Web developers are essential workers for any small business. Having a functional website that is easy to navigate on both desktop and mobile can mean maximum exposure for your business. Without a good website, your business loses many customers. Ninety-six percent of Americans have made purchases online, with 80% making an online purchase in the past month. Even if you don’t run an online store, an efficient and intuitive website has become a fundamental characteristic of a good business.
When deciding to create a website or improve an existing website, there is an important initial question: is it better to hire a freelancer or hire a full-time web developer for your business? The answer is often complicated because, like any business decision, it depends above all on the specific needs of your company. However, there are some important factors to consider when deciding what to do, such as how short your project is, what kind of support you’re looking for, and what financial resources you have.
When deciding who to hire, remember this: in-house developers are best for large, complex projects that require ongoing maintenance, while freelance developers are better for smaller projects that don’t depend on constant maintenance.
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Freelance web developers
Hiring a freelancer can be a great option for building a website, but since they work on a project-by-project basis, a freelancer may only be ideal in certain situations. There are several advantages and disadvantages to entrusting your work to a freelancer. Freelancers will often join the team and help create a website that reflects both your brand and the style of the freelancer. Depending on the agreement you have with the developer, you may not receive the same level of ongoing support from a freelancer as you would from a salaried employee.
One of the main benefits of freelance web developers is that their work helps them get their next job. By doing a good job on your website, a web developer seeks to build a reputation to land future contracts.
Thomas Jost, a developer who worked as a freelancer and now works for KanaiTek, said that freelancers can do a better job than in-house employees on certain areas of a project.
“Often, because they are sole proprietors, they are willing to go above and beyond what a salaried employee would be willing to do,” he said. “The predominant driving force here is word of mouth – freelancers rely on your referrals to keep their lights on. Salaried employees only worry about being productive enough not to be fired most of the time.”
Freelancers can also be great for smaller projects, like updating or adding new elements to a website, changing different design elements, or creating new pages. Larger projects may be better for in-house developers who may be present for constant maintenance.
When choosing a freelancer, be sure to review each candidate and understand how the developer or team will fit into your workflow. Ben Lord, founder of web design firm Softlimit, said business owners should find a team reviewed, trusted and recommended.
“Finding developers who will be there when you need them most is key,” he said. “They need a track record that you can verify and they need to be able to offer the support you need over the long term and on an ongoing basis.”
Freelancers generally charge by the hour or by the project. According to Upwork, a rough range for hourly wages for freelancers is $15 to over $150.
In-house web developers
In-house developers are best for businesses looking to take on large web projects that will require constant upkeep and maintenance. Hiring someone full-time is also a good option for business owners who aren’t sure what kind of website or platform they need.
“If you’re looking to build a robust web application that will require significant technological understanding and know-how to maintain, you need to hire in-house,” Jost said. “This includes if you anticipate long periods of scaling or introducing complex functionality beyond a simple content management system or CRM.”
An experienced developer can guide a business owner through the decision-making process and ensure everything runs smoothly once the project is complete. Ed Parsons, CEO of technology company Acutulus, said this is a vital service that in-house developers can provide.
“If you need help developing the idea around the site, having an in-house developer can offer cohesive and constructive insight and advice on the design,” he said.
A potential downside of independent development is unreliability once the project is complete. By hiring an in-house developer, you ensure that you don’t have to deal with any maintenance issues.
“It all depends on the complexity of your project and the frequency of updates,” said Donnie Stompf, founder of digital marketing firm Good At Marketing. “If you need the website updated daily with new content or complex programming, an in-house developer is the best fit.”
The cost of hiring a web developer will vary based on factors such as employment history, position, and overall experience. Since this would be a salaried employee, it will likely cost a lot more than hiring a freelance developer. However, if your company has advanced, high-level projects to support and you can afford to hire another employee, an in-house developer may be your best option.
At the end of the line
It’s best to hire freelance web developers for smaller projects that likely won’t require ongoing maintenance. In-house developers should be reserved for large web projects, such as building a complex content management system for a company. In-house developers will cost your business more, but can guide you through the development process. Freelance developers are ideal for small businesses looking to complete quick, low-maintenance projects. Whether you choose to bring in someone full-time or hire a freelancer, it’s a good idea to vet each candidate so you know what type of work you’ll get.