Not sure whether to hire a full-time web developer or outsource web development to an agency? Discover the advantages and drawbacks in our comprehensive guide.

As a small or mid-size web agency, you have a lot on your plate.

Aside from running the core elements of your day-to-day business, you need to come up with a strategy, make clear decisions concerning obstacles to your business, and try to optimize profits wherever possible.

Of course, there is no need for you to do everything by yourself. You probably have already hired employees to handle time-consuming tasks on your behalf. However, when looking for cost-effective ways to hire new talent, you have more options than you may think.

Beyond hiring full-time/part-time in-house workers, you can outsource freelancers and agencies to perform business-critical tasks on your behalf. This is already a common practice for businesses that need regular accounting, customer support, and social media marketing services performed. Many agencies take their outsourcing strategy a step further and hire agencies to take care of cloud-based IT systems and network infrastructure – but what about web development?

Why Start Outsourcing Web Development Projects

There are a few key indicators that your agency might be in the right position to outsource web development:

  • Your agency is growing and you need access to additional talent.
  • Your agency specializes in marketing, consultancy, or graphic design and you regularly need help with web development services.
  • You have a client whose project includes features beyond your staff’s expertise, or that are too time-consuming to perform in-house.
  • You simply have too many ongoing projects and need to offload some work to a trusted third party.

Any web agency that finds itself in one of these positions is likely to consider outsourcing web projects. However, there is no concrete right or wrong answer – to find out whether outsourcing is a smart business move for your agency, let’s take a closer look at both of your options.

Option One: Hiring In-House Developers

Hiring an in-house development team can pay off as a long-term strategy if you are certain about your agency’s future. Your team is set in place for years to come, technical knowledge remains within the agency and communication is as easy as walking down to your development department and talking to your lead developer. You have complete control over the quality of the work performed.

However, hiring an in-house team is expensive. Every employee you take on needs a sufficiently attractive salary, benefits, and health insurance. These costs can be significant, especially for senior staff and technical leads. And it is advisable not to hire a whole team of junior developers – they need guidance from an experienced supervisor, and unless you are qualified to overlook their activity yourself, you’ll have to pay a handsome sum to attract a suitably qualified development supervisor.

Additionally, there are human resources management issues to consider – what if one or more employees are not the right fit for the job? What if they find more attractive options in time and jump ship, leaving you to hire and train a new developer from scratch? Single employee turnover costs up to one-half of that employee’s salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Evidently, hiring in-house developers is a risky proposition. You are only encouraged to go this route when you are sure of three things:

  • A larger workload will more than compensate for the additional salary costs.
  • You can manage your team effectively and efficiently.
  • You can retain your employees in the long term.

For these reasons, agencies that occasionally need high-quality work performed typically turns to an offshore web design and development company for the service.

Option Two: Working with an Offshore Web Development Company

When your agency is growing and you need fast, reliable access to top talent on an as-needed basis, outsourcing is an attractive option. Perhaps your project load is seasonal – you are getting a large slate of orders at a particular time of year and working at a more relaxed pace for the rest of the year. In that case, hiring an entire development team year-round simply doesn’t make sense.

Outsourcing is a great option for agencies that have too many projects to handle, but not quite enough to justify onboarding an entire in-house team. The two main advantages are:

  • Low Labor Cost: Outsourced website development services cost less than in-house developers’ salaries. In many cases, agencies go out of their way to hire foreign web developers with rates far below what they would pay for domestic development work.
  • Scalability: When you outsource web design projects, you do so on a case-by-case basis. You know that there is always an agency willing to take on an additional project, so you have a constant supply of talent available when needed.

Importantly, outsourcing gives you access to an entire company’s resources to complete a project. As a web agency, you don’t rely exclusively on developers – you need a skilled designer, a marketing expert, and one or more top-quality coders to work together to make your project a success. Outsourcing gives you access to the talent you need when you need it.

What to Look Out for When Hiring an Offshore Web Design Company

While outsourcing is a great money-saving tactic that allows businesses to accomplish multiple large projects while only keeping a small team on the official payroll. Choosing the right offshore developer is critical to achieving success. However, you need to find a developer whose methodology matches your expectations. For instance, research the two most popular ways to go about software development and determine which one meets your needs best.

  • Waterfall development places importance on clear deadlines, substantial documentation, and concisely defined phases. This is the traditional methodology famously described in 1970 by computer engineering pioneer Dr. Winston Royce.
  • Agile development reduces up-front planning and focuses on creating minimum viable products (MVPs) at each stage of the development process. Teamwork is encouraged, as is ongoing feedback from clients, partners, and stakeholders – it’s a collaborative framework broadly encompassed by the Agile Manifesto published in 2001.

Look further into the differences between these two methodologies to find out which one is most compatible with your development style.

Beyond compatibility issues, you also must outsource web development to an agency that accommodates your workflow in other important, if mundane, matters. Consider time zone differences and cultural gaps, for instance – an India-based developer may be able to give you a great rate on completing large web projects, but communicating across a language barrier and a 10-hour time zone difference can make even the simplest projects difficult to complete.

The best way to avoid these issues and their subsequent effect on project quality is by working with a United States-based web developer. While you will not get the rock-bottom prices you are expecting, you ensure a level of quality you and your clients can depend on. However, there are hybrid options that offer you the best of both worlds – we will cover alternative outsourcing in our next post.

UnlimitedWP is a Boston-based web design and development agency that manages a remote team of highly skilled offshore developers to create compelling web experiences at competitive rates.