Development Firms vs. Freelancers: How Digital Marketing Agencies Can Choose Blog Feature

By: Dave Devitt on April 20th, 2018

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Development Firms vs. Freelancers: How Digital Marketing Agencies Can Choose

Business Management

More and more, clients are asking digital marketing agencies not only to craft their marketing campaigns, but also to develop the accompanying websites and applications. Even though many marketing firms don't traditionally offer these services, being able to go the extra mile is increasingly important to winning your clients' business.

Whether you're looking to break into the development space or you're struggling under the weight of too many development jobs, you've decided that you need a little help. You have two main options when it comes to finding a development partner: freelancers and dedicated development firms. In this article, we'll discuss the pros and cons of each choice, so that you can come to a conclusion about which is right for your situation.


Our free guide covers everything you marketing agency needs to know about choosing the right development solution for you.

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The Pros and Cons of a Development Firm

Pros

  • Less risk: Development teams typically have a good deal of knowledge and experience on their side. Not only are they able to finish a project for you, they can also handle any issues or technical questions that you have.
  • Strength in numbers: By working with a development firm, you can increase capacity without excess overhead costs. Multiple experienced developers can collaborate on the same project and work together to solve issues when they arise.
  • True partnership: Development firms care about their reputation and want to build high-quality, long-term relationships that will result in satisfied repeat customers. By combining your expertise in marketing with their expertise in development, both of your companies can benefit from this strategic partnership.
  • Scalability: Many companies face unpredictable levels of client demand, or periods of high and low activity. Partnering with a development firm can help you scale up your business when you're highly in-demand, without having to spend money on full-time employees' salaries during the dry spells.

Cons

  • Distance: Firms that aren't local to your area can pose challenges if your time zones are too far apart or when you're looking for face-to-face contact. If you anticipate these being problems, look for local businesses that can sit down with you in the flesh.
  • Front companies: Some development firms claim to be based in the U.S., but the only employees in the country are sales representatives while the development team is overseas. Do your research into potential partners so that you don't feel disappointed or deceived.

The Pros and Cons of Freelancers

Pros

  • Lower cost (than a full employee): Because you don't keep freelancers on your payroll, you save money by not having to handle benefits such as health insurance and vacation time. You also don't have to go through the expensive and time-consuming interviewing process.
  • Good "trial run": If you're thinking about maintaining a full-time employee for work in-house, then finding a freelancer is the closest approximation that you can get without actually hiring someone. For example, you can keep track of how much work you're passing on to the freelancer and measure whether that amount of work is worth the costs of a full-time employee.

Cons

  • Risky business: Working with an individual freelancer is usually much riskier than partnering with a development firm. Freelancers can be unreliable at times and can even constitute a security risk if you allow them access to sensitive information. If the work the freelancer produces isn't up to your usual standards, then it can endanger your company's reputation. In addition, finding a freelancer with the exact skill set you need can be a challenging task.
  • Availability: The most popular and productive freelancers have their pick of jobs, which means that they may not always be able to take on everything you need them to. They might be working on a project for another client or busy at their full-time job.
  • Higher cost: Many freelancers bill hour by hour for their work. Unless you sit outside their window, however, you don't have a way to guarantee that their bill is an accurate picture of how much they worked on your project. This makes freelancers a questionable investment until you've built up trust.
  • Located overseas: If the freelancer is out of the country, this can cause major issues in terms of communication and coordination. Time zone difficulties might mean that you need to hold chats at awkward times, like just when you were sitting down to dinner or in the middle of the night.

Development Firms Vs. Freelancers: Which Is Better?

If you're an agency breaking into the dev world, you'll likely want to go with the safer, more cost-effective option of working with a development firm, since they'll have experience if any issues should come up in the project. On the other hand, if you already have an in-house development team and you're looking for someone with a specific skill set, then a freelancer is likely the wiser choice.

Conclusion

Freelancers can help you in a pinch and are great when you need a particular competency, but development companies offer more predictability and dependability. Ultimately, the choice between freelancers and development firms comes down to your personal preferences and your tolerance for risk. Make sure that you carefully assess your project roadmap and your own ability to contribute before making the final decision.

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