Agency vs freelancer: which one to choose for software projects?

We live in interesting times: every day hundreds of new digital products are being born. And the scenario is always the same. If you want to create something great, you would need some great professional developers to do it. Even if you are running a successful business with an in-house dev team, you probably need at least a few more helping hands to help you see the project to a successful end.  You could always try to hire an employee, but that’s expensive, complicated and takes some time. After some contemplation two options arise as a solution: hire a web agency vs freelancer. You have heard horror stories for both and not sure which is better. Fear not, as we are going to explore both.

Freelancers Pros

Flexibility

Perhaps one of the key benefits that many businesses find with working with freelancers is their level of flexibility. Freelancers are essentially small business owners and they could work on limited projects only. That’s why they would treat you as a valuable client and would usually go at great lengths trying to keep you satisfied.  That would mean being available after working hours or being available to work on your premise most of the time. Software companies would usually make you pay extra.

Pricing

Freelancers are usually the cheaper option: freelancers simply have lower overheads. Usually freelancers charge 2 times less than the software houses. However, if you look for web development companies in Eastern Europe, Latin America or India that advantage could be greatly diminished.

Niche skills

Many freelancers have realized that they may not be able to compete with the big fishes in the business unless they specialize in some narrow domain. You might encounter freelancers that do only one or two very specialized and hard to find things: e.g ColdFusion development.  That makes them perfect if you requite specialist with very specific skillset.

Web agency pros

Work organization

Technical skills are important but efficient work organization may make or break a project. When you hire a web agency, you will usually be introduced into proven working process.  A well-tuned development workflow from discovery to delivery will never fail to meet deadlines   Furthermore will usually have dedicated project manager, who is going to actively manage the project and save you time.

On the other hand, freelancers may do the job just fine, but they may be lacking skills necessary for planning and organizing the work process. That could often lead to broken deadlines.

Synergy and knowledge sharing

Agencies usually have teams that have gone through trials and tribulations together and know their strengths and weaknesses. When you opt-in for working with the development company you pay for the synergy in a professional team. Furthermore, you could tap into the skills of the other employees of the company. Let’s say you are working on the development of but you are looking for some advice on design. Rather than looking for a design consultant, you could ask the agency they have in-house designers that could consult you. In other words, you get a lot of expertise under the oner roof.

No man is an island and no man knows everything.  We have been approached by a client who confessed that although cost-effective, hiring remote freelancers has resulted in drop in efficiency due to poor communication.  Spread across different locations the freelancers could not communicate effectively, consult and help each other when facing small daily challenges. Most development companies promote culture of knowledge sharing and communications. Developers gather for developer’s meetings, where different topics and projects are discussed.

Maintenance

What happens to your project after it is up and running? Who would fix bugs and build new features? The project lifecycle does not end when it is up and running on the server. Support is equally as important as the development phase.  Freelancers usually face difficulties supporting a project in the long term, because they move on to other ones. Agencies, on the other hand, have the needed staff and would likely engage into support agreements, because they see it as an extra source of income.


The hidden costs

Nothing in life comes in the perfect-package.  Choosing between working with a software company or freelancer may incur hidden costs that you haven’t accounted for initially.

Local freelancers may be the thing you are looking for, but how do you find them? Often companies have to rely on recruitment agencies for finding good contractors.  This does not come cheap and takes quite a lot of the time, interviewing the short-listed candidates.  When adding the time spent sourcing the contractors, the bill rises even more.

On the other hand, It is easy to find a software houses and development companies by using sites like the Clutch.co, but how do you find the right one? You would need to spent time interviewing and visiting the companies to make the right decision.   Also you should factor in their availability. The best software houses have constant stream of clients and sometimes you would need to wait for some time before their schedule and resources are open. Lastly, if you are looking for nearshore or offshore software houses culture, location and linguistics come into play.   You may suffer some internal overhead caused by bad communication and time difference.

Scenarios to help you choose.

Below are some common scenarios and which is the best decision:

  • Do you have somebody from your side with technical or project management expertise?

If yes, you could rely on freelancers. If not, you may be better off, if you go with a development company that could provide all in one.

  • What is your budget?

If you are on a shoe-string budget, your only option may be freelancers.  Some development companies may have minimum budget threshold to be interested in the project.

  • Are you an established organization that needs to scale their team?

Here both options could work fine. However, if you need more than one resource, go for an agency as you would be able to tap into the team’s synergy. You could read about other benefits in our previous blog post.

  • Do you look for short-term or long term engagement?

If you need very short-term engagement (less than 1-2 months): both options are valid, but some agencies maybe not interested in smaller projects.

If you are looking for longer term (from 3 months to years) look for development companies as they are more likely to be able to support such project

  • Is maintenance important for you?

Go for an agency since they could offer this reliably.

  • Can I have the best from both worlds?

Yes, it could be an option! You could hire a local freelancer to handle the Project Management or Architecture and hire a nearshore development company to handle the development.

Agency vs freelancer has been a long-debated topic. If you need short-term, niche support or you if you have a low budget, go for freelancers. In most other scenarios an agency would be the better approach. If you are looking for a skilled dev team drop us a line.
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