Software Business Models

Software development agency

What is a Software Dev Agency?

A software development agency, often abbreviated as “dev agency,” is a type of software business that provides custom software development services to clients. Ranging from website development to complex system integrations, the projects they undertake are as varied as their clients. This kind of agency often has a diverse team of professionals, including software developers, UX/UI designers, project managers, and QA testers.

How Dev Agencies Differ From Other Software Businesses

Unlike software-as-a-service (SaaS) or product-based software businesses that develop proprietary software for sale or subscription, dev agencies work on a project-to-project basis. They build software according to the requirements of their clients. These could be websites, mobile apps, CRM systems, or other types of software, developed according to the specific needs of the client. In a SaaS business or a product-based business, the focus is on building a software product to sell to multiple users, while in a dev agency, the focus is on providing a service. Most dev agencies focus on a specific industry or technical niche.

Challenges and Benefits of a Dev Agency

Running a dev agency comes with its unique set of challenges and benefits.


  • Low capital requirements: One significant benefit of starting a dev agency is the low capital requirement. Unlike a product-based software business, a dev agency does not require substantial upfront investment in product development. You can start selling your time and your team’s time right away with your only costs being your laptops and your internet connection, making a dev agency a potentially lucrative venture with a relatively low barrier to entry.
  • Flexibility: Dev agencies can work with clients across various sectors, making them less reliant on a single industry.
  • Project diversity: The range of projects can be broad, providing the opportunity to work on exciting and diverse tasks.
  • Growth potential: Successful dev agencies have a strong potential for growth and can scale by taking on more significant projects or increasing their client base.


  • Client dependency: Projects are often short-term, and agencies must continuously acquire new clients to maintain a steady revenue stream.
  • Tight deadlines: Client-driven projects often come with tight deadlines, which can be stressful and require effective time management.
  • High competition: The market is competitive, and you will be competing against tens of thousands of other dev agencies locally and abroad. Standing out requires delivering exceptional service or carving out a unique niche.

Typical Costs and Inputs for a Dev Agency

Running a dev agency involves several costs:

  • Labor Costs: This is often the most significant expense. It includes salaries, benefits, and training for staff.
  • Infrastructure: Dev agencies need up-to-date technology and software tools for their teams.
  • Marketing and Sales: Agencies must invest in marketing and sales activities to attract new clients.
  • Operational Expenses: These include office rent (if not working remotely), utilities, legal fees, and other administrative costs.

How Customer Acquisition Works For A Dev Agency

Client acquisition for dev agencies often starts with networking, word-of-mouth recommendations, and inbound marketing such as content marketing, SEO, and PPC advertising. High-quality service and a strong reputation can lead to referrals, which are highly valuable in the industry.

Agencies may also employ sales teams to proactively reach out to potential clients. Proposals are often submitted in response to client briefs or requests for proposals (RFPs). In these proposals, the agency outlines their proposed solution, timeline, costs, and showcases their past work or case studies.

Functions in a Dev Agency

A development agency usually comprises the following key functions:

  • Design and Development: This team, composed of software developers, UX/UI designers, and QA engineers, focuses on crafting, developing, and testing the software based on the client’s specifications. They handle everything from front-end to back-end development, ensuring the final product aligns with the client’s vision.
  • Sales and Client Relations: This group manages client acquisition, retention, and relationship management. They often work in close collaboration with the project development team to understand project scope and deliverables, prepare quotes for dev projects, and manage all communications with current and prospective clients.
  • Project Management: This function ensures the successful delivery of projects and is also the client’s access to post-delivery support (bug fixing, feature enhancements, and system maintenance). In most cases, the project managers act as a bridge between the client and the development team, capturing requirements, relaying feedback, collecting bug reports, and documenting feature requests.
  • Finance and Administration: This team takes care of financial planning, accounting, legal requirements, and other administrative tasks. Their roles are crucial in ensuring the smooth running of the business behind the scenes.
  • IT and Infrastructure: This team is responsible for maintaining the technological infrastructure that supports the development tasks and the daily operations of the company. This includes managing servers, networks, security, and sometimes, deployment environments for the software they build.
  • Leadership/Management: They guide the direction of the agency, make business decisions, and ensure client satisfaction.

How Dev Agencies Make Money

Dev agencies primarily generate revenue by charging for their services, typically on a project basis. They may charge a flat fee for the entire project or bill hourly rates for the time spent by their team. Some agencies also provide maintenance or support services post-project completion, which may be charged as a recurring fee.

Economics of the Dev Agency Business Model

The economics of running a dev agency largely revolve around managing project costs and maximizing billable hours. Each project needs to cover the costs associated with the time spent by the team, any required tools or services, and overhead costs such as office rent and administrative expenses. Profit is then any revenue that exceeds these costs.

A crucial aspect of this model is capacity utilization – the more effectively an agency can keep its staff working on billable projects, the more profitable it will be. This requires effective project scheduling and continuous client acquisition to avoid downtime.

How Intellectual Property Works in a Dev Agency

In a dev agency, intellectual property rights can be a critical aspect of client agreements. Typically, the custom software developed for a client is considered work-for-hire, meaning the client retains the intellectual property rights. However, this can vary based on the agreement, and sometimes agencies retain certain rights or reuse code for multiple projects. It’s important to clarify these terms upfront to avoid potential disputes later.

Which Companies Typically Use Dev Agencies

A wide variety of companies use dev agencies, from startups and small businesses to large corporations.

Startups and small businesses may lack the internal resources to develop software in-house, making a dev agency a cost-effective solution. Large corporations might use dev agencies for specific projects or to augment their in-house capabilities.

Industries that frequently employ dev agencies include tech, finance, healthcare, retail, and more, essentially any industry that uses software can potentially be a client.

Why Companies Use Dev Agencies

Companies use dev agencies for several reasons:

  • Expertise: Dev agencies have a team of specialists in different areas of software development, ensuring a high level of expertise.
  • Speed: With their dedicated resources, agencies can often deliver projects faster than in-house teams or solo developers.
  • Cost: It can be more cost-effective to hire an agency for a specific project than to recruit and maintain an in-house team.
  • Flexibility: For companies with fluctuating project needs, using an agency provides the flexibility to scale up or down as required.

In conclusion, dev agencies serve a vital role in the software ecosystem, providing specialized services to businesses of all sizes and across various sectors. Running a dev agency can be challenging, requiring continuous client acquisition and the ability to deliver high-quality, custom software solutions. However, it also offers the opportunity for diverse projects, strong growth potential, and the ability to work with clients across many sectors.