Freelance software development is a rapidly growing market segment in Europe. Employing freelance developers is already a norm in some countries, such as Sweden and the UK. An increasing number of Finnish companies have also started to hire freelance developers to support their software development processes. But how can you know if hiring freelance developers is the right choice for your organisation? Read on to find out!
Before you start employing external experts, it is good to understand whether the option of hiring freelancers is a good and valuable decision for your unique business. To create this understanding, this article focuses on mapping the key characteristics of freelance software developers and explaining typical scenarios where freelance developers may be employed. If you come to the conclusion that hiring freelance developers could be a smart solution to your company, be sure to read the last chapters of this article. We will provide you with tips on how to ensure that the freelancers you hire are worth every penny.
Characteristics of a freelance software developer
In a nutshell freelancers provide ultimate flexibility at a great skill level. Adding single or multiple freelancers to a team is often much easier and faster than finding new employees. If your business requires you to find a developer to fill a certain role, having access to a large network of quality freelancers is valuable: in an optimal situation you get to choose from a large pool of great developers whereas in recruitment you’re often searching for a needle in a haystack.
The cost structure for freelancers differs greatly from in-house hires. Where in-house hires can cost tens of thousands up-front (recruitment fees, signing bonuses, equipment costs) the cost structure for a freelancer is extremely simple: you pay by the hour. Even though the direct cost of a freelancer will be higher than an in-house developer’s salary in the long run, the difference is not that great when you take the necessary overhead and employment costs into account.
When it comes to skills and value-add, one should expect that freelancers are up to the task and can deliver value very quickly. This is assuming that a freelancer is sourced through a respected agency, the interview process has been thorough, the project is scoped well, and the hourly price matches the market rate. In the current market situation it is extremely important to portray the project in a good light and as detailed as possible to ensure you get the best possible fit.
However, the “free” in freelancer stands for freedom: this is one of the main drawbacks of utilising freelancers. If the project is terrible, management is not up to their task or there are other issues, a freelancer will eventually take on another project elsewhere. You can’t make a freelancer stay. Of course, the same thing can and will happen with an in-house developer, but their monetary incentives can have a bigger effect in retention.
Scenarios for employing freelance developers
1. In-house development team & freelancers
Often with an in-house development team a recruiting manager has to make compromises. In the current market situation it is almost impossible to fill all the necessary roles with great talent. This makes reaching your business goals without external help difficult.
Freelancers can provide great value in these situations: without waiting for the unicorn to magically show up, a hiring manager can hire an experienced freelance developer to fill a role temporarily or even for a longer period of time. The costs are easy to budget and very often a suitable freelancer can be found in a matter of days or weeks instead of months (as is often the case with in-house hires). A good freelancer will jump in on a new project and produce value immediately.
2. Consultant teams & freelancers
Quite often in a multi-vendor setting a hiring manager might start thinking of ways to make controlling the development teams easier. Often consultancies’ incentives might not be lined up with the manager’s needs.
Freelancers are a fine alternative or addition to the solution: they do not have allegiance to anyone else but the company that pays their bills. Freelancers are a resource that’s much easier to control (and expand on) than a team of specialised consultancies. Should you need to shift a person out or to focus on a different aspect in a product’s development, freelancers will be the easiest solution. Additionally, when you get a freelancer you know what you’re paying for: you will never have to settle for a junior when what you need is a senior!
3. All-freelancer team
A situation where the development team consists solely of freelancers is still a rarity, but likely to appear more regularly in the near future. A team of freelancers is the most extreme solution when it comes to flexibility: a manager can pick and choose the best possible developers to their team and start working on issues quickly. Finding a full team of freelancers instead of a consultancy will give a manager much more control over the process while being able to find extremely good developers usually at an acceptable cost level.
Vetted freelance developers ensure quality
Choosing quality freelance developers is very important if you want to ensure successful cooperation and avoid difficulties in your project. Working with a reliable freelancer agency can help you reduce risks related to profile and personality misfits of your chosen freelance developers. Hence, cooperation with a trusted freelancer agency that understands the needs of your business and helps you to reach your goals is recommended.
Freelancer agencies bring a carefully vetted selection of software professionals to your fingertips. This preliminary vetting is the biggest advantage of freelancer agencies. When dedicated vetting experts ensure that freelancers in an agency’s talent pool have the technical and social skills needed to excel in their engagements, clients can rest assured that these software development professionals will bring real value to projects.
In addition, freelancer agencies provide access to large networks of highly-skilled and experienced software professionals. The heating market for software developers has made hiring developers more and more difficult and this applies to freelancers as well. It can be challenging to reach out to as many great developers alone than in cooperation with a freelancer agency that has already formed a widespread network of diverse tech talents. An agency will find you the best possible talents fast and efficiently, and make outsourcing easier than ever.
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