A professionally designed and developed website is an important tool ensuring your client’s business is not only being seen but also heard and understood on the world-wide-web. Whether it’s a website for a startup or a well-established business looking for more growth, highly-trained web developers are an important part of the website design and development project.

When it’s time to begin this endeavor, should you hire a professional website development agency or go with a freelance web developer? 

Do freelance developers really have the same skill set as a well-established business that’s more experienced in the industry? 

Freelancing Facts

freelance web developers

As technology continues to expand, the number of freelancers and telecommuters is growing by leaps and bounds. Also known as the Gig Economy, facts and stats about this expansion in the workforce are often surprising. Consider the following:

  • Currently, more than 35% of Americans are freelancing and it’s predicted this will grow to over 50% of the workforce by 2027
  • This figure shows a 7% growth rate over five years compared to a 2% rise in the traditional workforce
  • Half of today’s organizations have substantially increased their use of freelancers over the past five years

These figures show whether you’re the one seeking work or looking to hire one of these people, freelancing is here to stay and growing rapidly.

How Freelancers Find You and You Find Them

While over 70% of freelancing business is found through online marketplaces, one-third of these jobs come from word-of-mouth referrals. Employment and working opportunities are also uncovered and discovered on:

  • Social media platforms (15%), 
  • By using networking options like LinkedIn (14%), 
  • On a professional Facebook page (9%), and
  • Through recruitment firms, and other options (both come in at 7%).

Freelance work sites like Fiverr (where hourly rates and products start at just $5 and boast over seven million users), Upwork (with more than 17 million registered users), and Freelance.com (topping this marketplace with over 31 million potential clients and workers onboard) continue to grow in use and popularity.

But how much time, and therefore money, should a potential client spend in searching for the right source when they need a professionally built and developed website? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a freelancer over a business? Is it more advantageous to have a group of people working on a project rather than an individual?

Advantages and Disadvantages

One of the biggest advantages of hiring a freelancer to build websites is the potential for savings in time and costs over a development studio. Compared to hiring a freelancer, a more established, well-known group of website designers and developers often have a waiting list as they’re currently working with other clients on their projects.

When it comes time to hire a freelancer compared to a professional developer, clients may be wondering about their:

EXPERIENCE & QUALIFICATIONS: Are today’s freelance developers truly experienced and qualified? Where did they study, for how long, and did they graduate at the top or bottom of their class? While this information may (or may not) be available on the internet, is it reliable and verifiable?

Do you have the time or resources available to investigate this kind of data to ensure it’s accurate? Freelancers may be skilled in certain areas like design, but a website is a large and complicated project that needs a team of dedicated experts with a broad range of skills to cover all aspects of its construction and development.

AGE & LONGEVITY: Statistics reveal more than half of today’s freelancers are less than thirty-years-old. At this younger age, will they still be in the business long term? Do they lack long-term experience inside this rapidly expanding marketplace? Will they be there in the future for updates and maintenance? 

By definition, a freelancer is “a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.” That statement and meaning says a lot about freelancers being a short-term solution when a website is an important, long-term asset.

A professional business who has built their reputation up over the years worked hard to establish themselves in the industry and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. They’re more likely to remain at the top of their game and continue to become more educated as they continue to drive and strive in this competitive marketplace.

PLANNING & IMPLEMENTATION: 

What about the importance of the pre-building process and other parts of the vital planning stage? Do freelancers have a successful, step-by-step planning process in place for proven and valuable results? Are they using open source code best practices or writing their own ”cowboy code?”

The problem with cowboy coders is they are likely not be following industry best practices. When working on their own, they might not be on the same track as what is considered the correct route for this integral part of a website’s operational backbone. This can make the website unstable, impact security, and not in a good way, and will make future maintenance difficult and therefore expensive.

CONTRACTS & LIABILITY: There’s usually no real contract put into place other than when a client requests a website to be built and a freelancer delivers.

But what if the design, development, functionality, and other performances don’t deliver?

What’s the result? Is the hiring platform liable under their terms and conditions?

That would be a hard no.

One possible outcome is an expensive, long, drawn-out small claims court case. Who needs that kind of an expensive hassle? 

More on Time and Money

Again, from a time and cost standpoint, another one of the brutal ways freelance web developers may throw an enormous wrench into the budget is having to start a project over from scratch. Whether it’s from initial dissatisfaction from delivery of the website, ignored change orders or requests for minor ‘tweaks’ that aren’t being addressed in a timely fashion, these are all possible problems when using these less-than-professional resources.

Still, another potential problem is if (and/or/when) a freelancer moves on to a different employment opportunity, either outside the field of web development or to another web design project that looks like it will be more fun or valuable to them. 

Where is the project left in this case?

Will these freelance workers clean up the project or leave the client in the lurch?

Or worse, will they hold the vital and often unknown information, for example, DNS login info hostage unless the client agrees to resign with them for an ongoing expensive contract?

YIKES!

Common Communication Concerns

freelance web developer issues - sitting on the beach

A regular complaint coming from businesses who hire freelancers is inconsistent communication that may not occur during the vitally important beginning and planning phase of the project.

Often there is merely a request for a website to be designed and constructed, but no real thought or planning behind communicating about the architecture, operation, and development of the project. This is the job of the design agency and the developer, and not a client. It’s their responsibility to ensure communication is continuous and consistent. Freelancers are often not good at this.

Complications With Quality

Many of today’s businesses will choose freelancers because they only need a very basic website designed and built with just a handful of necessary albeit vital pages like Home, About Us, Products/Services, Contact Us, Customer Testimonials, etc.

However, which is a really nice way of saying, BUT, will a website like this be truly original or fall into a cookie-cutter category of many designs using prebuilt WordPress themes? Will these commonly seen themes and stale templates fall flat with users who have become accustomed to seeing them all over the internet?

Another problem with these prebuilt themes is they can have questionable code (again with Cowboy Code thang) that affects the security and overall performance of a website. Many of these pre-made themes are bloated with features and functionality the site doesn’t need. This weight affects page load times and the longer a site takes to appear, the lower it ranks with SEO.

Backing Off On The Backlash

This isn’t meant to say or convey all freelance developers are unsavory, uneducated characters out to rip off businesses and ultimately disappear into the shadows. Many of them are highly skilled, well-trained and very talented with a long list of positive reviews and a steady stream of new and repeat customers.

When it comes to pros and cons, some of the advantages of hiring a freelancer to build a website include:

freelance web developers - in coffee shop
  • These types of temporary employees are considered “at-will,” so if things aren’t working out they’re easier to terminate and replace.
  • As mentioned previously, freelance developers rely on word of mouth for the majority of their business along with online reviews so they’re often adamant about maintaining a clean reputation on the internet.
  • Given the global reach of the world-wide-web, businesses are able to choose skilled workers from different countries at a lower cost.
  • Freelancers are more efficient because they don’t need to worry about avoiding traffic, getting ready for work with wardrobe choices, and more ways they save time without punching a timeclock. 

Freelancers have much lower administrative overhead compared to traditional employees. Their hourly rate might be higher than say that of a full-time employee, but clients are only paying for the work. They aren’t indirectly covering the costs of things like unemployment insurance, and 

The employer only pays for the project at hand. They don’t pay regardless of how busy a freelancing individual is at any given time. And a client doesn’t pay regardless of how busy a certain individual is at any given time. workers’ compensation claims.

Coming Together to Win the Game With a Team

Using a sports analogy in this case, coaches like to say, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’” to reinforce that one player doesn’t win a game, it takes a team effort.

While there might be an outstanding quarterback delivering stunning, spiral touchdown passes during a winning football game or a slugger hitting multiple home runs on the baseball diamond, that’s all about offense, what about defense?

The defense needs offense and vice versa in order to succeed. Too much of either doesn’t lead to a winning combination. So the point here becomes it’s all about balance. Individual brilliance is important but it’s more effective when it’s amplified, when that person works within a team.

All the Players are Important

An all-star freelancer might deliver a fantastic, visually appealing, completed project, but what about all the other vital pieces and parts of this process? There’s everything from functionality to a better overall UX to consider. A team of professional developers will deliver all of the parts of this important puzzle in order to deliver the very best finished product.

When working together as a team, a tight-knit group of developers can efficiently accomplish a multitude of tasks. It’s rare that a solo player accomplishes everything that a team can at a high level of quality. And there’s more a team can offer:

  • A sense of comradery and support found with their fellow employees, staff, and supervisors available for their valuable input online will lead to more efficiency.
  • A variety of different skills and viewpoints which will lead to more ideas and productivity.
  • A team will accomplish more work within a scheduled time frame since multiple people will work together on many tasks simultaneously. 
  • This team will work more effectively and efficiently within a scheduled time frame in place because multiple people are working together performing tasks simultaneously.
  • An agile workforce is more successful than the approach of a freelancer who commonly follows their own approach without the input of others. 
  • A professional team means junior (less expensive) developers are working on simpler tasks while senior developers (more costly) are working on complex parts of the project. 

In a similar analogy, while some say too many cooks spoil the stew, others will offer that a kitchen with many qualified staff members all working together harmoniously in their proper place will ultimately deliver more delicious options in less time.

Game Over?

So we’ve called out plenty of differences between freelancers and professional web developers citing everything from costs to quality. We also reviewed some of the advantages and disadvantages, the pros and cons inside of each of these scenarios with these conclusions:

  • While a freelancer could save a client time and money upfront, there could be hidden costs and potential problems in the future.
  • Freelancers could potentially be skipping vital steps in the process with everything from initial planning to ongoing maintenance and development.
  • The odds of receiving a more original and functional website are much higher with a group of developers rather than a single freelancer.
  • Better communication between clients and developers is more likely to occur when using the services of professionals. 
  • A team of experts will often have the ability to deliver more quickly than an individual.
  • An established web development company is more likely to remain in business within the industry compared to a freelancer.

It’s safe to say at this point, for a complicated project like a website build, a team working together is better than a single individual who may struggle on their own.

In Conclusion

When a website needs a rebirth (aka is in serious need of an upgrade or update) or is a fresh presentation and newcomer on the internet scene, clients should always expect the very best from today’s builders and providers. You’ll find these professionals will always encompass the positives and avoid the negative aspects of this important equation when hiring a team instead of a solo act.

So there you have it. A vital website project could be left in the hands of a single freelance player or better yet, these important projects can be given to a team of well-qualified experts. You’ll find this band of professionals working together right here at Red8Interactive. What do you think? We’re looking forward to hearing from you today.

 

Author: James Hipkin

CEO, Managing Director

James brings over 30 years of professional sales, marketing, and marketing consultation services to the table. Serving global brands along with small businesses, Hipkin leads a highly-skilled team of full-time developers, producers and project managers who are committed to your success.

An excellent communicator and inventive problem-solver, his creative vision and bottom-line sensibility have proven successful at building productive, long-term partnerships with both employees and clients. 

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