There are two distinct ways to go about outsourcing web and mobile development. The first is to hire a software or web design agency. These are small businesses that specialize in B2B app development services.
They tend to work in multi-skilled teams, offer complete packages, and their prices reflect the quality of their work. The second way to outsource app development is with freelancers. These are primarily solo professionals who have enough skills to develop apps but haven’t found a place in an industry.
For website development, both freelancers and web agencies have their place. While freelancers are good at quick fixes and building simple websites, a web design agency can create a company’s website based on your company and do it properly. Think Forward Media can take your company to the next level by ensuring quality and security.
1) Why Businesses Hire Freelancers
When you’re trying to cross off every item on your digital transformation checklist, the website and mobile app can be taken much too lightly. Without a solid understanding of the real risks and benefits of each option, it can be incredibly tempting to choose among the lowest bidders, those who are promising you more for less. Businesses tend to hire freelancers because they offer lower prices, offer to do more, and often offer much shorter deadlines as well. While choosing the most apparently cost-efficient option is usually a sound business decision, this choice usually doesn’t take into account the true risks of hiring a freelancer instead of going with more stable, if expensive, alternatives. Let’s take a look at a few well-documented reasons why you should at least think twice before hiring a freelancer.
2) Minimal Familiarity With Your Brand
The way freelancers work, in general, is through some kind of easy hiring platform. After exchanging a few messages, close the deal, and they start working. None of this process involves the time and in-depth consultation that most web agencies will go through with your company. In fact, even non-freelance solo developers who consider themselves independent contractors will generally take the time to really get to know your business and brand before they begin proposing design ideas for something as important as your website and mobile app.
While some freelancers will try to take the time, the simple matter of fact is that unless you go out of your way to collaborate and stay in the loop, it’s very likely that your freelancer will produce something generic with your company colours and a few custom assets. Because freelancers don’t plan on building a strong client-developer relationship, they also usually don’t feel all that invested in understanding your brand.
3) Risk of Cookie-Cutter Apps
Some freelancers like to work with newly digital companies because they can’t tell the difference between a well-designed custom app and a cookie-cutter pulled from a template and slightly modified for the purpose. This is often used to hide the fact that a freelancer doesn’t really have the developer chops they claimed, and instead, they are simply using pre-made assets and adding a few design tweaks to them to make it ‘your’ website and mobile app.
4) Lack of Investment in Security
Another major problem that comes from working with freelancers is their lack of investment in security. On several high-profile and more than a few low-profile cases, it has been found that business apps trusted by customers but built by freelancers were completely unprotected. Not only were some of these apps not made secure, but they were also downright open to hackers because the freelancers used open-source templates and basic features in their design without considering what that would mean when the app was actually in use.
When it comes to web and mobile development, security is often a “pass the buck” issue.
5) Uneven Product Quality
Another issue that has come up with freelance developer products is the fact that they are less well-rounded than those offered by agencies. Freelancers are often young professionals still building their skills, and they tend to work solo, which means that your app will be great where their strengths and best skills are, but the app will suffer in areas where your freelancer is less experienced or talented. You may, for instance, get rock-solid page navigation and features but find that the UI design is lacking because your developer is not also a graphic artist. Or that their apps are beautiful, but their ability to write features or content is limited.
Some businesses trying to work with freelancers on a budget have found success in breaking up certain tasks for multiple freelancers and making them work together. A good example would be hiring a developer/programmer, a UI/UX designer, and a copywriter.
6) Rush to Completion and Payment
It’s also important to understand that freelance developers generally work either by the hour, meaning you’ll have to watch out for ballooning invoices or by the task. If they are working by the task or project, the standard form for app and web development, it’s only natural that your freelancers will try to work quickly to finish, get paid, and move on to the next project sooner. Unfortunately, this means that they aren’t focused on finishing with style and polish. By the time a freelancer is finishing your project, they’re likely already lining up the next one. This results in a rush to completion, and often the last few tasks are only done half-heartedly so the deadline can be and the project turned in whether or not you’re completely satisfied
7) Bugs and Incomplete Work
And, of course, rushed work inevitably leads to bugs and incomplete features that may not even be detected until a customer of your own points out a major flaw in the app you paid for. This is perhaps the most frustrating thing about working with freelancers who build an app, then disappear almost as quickly as they appeared in your bidding queue. While you may have been able to get the bugs and incomplete features fixed before you paid the final invoice, now you may have to completely re-contract the freelancer to fix the work they failed to finish.
8) A New Freelancer for Every Update
Of course, even if everything goes perfectly and you get a beautiful, customized, and cyber-secure website and mobile app, there’s still the question of updates. While you might have designs on hiring the same great freelancer in a year or two when you’re ready to update the site and mobile app, your original freelancer might not even be freelancing anymore. They could have got a job, moved away, or simply be wrapped up in another project with no time for your updates. This necessitates hiring a completely different freelancer (and going through the quality-roulette) all over again for every additional update to your apps.
9) Hiring the Right App Developer for the Job
Every business in the digital age needs an online presence in the form of a fantastic website and a sleek mobile app. The question is how you will acquire these assets to provide a platform for your customers, leads, and supporting the community. The standard answer for any business without an internal app developer is to hire an app development agency or a media agency that includes an app development service. Others choose to hire an independent contractor who will come in and become a temporary employee during the development process, and many choose to take their chances with freelancers.
Don’t get us wrong, there are some amazing freelancers out there who can leave you with a once-in-a-lifetime pair of business apps, but finding them in the thousands of hasty amateurs is a bigger challenge than you might think. In the search for your perfect digital transformation path, be sure to carefully choose from any developers you consider, whether they’re an agency, freelancer, or independent contractor.
For more information on how to transform your digital presence and tech in business, contact us today!