Why You Should Work with a Development Shop Instead of Freelancers to Build Your Startup

By Jake Hare, Founder of Launchpeer
Personnel management can provide some interesting challenges during the early days of a startup. First of all, you're not large enough to bring everything in house, but you often don't have the time or capacity to manage more people than you already have to. Finding five minutes to snag lunch can be a challenge. Overseeing an army of freelancers on top of everything else? Forget about it! Just the thought of managing another calendar or schedule will give you a headache.

But the idea of hiring an independent contractor can be tempting when you're met with a project outside of your team's skill set. With the countless freelancers offering their services online, there's undoubtedly one that can solve your problems.

If hiring a freelancer were only a matter of the talent pool, it wouldn't be a problem. The gig economy is booming! Nearly 53 million Americans (34 percent of the U.S. workforce) earn an income from freelancing according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And technological advancements will only cause that number to increase. A study by intuit projected that number to increase to 43 percent by 2020.

And with the access to global talent through freelance platforms, this number doesn't even reflect the total number of freelancers worldwide. India alone provides an additional 15 million freelancers.

With numbers like that it can be tempting to jump into this pool of unfettered talent to cover the needs of your startup. Sooner or later you reach a point where you must reach outside of your startup team for expertise. Maybe neither you nor your cofounder are programmers, unless you're building an illegal enterprise, now is not the time to learn programming. You'll need to hire a programmer. But you don't want to give this person a piece of the pie. You just want a resource to assist in building the company.

The initial assumption may be to run to the nearest freelance platform, post a "Programmer Wanted" ad, and wait for the perfect candidate to fall into your lap. Once the candidates come pouring in you simply choose one and you're on your problems are solved, right?
"Your startup's success is too important to leave in the hands of a freelancer who could bail on you at any time. Hire a development shop who you can trust to build your startup."
Easy Kemosabe! We all love a simple, quick fix. But hiring someone to help build your empire is not the time or place to choose just anyone off the digital street. There are several obvious, and some less obvious reasons you should consider an established development shop rather than an uncommitted freelancer.

You need a programmer, maybe a developer, a designer...the possibilities of positions you'll eventually need to cover goes on. Before you begin searching, consider these 12 reasons you should trust a development shop with building your startup.

A freelancer is another person you have to oversee
Everyone knows you build a startup because of a deep rooted love for managing lots of people, right? Not exactly. If you're anything like most entrepreneurs, personnel management was not the reason.

Sure, you may be a natural leader, but many freelancers often have their own M.O. that's quite different from yours. They're an asset helping you accomplish your intended goal. But often your control is limited.

Outside of the work samples they submit before you hire them, hiring a freelancer is often a shot in the dark. Will they meet your deadlines? Will they maintain your desired quality level? And who's to say everything will start off well, only to slack off a couple weeks into the project?

A development shop has a process with a direct chain of command. Ultimately they answer to you, but before you even see a final product, you can be assured that it's been approved by the manager of the team working on your account. The time you must spend scrutinizing the quality of work is drastically cut due to this formal process.

A development shop allows you to build a long-term relationship
A dev shop won't disappear on you overnight. This may seem like a trivial matter when considering whether to work with a shop or a freelancer. But knowing the shop you hired won't vanish leaving only a trail of digital dust provides peace of mind.

You want someone you can count on long-term. During the startup phase, relationships are vital. You want to be able to know, like, and trust your team. It's not without reason that Elon Musk has enforced a strict "no-assholes policy" at SpaceX. People are the lifeblood of any organization. Your startup needs a team you like and can depend on.

With a development shop, you to focus on growth
It's often been said you're either growing or you're dying. It's just as true for your business as it is for the plant your girlfriend left in your office.

Growth is paramount to your success. It should be the driving factor behind every decision you make. But managing a freelancer often distracts you from this main objective. Rather than building and marketing your business, you're forced to monitor the mundane day-to-day activities of your freelancer.

Hiring a shop allows you to take a hands off approach. The project is overseen and directed by a team of capable hands with each step of the way until it reaches you.

Working with a shop prevents the upfront risk
Hiring a freelancer provides a certain amount of risk. Will their work be the quality they claim? Will they get that work done in time? Will they be worth the money you'll be paying them, and do they really possess all the skills they say they do? Are they even who they say they are?

An interview process allows you to mitigate some of this risk. But working with a company provides a track record. You can read reviews, talk to current and past clients, and actually go to their office if needed. With a shop, you are much more likely to get what you pay for.

A team provides access to a variety of skills
One of the most frustrating things about working with a freelancer is when you come to a problem outside of their particular expertise.

Maybe you find a good independent Sass developer. Everything's coming together until you quickly need a line of HTML code written on your website. You don't have time to find, interview, and hire another freelancer just to write a line of code. But if you're working with an individual freelancer you're not left with any other options.

Most likely the first time won't be the last time. It's hard to know how many freelancers you might need. A dev shop provides the benefit of an entire team of expertise. They'll be able to accommodate every need preventing any development roadblocks due to freelance shopping.

A shop allows you to accelerate your project
As an entrepreneur, you're familiar with the feeling of being up against a deadline. In those moments you shift into hyperdrive and do whatever it takes to beat the clock.
Like a sleep deprived college student, you've convinced yourself you perform better under pressure. But wouldn't it be nice to have the support of an entire team guaranteeing you meet your next deadline? You could hire the most tenacious freelancer, but he or she simply can't cover the amount of ground a shop can.

A development shop can put a whole team on your project
When you work with a freelancer, you get, well, one person. When you work with a shop, you get a whole team.

A shop can provide more resources at your disposal. As previously mentioned, this prevents you from having to search for additional freelancers with different skills and allows you to accomplish more in a given time period. But it also ensures that the work continues when someone is out sick or on vacation.

Even your independent contractor will have to take a sick day from time to time. And he or she will probably take an occasional vacation. But when that one man show goes dark everything he's working on comes to a halt as well.

Working with a development shop ensures that your project will continue seamlessly even when someone is out sick or on vacation.

Development shops give you one point of contact
If managing one freelancer seems like a problem, just imagine when you have a small army of freelancers working on your startup. Each one of them is on their own schedule, communicating independently of each other, waiting for your approval, and often on a different time zone than you, which can create longer lead times and cause missed deadlines. The simple task of managing your freelancers can quickly become a logistical nightmare.

Sounds stressful, doesn't it?

But take a deep breath… with a dev shop, you'll typically be provided a single point of contact. Compared to logistical nightmare above, this will seem like communication utopia! Keeping up-to-date with your project can either be something of a nightmare or a breeze depending on the choice you make.

A cohesive team appreciates collaboration
Freelancers, especially developer freelancers, often don't play nice together.
Forcing developers to work together can lead to unneeded tensions. Depending on the situation, they may be uncomfortable working with each other. Two contractors with the same skill set working on the same project often leads to friction over who gets the majority of the work.

However, if that developer is part of a team, she'll prefer to have the support of her peers and collaborate to make the best product possible.

A shop allows you to maintain control
The founder of a startup is responsible to steer the company towards success. Maintaining as much control as possible goes a long way to determine this success. But with a freelancer you lose some of that control.

Unlike the employees of a shop, under close supervision, independent contractors enjoy a certain autonomy to decide how best to accomplish the job you've hired them for.

A shop can avoid the constant learning curve
Every new team member joining your startup is subject to a learning curve.
There are certain details of the startup you'll have to explain to the new hire. And there may be certain processes your new freelancer won't automatically understand. Constantly investing time to explain "how we do things around here" is an ineffective use of anyone's time. It doesn't matter what position your freelancer is filling, it will take time to bring them up-to-speed before they can be a productive member of your team.

But once you explain everything to your new development shop, that's it – you won't have to explain it again.

Freelancers come with security and legal concerns
Depending upon the requirements of the job, there's a good chance your freelancer may not be located in the same country as you. This means the laws you're governed by may be different than theirs. This can make it difficult to enforce laws and regulations.
The harshest punishment a freelancer will receive is a poor rating or removal from the freelancer site. But with an official shop, you'll comply to the same laws. Your NDA and any other contract will be legally binding.

Our advice to you
Building a startup demands constant iteration and a commitment to a long-term vision. A freelancer won't share that same flexibility or commitment.

An established, process-oriented development shop provides stability, dependability, simple communication, and prevents you spending countless hours of monitoring their work and countless dollars on fixing mistakes.

Your startup's success is too important to leave in the hands of a freelancer who could bail on you at any time. Hire a development shop who you can trust to build your startup.