So, if you’ve ever released a product or are about to build one, you may have asked yourself this question a couple of times. Even though I’m currently freelancing, I spent a lot of time in a software development company and can make conclusions on both worlds. Now, there can be both bad companies and bad freelancers. But we won’t talk about those here and will focus on the “good guys”. So we’ll talk about quality software development companies and great freelancers(such as myself 😄).
Choosing between an independent developer and a company can vary depending on your needs and your strategy. Let’s dig in to see what fits you best.
Meaning, that a company or person is more empathetic to your product and is engaged in the business process. For example, I always aim to treat my clients’ products as if they were my own and bring actual value to your business. Most of the tech companies would aim to do the same, but it works in a bit different way at a bigger scale. Not that the company is bad, it’s just that there are a bunch of people between you and your developers (C-level executives, management, etc.). These people are necessary but at the end of the day — your developers just show up, do the work and go home. They didn’t choose your product(although it’s worth noticing, that good companies let their developers choose or switch the project), also if your project will be gone tomorrow — they’ll be assigned new ones. So there’s not a lot of attachment there. But it’s not really a bad thing. People still do a good job. On top of it, it may not always be an important factor for you. After all, you as a business owner, should handle vision/engagement and let the company handle the tech part. But if you’re a startup or a very young business, it can get hard to manage everything yourself. In such a case — it’s important to have a team of true believers ready to help you even if you didn’t know, you need it. The interesting thing is that freelancers choose their clients, so you’ll know that whoever you work with is into your business by choice. And your freelancer would know that his or her earnings are predicated on your success and the amount of value, brought to your business. That builds up to a much better relationship, that you may not always get with a company (although it’s still possible, just these kind of companies are very rare)
One big factor when you’re going for an individual is that you’ll have to be seriously concerned about the quality of your end product. Sure, your goal is to get the best product, and you can get it with both a freelancer and a company, but your approach to it should be different.
The thing is, when you’re going for a company (I’m sure you’ll choose one with a great reputation), they’ll have their own corporate culture and a well-established hiring process. So you know you get a qualified team, hence the quality end product.
With a freelancer — it’s a bit more tricky. After spending some time freelancing, It feels like the quality bar on this market is a bit low. Some of the clients I got were explaining the business requirements in a lot of detail and try to micromanage everything. It’s like they were going in with a mindset that I will fail to understand what they need. Of course, after a brief time, they realized that I’m good and let me do the job as I see fit, but the conclusion is that the freelance market requires a more strict selection. Don’t get me wrong, there are just as many great freelancers and individuals out there. You just have to be more thorough and set your hiring process straight to benefit the most out of those relationships. Another important thing to consider with individuals — the freelancer is basically a “one-man army”, so your perfect candidate should have the basic management and people skills apart from his main specialty. I’ve worked with teams where perfectly qualified freelancers were failing to build good relationships with a client due to timing and availability issues. Therefore, you’ll need to consider those too, that’s the price you have to pay for dedicated like-minded individuals.
It’s not always the case, but freelancers are generally cheaper than the companies. Not because they’re worse at their job, but the companies are giving you the whole dedicated team with people for management and quality assurance. The company has to pay these people and make some profit itself. While freelancer does all these things together. So, in this case, you have to compare the scale of your product and your budget. Can one or two people handle the whole product? Or if you need a team of specialists, are you willing to chip in more to afford it? It’s worth noting, that you can build a team of dedicated freelancers if one or two is not enough. But in this case — the budget would be about the same as for a company, so you should make a decision based on other factors.
If we’re talking about delivering good results and doing it on time — both parties are able to do it (as long as they’re good). But sh*t happens to all of us. People have emergencies or get sick from time to time. So you’d have to account for that. In this sense, the companies probably have the upper hand, because they have extra people to jump in, in case of a crisis. While with freelancers — you’d have to handle that sort of problem yourself. I guess you can overcome this issue by having a small network of trusted freelancers, so you could temporarily bring someone on board in case of an emergency. But it’s a thing you have to take care of in order to secure your product when doing business with individuals.
It’s always good to have documentation and user stories in stock, but if you have already gone big enough — there’s a chance, that you have quite the amount of the documents in your business process. This can also influence the development of your product. It’s perfectly understandable to have a lot of discussions reports, presentations, and feature descriptions before, during and after the work is done, when you’re a big company. But regardless of the fact that it’s not for everyone when working with individuals, this aspect can paralyze your freelancer. If you have all this amount of “paperwork” — the single person can get stuck in it and won’t be able to do the actual job. So if you’re big — there’s a good chance you should probably use a team or a company rather than a freelancer. But this works both ways. If you’re a startup, in need to have a great dedicated and empathetic people — the freelancer(s) may be a go-to option for you.
As we can see — it all depends on a lot of factors. The scale of your business, the amount of dedication you need, your budget, and your ability to handle risks. But keeping all these in mind, the main question, you should ask is who would bring the most value to your business. To figure this out, you can also wonder what goals do you aim to achieve with your new product. You can always get the best results with both the company and freelancers (just as both of them can make you miserable). So, in the end, it’s about determining your goals, whether it’s the speed of work, stability in the work process, getting the best for less money, or the engagement and dedication. Having these figured out, you will be able to make the right decision.
And if you have problems to decide — let me know in the comments and we can figure this out.
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