So this is it: now that you’re done with business value estimation and have your product specs clearly outlined, you’re all set to start looking for software developers to bring your ideas to life. You’ve probably wondered all along whether you should hire dedicated software engineers or freelance developers with profiles widely featured on freelancing platforms like Upwork.
This is no easy question since no software projects are the same. Depending on your business goals and objectives, the choice of a development partner could also vary significantly. In this article, we will examine when it’s better to hire freelance developers and when – dedicated software engineers.
As you look for partners to develop custom tailored software solutions for your business, there are specific requirements and standards you expect them to adhere to. Below, we will look at what freelancers versus full-time dedicated developers have to offer from this perspective.
First and foremost, you expect software developers to have expertise in relevant fields and technologies. Lack of in-house expertise is the main reason why many organizations turn to onshore and offshore outsourcing in the first place. Having worked consistently for their software outsourcing company during a particular time span, dedicated software engineers are more likely to have expertise in the broader range of products, industries, and technologies.
Freelancers, on the other hand, will focus on a certain niche most of the time. They may be highly proficient in this specific niche, but lack broader scope in terms of knowledge and experience.
Any third-party privy to your project-specific information could seriously compromise its security. Product specifications you are working on, or any other proprietary information could seriously hurt your business if disclosed to your competitors. Hiring dedicated developers enables you to execute more control and gives you some tangible legal leverages to secure your corporate information. Your company and a legal entity behind a dedicated development team can sign a non- disclosure agreement (NDA) which binds them to protect commercial classified info.
You can sign a similar agreement with freelancers, but there’s one thing you should take into account: individuals working under little or no supervision tend to treat such agreements less seriously.
Apart from knowledge and expertise, successful completion of a software project requires enterprise-grade resources. The software outsourcing company will usually provide a dedicated development team with all the necessary toolkits: platforms, IDE’s, software subscriptions, a flexible infrastructure to create a perfect development and testing environment for your project, etc.
With freelancers, you can never be sure he or she has all it takes to create the best development environment. You can expect a freelance developer to have an essential development toolkit, though. But the implications of a resource shortage could be dire.
As a Client, you expect your software development partners to be committed to delivering the best product quality they can muster. This requires an in-depth understanding of your business model, company goals, target customers and their requirements, etc.
Dedicated software teams are assigned solely to your company and can guarantee 100% immersion into your development project. This will be the only project they are working on during the established time-frame for that matter.
Freelancers are most probably involved in other projects in parallel to yours. Just how much understanding of your company specifics and dedication they can show will depend on their individual traits.
This should be a logical extension of expertise and is often so with dedicated software developers. Due to access to company resources, specialized teams are usually backed by QA engineers or full-fledged quality assurance teams, ensuring the software they are building will work correctly in various environments.
With freelancers, expertise doesn’t always spell quality, because of – you’ve guessed it – frequent lack of resources to carry out top-notch quality assurance. Unless they work in partnership with an experienced QA engineer; but then again, you never know.
Software developers working on your project should be available any time you need to contact them via a range of communication channels: Skype, e-mail, messengers, project management app, etc. While most freelancers realize the importance of availability to Clients and will try to ensure it as much as they can, dedicated development teams have better chances of achieving it because of a higher level of commitment.
High availability will ensure better communication: with the dedicated development team, you are most likely to know what exactly each team member is working on, if there are any potential pitfalls and what you can do to avoid them. It’s also easier to introduce changes and communicate your standards.
With freelancers, you can expect your communication to be less frequent, although this may also depend on many factors: the project specifics, the workload of a particular freelancer, etc.
Support and Maintenance
Once the product is developed, there are support and maintenance activities, required to add functionality, make updates, and keep it fully operational. The cost of such work and the necessity of it is usually discussed in advance with an outsourcing company. If you hire dedicated developers, you can rest assured your product will have full follow-up support.
You can agree on follow-up maintenance with a freelancer and set up fees for certain types of work. There’s always a risk, though, that a freelance developer will stop supporting your project and you lose contact, so there’s a significant uncertainty factor to take into consideration.
Here’s where we get to the core of the problem: ideally, the cost of development should be totally justified from the business value perspective. Admittedly, freelancers in general, are a cheaper workforce. This is what makes hiring them so tempting since lower rates can often make business owners turn a blind eye on the obvious downsides.
While outsourcing companies will generally charge more than freelance developers, security, quality, open communication lines, and guaranteed support and maintenance make up for the higher cost of hiring dedicated software engineers. Moreover, there are offshore outsourcing locations like Ukraine with reasonable rates, which make partnering with a reliable IT outsourcing provider more than accessible.
The takeaway: you shouldn’t completely rule out freelancers, but make sure you take a look at their portfolio, client testimonials and are aware of possible pitfalls. In general, freelancers are OK for small-scale projects, design, and non-business critical tasks, while dedicated developers are a must-have if you’re building something significant and meaningful.
Apart from other benefits, working with a professional dedicated development team will enhance your brand reputation and add value to your product. The product you’re developing will surely have more credit if customers rest assured it was built by qualified experts.