I have recently read an article claiming that a company is better than a freelancer, and that claim sounded like a universal truth. As both a freelancer and a company worker, I feel I need to counter some of the claims that article makes. Let’s analyze their argument point by point before giving what I think is a more honest perspective. And the truth is, that sometimes you want to hire one freelancer, rather than a whole army.
Claim: A good freelancer is hard to find, and the result is unpredictable.
Response: False. A good freelancer is no harder to find than a company. Especially, a small company. In fact, every good freelancer has a website with a resume and a portfolio, and is registered as a one-man company in most countries. You will still want to talk to them of course, but you would want to talk to them anyway. Though, you will have less talk and less paperwork with a freelancer.
Claim: A team provides redundancy.
Response: True. The team provides redundancy. And who will pay for the redundancy? You will. In larger projects with lots of money to spare, you may want redundancy, though. So this is a viable option for larger and more expensive projects.
Claim: A team and separation of tasks is better and more time-efficient.
Response: True only for large projects. Absolutely false for small projects. Managing a group of people is never more time efficient than one specialist managing himself. A group of people that enter in and out at different stages of the project will need time for entry, and time to sync their work, which means, time spent for internal documentation, internal meetings, and internal discussions. For a small scope project, time spent by multiple members will easily blow 1.5x or even 2x compared to a freelancer handling the task alone. A team will outperform a freelancer in a larger projects, of course, with more than 150-200 hours of work required, where the benefits of paralelling out the work will outweight the cost of going so. Not in a small projects, however.
Claim: A team will deliver a better value.
Response: False, mostly. A value is basically is the amount of work beneficial to client that can be done within a specific set of time. It’s true that the freelancer will need to spend time for emails and possibly a user guide. But it’s nothing compared to having to pay salary to a group of clerks, managers, officers, marketers, testers and that redundancy provision factor from the previous claims. How much value efficient is that? Not very. In fact, most recruiter sites will tell that you will save around 20%-30% spendings by working with a freelancer, even when a freelancer requests a higher hourly rate, which is rare.
Claim: A freelancer won’t know how to do things, and will not be able to complete the project.
Response: Who says that your freelancer needs to be less professional than a company worker? And seriously speaking, every developer is learning always. There is Google, StackOverflow, manuals and tutorials, APIs, and there are communities, especially with Drupal, which glories in its community that helps one another. “Come for the code, stay for the community”, Drupal developers say.
When you REALLY need a company.
There are cases, however, when you do need a company rather than a freelancer. You really need a company rather than a freelancer only in these cases:
- Your project is too large for a single freelancer.
- Your budget is too large and you need to spend it.
- You need long and stable business relationship that a business is more likely to provide that a single albeit talented developer.
So the truth is - in some cases, you want a company and not a freelancer. If your project is large. If you want constant value output stability (a freelancer may indeed get sick and pause the project), or if you have a rich budget, and the benefits of dealing with a company outweigh you larger expenses. Then you want a company.
However, if your project is small, below 200-150 hours of work, then the benefits of a freelancer will outweigh the benefits of a small company. Because in my experience, 200-150 hours of work is where paying for the separation of tasks in a project becomes largely inefficient, and you want one person to handle the project instead.