Agency vs freelancer my opinion

So I read a lot of articles online about “Agency vs freelancer” the subject of the article being from a client point of view which is best to go with in terms of completing a project successfully.

Sometimes I read the article on a general web development article website which is fine. However sometimes I read the article on a web agencies very own website.

I have possibly written similar articles in the past on this website which I have now deleted and let me tell you why in my opinion it is not a good idea for multi-employee agencies to post articles like the above in their blog.

So let us be honest the article is intended to big up the agency whilst making the freelancer look like a bad choice. This is the fundamental intent of the article and that is why it was posted to the blog in the first place.

Whilst on the surface the article seems to do this there is another underlying tone to the article in my opinion which communicates a different message.

The message it communicates is that the agency views the freelancer as the competition. Writing “Agency vs freelancer” or similar as the article the agency has automatically created the freelancer as the competition. This massive, cutting-edge, leading agency views this small, tacky freelancer as the competition?

This is similar to say Rolls Royce viewing themselves in competition with Ford. Ford does not lose any sales to Rolls Royce and Rolls Royce does not lose any sales to Ford, they are at completely different ends of the market.

The article can give an impression that is at odds with the articles intended purpose.

Having said all this I will also say that there is one other area I will mention in relation to articles such as the above.

Many of these articles attempt to portrait that an advantage of going to an agency is that you get a “team” of people working on your project vs the 1 person freelancer working on your project.

The way this is generally written in the article tends to try to give the following impression …

Freelancer hourly rate = £50
Agency hourly rate = £100

Wow, I am getting a full team of people working on my project rather than the 1 person freelancer for only double the price.

Errrrmmm, not quite. You see that is £100 per hour. So for an agency of 8 people that will cost you £800 per hour. The result is more like as follows …

Freelancer hourly rate = £50
8 person agency hourly rate = £800

You are still paying by the hour no matter what way you look at it. You just happen to be paying double per hour in the above example to have 1 person work an hour for you from an agency.

Let us face it, freelancers have contacts as well and I am certain that if you where willing to pay the freelancer £100 an hour it would not be very hard for the freelance to get some external resources into the project himself thus forming a mini-agency.

Infact you could have just given the freelancer the break he needed to expand his business himself into an agency.

Should you reveal your budget?

Should you reveal your budget to a potential web development company / web development freelancer? I am presuming most web development companies and freelancers would say yes.

In my business I work on a day rate so to me it does not really matter whether the budget is revealed or not. If you spend £12,000 you will get a £12,000 web software product, if you spend £36,000 you will get a £36,000 web software product. It does not matter to me exactly what the total budget is, you pay me by the day, when you stop paying the work stops.

Having said that knowing the budget can be important. If you have an idea of what it is you want to create it is important to make sure the budget is really there. There is no point in expecting a £36,000 web software product for £12,000.

I generally try to make sure that the “must have” requirements can be fufilled within the expected budget. After the “must haves” have been taken care of the remaining budget can be used to provide extra “goodies” that would otherwise not be there. Design improvements, extra features, additional reports, sidebar information giving the product the extra polish it would otherwise not have.

An ideal scenario might go like this …

  1. You have an idea of the features you want in the web software product.
  2. We have discussion on those features to make sure anything has not been missed.
  3. I take a look at the budget and decide whether I think I can get the work done within budget.
  4. I break the first couple of features down into tasks and add them to the project management system.
  5. I complete the first couple of features, we have a review and see whether we are on track and budget.
  6. More features are added to the project management system until all features are complete.
  7. At this point we discover that one third of the budget still remains.
  8. The additional budget is used to provide extra goodies.

Please note that the way this article is written can give a wrong impression almost edging to a fixed fee kind of feel. I always work on a day rate and any agreements about what can be done in the time allocated are estimates only.

Generally a £36,000 budget will be broken up over the course of months or a year and will act like a retaineer agreement. Generally in such an agreement the overall budget is never discussed, the contractor is paid for a number of days per month to complete work. This is how I work. However that does not mean that an overall “background” budget does not exist.

So, should you reveal your budget to a potential web development company / web development freelancer? Well in my business the answer would be yes, if you want my “opinion” / “estimate” on whether the proposed feature set will fit within the budget.

As we work with each other you will get a feel of what can be accomplished, at what cost and in what timeframe.