How to Become a Mobile App Developer (Beginner’s Guide to App Development)

Everyone wants to make the next great mobile application.

It can be an extremely profitable way to make some money if you know what you’re doing.

If you’ve got a great mobile app idea and decided to consult with a developer or an app development company, you may have been surprised to hear how costly it is to outsource development.

So that’s when the thought hit you, “I can just do learn to do this myself.”

I can relate.

Create a Mobile App for FREE with BuildFire

It’s the reason why I studied code and started building mobile apps.

But where do you start?

Depending on your current situation and intentions, there are a few different routes you can go.

I’ll make sure to cover all of these scenarios throughout this complete beginner guide to mobile app development.

We’ll even cover topics like how to estimate the cost of building mobile apps.

While the development process for building mobile and web apps may sound intimidating, it’s really just like anything else. If you practice and put the time in, it will get much easier.

Plus, it helps to have some guidance from an expert in the field (that’s where I come in).

Here’s everything you need to know to become a developer and make your own apps.

So…why do you want to become a mobile app developer?

OK. So you’re probably aware of how popular mobile apps are.

But just how many apps are there?

Let’s take a look at some information from Statista.

Apps numbers

Don’t be intimidated by the number of apps available across different mobile platforms.

Sure, you’ll have some competition, but the majority of these likely won’t be in your industry.

Plus, lots of apps out there are complete duds.

You won’t have to worry about competing against those either.

With that said, it’s important that you have a clear goal before you become a developer.

Here are a few common scenarios:

  • You want to build your own startup company
  • You’re trying to be a freelancer or run a mobile app development shop (mobile development services are in high demand)
  • You are a business owner that doesn’t have the funds to outsource app development
  • You’re an aspiring citizen developer

Chances are, you fall somewhere within these examples. Regardless of your scenario, it’s worth noting that mobile app developers come in all different shapes and sizes. Throughout the development world, there’s a high demand for iOS and Android app development, along with development needs for multiple platforms, including hybrid mobile apps. There are Android developers who double as web developers. If you follow this path, you can learn to build a web app and Android apps simultaneously.

Let’s say you have the next big idea.

You want to take that concept and build an app to become the next Snapchat or Instagram.

If you fall into this category, I sincerely admire your ambition.

This won’t be an easy route, but if you’re successful, it could potentially be the most profitable.

In this case, you’ll need to learn how to do everything from scratch.

You’ll also want to consider how you plan to make money from your app.

Relying on paid downloads might not be your best option.

In fact, the majority of mobile applications are available for free.

free vs paid apps

So before you dive in head first, make sure you think about your strategy for generating a profit.

For those of you that want to be a freelance app builder or start your own app store, this isn’t something you need to worry about.

You’ll make money by charging clients to build apps for them.

If you’ve got the marketing skills as well, you can double as a consultant and charge more for your services.

In this case, it’s probably not the worst idea for you to know some different strategies to make money.

Or you can just stick to familiarizing yourself with the best tools for mobile app designers.

Let’s talk about the business owners who want to build an app as an extension of their current brand, business, or website.

What’s your budget?

The majority businesses plan to budget between $250,000 and $500,000 over the next 12 to 18 months.

app budget allocation

Does this sound too high to you?

It’s not.

Your location is relevant to how much it’s going to cost to develop your app.

If you’re located in North America, expect to pay roughly $150 per hour if you’re planning to hire someone to build your iOS mobile app.

median cost of iOS apps

So unless you’re planning to take a trip to Indonesia, it won’t be inexpensive.

On average, an app will take about 7-9 months to build and cost you about $270,000.

That’s an unrealistic number for some businesses.

Your company may not even be able to secure a $200,000 line of credit, never mind pay over $250,000 for an app.

So what’s the solution?

Follow my guide, and I’ll show you the most cost effective ways to develop your own app if you don’t have the funds to pay someone else to do it.

Option #1: Just learn how to code everything

If you want to become a mobile app developer, learning to code is your first option.

It’s not required for everyone, but for some of you, this will be the best route.

I’m speaking to those of you who want to build the next Instagram or Snapchat.

Here’s the good news, you don’t need to go back to school to learn code.

There are some great resources online that teach you how to code for free.

I’ll show you my favorite ones.

Team Treehouse offers a free trial for a week to new users.

So you can learn to code from your own computer, anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.

Here’s how their system works.

They have thousands of videos to teach users the basics of coding.

After you watch the videos, you’ll take quizzes to test your knowledge.

Then, Team Treehouse gives you the tools needed to practice coding with interactive challenges.

The platform is super clean and really easy to use, especially for beginners.

Code Academy is another one of my favorites.

code academy

Their platform also has interactive tools that will teach you the coding basics for your mobile application.

Let’s take a step back for a minute.

Before you commit the time and teach yourself how to code, you should learn the basics of developing a minimum viable product (MVP).

Are you familiar with the lean startup methodology?

It’s a solution for shortening the cycles of product development.

Why should you consider this?

In short, it can save you money in the big picture.

Here’s a scenario.

A company has a great idea for a product, or in your case, a mobile application.

You could spend months or potentially years perfecting the app and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop it.

Then your big moment comes – it’s finally launch day.

All your hard work is about to pay off, right?

Not necessarily.

Get Started With BuildFire Today!

Pick a template to start designing the app yourself, or let our professional design team build it for you.

  • Mobile app development for iOS & Android
  • No coding required
  • 150+ pre-built features
  • Unlimited customization
  • 14 day free trial
Start Building For Free

The consumer market could reject the idea, and your startup fails.

So, rather than asking yourself, “Can I build this app?” ask, “Should I build this app?”

Here’s a visual representation of this cycle.

app building cycle

You’ll constantly conduct research and get customer feedback throughout the process.

That way you can make the necessary changes along the way to minimize any inefficiency before a large-scale release.

Using the learn startup methodology will also let you know early on if you should continue developing your app or just cut your losses and avoid major failure.

  1. Build
  2. Measure
  3. Learn

If you can do these three things continuously, it’s worth it to learn how to code for your startup company.

Option #2: Use app builders

App builders are perfect for existing business owners who want to use a mobile application to enhance their company. It’s the best option if you want to launch an app fast.

You may not have the budget to pay over $200,000 for someone else to build it for you.

Learning how to code probably isn’t an option either due to the time constraints of running a company.

App builders are also ideal for entrepreneurs and freelancers who want to make some money building apps for other businesses.

Both of these scenarios require zero coding skills if you find the right app maker.

So where do you start?

Look for existing templates and examples of generic applications.

I know I’m biased (obviously) but BuildFire has tons of great templates to fit your business.


Regardless of your business type or industry, you’ll be able to find a template to get you started.

You could always design a template from scratch, but personally, I think it’s much easier to work off of an existing design.

So what space is your company in?

  • Ecommerce
  • Restaurant
  • Entertainment
  • Real Estate
  • Small Business
  • Non profit

The options go on and on.

For those of you who want to build apps for other businesses, app building tools like this give you the option to work with multiple templates all on the same platform.

It’s easy.

So you won’t need to learn how to code, you’ll just have to get good at navigating through the website and figure out what works best for your clients.

Then you can just white label the app to make money by selling it to the businesses you’re working with.

Let’s take this one step further.

What if your clients want customized features that aren’t in the generic templates?

Not a problem.

Take advantage of BuildFire’s pro services team.

buildfire pro service

Reach out directly to our experts.

We’ll spend one on one time with you to figure out exactly what you’re looking for.

Once everything is decided on, we build the app for you.

Then you can just resell it to your clients make a profit without having to do the bulk of the work.

This is ideal for people who have a large list of clients.

If you have to do all of the work yourself, it’s nearly impossible to scale.

So here’s your solution.

Use the BuildFire white labeling service.

Buildfire white label service

We build the apps, and you can sell it branded as your own.

That way you can spend the majority of your time and effort to get new customers.

You might make fewer margins, but this system is much more scalable.

Over time, this model is sustainable and will generate long-term profitability.

Option #3: Use app builders and some coding (using BF SDK)

The third choice for becoming a mobile app developer involves a combination of our last two options.

You can use an app building service and use some coding.

I’m referring to the BuildFire software development kit.

Instead of having our team build the app for you, this kit can teach you how to build it yourself.

Once you learn how to add custom features for your clients, you’ll be able to generate more profit.

Now, this will take more time and effort compared to our last option, but it all depends on your personal preference.

You may not be able to work with as many clients, but you’ll have higher margins on each project.

Using app builders and coding like the BuildFire SDK will also give you the opportunity to build plugins.

What’s a plugin?

It’s an added extension to an existing application.

They add more functionality to the user experience and can help generate more profits.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you have an ecommerce business and want to develop a mobile app for your company.

You can use the Shopify plugin to add features to your store.

shopify integration

You’ll have different options while navigating the SDK.

You can add:

  • 3rd party developer plugins
  • Plugins created by BuildFire
  • Customized plugins built on your own

If you’re going to take the time to learn some code through an app builder, you should consider including a plugin with your designs.


Becoming a mobile app developer is much easier than it sounds.

Depending on your situation, you’ve got lots of options to choose from.

Learning how to build mobile apps are ideal for people who:

  • Want to build their own startup company
  • Are trying to create apps for other businesses
  • Own a business and can’t afford to outsource development

Virtually everyone today has their mobile devices within an arm’s reach. Most of us sleep with a mobile device next to our head every night.

How do people spend time on their phone?

time spent on apps

They’re using mobile apps. This graphic reinforces how important it is for you to get involved in this space.

There’s a tremendous opportunity for profit in the mobile app development field.

If you’re trying to launch a startup company, it’s in your best interest to learn how to code everything from scratch.

That’s not necessarily the easiest route, but it’s the most realistic.

Fortunately, you won’t have to go back to school to do this.

There are plenty of online tools like the options that we discussed earlier that can teach you how to code from your own computer.

App builders are perfect for business owners who don’t have the funds to pay a developer.

Just look for a generic template based on your industry and add the features you need.

For a more customized experience, you can work with the BuildFire pro services team directly.

If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to make money by selling apps to other businesses, take advantage of the white labeling services.

We’ll build your app.

All you have to do is brand it yourself and sell it to your clients.

This will give you a chance to grow your client list and scale your revenue stream.

But, if you want to learn the app development process from an app builder, just download the software development kit.

You can also learn how to add plugins to generate more profits.

Which option will you choose on your path to becoming a mobile app developer?

Daniel Hindi, CTO

Daniel is the CTO, COO, and Co-Founder of BuildFire. Throughout his career, he successfully launched and scaled five companies in the tech space. Daniel is an operations and systems specialist with 20+ years of experience managing and scaling lean startups.