Is it Better to Use a Team or Freelancer for Web Development?
Web Dev Ideals – Team vs Freelancer
Discover the advantages and disadvantages of using teams or freelancers to develop websites. Is one really better than the other? It may very well depend on the circumstances involved, such as the volume of sites produced, the amount of control that is needed and the brief/requirements of the web design project itself.
Web Development Explained
The wonders of website design are brought to life through coding and web development. It is defined as;
“The tasks associated with developing websites for hosting via intranet or internet. It involves coding languages, such as HTML, to create visual elements and on-site functionality.”
Web Dev Teams
Web design and development is often created in-house, particularly when a large volume of sites or pages need to be produced. It may involve project managers, UX designers, web designers, graphic designers and, of course, web developers. The main advantage here is that an established (and controlled) team are working collaboratively on a project, presumably with an intimate knowledge of workflow, timelines and the client’s needs.
- Cheaper (if a lot of sites are produced) – If many websites need to be created – i.e. at a web design company – and maintained, it may be cheaper to use an in-house team. Instead of freelance fees and potential additional edits needed (often at inflated rates), finances are fixed. Streamlined practices and workflows may also reduce the amount of time and effort needed to produce the sites, all within the company’s ‘9-5’ operating hours.
- Better Buy-in – As employees of a company, web dev teams are generally more motivated to meet requirements and deadlines. They have a standard (and reputation) to uphold within the organisation and may be further incentivised by the prospect of bonuses and promotions. As they have an ongoing relationship with their employer and team members, they usually exhibit better project ‘buy-in’.
- Better Understanding (of client, project and moving parts) -Due to the fact that in-house web developers work closely with project managers (and the like), they tend to have a better understanding of the client and their requirements. Conversely, freelancers may have little to no interaction with the end client directly or even stakeholders that have a good grasp on the web design brief. Teams also have a clear understanding of workflow and their role within the team, further streamlining the project process.
- Generally Quicker – As outlined above, working within an established team can make the process of web design and development quicker. Everyone knows their role, capabilities and those of their colleagues. Workflows are highly streamlined, and processes may even be templatised. For example, in big web dev companies, designs may be repurposed, and coding elements copied. Furthermore, if working within a team of developers, projects can be shared and taken over in the case of absenteeism.
- Controlled Quality, Resources and Risk -By relying on a team of internal designers and developers (as opposed to a single freelancer), the risk of failure to meet project delivery is greatly diminished. Due to precedent, quality is known ahead of time and can be closely monitored. Project managers will set the scope, budget and timelines, delegating resources in a way that is most advantageous to the web development project.
- Can be More Expensive (if fewer websites are produced) – If too few websites are created, or perhaps do not need to be maintained, web developers may sit idle. In this case, not enough work comes in to justify the price tag associated with employing an entire team. It is here that using freelancers on an ad-hoc basis as needed is most cost-effective.
- Hiring and ‘People’ Issues (long-term commitment) – Another disadvantage of a web dev team is the time, effort and cost of hiring and managing them. Full-term employment is a long-term commitment. Not only are their additional costs related to it (e.g. company benefits), but ‘people issues’ within the team may need to be dealt with or tolerated. For example, a problematic colleague cannot be easily ‘let go’ in the same way that a freelancer can.
- Limited Creativity (corporate mindset) – While established workflows can lead to better – and certainly quicker – output, it can also result in reduced creativity. By not being hemmed in by a corporate mindset, freelancers have the freedom to think outside of the box, test new ideas and create websites that are truly unique and inspiring.
- Shifting the Burden (to other team members) – By working in a broader team, colleagues may have the ability to shift the blame when things go awry. They may ‘slack off’ knowing that someone else will pick up the burden, leading to an unequal distribution of work. Furthermore, when fellow team members do not do this, the quality of the web design project will suffer, with the source of this sometimes being difficult to determine.
Web Dev Freelancers
The nature of web development has led to a rise of those choosing to work remotely and as freelancers. Ultimately, freelancers work on a project-by-project basis and not for one particular company or client. The main advantage is that this is a short-term commitment, potentially resulting in lower costs (as services can be used as needed), more creativity and better output through competition.
- Lower Cost (once off payment/no long-term costs) – If web design companies do not have a lot of work (or not a lot of consistent work), it may be more advantageous to use freelancers. It also generally encompasses a once-off payment and no long-term costs, such as those associated with company benefits like bonuses or annual leave.
- Short-term Commitment (hiring and ‘people’ issues) – Using the services of a freelance web developer is also a short-term commitment. Thus, the time, effort and money that goes into hiring them is greatly reduced. Moreover, the work in managing them, particularly if there turn out to be ‘people issues’ and clashes in work style/personality, can be largely avoided, at least on a long-term basis.
- Better Service Through Competition – As freelancers have to pitch for their projects, clients may receive better service (at a better cost) through competition with other freelancers. Wanting repeat business and a favourable reputation in the industry, web devs will also want to impress, providing quick turnarounds and innovative work. They cannot simply rely on the usual 9-5!
- Specialised Skills, Equipment and Creativity – Working with different freelancers on different web designs will also produce unique results for each project. Some may require specialised skills (or equipment not possessed by the company), such as parallax design or unusual coding languages. Thus, service providers can be chosen based on the requirements of each site. Furthermore, the very nature of being a freelancer (wanting to constantly upskill and impress) greatly encourages creativity.
- Can Be Quicker (less corporate ‘red tape’) – While established team workflows generally promote efficiency, sometimes they can be slowed down by unnecessary corporate ‘red tape’. An example of this is website design and development having to go through numerous departments and stages of compliance before being signed off. If not properly managed, ‘bottlenecks’ can occur in the process.
- Lack of Availability – A potential disadvantage is the fact that specific freelancers may be dedicated to other projects and not always available. In-house team members are committed to their work hours and have tasks delegated which need to be completed. This makes them less risky and more reliable in terms of web design project delivery.
- Loss of Control (over quality, time and resources) – Unlike in-house teams with established workflows, freelancers work independently. Thus, there may be a lack of control over their actions, timelines and quality. Companies may prefer a specific way of doing things that the web developer will not abide by.
- Less Buy-in/More Risk Involved – As freelancers have no long-term commitment to the company, they may have less ‘buy-in’. They may be happy to produce mediocre work or not even meet the brief as there are unlikely to be serious repercussions involved. If they’re ‘let go’, they can simply move on to the next project. This can make relying on them extremely risky.
- Less Understanding (of client, project and moving parts) – By working on their own, web developers are less likely to come into contact with other stakeholders that may be involved in the web design process, such as project managers, UX designers and even the client itself. This lack of interaction can lead to a lack of understanding about project requirements and the output required.
- Loss of Knowledge – As freelancers come and go, their unique set of skills and knowledge go along with them – at the detriment of the web design company. They may find it difficult to replicate similar results if that freelancer is no longer available. Furthermore, the loss of developers can make complex websites hard to maintain.
So, What is Better for Web Development, a Team or Freelancer?
As with most things in life, there is no hard and fast answer – there are advantages and disadvantages to using both teams and freelancers for web development. Generally, best practice is to use a team when the company is producing a lot of websites. On the other hand, it is better to use freelancers when there is less work, less consistent work or a particular project requires specialist skills that are not available internally. Either way, efficiency (meeting the scope, budget and timeline of the project) should always be balanced with creativity and creating an inspiring website.