How to choose the right agency or freelance developer for your app

How to choose the right agency or freelance developer for your app

With the realization that significantly cuts down time and costs in web app development, many startup founders and business owners are increasingly turning to agencies and freelance developers. Common reasons for outsourcing include:

  • Speed: skipping the learning curve to launch faster
  • Focus: concentrating on other areas of the business while things get built
  • Expertise: seeking input from experts who have already built successful products

But as with any complex service offering in a competitive space, assessing which Bubble developers are best at balancing quality, speed, and support is tricky. Whether you're migrating your SaaS to no-code or building a marketplace app, the rapidly growing no-code landscape presents a challenge: numerous claims, less accountability. But amidst the noise, great solutions exist – you just have to know how to evaluate them.

To help you find the right Bubble developer, we’ve put together this quick guide to assessing agencies and individual freelance Bubble developers, and how to hire the agency/freelancer that's right for your project. 

The guidance below is based on our collective experience as a Bubble agency speaking with thousands of companies about what they care about. Founded in 2015, today Airdev is the largest and most highly-rated agency globally. Still, we aren't the right fit for every project. We prefer to push potential clients to other options when we think it will suit them better. With that said, we hope this helps you find your match sooner so you can get going!

(Refer to our guide What is to learn more about how Bubble works and if it's the right tool for you).

Agency vs. freelance developer for Bubble app development?

More and more Bubble app development experts of all types are entering the market as startup founders and business owners recognize Bubble’s ability to cut time and cost of developing web apps. 

​​A common question is whether to partner with a Bubble agency versus a freelance Bubble developer. Indeed freelancers can be a great low-cost alternative for people on a shoestring budget (below $5k) or looking for a potential technical cofounder. But for those looking for more consistent professional output and team continuity, the right Bubble development agencies can garner more trust in the outcome.

Below, are the benefits of each we've heard clients express in our conversations:

Benefits of freelance developers:

  • Less expensive
  • Sometimes more nimble
  • Direct relationship (less red tape, fewer handoffs)
  • Potential to hire the individual onto your team

Benefits of agencies:

  • Better equipped to deliver larger, more complex projects
  • Expectations for a higher degree of professionalism and continuity 
  • Typically more experience to draw on, more centralized knowledge/tools to bring to bear
  • Less risky – less likely to go away, accountability at the company level, can transfer to another person
  • More specialization with a team (PM, design, dev, QA, etc.)
  • More process, easier to follow along vs. needing to manage everything

What criteria should you use to evaluate Bubble developers?

The landscape of both freelancers and Bubble agencies is varied – with a handful of established and reputable vendors and a long list of fly-by-night outfits thanks to Bubble’s emerging success as a highly customizable no-code tool. So how do you know who to consider?

The first key is identifying whose claims you can trust. The second key is looking for subtle differences in process/offerings that might be a better (or worse) fit for your exact situation. 

To help you figure out who can deliver the best results for your needs, there are a few critical points to evaluate. Below is a list of considerations for hiring an individual agency or developer:

1. Vendor Profile:

  • Experience and track record: how many years have they been in business? How long have the focused on Bubble app development? Do they have case studies and attributable reviews to show?
    In an emerging space like no-code development, new agencies (or quasi-agencies) and freelancers are popping up all the time. To trust the claims they’re making on their website, it’s important to see that they’ve been around for at least a few years and built up a credible track record. Because no-code is relatively young, a good frame of reference for experience is:

    - 5+ years
    = very advanced/experienced, low risk 
    - 2-5 years = solid experience, not too risky
    - <1 year = riskier, so make sure you really trust the individual/s first
  • Cases like yours: do they have case studies like yours? Can they show that they’ve built similar types of applications and worked with clients close to your specific company size (e.g. startups or enterprises)?

    This is relevant because each app type has its own set of typical design/feature questions and conventions. A Bubble developer or agency that’s already been through this type of build (especially with clients similar to you) will know what to ask and what to do. If you’re a startup, they’ll know how to help you think lean and launch quickly. If you’re an enterprise, they’ll be familiar with how to serve your security, scaling, and support needs.
  • Location: where in the world are they? Do they operate off-shore vs. local vs. distributed around the globe?

    This matters for language and timezone differences. For example, you may want to work with someone in your timezone for real-time calls and feedback, or someone in a different timezone to take advantage of schedule. Note: for agencies and developers that work more asynchronously, this matters less than for vendors that require many meetings.
  • Employees and staff: can you find and research the profiles of people who work there? Are they pure no-code developers? Or have they had different roles, such as consultants or business managers? This can help you understand the context from which they’ll approach your app build, both technically and logically.
  • Price point: how are they priced in comparison to other options? It may be a bad sign if they’re significantly less or more expensive than what others are offering for the scope of your project. It’s all about finding the right value.
  • Language around outcomes: what expectations are they setting? Do they speak from a point of specific experience and confidence? Or general puffery, hype, and over promise? This matters because the outcome of service work also depends on you, so the right agency will be balanced in how they address that. 
  • Lead time/availability: how fast can they get started? Too quick (e.g. they can start anytime) might be a bad signal that they are desperate. However, too long (e.g. they’re booked up for 6 months), shows they’re unavailable. Generally, finding someone who can start the process within a week or 2 to get a plan together is good.  

2. Vendor Process:

  • Vetting and scoping: how detailed are they in defining your Bubble app’s features and design upfront? Are they asking the right questions about your product and needs? Or are they pushing you along too quickly making promises without first understanding what your project entails?

    Detailed upfront planning and communication is the only way to accurately calculate the effort and how much it will cost to build your software. If a developer or agency doesn’t dedicate enough time to this step, your project is likely to go over budget, miss deadlines, and be substandard.

    - Pro tip: be sure to check if they charge you for up-front scoping and discovery, as it should be included.
  • Design and development: do they do it bespoke every time? Or do they have an established system they use?

    Either can be good depending upon your needs. If you value speed and a fast launch, go with a Bubble agency or freelancer with a robust design system in place. If you need something truly bespoke, go with a vendor that spends over 50% of the project on design and discovery. Just note, this can also be more expensive.
  • Launch and support: is their work considered done after your app launches? Do they discuss ongoing support to tackle your product roadmap over time as needs evolve? This piece is often overlooked or discounted to cut timeline and cost, but it’s critical for them to talk through the plan and long-term options for tackling future tweaks and add-ons.
  • Team structure: is a single person handling all elements of your project or is there a team for continuity? Having a point person for team accountability and management is important and can save you a lot of headaches during the build process.
  • Fixed vs. capacity-based pricing: do they work on a time + materials basis with hourly rates? Do they offer guaranteed fixed pricing? Or do they instead give detailed estimate ranges with contingencies?

    Obviously, the more certainty you can get the better – unless you’re looking to optimize flexibility and define things as you go. However, if they work on capacity-basis, it’s important to truly assess their ability to deliver the project on time and on budget (this is where trust and examples are key).

    - Pro tip: we recommend you keep the “Rule of Pi” in mind: anytime you’re promised an estimate of what something costs or how long it will take to complete, multiply that by 3.14 to get the actual estimate.

How to find and research Bubble agencies and freelance Bubble developers?

If you’re not sure where to start your Bubble developer search due to the amount of competition in the space, we recommend narrowing your options by taking the steps listed below. This will ensure you spend your time evaluating only high-quality, validated developers.  

  1. Bubble agencies page: With over 200 partner agencies listed, Bubble’s website is the best central authority of vetted professionals for hire – ranging from solopreneurs and single member agencies to larger development shops with multiple employees and expertise in various aspects of application design and development.
  2. Agency websites: From Bubble’s agencies list, you can click to review info about each from their linked website. This will help you see what services they offer, previous clients, areas of speciality, years in business, etc. to determine who might be a good fit.
  3. Review sites: Once you’ve found vendors that interest you from Bubble’s website, you can search validated customer references on sites like Clutch, G2, and FeaturedCustomers. These sites provide reviews, case studies, success stories, customer stories, testimonials, and customer videos to help you make better purchasing decisions.
  4. LinkedIn: Go a layer deeper to investigate the backgrounds and experience of team members on LinkedIn.

How to identify the right developer to build your app?

As a final word, your search should be about selecting a Bubble agency or freelancer who best fits your business needs. 

If your needs are simple, you might be able to save money by hiring a freelancer. If you need to guarantee your app (and avoid the risk of wasting time and money) because your business and funding relies on it, you might want to hire a agency.

By setting your expectations right and taking time upfront to select a vendor that provides the experience, expertise, transparency in process and pricing, and services you need, you can build an app that delivers a great return on your investment.

Need a agency to help launch your app fast?

Airdev is the oldest and largest agency, specializing in helping companies of all sizes access the top 1% of Bubble developers. We can help you launch any complex app in a fraction of the time and cost of a traditional development firm.

Talk to us to see if we're a good fit for your project!