Working with freelance developers has a ton of benefits. This probably isn’t the kind of opening statement you expected from this article, is it? But bear with us. We felt it would be wrong to discuss the large and growing freelance community without pointing out all the positive aspects the clients — yes, the clients — get to leverage by outsourcing their development needs to a freelancer.
When you engage a freelance developer, you only pay for the job that gets done. There are no social contributions and no infrastructure costs. And these aren’t the only expenses you may be able to cut: if the freelancer you’ve hired lives in a country with lower developer rates, they may be able to provide the same work quality you’d expect from a local in-house employee but at a much lower cost.
Tapping into the freelance workplaces like Upwork or Freelancer, you also get access to a much wider talent pool, which is especially useful if you’re looking for rare skills that are hard to land locally. And lastly, working with freelance developers is definitely the way to go if your development needs are occasional and mostly short term.
And yet, when it comes to business, potential benefits must always be weighed up against possible risks before a decision is made. So now that we’ve paid our dues to the freedom-loving I’m-my-own-boss professionals, it’s time to cover the problems that can occur when you hire freelance developers.
1. Too Many Options
You’ve just posted your job ad specifying the details of your project and the kind of freelance web developer you need, and somehow, within mere minutes, you’re bombarded by dozens of candidates advertising their unique expertise and outstanding skills. How is that possible? Automated bots. Some freelance developers don’t feel like spending their precious time reading project requirements and making sure they’re a good fit for the job, so they create bots that automatically bid on projects that meet specific parameters in the hope that there are enough clients out there who won’t read into their trickery. This doesn’t necessarily mean these developers are unqualified, but we doubt you’d want to hire someone who didn’t even take the time to read your job description.
After you’ve declined all the automatically generated proposals, you’ll usually still be left with a few dozen “real people” eager to get to work. Most of them sound equally professional, and their client reviews are equally positive. One of them claims to have ten years of experience but their rates are ridiculously low, which is suspicious. Another one says they’ve worked on a similar project, and yet they fail to provide details. And this other developer seems perfect, but they charge way more than you can afford. How are you supposed to choose?
2. Low Quality Work
The fact that freelance networks attract massive numbers of service providers from low-income countries, which we described as a major benefit above, is also one of their biggest flaws. Many of these freelance developers try to lure clients by outrageously low rates, which more often than not go hand in hand with outrageously low quality.
Truth be told, the balance is maintained on the customers’ end too, with “cheap clients” expecting to get the next Dropbox built for $100.
This isn’t to say that you absolutely can’t find a reliable and capable developer on freelance platforms. It’s just that most pros choose to avoid the race to the bottom, bidding on dozens of jobs and dropping their prices dramatically just to land that one project and earn one positive review. As such, your search for quality work may be very effort and time-consuming.
3. Different Language and Culture
Having a common language (most likely English) is a prerequisite for effective communication, which in turn is vital for getting the desired results. Although most people who go into freelancing are aware of the fact that their knowledge of English has to be good enough to discuss work-related topics, you’ll quickly realize that many freelance web developers tend to flatter themselves when it comes to their English proficiency. Having discussed a certain issue with the freelancer you’ve hired, you’ll often be left wondering whether they actually meant what you think they meant, and whether they understood what you told them.
And it goes deeper than just language skills. Even the seemingly universally understood word “yes” can mean different things in different parts of the world. When you tell the freelancer you consider hiring, “The deadline is May 26”, their affirmative response could mean “Yes, I can finish the project by May 26” if they come from a low-context culture (most of the Western world), or “Yes, I heard what you’ve just said” if they come from a high-context culture (most of the Eastern world), which obviously isn’t a guarantee they’ll actually be able to meet the deadline.
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4. Missed Deadlines
Unlike a regular full-time employee, a freelancer is often juggling two or three projects in addition to your own. Those other projects may happen to be more exciting or more profitable, so naturally the freelance developer will devote more attention to them than they do to your job. Your project keeps getting put away for when the freelancer has free time, or for when inspiration strikes them. The result? Missed deadlines, time and time again.
Another issue with freelance developers is that somehow “life” interferes with their work much more frequently than it does for full-time employees. So be prepared to missed deadlines due to weddings, birthdays, funerals, relatives getting sick unexpectedly, and all kinds of similar excuses.
5. The Freelancer Disappears Completely
Some freelancers get so high on freedom they forget all the obligations they have to you. Others, especially those new to freelancing, have a hard time staying accountable because they don’t have an employer breathing down their neck. One day they’re there, replying to your messages, keeping you updated on their progress, and the next day they vanish from the face of the earth. Sometimes with your money already in hand. They don’t respond to your messages, they ignore your calls — complete radio silence.
6. Stolen Ideas
You hire a freelance developer, share your business idea with them, provide them with every detail of your project (as this will obviously result in a better product), and then, all of a sudden, they say they won’t be able to continue with your job (insert awkward excuse here) or they simply stop replying to your messages. The next thing you know, your brainchild is out there, implemented by somebody else, generating money for them. To make things worse, you have no legal grounds to sue them — ideas can’t be protected by copyright — and the sour feeling will haunt you for a long, long time.
7. Lack of Commitment
Possibly the biggest downside of hiring freelance developers is that a freelancer will never commit to your project the way a full-time employee would. It’s not that there’s something inherently wrong with freelancers. You’d probably also have a hard time being fully dedicated to someone else’s project that temporarily utilizes your skills.
From this perspective, you can’t reasonably expect a freelancer to want to understand your business and give it their all, which is perfectly acceptable if you’re only interested in short-term cooperation. But what if you need long-term or regular engagement? Is hiring full-time developers the only way to go?
The Best Alternative to Hiring Freelance Developers
The short answer is no, it isn’t. There’s an alternative solution that allows you to reap all the benefits of working with freelancers, like access to a larger tech talent pool and lower labor costs, while also enjoying the stability and dedication of full-time employees.
We help businesses from all over the world hire skilled software developers in Ukraine, and then maintain (and retain) their offshore development teams in our offices in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Dnipro — Ukraine’s largest tech hubs.
When you contact us, all you need to do is specify the skills you’re looking for, and our recruiters will get back to you shortly with candidates that are a perfect match for you project. You then personally interview the most promising developers and approve the best ones as members of your remote team.
You will have the opportunity to manage your development team directly while we handle office management, HR, payroll, taxes, team retention, and much more besides.
Learn more about our services, or contact us now using the form below.