Software development can pose a significant challenge for businesses, as right from the start, you’re faced with a tough decision. You need to choose a suitable partner for this process, one who can not only make it happen, but also manage it in such a way that the whole process goes smoothly and without unnecessary complications.
You can either seek the services of a freelance developer, or approach a software agency. However, each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages and each one is suited for a different type of project. The important thing is ensuring that it meets your requirements.
Specify your project requirements
At the very beginning, you should answer a few questions to help you better understand your needs and requirements. You should also run through the entire lifecycle of your digital product or service to help you find the points that can guide your decision-making process.
- Project complexity: Will you be working on a subtask that you need to solve or will you be creating a complex software solution from scratch? This includes looking at the technical requirements for the project. Do you already know all the features that the solution should contain or are you not yet completely sure and need technical analysis?
- Project duration: Are you able to estimate the timing of each phase? It’s also a good idea to determine whether your software, application, website or other digital product or service will require regular maintenance, management and updating, or whether it will require one-off development.
- Budget: Generally speaking, the most costly option is to build your own team of developers. Although the hourly rate of an in-house developer is often lower than that of a freelancer or an agency, the cost of an in-house developer increases due to the need to pay contributions on behalf of this employee. Likewise, you also need to pay them even if they are not working to capacity. Hence, the software agency option is less financially demanding, followed by freelancers.
- Project management and communication: When making your selection, you should also take into account the fact that collaboration involves communication, such as meetings and long-distance conversations, which may not suit everyone. Also consider the tools through which you will manage the project. If this method does not suit you, you can outsource the entire development process.
Freelance IT developer
Freelance software developers are self-employed individuals who offer their services as independent contractors – individuals.
Advantages of a freelance IT developer
- Cost: Freelance developers usually have lower rates, partly due to lower overheads. This can be especially advantageous for startups with limited budgets or when working on sub-tasks within a project.
- Flexibility: Freelance developers are often more flexible and their working hours reflect this. They can often meet your urgent requests faster. Naturally, this is not the case for every freelancer.
- Availability: The demand for freelance IT developers is high, which goes hand in hand with the corresponding supply. Nowadays, there are a number of platforms where you can choose from a variety of freelancers who will meet your needs. Some worth mentioning are Upwork, Behance or Fiverr.
- Skills in their area of expertise: Freelancers are often successful in one area, as they have a particular skill that they hone to further their expertise. This is also due to the fact that the more they improve in a certain area, the higher their level of seniority and the associated competitive advantage.
Disadvantages of a freelance IT developer
- Long-term maintenance: Freelancers often have multiple clients, and once a project is handed over, they tend to move on to the next one. Fixing new bugs, maintenance and management, or other situations where there is no one to replace the freelancer, can cause unwanted problems for your project.
- Management: Since freelancers are primarily experts in development, you will have to handle project management in-house. IT developers don’t have support from other team members, so communication and project management can be neglected on their part.
- Scalability: As freelance developers are individuals, you might face scaling problems with the project. If more time needs to be dedicated to the project, the freelancer may face capacity issues and you may not be able to achieve the desired results in the required timeframe.
- Credibility: Security and credibility is often reduced and more difficult to verify than in the case of agencies. Therefore, you should always request a portfolio that you can verify, and it is also important to underwrite the project with a contract or NDA so that the freelancer doesn’t break off the collaboration while the project is still ongoing.
- Replaceability: If a freelancer drops out, whether for health or personal reasons, you may have no choice but to put the project on hold for a while until you find a suitable replacement.
- Project duration: Freelance developers often seek out long-term projects with a duration of at least 6 months. If the project duration estimate is lower, it may make it more difficult for you to find a suitable candidate.
Freelancers often work for multiple clients on several projects at once. However, in most cases, they are experts in a specific field with varying levels of experience and knowledge. They are usually cheaper, but with less ability to scale. Therefore, they are suitable for smaller projects or for a specific section within the software solution development.
When you develop software solutions through an agency, you hire a specialised company that can cover the entire development process from start to finish.
Advantages of a software agency
- Expertise: Agencies usually have a team of experienced specialists in a number of areas, from design and programming to project management. Thanks to the experience of previously completed projects and best practices, they can also deliver the development of complex, more challenging projects. At the same time, they can also advise you on other areas of the project, such as the selection of appropriate processes, technology or solutions.
- Professional approach and stability: In most cases, the experience of working with the agency is stable and smooth. Their proven processes and procedures ensure that you can hand the project over without worrying about the outcome. This also applies to the guarantee of legal security and compliance with contracts, as agencies cannot afford to damage their reputation.
- Project management: Agencies often employ project managers and testers who will oversee all aspects of your project, control every task and can ensure that everything is delivered on time and on budget.
- Scalability: If your project requires the involvement of new people, tools or other resources, agencies are agile in this respect. They adapt to client requirements and new trends and can expand the necessary capacities according to your needs. They also have the infrastructure and processes in place to deliver the required resources in a short period of time.
- A strong team: Teams within an agency are usually well-matched and already have several projects under their belts, which results in better work efficiency and higher quality of the final product. You don’t have to wait for the team to bond and you can count on seamless work from day one. If a team member falls ill or is otherwise indisposed, the agency can replace them without any delays.
The disadvantages of a software agency
- Higher costs: Agencies generally charge higher rates compared to freelance developers. This is because of higher overheads, a larger team, more tools and their reputation. This can make more complicated and complex projects unaffordable for smaller businesses.
- Flexibility: In the vast majority of cases, agencies follow traditional working hours and are oriented towards predefined processes. As a result, the more people there are involved in a project, the more levels and stages the project has to go through.
- Company culture: In general, it’s easier to introduce an individual freelancer to your company culture and setup than it is to do this with an entire agency team working on your project. Unlike an in-house developer, an agency will usually need more time and communication to adjust to your company culture.
Collaboration with an agency is a great model for those more challenging and complex projects that require the specialisation and expertise of multiple specialists in different areas of development. Agencies are also a good match for companies that want to entrust the entire project into the hands of a partner who can guarantee to deliver the desired results.
Another option worth considering when managing software development is building your own team of programmers. However, this option is also the most financially challenging due to the high employer contributions for full-time staff. You also have to coordinate the entire team and find a separate specialist for each area. This is a worthwhile option when building a long-term project that will require a significant IT infrastructure.
However, if you want to make the most of all the advantages described above, you can combine these options and expand your team with our specialists, tailored directly to your company’s needs. This is a progressive model and you can learn more about it on our website. If you would like to discuss other options for collaboration, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.