Making the choice between the certainties of a web development company and the flexibility of freelancers isn’t easy. Making the right decisions in areas outside your expertise never is. Custom web development is a perfect example. How do you tell you are getting a good deal when you’re looking to develop an all-new digital product?

If this is you, among the first choices you’ll face is: do you hire a freelancer or contract a web development company? It’s actually an easy decision to make once you face some unavoidable facts.

First, both custom web development, agencies and freelancers have their place. Where freelancers are excellent as snipers who can execute a quick-fix or build a simple and straightforward website, only a web development company can take a website or app from concept to reality and do it properly and within a reasonable timeframe with a fully accounted budget. Keep reading to see what we mean.


It’s a matter of scale

The larger your project, the longer it will take and the more it will cost. A SaaS (software as a service) product, for example, will have several major components:

  1. Front-end client - including web and mobile

  2. Back-end - database, APIs and business logic

  3. Planning

  4. Design and branding.

Your SaaS product is going to need all those specialisations, and that’s before we even talk about the unique functionalities it will need.

Freelancers come in all variants. Usually, a great front-end developer won’t be great back-end developers and vice versa. On top of this, you are going to need a separate UX/UI designer. Already you can see the HR and project management on your part will be extensive.

If you do find a freelancer who is a true development all-rounder - a single individual who offers full-stack development services - they can still only work in a linear fashion as they are just one person. Linear full-stack development to create a minimum viable product (MVP) can take between 6 months and 2 years (depending on scope).

Further, if you also hire a freelance designer to work alongside your freelance developer, you will still need to manage the relationship between them. A big part of this is ensuring their tasks intermesh, rather than having a situation where the requirements in the tasks of one hold up the progress of the other.

An agency gets every specialist playing together

As opposed to a loose collective of freelancers, a web development agency already has a coordinated and managed team of designers, developers and project managers who have matched skillsets and experience working together. It means they function smoothly using the same development methodology and they all use the same collaboration tools to build your project within a budget and schedule that is expertly estimated and agreed upon via due diligence practices.

Initially, it may be more expensive due to concurrency (that is, back-end and front-end development which can to some extent be performed in parallel). Ideally, when engaging an agency, the financial and technology risk is significantly lower. I say ‘ideally’ because not all agencies are equal.


Depth of technical specialisation

As a rule, no single freelancer can offer a turn-key custom small business web development solution. Because the process involves so many skill sets, it is unreasonable to expect one person can simultaneously deliver high-quality on:

  • planning

  • development

  • user experience (UX) design

  • user interface (UI) design

  • testing

  • launch

  • ongoing maintenance and support.

If you are starting with just a concept and opt for the freelancer route, you will need to hire a succession of different individuals who can take your project to each new stage towards realisation. And you will have to manage the project yourself.

It is a hard truth, but there is no economic sector or industry where a high-quality product (which is what you want your website to be) that is also a complicated product (every custom website has complications) can be built cheaply and quickly.


WordPress is great … but

You might be saying “What about WordPress?” and you’d have a point. No doubt about it, WordPress is a beautiful CMS if everything you want fits within its confines. It is a platform built for the specific purpose of easy mass-production of basic blogging and ecommerce websites. Just about everything else is outside its intended use.

While you can do new and different things with WordPress, the custom modifications tend to quickly become more complicated, difficult and costly than building a solution from scratch.

To get a little technical, WordPress customisation requires PHP hacks, and PHP is a programming language that’s notorious for poor maintainability if strict guidelines are not in place. Moreover, as a hack, it’s hard to ensure compatibility with WordPress updates which are critical for security Thus, on top of the difficulty of the build, you are going to pay more because your site is difficult to support.


Custom web development from scratch

The whole purpose of web development company like Hunted Hive is offering turn-key solutions. When you come to us and tell us what you want, we can then tell you:

  1. What will be involved

  2. How long it will take

  3. How much with will cost.

This advice on resourcing, methods, time and cost is not a guesstimate. We can give you those answers through a data-driven process called a technology roadmap.

  • For you, it breaks down the exact steps of how your idea will come to reality.

  • For us, it reveals whether what you need is something we can deliver within your budget.

Crucially, this roadmap is not considered complete until all stakeholders agree to its scope, schedule and cost.

Why do we place so much emphasis on the roadmap process? It all comes down to the thing you should focus on when choosing among the various freelancers and agencies for who’ll work on your project: do they help you manage financial risk. It’s not going too far to say that a poorly managed custom web development project has a greater than 50% chance of blowing your budget.


Web development project management isn’t easy

Avoiding a budget blowout actually brings in the most demanding part of a custom web development project. It’s not the software engineering. It’s not back-end coding. It’s not the design. It’s the project management.

At Hunted Hive, myself and Chief Technical Officer Nathan Keilar might spend up to 20 percent of project budget managing your project. We are both business-minded, yet we are both qualified micro-electronic and software engineers. Our agency is a team of problem solvers, not salespeople. We will not over-promise and under-deliver. We have more than 15 years of experience in the web development industry. We evolve rapidly with the latest practices and technology.

Now, when you hire a freelancer, you automatically become the project manager. Once again, this is completely fine if you have hired your freelancer for straightforward ‘known quantity’ work. However, when complex projects run into difficulties, it can be near-impossible for a non-expert to effectively manage technical specialists. This can lead to project failure and a significant deterioration of morale and relationships.

Expert agency project managers speak both the language of business and the language of technology. They are your intermediary between the abstract skills the technical experts have and the real-world results you need. They are there to manage your expectations and ensure the development team are focused and utilised to their full potential for maximum output.


What it all means

By now you should have a sense of how the freelancer and the custom web development company co-exist. The former is great for resolving straightforward problems where the markers of success are clear and there is little chance of complication. The latter is who you should turn to when there are multiple steps and judgement calls to make between where you are and where you want to be.

After all, too many cooks do spoil the broth, but, by the same token, a single cook can’t run a busy restaurant kitchen. And you certainly shouldn’t hire a cook or a kitchen crew to make a meal unless they can tell you exactly what the recipe is, how long it’ll take and how much all the ingredients cost.

If you are in need for web development, HuntedHive is an Agile web development company which specialised in turn-key solutions for you. Enquire about our Technology Roadmap to plan your way to a successful development outcome.