Who to hire a Freelancer or an Agency

If you read this you probably think about outsourcing your work or you are stuck and need help from a pro.

Well, where to find, who to choose, and what’s important?

There are several platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, CodeMap, and Makerpad where you can find pros. Well some of them just started and are not official partners and most of them are solopreneurs. It is great to have a skilled freelancer at your service and work with him.

So here are our tips and tricks what to negotiate with freelancers:

  • How many hours do you assume for this task?
  • What happens if you go over your estimation? Will the hourly rate just apply or will you do a discount, can we cancel if you can’t make it?
  • Do you do fixed-priced projects or work?
  • How long do you plan to maintain our solution, and what are your goals? (nothing worse than a freelancer that is gone after the project is done)
  • How do you process the data and do you resell this?

Well, this should cover the initial process and first call.

Well, we just covered freelancers, how about agencies and when to choose a freelancer and when to choose an agency. Agencies are mostly companies with more than 3 people full-time. Why do we not take two-wo/man-companies into account? It is too tiny and things break, change and stop in life - 3 people is a good definition for an agency.

So if want to choose an agency - there are these three reasons we always hear from our clients. Liability, Skill, and Support. What does this mean?

  • A freelancer can be liable of course but an organization by its economical definition is there to last longer and has more strength in the long run than one person.
  • Agencies are not more skilled or better - but 10 people know usually more than 1. For example, we have Hubspot, Pipedrive, Airtable, QuickBooks, Javascript, Salesforce, and many more experts internal. I am not sure if a freelancer or small team can cover this. And wider knowledge sums up to more skill in total.
  • Support, agencies can support things that have been built in the past. For example, we just got a client that was a freelancer and now outgrows his capacity and things break - we need at least 2.5 people to support him. We are working closely with the freelancer to get the client back up again. If you start building your business on Make you got to ask yourself, will I outgrow one full-time equivalent person? If yes - this is a clear agency case.

You might not agree with me on some things - and I might be wrong, I have been a freelancer and I liked it - it was the best time of my life. I am now running one of the biggest automation agencies in the world and can tell you it is a pleasure to scale businesses. I could have never done this as a freelancer.

With Make you have the potential to become the next FINN or UPMIN - you can run your beer production on it as Heineken or become the next Adidas. You can start small with freelancers or go big with agencies - there are many skilled people and you can find them here:

Cheers Seb #wemakefuture

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@Wemakefuture Great post!

glad to get the Marketplace category started off in the right way! I’d love to borrow some of these questions, as a current partner-freelancer myself These are the type of questions I try to bring up with clients as well.

My goal is to bring real long-lasting value to organizations. And as you mentioned as a freelancer I can do that for many use-cases. But there is a different kind of value and structure that comes with an agency!

Best!

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@timlittletech Thank you. Feel free to take the questions and feel free to inspire yourself at makeitfuture.com . Always happy to help people and business to grow!

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Good post Sebastian!

I’m a freelancer, and have been one for 10 years now. During that time, and before as a digital media employee, I’ve worked with quite a few agencies, and these are some of the drawbacks I’ve seen from them…

NOTE: I’ve never worked with We Make Future, so these first-hand gripes don’t apply to them.

I find agencies, at least the one’s I’ve worked directly with…

Are Disorganized: when you have a team, you must communicate better and harder than a freelancer. But, communication is hard, and when it doesn’t happen chaos ensues.

Have Extra Layers of People: agencies tend to have people you have to talk to…just so you can talk to the real person you want to talk to. In my experience, these buffer people are often called Account Executives. They tend to create layers of beaurocracy and delays. This can also lead to extra costs. When you have a meeting, you’re paying an hourly rate for the account executive and the developer.

While I’m agency-bashing, I’ll bash on freelancers too…I’ve worked with a lot of them

Good freelancers (i.e. the busy ones making money) tend to be notoriously behind on their projects. They underestimate how long something will take and everything behind it gets delayed.

Freelancers Nearly Always say “Yes”: it’s rare to find a freelancer who will say “No” to projects that are outside of their wheelhouse. If you find one who does, then you’ve found a unicorn. Problem with this, is some freelancers take on work they’ve never done before, just to bring in revenue, then get stuck or take forever finishing the project.

Freelancers (Generally) Don’t Have a Contingency Plan: What if your freelancer gets hit by a bus or dies of COVID? What happens then to the work they were doing or maintaining for you? If your freelancer is incapacitated either temporarily or permanently, make sure they have someone who can fill the gap in their absence.

Agency or Freelancer…that is the question!

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The old adage fits — Quality. Cost. Scope.

Pick 2. Hard to have all 3.

Usually agencies can handle quality and scope but are pricey. Freelancers are cheap but usually handle smaller projects and not always of high quality.

Speed is another factor and good agencies are always faster than freelancers who usually take on too much work.

Having said that in the Make community there are plenty of excellent agencies and freelancers. Hopefully those will come to the surface in this community.

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Having been on both sides of this equation (as a freelancer, and employed at an agency)

Never go cheap with an agency. the agency’s that go cheap, commit their employees to work they never agreed to, or lie about what skillsets they have access to, and load up the intern.

Quick Story on the Above

I worked for an agency that lost its creative director, and refused to hire a replacement for years, while lying to all its clients, and making its Software Engineer and Account managers do design work under threat. And taking a 90% profit margin on their fees in the process. obviously lead to a mass exodus from the company.

With a freelancer start slow, build up till you learn their limit and build trust. find the freelancer that is honest about their limits, but is also willing to learn, and you got yourself a gem.

The biggest mistake I see made when people are pitching to me to get me onboard their project, is wanting to start to fast, with too wide of a scope. (those are the contracts I turn down or modify)

My experience

If modification is not an option for them, I usually turn down the project outright, because the backfire is ultimately not worth it (and when they come back in 6 months after it backfired with someone else) they usually are more reasonable and trusting of what “I am able to commit to” because I said no.

Clients should be conscious of the power they can wield over freelancers it takes years of practice to navigate this, and most freelancers, didn’t study or overly practice to specifically be “client relations managers” and are not as good at navigating that.

(also advice to other freelancers out there, long-term building an honest communication/trust with clients, beats out the short term gain from taking on too much

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