Before deciding on developing your digital product and business, choosing the right IT business partner is not the only issue you have to deal with. Another essential question you must ask yourself is whether you prefer to work based on the Fixed Price or the Time and Material pricing model. Both of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your approach, needs, and scope of your project, there are a few aspects that you ought to consider. Take a look at a brief comparison below to help you make the right decision. Let’s consider these two pricing models on 4 different layers: flexibility, launch time, budgeting, and project management.

time and material vs. fixed price

1. Flexibility

Time and Materials Contract:

This cooperation model works when the employer pays the contractor for the exact amount of time and resources used during the development process. Consequently, it gives a much wider field for flexibility. Introducing changes is not a problem in terms of time and material contracts. They just move other items down in the backlog. This type of contract provides you, as the employer, with great control over the project right from the planning process. You set the priorities according to your own preferences with your dedicated team. You’re also the one who decides the type of actions that should be taken in the next sprint.

Fixed Price Contract:

On the opposite side, there’s a fixed-price model where the development process is set up and structured within a fairly rigid framework right from the start. All requirements, scope of work, budget, and timeline are fixed here. Contrary to T&M, the process of implementing any changes and modifications is much more complexmost frequently, it requires renegotiation of the deal. And that could be quite a costly move. To avoid these consequences, you should assume that there will be no changes during the project and be sure about it. The fixed price model forces both the client and the development team to stick to the order of implementing features written in the contract. Otherwise, it can influence the development time and the settlements.

2. Launch time

Time and Materials Contract:

The T&M model usually implicates quicker results because it doesn’t focus on developing a plan and talking about the findings but rather on building and improving the product in a repeatable cycle. The project starts quicker, and the results are visible faster as well. In fact, there’s a higher risk of making mistakes but also bigger chances to address and improve them immediately. Thanks to the T&M pricing approach, you can reach your target audience and verify the value of your product faster.

Fixed Price Contract:

The fixed-price contracts, however, will allow you to plan everything from scratch and then outsource the work due to the “set-and-forget” approach. It’s quite a comfortable situation if your project doesn’t require too many adjustments and you just want to have your work done within a specific time frame. If you change your mind in the middle of cooperation and would like to introduce any ” ad-hoc ” modifications, it will require renegotiating the deal and re-determining the tasks. Unfortunately, it may cause delays in the market entrance of the product even past a T&M contract.

3. Budgeting

Time and Materials Contract:

One of the significant advantages of T&M contracts is the fact that you’re able how much work you can get done. What is more, thanks to this pricing method, you can assess the amount of time spent on the cost of the project according to your specific needs and demands regarding time and budget scope. The software development process is a very flexible sphere. There’s a lot of space and tolerance for innovation and improvisation. With code, you can always pivot while developing any software project. Adjustments and modifications here are refreshing and sometimes even require some modifications and an agile approach.

Since the cooperation in the time and materials model is open-ended, you can decide to finish off the project at any time when you feel that what has already been done is enough to have a good MVP. You can decide on an ongoing basis about what is happening in the project based on the observation of the results so far. It’s a very comfortable situation in the long run.

Fixed Price Contract:

When deciding on the fixed price agreement, you must know that all requirements, arrangements, budget, time scope, or limits are estimated and set in advance at the beginning of cooperation. Shortly speaking, it’s a top-down price estimation for your project. Together with your chosen software development company, you determine all conditions that will be valid throughout the entire project. Nevertheless, the fixed scope and fixed hourly rate give you a sense of stability and predictability.

The only situation when the fixed budget can change is when you ask the software development team to adjust the initial scope. In such circumstances, the client pays for these additional conditions, not written in the contract at the beginning. Moreover, some advanced modifications will require renegotiating the agreement, extra meetings, quoting, and futile documentation. Therefore, the original project duration can be extended, and even more time will be wasted on completing all the necessary formalities around it.

Furthermore, you won’t have any flexibility in controlling the budget. Waterfall development and the prioritization of tasks and features are impossible here. In Fixed Price, it’s much more difficult and effortful to be agile and flexible about the scope.

4. Management of the project

Time and Materials Contract:

Because of the dynamic pace of this type of cooperation, your involvement in the whole process will be higher. What is beneficial in this situation is that you’ll have also a greater sense of control over what’s happening there regularly, and you can reconsider some settings based on current outcomes and results.

Fixed Price Contract:

The fixed-price contract model allows easy management of the project. The client’s involvement and interference in the project are minimal after the initial settlements. The expectations are clear and transparent. The same goes for payments. Usually, everything works in a constant, predictable way.

time and material vs. fixed price

What type of contract should I choose for my project?

Now you have an overall idea about time and materials vs. fixed price in software development and the advantages, disadvantages, and essential differences between them. However, none of them are good or bad. Each fits just a different type of project. You should consider them both and decide based on your needs and expectations.

Choose the Time & Materials model if:

  • your project is too complex to estimate the size of it at the initial phase precisely;
  • you expect the requirements will change over time;
  • development of the project will be highly dependent on the user experience, and introducing changes and modifications will be happening daily;
  • you’re planning a long-term project with dynamic requirements;
  • you don’t know the full project scope from the beginning;
  • you need to apply a flexible and agile approach to your project and have the ability to implement modifications of the scope and variations of the workload;
  • you would like to impact what’s happening in the project.

The Time and Materials agreement works best for innovative, dynamic, long-term projects.

Choose the Fixed Price model if:

  • you have clearly defined the project scope from the beginning, and you don’t expect any changes in the middle of the cooperation;
  • your expectations toward features included, final results, budget, and time scope are rigid and known from the beginning;
  • you have an impassable deadline for your project, and you want to be sure it will be delivered on time;
  • you don’t want to interfere with the work while it’s in progress, and you want to “set-and-forget”.

The Fixed Price agreement works best with small projects with specified limitations and requirements.


Would you like to discuss choosing the contract that fits you best?

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Pushing forward project management of your product

Hopefully, all the above-mentioned strengths and weaknesses of both pricing models will make it easier for you to decide. However, the contract type that we strongly recommend as Applover is the T&M because we strongly believe in the power of innovation, agility, and constant changes. Working with us based on the type of agreement, you’ll still have control over the budget, and our team will remain engaged to reach milestones. You can also simply resign from working with us on a one-month notice period. And even in this case, everything we created is your intellectual property, and you keep all the work, no matter when you choose to cancel the contract.