How to Estimate the Cost of Managing a Group of Freelancers When Developing A Product

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Radek Zaleski

Oct 19, 2016 • 5 min read

When you’re about to start developing your product and hire a freelance development team, you may not be aware of the unknown or unrealized costs associated with only hiring developers.

In this article, we shed some light on the processes and infrastructure required behind the scenes to successfully launch a project. We will also reveal some of the risks related to hiring freelancers in comparison to a coordinated team approach.

Today, startup owners can instantly find freelancers of various skills and at different prices, thanks to portals such as, Upwork etc. This makes hiring a freelancer not only easy but also very appealing. What is more, employing a freelancer means that you don’t have to pay for their health care or give them equipment to work on. A startup hiring freelancers doesn’t have to worry about providing office space, because they will probably work remotely. This will obviously save money and time. Sounds great, doesn’t? Beware, though, that there are a few aspects you will have to pay attention to before hiring a freelancer.

Become a Mentor in the Kindergarten

When hiring a group of freelancers you don't hire a team – you hire a group of random strangers who most likely have never worked together. At the beginning, it's more similar to a group of kids in a pre-school rather than a team of professionals working towards the same goal. There is a chance that after some time they will get along with each other well. For the time being, though, you have to accept the fact that they won't share the same working flow. For example, they may not be used to frequent commits, they won’t observe the rules of code review, and their code will differ in quality. What's more, they will likely use different tools and won’t be familiar with the tools you want them to use on your project. This means spending extra time on their learning process.

Individualists with strong personalities

Being individualists, freelancers are typically not used to working with others, so you have to find the way to manage your remote team effectively. For instance, you will need to set up a communication flow, define methodology and tools, and finally clarify the deadlines. You need to bear in mind that different people have different working styles. Some make very accurate reports on their work progress; others don’t bother at all to regularly contact you. Some may prefer to work during the day, while others are productive only at night. Remember that everybody has their own pace and work habits as well. It’s very difficult to build a well-integrated team out of such people. There is a chance that an unexpected conflict will arise. On top of that you need to regularly monitor and motivate your employees, or else they might abandon your project and your costs will grow.

Taking care of your project’s coherence

As a product owner, you should also decide whether you need a short-term solution or you will need to support your product in the future. Freelancers might be a good option if your project has a defined timeframe and you are not concerned about its continuity. If you are looking to maintain your project in the future, you want to make sure your team know the project through and through – this requires clear documentation and code base maintained regularly. Introducing these to a group of freelancers might take some time and time is money, right?

CEO or a PM?

As a product owner, you have to be the project manager of the whole process to minimize those risks and prepare for the unexpected. This requires a set of unique skills and means you will spend way more time on your project you had ever expected. Instead of taking care of your business strategy, you will need to micromanage people and solve conflicts. You have to come to terms with the fact that you will be responsible for setting up and maintaining the whole project. This is quite a challenge, because setting up a technological pipeline is extremely difficult.

Major risk – lack of commitment

Finally, you should never expect from a group of freelancers a real commitment to your project. They are simply not familiar with it and its aim and they won’t have any sentiments about it. Moreover, if they get a better-paid offer, they will most likely abandon your project and go to someone else. To add insult to injury, freelancers usually have many jobs and many bosses at the same time, so you are just one of many and their career doesn’t depend on the success of your project.

Wrapping up

There are obviously many advantages to hiring freelancers but also many drawbacks are involved. The matter whether to hire a group of freelancers or follow more team-oriented approach stays a question of startup owner’s personal choice.

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Radek Zaleski

Partner at Netguru

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