What would you charge for this app?


We are in talks with our first app-development client, who are first-time app-development customers and have done no research on custom app pricing or gotten other bids. It's been a bit of a tooth-pull; we even ended up writing the specs for them because they just didn't after several weeks. Now it seems they're balking at the (we think more-than-fair) quote. Worryingly, they're starting to ask for a break-down of the development (this feature = $X to code, etc) in possible hopes of asking us to remove features we've already created to lower the price.

We would be most indebted if someone could look at the bespoke spec and tell us what you would charge as a freelance developer or what level of costs the company could expect had this been made in-house.

Project specs: http://alanfrancis.net/ebmpapst-progress/files/draft-spec/Draft%20Specification%20-%20Issue%201.pdf Again, thank you.

Mary ad hoc impromptu business manager

Pricing Prices Application Apps Web App

asked May 7 '11 at 11:33
13 points
  • You site require login and pass. This question do not conform to the rules in http://answers.onstartups.com/faqRoss 13 years ago
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1 Answer


The PDF requires login information, so I couldn't look at it.

But I think you've made a lot of the same mistakes I have as a bespoke developer:

  • Neither party has worked in this kind of relationship before. So neither of you can say, "this is how things are normally done". In such cases, miscommunications and misunderstandings are to be expected.
  • You've had to pull teeth to move the client along. It's rarely profitable to pursue such projects. I once spent over a year selling a client on doing a large project, and after all that effort, a new manager sent it to an outsourcing firm in India.
  • You're working from specs the client didn't write. I lost $30,000 doing a project like that. You can do a ton of work, and the client can just shrug their shoulders and say, "That wasn't what I wanted."
  • The client keeps changing their mind. That's a fast way to lose money on fixed-bid projects - in fact, it's why I quit doing them.
  • There are "features [you]'ve already created" that the client hasn't agreed to pay for. Here in the US, that's called "working on spec" - in other words, you do some work and hope somebody will pay you for it. That's fine if you're building nice houses in a hot neighborhood, not so good for bespoke development.

But the real kicker for me is: you and the client have a fundamental disagreement on pricing, and you're almost certainly going to lose. They're willing to pay X, and you think X+Y would be fairer. So you seem to think the choice is between X, or X+Y. But it's not! If your client can just walk away from this project, the choice is really between X, and nothing.

Practically speaking, it's at all not important whether your quote is fair. The real question is whether it's more in your interest to (a) complete the project at whatever price the client is willing to pay, or (b) simply walk away and chalk it all up to experience.

You'll have to answer that for yourselves. If the people in your firm have "day jobs" or otherwise can afford to do all this work for nothing, and having this project in your portfolio would be a real feather in your cap, then it might be worth it. But as somebody who makes his income solely doing bespoke development, and can't afford to take on money-losing projects, this raises so many red flags for me, I'd drop this project like a hot potato.

answered May 7 '11 at 14:51
Bob Murphy
2,614 points

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