Hi there! I’m Ryan Waggoner, a freelance iOS developer living in NYC and working with clients from all over the world. Since 2010, I’ve worked on 100+ mobile applications for clients like Nike, Fannie Mae, Neutrogena, Bayer, and dozens of startups.

I’d like to take a minute to tell you a little about how I work and some of the things that clients and I consider when deciding whether we’re a good fit to work together.

Note: if you’re looking to become a freelance iOS developer, check out my other website where I teach people to become better freelancers.

What kind of mobile app development do I do?

I’m a native iOS developer, meaning that I develop iPhone and iPad apps in Objective-C and Swift.

These days, most of the work I do is with startups. A typical engagement is with a startup who has raised $50k to $500k and wants to go from concept to polished first version of their app.

I work with the founders and other stakeholders to roadmap out the app idea, get the UI / UX designed, and then build and deploy the full application.

Then we’ll typically spend a few months iterating on the concept while user feedback comes in. During this time, the founders will be working on the marketing side and seeking additional rounds of investment.

Once we get to a certain point and it makes sense to build out an internal team to carry the development of the app forward, I can help the founders vet the initial hires and then smoothly transition to hand off the long-term development and maintenance of the application.

How expensive is it to build a mobile app?

It varies widely, but most of the apps I work on are in the $30,000 to $100,000 range. Occasionally something will fall outside that range, but not commonly.

Let me be perfectly honest with you: I’m not the cheapest freelance developer you can work with. You can find someone to build your app for $30 / hour on Upwork, but you won’t be happy with the result. I represent some of the best ROI you can find if you’re trying to hire a mobile app development company or freelancer.

You can find cheaper developers, but they won’t be nearly as experienced or have the ability to take ownership of the project the way that I can.

You can also consider outsourcing / offshoring the development of your app, but that’s a high-risk strategy that rarely pays off. Sure, you might get lucky and find an excellent team for really cheap, but that’s very rare. And even in the best case, you’ll save 30%, not 80-90%. In the more common worst case, you’ll throw away all of your money and months of time.

I’ve taken over many, many projects from clients who wasted tens of thousands of dollars on “cheap” developers. Don’t risk it!

How much does it cost to maintain an app?

This also varies, but you should expect to spend 15-25% of the initial development cost on maintenance.

For example, using 20% as a benchmark, if you spend $50,000 to develop and launch your app, you should expect to spend about $10,000 per year (roughly $800 / month) to maintain it. This covers bug fixes, keeping the app up-to-date with platform changes from Apple, and minor feature enhancements.

How long does it typically take to build an app?

Months, not weeks or years. That’s a broad range, but generally speaking, most apps that I work on are delivered in 2-4 months. Just as with cost, the apps that are on the upper-end in terms of their complexity can take longer to develop. Additionally, some clients have organizational or financial constraints that necessitate a slower development pace.

A typical pace might be:

  • 2-4 weeks to do the initial roadmapping, wireframes, and app architecture,
  • 4-8 weeks to build out all the core screens and functionality,
  • 2-4 weeks to build secondary and tertiary functionality, do QA and user feedback, and deploy the finished app

Obviously, this varies widely, with simple apps taking half that time or less, and complex apps taking longer.

Freelance app developers vs mobile app development companies

So when should you hire a freelancer vs. a bigger app development company?

Part of the calculus is cost, of course. Using a bigger dev shop will drive your cost up by a factor of 3x to 5x at least. Many agencies and dev shops won’t even consider projects smaller than $250,000, unless they’re offshoring the actual development (which is a terrible idea, but I digress).

The advantage of going with a bigger shop is having more expertise under one roof. So if you want to launch on multiple platforms at once (iOS, Android, and web, for example), or if you don’t already have design, server-side development, etc. done AND you have a large budget, then go for it.

On the flip-side, working with a freelancer or solo consultant like myself means that you’ll have a lot more insight and control into the process. Also, you’ll get a lot more for your money.

I’m a founder myself with multiple profitable products under my belt, so we can jam together on ideas to improve your app and make it awesome for users, and then I can quickly prototype those ideas for us to play with.

Objective-C, Swift, or something else?

I started my iOS development career working in Objective-C, and I’ve written hundreds of thousands of lines of code in it. I actually really enjoy Objective-C, unlike many developers. So if you have an existing project that was written in Objective-C and you need to maintain it, there’s no problem there.

That said, there’s no question that you should start any new app in Swift. It’s a great language, much better than Objective-C, and it’s the future of app development on iOS.

I’m also a fan of native over hybrid development frameworks like React Native or Ionic. Those frameworks are a good solution for a few narrow use cases, but they typically represent too many tradeoffs for too little benefit. You won’t save as much money as you think, the process of debugging and maintaining your apps will be more painful, and you won’t be able to keep up with the latest stuff that Apple and Google are releasing. Worst of all, your user experience will suffer.

I’ve helped many teams move from hybrid to native apps, but I haven’t experienced any of the reverse.

By the way, if you’re not sure what any of this means, don’t sweat it. This is my issue to worry about, not yours. Just rest assured that your code will be clean, fast, and a solid foundation for the future.

Remote vs. NYC

I work with companies all over the world (but primarily in the US), so being in NYC is not a requirement. For most projects, I’m happy to travel to you once or twice during the course of the project to meet and brainstorm about critical items. Extra points if you’re somewhere interesting that I’d like to visit 🙂

And if you are looking for app development in NYC, I live and work in Manhattan so any necessary meetings shouldn’t be a problem.

Let’s chat about your project

Even if you’re not quite ready to get started, go ahead and contact me. I’d be happy to give you some feedback on your concept and a price / timeline estimate. Everything you share with me is strictly confidential, of course.