Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in resourcing or a new kid on the block, finding where to outsource web development can be a challenge. This guide gives you the top 3 ways to outsource web development in 2021 from a developer’s inside view, with the pros and cons of each approach.
Approach 1: “The Agency”
Digital agencies are usually the first to show up in your search to outsource web development, and for good reasons. They often are the ‘go to’ for those that are new to outsourcing web development. Those looking for a ‘fully managed’ approach may also jump on the agency train to try to avoid potential headaches.
How it works
Most advertise as the ‘complete’ outsourcing solution, where customers give requirements and can expect to have these delivered. You don’t need knowledge of how or who is writing the code. Behind the scenes, the agency could do this 100% in-house or almost entirely outsource it again to subcontractors, which the agency will manage. It starts with the agency capturing what’s needed, then providing a proposal to deliver it. Once you’re happy, sign off the proposal to begin the process.
It’s hard to give an exact idea of pricing for an agency as the range is so vast. Generally, you get what you pay. Agencies can provide a website for under £100 or north of £100,000. Higher ends tend to be more bespoke or custom made. Lower ends use more out of the box solutions or templates. Some on the lower-end may not have experience in web development or coding, and their team will leverage drag and drop products.
- Communication – Compared to individuals or small businesses, it’s easier to get someone’s attention as there are more staff members.
- Managed – Tell them what you want and when you want it, then receive prices and when they can do it by. If you choose to go with them, sit back and relax (if all goes well).
- Customer service – Usually, an account manager will liaise with clients, and it’s their job to manage the relationship in the most positive way. Individuals might be great at web development but less human in conversation.
- Less risk – E.g. if the developer gets hit by a bus, it’s the agencies problem.
- Price – Agencies need to pay account managers, project managers and business owners, to name a few. They receive a salary regardless of how much direct involvement they have in your project.
- Communication chains – There’s a pass-the-parcel approach to building a brief within an agency. The more hands it passes through, the more diluted it can get. Developers are often shielded from direct contact, usually by account managers. And account managers may not understand things (like technical requirements) to the extent a developer would.
- Less control – The agency decides who does the work and the finer details. You might have a perfect designer for the job, but if it’s not one of the agency’s designers, it may not be an option.
- Consistency – There’s no guarantee you’ll get the same developer as last time or the same standard of work. Particularly if the agency re-outsources parts of the work.
The agency approach is good when the budget is healthy, and the level of control and management should be minimal. If you’re interested in this approach, check out our Top 7 tips for finding the best web development agency.
Approach 2: “Recruiters”
It’s common to see recruiters engaged in helping outsource web developers these days. They often are the go-between for permanent staffing needs. However, they can help to source freelancers and contractors too. Using this option adds a recruitment consultant or agency between you and the web developer to help you source the ‘right’ web developer to carry out the work.
How it works
Recruiters usually offer to find the web developer or ‘resource’ for the project with no upfront charge. They collect a brief, go on their scouting mission and present candidates. Once it’s a match, the recruiter usually sub-contracts the web developer. Then you’ll contract the recruiter with a fee added on top of the web developer’s rate. Once sub-contracted, the recruiter might collect timesheets from time to time. However, everything else is up to you and the web developer. An alternative to subcontracting through the recruiter exists and is called an ‘Introducer’s agreement’. The difference here is that the web developer has a contract with you directly. The recruiter has the Introducer’s agreement separately to receive compensation without creating a chain. However, some recruiters may not offer this.
The charge can be anywhere north or south of 20% of the cost of the web developer’s charges (but is usually around that mark). That means 20% of the total project budget if a recruiter is used to source everyone needed.
- More control – you control greater levels of detail and who does the work. If a potential developer doesn’t fill you with joy, that’s fine. On to the next one. Engage with the best fit for each piece of the project.
- Managed (partially) – In regards to finding a resource to deliver a project, the recruiter handles it. They can put agreements in place for you and take care of background checks.
- Time saver – if sifting through thousands of web developers doesn’t float your boat, then you can seriously reduce the options by using a recruiter who lives for that thrill.
- Communication chains – They may be advertised as your developer. However, freelance web developers run a business. Each has its working practices. If not communicated, this can lead to the client expecting one thing (i.e. an employee) and the consultant informing them that it isn’t the case (i.e. they’re a small agency). It is easier to avoid miscommunication when dealing with a company directly.
- Experience – Some recruiters have little or no knowledge of development, so instead, they play a word matching game. The game involves taking keywords from the brief you’ve given and matching these to services advertised by web developers. Word matching is fine if words match the expectation. Not so great if they don’t. It would be best if you had a bit of experience here to tell them what you want.
- Competing with other recruiter clients – Recruiters usually aren’t looking for developers for just one company. They might have several, and it isn’t beneficial to have all their clients want the same consultant.
- Unmanaged (partially) – You and the web developer are left to manage the project after recruitment.
- Price – Spending ~20% of the project budget on finding people to do the project may not appeal to some. It’s down to the value perceived – if finding resources is hell, it might be worth it to get the project off the ground.
Recruiters are a good option when you can clearly articulate what resource is needed, and the budget can cover the extra cost.
Approach 3: “Contractors/Freelancers”
Contractors, consultants, or freelancers are small businesses that provide web development services and do the bulk of the work for their business. Usually, freelance web developers are what people look for when outsourcing web development outside an agency. These businesses are scaled-down agencies, where individuals do the aspects needed in smaller quantities. As these businesses grow, they might hire others to carry out the work. Once they’ve grown enough, they’re an agency. Once it’s an agency, the owners tend to move from writing code to management.
How it works
Freelance web developers get found through their marketing material – i.e. website, portfolio, CV, LinkedIn profile and other media. Then, either you or the contractor will propose a contract for how the relationship can work. Once both parties agree, the project begins and carries on from there.
Consultants can charge per hour in a “Time and Materials” styled contract or a “Fixed price” contract. Again prices vary and can be south of £100 or north of £100,000 to deliver a piece. Generally speaking, you get what you pay. Hourly rates are usually around the range of £50 to £125+. It’s typical to see rates set out in a day rate format, like £750 p/d.
- No communication chain – Clients get to talk directly to the sacred developer.
- Budget – A single consultant will have fewer overheads than a scaled-up consultancy. Cost of things like admins, receptionists, office and HR, isn’t in the fee.
- Flexibility – Larger businesses, in general, can be rigid. Depending on the size of your business and budget – an agency that has a more formal structure can be less accommodating. Consultants that are small businesses are nimble by their very nature and are likely to be more flexible.
- Valued customers – These businesses are small and don’t have enough hands to knock out many projects simultaneously. Nor do they have time to onboard many clients to be picky. Fewer clients mean clients are more valuable to their business.
- More control – Without doing the work yourself, engaging and handpicking consultants might be the way to pick exactly the right consultant for each piece of a project. Recruiters help somewhat towards this, but they’ll still only show you a handful, and agencies usually don’t allow it.
- Higher risk – i.e. if the developer gets hit by a bus, so does your project.
- Communication – There are no account managers to manage the relationship. The consultant will usually juggle the work alongside taking down the brief, sending the invoices, keeping up with accountancy, and the other aspects of running a business.
- Keep the relationship clear. Do not blur the lines between an external consultant and an internal employee.
This option is for those who know what they need and can spend time instead of budget to maximise project funding. If you want to outsource web development to a freelancer, check out our 12 best places to find a freelance web developer.
There, you have it—the top 3 ways to outsource web development, written by a web developer. We hope you enjoyed the article. If you want to talk about our web development services, please get in touch. We would love to hear feedback, good and bad.