Over the years, a great debate has unfolded whether it is best to work with a freelancer or an agency. A quick search on Google will give an abundance of pros and cons for and against both sides. We wanted to give our assessment based on our experience, splitting in the key considerations you need to consider before choosing one or the other.
When it comes to skills, it is difficult to generalize “a freelancer”. Some have diverse skills, they are a “jack of all trades”, while others are hyper-specialized. Regardless of the type of freelancer, they are one-man- or woman-armies. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, depending entirely on what your requirements are. If your project is well-defined and niche, the hyper-specialized freelancer is typically what you should be looking for. If your project is less defined or requires multiple skill sets, you typically need a more diverse freelancer. In case your project is both diverse and needs specialized experts, you should strongly consider working with an agency.
Working with an agency opens up the opportunity to tap into a team that has specific skill sets, yet as a team they collectively become diverse. An agency is in a way a specialized team of freelancers. A lot of knowledge is built up in an agency, knowledge that few freelancers can compete with. Freelancers might have friends that they can reach out to, but it’s hard to beat a solid team working together day in and day out, typically form the same location. The best of both worlds some would say, but it often comes at a higher price tag, so let’s talk about cost.
Freelancers have no overheads and cost on average 25% less than an agency. Initially, this lower price looks quite attractive. But keep in mind, freelancers often end up spending more time researching – asking around when faced with problems – than agencies. Basically, the lower price for a freelancer comes at the expense of being surrounded by other skilled workers, a hidden cost to you as a client.
Agencies have overheads that freelancers don’t. Rent, electricity, commute, and don’t even get me started on all the unnecessary coffee breaks, smoke breaks, meaningless small-talk, etc. This translates into a higher price per hour. That said, there are often many casual small-talks that turn into unexpected connections and learnings that a Skype call could never achieve. One of those unexpected epiphanies can be something as simple as a second pair of eyes, a new way to look at the same problem, such as testing the application worked on.
An essential aspect of your project is to make sure you run a reality check as early and often as possible. When it comes to software applications, this revolves around your application performing well on multiple devices and operating systems.
A freelancer, of course, may have at his disposal one – or a few – devices and operating systems. Sure a freelancer can use emulators, but we all know they are never 100% accurate. So, when hiring a freelancer, most of the testing will often land on your own shoulders.
An agency usually has a team of testers that is equipped to perform testing on many devices and several operating systems, ensuring that the final product works well for every user.
Reliability & Availability
When working with a freelancer you must be ready to handle unexpected events. In the case of illness, emergencies, or other unforeseen events, a freelancer may not be able to work on your project for a while and you may find yourself stuck.
An agency, on the other hand, relies on a team of experts and if an individual team member is dealing with unexpected issues and is unable to work on your project, there is someone else available to take care of their tasks. Therefore, an agency is often times in the best position to deliver your project on time, despite unforeseen issues, illness or outages.
The time when you are the dumbest in any project is before it starts. Once you start a new project, you will only get smarter from there, and sometimes you realize that you have change course – to pivot – in the midst of a project.
Working with a freelancer, it is much easier to change course when you deal with only one person, rather than with a whole team. A freelancer can be more flexible and adjust if necessary. Even if you need the job to be done fast, it would be easier to manage this change with a freelancer rather than an entire team.
An agency, on the other hand, is equivalent to a boat that needs to change course rather than an individual swimmer. Multiple people need to be informed, and it often takes time between realizing that course has to change, before it actually does.
For many projects, it is important to cover all the legal bases and working in compliance with local legislation is not just a passing fad.
A freelancer frequently will often work without legal contracts or compliant processes. This issue is aggravated by GDPR legislation and other meaningful rules to ultimately protect the end customers.
When you hire a team or a company, you are much more likely to cover your legal bases. Agencies usually have a lawyer or legal experts who deals with all the contracts and documentation. If a company you contacted offers you to sign a contract it shows that they care about your rights and laws.
Support & Maintainance
As if starting and launching a project wasn’t enough, you also have to consider how you will make sure whatever you launch – whether it’s a website, a webshop, a mobile app or something else – stays up and running.
Similar to reliability and availability, a freelancer has 24 hours in a day available like everyone else. This means limited time to support and maintain whatever large or small project you are about to launch. New versions of operation systems, devices and platforms are released on a regular basis. Coping with all the updates needed for your project so it runs smoothly, is difficult for one person. Moreover, during a project’s lifecycle, a product owner may want to add new features, make a complete redesign or something third.
This all leads to the need to hire a dedicated developer or a team to obtain optimal support and maintenance. Ideally, you would hire the company that developed the product in the first place. Looking for a freelancer who built your product is much harder than a company, especially if you signed a contract for maintenance and support services. Therefore, make sure to keep an agency close that can support your product after launch.
So, Freelancer vs Agency?
When you hire an individual freelancer, you communicate directly with the person working on the project. For many reasons, this comes with many benefits. Basically, it takes out the middle man, avoiding ridiculous meetings between clients and liaising project managers:
Building a world-class digital product like a website, a webshop or a mobile app requires a team of experts with many areas of expertise. One person simply cannot do it all, or cannot excel in all areas. Why? Here is an example. Would you hire just one person to build an entire house for you from the ground up? Obtaining permits, architectural design, foundation, plumbing, electrical, roofing, painting and decorating? Can you imagine the finished home in the hands of just one individual attempting to fulfill all these elements of construction? A world-class product, the kind of product that actually achieves your business goals, is not a one-man job. It takes a small army of professionals, each with their specialty, working compatibly over an extended period of time.
As with so many other things, whether a freelancer or an agency is best for what you want to build, depends entirely on what digital product you are planning to launch. The key considerations listed above gives a good indication which side your project fits best, and if it happens to be an agency, don’t hesitate to contact Wiredelta today and have a chat about your project.