. Each mobile app agency will say that they build apps, or that they build the best apps. What you’re looking for is an agency that resonates with your core needs. For instance, If you’re a scrappy startup that needs to bootstrap the development, you can find an agency tailored to your needs. There are niche agencies that adapt themselves to specific industries. If your application is in a niche industry such as healthcare, an agency that focuses in that field will be invaluable. They’ll have experience in HIPAA compliance, which is often a hurdle.

Review Their Portfolio and Clients

As you search through the companies’ websites, keep a list of your top 10 favorites. Review their portfolio; they should have at least three samples, testimonials of past customers, and distinct apps. Make a list of their clients and try and contact them. Ask their customers about their experience working with the company. These phone calls should be quick.

Call The Agency

If their past clients say nice things, call the agency. You’ll want to speak to a real person and set up potential meetings and interviews. Be sure to ask to talk to a project manager as well as the person that handles sales. The project manager will answer your toughest questions. You can run the project manager through your list of qualifications and the project brief. Cut agencies that are not qualified to build your app. This process should bring you down to 5 agencies

Meet With The Agencies

Sit down for coffee or lunch. In this meeting, you want to get a sense of the company’s culture. You’ll want to talk to the people that are managing your account. Again, in person meetings give you more insight than a phone call. If you can’t do that, the next best thing is video chat. During the meeting, ask the mobile agency how they’ll fulfill your specific needs and requirements. After you’ve met with all the agencies, cut 2; you should have three agencies left in your pool.

About NDAs

Side note: Most people will try to get a mobile app agency to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This is disadvantageous for the mobile app agency. They’re not going to steal your idea. If another client walks through the door with a similar idea, they’ll have to turn the business away. Don’t be wary when an agency decides not to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Get A Proposal

Ask the remaining three agencies for a proposal. They’ll put together a proposal. The proposal should outline their development process, milestones, and price. Review the proposals with your team. Factors such as cost, budget, and timeline determine which agency you’ll pick. At this point choose the mobile agency that is the most passionate about your product.

The Final Decision

Chose the agency; call the remaining two to let them know that you’ve gone with another agency. They may counter offer, but you’ve already made a decision. The winning mobile agency will send over a contract with payment terms and conditions. Read it and have a lawyer look through it as well.

Once you sign the final paperwork, congratulations! You’ve hired a mobile agency that will build your app. The most important factor is that you found an agency tailored to your business and personal needs. You’re on your way to building your business. If you want to know more about the app development process or if you even want us to review your project brief, contact us today so that we can build you a product that your customers love.

Ken Vermeille
Ken Vermeille
The founder and CEO of Vermillion Sky. Ken Vermeille has 15 years of experience in product design and development. Creating his first website at 12 years old, he continues to build his talents by leveraging his ability to learn and implement any technology. In the past he's worked on mobile and web apps, video games, augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, business model generation, and anything to keep Vermillion Sky at the cutting edge of product design and development.