Choosing between a software development agency and a freelance programmer depends more on your needs than is it a simple matter of pros and cons. When comparing the two types of service supply it’s important to know what it is that needs doing, before looking for a person to do it. Both a freelancer and a software house have their respective qualities that might fill your requirements.
The size matters
If you’re thinking about developing a medium to a large sized app, requiring frontend, backend, database and all the bells and whistles of UX/UI design, there is no single person that will be able to do it or rather do it in a reasonable timeframe. You will need a team of specialists to deliver a coherent, working, and complete user friendly app. How does freelance compare to a development company here?
Hiring a single freelance developer to complete a whole project top to bottom is an interesting notion. When we translate the task into working hours – a say, medium sized project of low complexity would take around 430 working days to complete.
Given a 7.5 hour day, that’s 3225 hours of work which means at least 1.5 years of a single person’s work. That assuming this person, a perfect freelancer, does everything from design, through development to testing all by herself at a senior experience level, while at the same time working tirelessly 5 days a week, 7.5 hours a day for a year and a half(!).
If you know someone like that, get her to call me now, she’s hired! In the real world, this kind of engagement is unheard of, not to say impossible.
The same size project for an app development company means engaging a team comprising of full time employees such as: project managers, system architect, Android and iOS developers, full stack developer, QA engineer, UX/UI graphic designer.
Splitting up the work between specialists takes the timeframe down to about 4-5 months. All the aspects of the project are assigned to particular specialists, the project is thoroughly managed, the quality assured and warrantied.
Independent freelance specialists are a great choice for tasks they specialize in. If you need just a graphic designer to create your app’s User Interface look, or a backend developer to work out the server side of your product then hiring a freelancer is an option.
If your project is a comprehensive app needing multiple skilled specialists to get built, then hiring an experienced team of specialists is the way to go.
More often than not software development is done to deadlines. You want your product completed in reasonable time. Usually, medium-sized projects take around 5-6 months to finish. The mobile or web development gets split up between specialists who complete particular parts of it. A developer gets a task, completes it in X amount of hours and this time gets billed to the customer. Just how sure can you be that the job will get done?
A freelancer is a by definition a single person you hire to complete a task. She will estimate the number of hours it will take her to complete the task, estimate the cost accordingly, and give you a timeframe for delivery.
Assuming a task that should take 112 hours to complete, a freelance developer will give a rough timeframe of 3 weeks for delivery, working 7.5 hours a day, 5 days a week. That is her estimate, assuming nothing unexpected happens, she doesn’t get sick, doesn’t find a more lucrative job or drop your project half-way.
Freelance comes with certain perks. You’re only accountable to an extent, meaning – you don’t deliver, you don’t get paid. Often, self-employed developers pick and choose between jobs to find the most profitable one. If dropping your project means making better money with someone else, then why the heck not? As a client, you get to keep your money, but no one will give you back the wasted time.
To professionals app development companies, proven reliability and professionalism are fundamental for their success. Every project is well provisioned in specialists and when estimating time frames they can easily cover for all the unexpected events.
If in your project’s estimate a certain task is to take 112 hours to complete by one specialist, 112 hours is what it will take. If the specialist falls ill or quits the job, someone else in the company will take over and finish it. Your product will be delivered whatever happens.
When customers choose a software house, they look for impressive portfolios, experience, and accountability. Software houses that can provide proof of the quality of their work are the best choice for serious developments. Working to deadlines is nothing new to them and they are well prepared if anything goes wrong.
Here, the conclusion is quite simple. It’s not the best idea to rely fully on one person to do a job. If freelancer is flexible and has multiple skills, you might get lucky – true. If you’re not lucky and problems appear, then working with a team with proven record puts you in a much more comfortable position.
Developing an app for your business is about innovating and taking your operations to the next level. The software you’re planning will either improve your internal business processes or present your brand to the public. Or maybe it’s both. To achieve this, the persons involved in the process must, for the time of engagement with your business, be focused on helping you reach your goals.
It would be somewhat naive to expect loyalty from a freelancer. They work freelance for a reason, that is – not to be permanently attached to any company/business. If your project requires certain tasks that can be performed without deeper engagement or trying to understand the company’s vision, then yes – hire a freelancer. When tasked with delivering certain work that is well within their competency, freelancers perform well.
If, on the other hand, you ask a freelancer to focus on things other than their area of expertise, it could prove problematic. They are interested in completing tasks, and getting paid, rather than in building a business relationship with your company.
If you’re in need of a developer who will continuously cooperate with you in growing and perfecting your product, a development company is a reliable choice. In order to deliver quality solutions, they strive to understand your business and ensure their work reflects your business’ value.
A software agency always works hard on building their prestige and professionalism. If you find the right app developer to work with, you can count on him to stay with you throughout your product’s lifecycle.
This means that the service provided will not end with the delivery and finalizing of the contract. You will have your product under warranty, with options of after service in the form of Maintenance or/and Service Level Agreements. These are mutually profitable.
You pay a monthly service/maintenance fee and can rest assured your product will always be updated, bug-free and with the possibility of further development throughout the application life cycle. The app developer becomes the go-to specialist for all things regarding your product. Not only do they know it through and through, but they can also address all the issues with respect to your needs and requirements.
In terms of establishing a business relationship, a software house is a definite winner over the freelance developer. An app development company can offer a thorough analysis of your business requirements and offer a variety of long-term services and support. They can assemble a team dedicated solely to you at a moment’s notice. Freelancers, by definition, work with multiple clients performing specialized tasks, so when it comes to long-term engagements, their availability “on-demand” highly depends on their schedule.
The money question
App development has been in high demand across the globe. The continuing shortage of specialists has created competition among employers offering increasingly higher remuneration and benefits. When choosing the right person for the job, your budget will play a crucial role.
Hiring a freelance specialist is definitely cost-efficient. They work for themselves, with minimal costs in terms of business maintenance, accounting or management. Freelancers are specialized in certain areas and accept only the task they can manage by themselves.
Since their income is unencumbered by additional costs, they can offer attractive rates for their services. The downside here is usually the lack of warranty for their services and low accountability for errors or mistakes.
The pricing for comprehensive development services is calculated taking into account not only the wages of the employees and their health insurance but also the overall costs of running the business and ensuring its profitability.
Although considerably higher, the rates of software houses include risk management and warranty issues, so if anything goes wrong, you know that for the price you pay, you’re getting not only the professional product but also the assurance that your developer will not leave you high and dry when things go awry.
Freelancers are usually available at short notice and charge fairly low, but giving no assurances as to the quality or continuous cooperation.
A development company will charge according to a thorough estimate, include warranty and will be open to long-term engagement. All in all, your choice depends highly on the type of job you need doing. A single, specialized task is good for a freelancer. When talking wider scope and accountability, a software development company is a safer albeit more expensive option.
The bottom line
When comparing freelancers to companies, it’s apples and oranges. Seemingly providing the same type of service, each of them fits into a different niche. It would be easiest to say freelancers are cheaper but worse and companies better but more expensive.
The reality is that software houses are better value for money when the task is to build a comprehensive, high-quality solution requiring a warranty, after service and maintenance. They often offer to hire out single specialists as well, but mostly as experts to temporarily join other teams.
Freelancers are a good choice when you’re not particularly fussed about deadlines, need a solution to a specific task, and not requiring long-term cooperation. They are also capable of delivering complete solutions, as long as unrestricted by tight schedules.