How We Bill, How Much We Bill

An excellent question! Synapse Studios is a custom software consultancy. We build web applications for clients on a time and materials basis: essentially, you pay for the time it takes for us to plan, develop, iterate, and maintain your project.

No fixed bids: we'll work with your budget

Software development is a tricky, sometimes fickle thing, even when you've been doing it for over twelve years. Because these projects are living, breathing things, we don't price projects on a fixed-bid basis. Instead, we discuss your budget, upfront and openly, and determine what features and functionality we think we can build within that budget. This is only an estimate, so it's extremely important for us to identify what requirements are most important for the project to ship its first release.

Validate, iterate, rinse, repeat

We'll work with you to validate those requirements as best as we can before we start work on the project, and we'll be iterating throughout the development process to make sure we're on the right track, adding new features or shelving others based on your feedback (and the feedback of your end users.)

Sometimes features take less time than we expect them to take to complete, in which case we move on to the next feature sooner than we expected. Sometimes, things are more difficult than we expected, and we need more time to deliver them. We'll work with you to ensure that we're managing expectations all along the way, and that you know what you're getting each release.

Other budgetary considerations

We'll poke and prod you a bit: if you're building something with external users (a service you're planning on selling, instead of a back-office tool, for instance), we'll want to make sure you have a budget set aside for marketing and basic operations, along with any follow-on development for features you determine you want once we reach first release.

Initial consultation

Your initial consultation is completely free: we'll spend time talking through your project on the phone, reviewing any documentation you have, and having you in for an in-person meeting (or videoconference if you're remote) to meet our team and help us determine what features can fit within your budget, and if we're a good fit for your project.

Evaluating for fit is important. We operate on a single primary technology stack so if there are constraints as to what programming languages we can use, we'll determine if we can accommodate your project. We're always happy to take this time to direct you to some of our trusted partners if we don't think we're going to be able to help you.

We'll fight (for) you

You can also count on us to try to talk you out of approaches we don't think have a high likelihood for success, or which reinvent the wheel. If there's a cheaper option, or it doesn't look like we're a good fit, we're happy to refer you to another service or provider that is.

Even throughout development, we make liberal use of third party services that supply features without significant additional cost, wherever we can. We push back, we provide constructive criticism and strong alternatives, and we love working with you to build a successful app.

The big, scary number

Currently, we bill at a rate of $1,000/resource/day. A "resource" in this case is a developer or front-end designer who spends a whole business day working on your project. Project management and QA staff are included in this rate. CTO/consulting time with our Principals is also typically included, though certain specific engagements with them may be billed at their daily rate of $1,600/day. We'll let you know if this happens, but it's not typical.

When we bill

We invoice every other Friday, across all of our clients, for the days utilized over the last two weeks. We'll break this out for you by developer days and front-end designer days, for your convenience. Invoices are due NET 15, payable by check or bank transfer.

Everyone on the same page, every week

We send out weekly status reports on all active projects. This allows you to see the progress we've made, what new features we've worked on, and allows us to discuss with you what we plan to work on next, with your approval. We also typically aim to have a demo of shippable code ready every two weeks so you don't have to use your imagination.

What's in a team?

Depending on the size of the project, the time-to-market requirements, and our availability, we'll configure the team we think is best suited to build your project. As mentioned, PM/QA/product architecture time is included regardless of the team configuration.

Our most typical team consists of two developers and a front-end designer working on your project until the first release. Depending on the project, the designer may drop off at some point in the project, coming back as we prepare to ship the first release to ensure all front-end components are built out and wired up to the application backend.

For smaller projects, we may pair up a single developer with a designer, or for a back-end administrative tool, simply utilize a developer with just a few designer days.

What will I spend each month?

For our typical team, each four-week month costs $60,000 based on:

(2 dev + 1 design) = 3 resources x 5 days-a-week x 4 weeks x $1,000 = $60,000/month

If someone's out sick or there's a holiday, you only pay for the days someone is actually working on your project, so this will sometimes be lower. Each bi-weekly invoice for our 3-resource team thus usually comes in at $30,000.

How many months does a project take to complete?

This depends entirely on the scope of your project, along with a few other factors. Good sized projects with us typically start in the 3-4 month range. We'll work on smaller projects as well if the scope is well defined and we can accommodate them in our schedule and otherwise think we're a fit for you. Typically these are small tools that are built to solve a specific problem and don't require a great deal of complexity.

What adds cost to a project?

All software development takes time. Adding features adds time. But some features and requests are disproportionately expensive compared to the value they bring.

We've written about this in a bit more detail here.

Do you work for equity/free/sandwiches/etc.?

Short answer: No. :-(

Long answer: Sometimes, though rarely, we will participate in equity offerings from established clients, if we think there's a mutual benefit. Please don't ask us to work on your project "for free": we have to pay our hard working team!

Why is software development so expensive? Can't I get this done cheaper?

Synapse Studios isn't the most expensive agency, but we also know we're not cheap. We hire only in-house, on-site talent, and we hire the best talent available to us. 100% of the work we perform is done in Tempe, Arizona. Many competitive firms have a couple of local resources, but perform their principal development outside of the country.

This is a workable solution, perhaps, for very small projects without a lot of abstract thinking or complicated workflows, and where you've defined the exact requirements for them in advance and don't expect to need to change anything.

But we find our clients typically hire us because they don't necessarily know every detail of what they want. We're true consultants—we'll work through your business and help you identify the best path forward. We can solve for complex problems, suggest graceful solutions, and deliver them in an extremely high quality finished product that will serve as the foundation for much more.

We see many, many clients try to shop their complicated project overseas or to cheaper firms that lack the process and practices we preach: they typically spend nearly as much (or more!) than we charge and then realize that they're not going to get what they need.

Unfortunately, we're not able to take over projects from other providers like this. With certain rare exceptions, we typically need to start over, and we know clients hate to throw the baby out with the bath water, but better that than throwing good money after bad.

Next steps

If you haven't reached out yet, please contact us for an initial consultation so we can discuss your project and evaluate if we're a fit for you.