Outsourcing development? First, you need a blueprint.

Think of a software product this way: it’s like building a custom home. Except, it’s more like building a boutique hotel.

I’m frequently asked for referrals to developers and designers by friends and colleagues with the seed of an app idea. Building a digital product is complex, so costs vary.

Non-technical founders often think of it like ordering from a fixed menu of options: one of these, two of that, with a little of the other.

I’ve used different metaphors over the years to explain why a high-level plan is crucial to hiring out app development. Here’s a lightly edited version of my response to a recent request.


Here’s how I think about building an app/software product: it’s like building a custom home. Except, it’s more like building a boutique hotel; more on that in a minute.

You’re in a familiar situation, in that you want to estimate costs before you begin. Imagine approaching a home builder. You ask for a quote. They ask for a blueprint. You say you know that you want a patio, front porch, and French doors. They ask for a blueprint, or offer to point you to an architect who will sell you an off-the-shelf plan, or spend a week or so and design one from scratch for $20k.

That’s where you are. Except it’s not a house. It’s a boutique hotel. Why? Because you won’t live in it. You aren’t the customer. So, what you need to do is have a bunch of conversations with the people you think want to stay in your hotel so that you know what they want out of the experience.

You get the idea.

All that said, I can point you to a few developers, but I can also save you the time and effort. Depending on the developer/agency, you’ll get quotes ranging from around $30k to $1M+. And they’ll all be right, because you don’t yet have a blueprint.

I’m currently advising a █████ startup that’s burned over $█M on an app with terrible engagement because they never had a plan.

Let me know if you still want those intros.