How do I go about starting custom software development?

You're already committed to the idea. But where to start?

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You’ve had the idea that custom software development is something you’d like to explore. So how do you go about starting to choose someone to work on this for you?

We’ve put together a few tips to help you get your thoughts in line.

1. Work out what budget you have available for custom software.

This will help you and any potential partners understand what is feasible and the scale of the expected build. Usually, the budget would be attributed on a monthly basis, but some developers may charge on a per-project basis.

2. Decide what kind of developer you would like to work with.

Would a freelancer fit the bill, or is your company looking for an agency to partner with? The latter typically means a wider skill set of tools and knowledge from across a team, as well as offering peace of mind with the “what if he got hit by a bus?” scenario. You could try approaching a few companies or individuals and finding out a little more about them and how they work.

3. Take a look at the developer’s portfolio.

What have they worked on previously? Is there a variety of features? Is there anything that sounds similar to what you’re looking for? It doesn’t particularly matter if they’ve worked across different industries, but if your idea relates to a similar feature they’ve already worked on, you’ll find it’s a little easier on both sides.

Starting custom software development

4. Find out how your chosen agency works internally and what your expectations are.

  • How much involvement do you want?
  • How often are you expecting to meet with them to give feedback?
  • How do you envisage working with them in the long term?
  • What type of project management system do they use? (See more on the pros and cons of Agile and Waterfall here).

5. Think about what you are looking to achieve.

What issue causes you the most pain? That’s generally a great place to start with any plans you’re making.

6. Try to put together some concrete examples of any processes you use.

  • If the developer works “Agile”, the first piece of thinking will generally be around what is required for the MVP (minimum viable product), i.e. the minimum you hope to be able to do with the software at its very first release.
  • If they work “Waterfall”, you will most likely need to plan out the scope of the entire project with them, so a lot of careful thinking into how things should work holistically is needed. Try to imagine a variety of scenarios and users on the system, as it may be harder to incorporate substantial changes later along the line.

7. Find out how your developers prefer to receive your feedback - and how often.

This could be via a meeting, via a special platform, or just as a list via email or Slack.

8. Make sure you provide your developers with appropriate contact details.

For you, for others on your team, for your IT department or other useful third parties that it may be easier to contact directly.

But if you're not fully prepared, don't worry.

Most developers and agencies will talk you through the above steps during your initial meeting(s), so most importantly, consider whether you’d like to work with them on a personal level. Similar to an interview with a new employee - can you see yourself spending time with those people, and does the company share similar values to yours? Do you want to partner with them?

To find out more about what it’s like working with Switchplane and to solve some common questions, check out our FAQs page.


We build custom software with your team, for your team. Our apps and web platforms bring about meaningful change for businesses across the UK.

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