Should you have software development done by a freelancer, employee or an agency?
Bruce PeckFeb 09, 2023 · 4 min read
If you’ve just begun thinking about developing an app you’ve likely started to explore your options on how you could get it created. And you’ve probably found that there are at least three options for getting it created.
First you could hire someone to come work on your team to develop an app, you could go try to find a freelancer or you could have the work done by a web and mobile application company. Which one is the right answer? Well, it depends on a few questions that we will explore in this blog post.
What are you looking to build?
The place you should start when making this decision is to think about the size of the project you are building. Are you building an app that is relatively simple (like a calculator) or are you building something complex? Are you building a “one off” app or are you trying to build a tech company?
If you’re building something really simple your best route is likely to just hire a freelancer, they are generally less expensive and can usually accomplish small projects well. If you are building something that you hope to be a tech company, you’re probably going to want to have someone technical on your team no matter what, that way you can be able to modify the code and grow the company technically for the long haul, but often in that case a development agency can greatly speed up the process to getting the app to completion and done on a high level (it’s challenging to hire one good dev, let a ion of a whole team of them, at least quickly.)
In the final case if you are developing a mobile app or piece of custom software that is complex and have less experience with tech, you're probably going to want an agency to come in and help you get the first build of the product out and probably maintenance for regular updates and monitoring.
What is your budget?
How much are you willing to spend on software development? Is the next question you should be thinking about. Your budget is a big factor. Basically regardless of your project size if you don’t have around $15k to do the project you should definitely go the freelancer or employee route. Agencies (at least ours) just can’t build that great of projects for that small of a total budget.
When you’re going the employee route on a tight budget, that usually means you are going to have to give up a little bit of equity to get the employee on board. So you need to be very thoughtful about who that hire is and ask yourself if they could be the type of person who you would want to have in that spot for the long haul? It’s pretty sad when underfunded startups have like 6 people on their cap table that own a decent chunk of the company but are then unsuitable for investment and unable to make decisions
If you have money and you want to get things done right, fast and simply, then going through a dev agency can be a great move. The major advantage of a dev agency is that this is all they do, so they can build things quickly and efficiently, with a good amount of consistency. You pay more for them, but you are getting much more (internal designers, project managers, devs with mobile experience etc.)
What is your schedule?
How soon do you need this out? If you need it done quickly you are either going to do better with an agency in the case of a large project (since they can work with much more speed.) Or an employee since they can superman the app into existence. A freelancer you have much less leverage with because they are one person and they may have many clients in front of you or making competing demands.
How well do you want the app to work?
The sad truth about hiring a freelancer or an employee, is that the quality can be severely compromised. Why? It’s because different developers have different skill sets. One may be amazing at the front end but clueless about the backend. Another may be familiar with a language that isn’t an exact fit for the project. They may have work experience where they only worked on specific parts of apps and when they are asked to do the full app they struggle severely.
That’s not to say that you can’t find developers that are great at the full stack and have a lot of experience doing that type of work. It’s only to say that they are more rare than common. With an agency you get a team of developers who even each other out, where they use their skill together to bring a great product and in all likelihood they have done it many many times before.
So who should you have work on your app? To summarize, if you are building a small project where quality isn’t the biggest concern and the budget is constrained, you should probably hire a freelancer. If you are building a tech company and you can see that you are going to need to add features to the app for a long time to come, then you should probably hire an employee or co-founder and then think about whether you want to augment the effort with an agency. If you are looking to build a big project, have a large budget and think that quality is very important, hire an agency.