When considering how to complete a custom software development project, every business must face the question of whether to subcontract to an individual – such as a freelance developer – or to hire a development firm.
The two potential solutions are very different, as are the end results you can expect to obtain. In some ways, these differences are a matter of common sense, but in other ways, they may be unexpected. We’ll cover the different factors a business leader should consider when making this decision and help determine which option offers the greatest value.
When a company hires a freelancer to handle a software development project, they retain a significant level of control over the project – whether they want to or not.
In other words, if you decide to go with a freelance developer, you will need to assign someone internally to serve as project manager and liaison in order to make sure the project is progressing on schedule and that the company’s interests are being maintained throughout.
On the other hand, if you choose to hire an agency, they will generally be in a position to take over the lion’s share of the project management tasks and may only need a contact person internally to whom they can send routine progress reports.
This is certainly not to say that freelance developers are automatically in need of more oversight or that agencies are automatically more organized. Rather, it’s a matter of logistics:
The average custom software development project requires the skills of a business analyst, a developer, a designer, a programmer, and a tester. The chances that one individual has a sufficiently high level of skill in all those different skill sets is slim. Therefore, in all likelihood, bringing in one freelance developer will necessitate bringing in other freelancers to fill in where that individual’s skills are lacking.
Coordinating and organizing a project working with multiple freelancers requires a significant investment in internal project management time and effort.
On the other hand, a development agency will often have all of these skill sets covered by members of the team who are already experienced working together on custom development projects. This tends to reduce the level of management required on the client’s part and create a smoother and more productive project experience.
Another factor that may be misunderstood by some companies is differences in cost between hiring a freelancer and hiring a development team. Off the top of their heads, most business leaders would likely assume the freelancer would be less expensive. In reality, that’s not always the case.
One simple explanation for this is the commonality of development agencies using overseas talent to fill skills in their team. Since many of these overseas designers, developers, and other experts are able to produce the highest calibre work at a fraction of the cost of an equally talented American professional, an agency’s overall cost can often be comparable to – or even less than – an American freelancer doing the same project.
When you factor in the need to bring in multiple freelancers to complete a project successfully, the gap can expand even further.
In the end, it’s going to come down to the company’s comfort level with the individual or team they are considering. However, as noted above, in the areas of control, organization, and cost, many business leaders have found that going with an experienced development agency offers the best overall value.