When to Outsource Your Coding vs. Hire an In-House Developer

Stories abound from entrepreneurs who praise the benefits of outsourcing their web-development projects. Other owners retell the horrors of working with unreliable and unqualified contractors, with little to show as a result. 

The decision to outsource your web design versus using an in-house team to develop a web presence depends on your unique situation, web-development needs and online marketing goals. For instance, the answer could be a hybrid of solutions: You could onboard a full-time product manager to oversee the website development life cycle, and you can outsource portions of the project to freelancers who have skills in specialized areas.

Below are some important points to consider when deciding how to build a team to develop a website or online product.

When to Outsource Development Teams

Outsourcing the coding of your website to an outside developer may make more sense if your organization doesn’t require ownership of the source code (i.e. the code is not creating a core product that your business features and owns outright). 

Likewise, if your core business encompasses a service that requires face-to-face interaction or produces a physical product (e.g. a professional agency or a brick-and-mortar store), then hiring an agency can be less expensive than building a web-development team from scratch. The size of your project budget will also affect the decision to hire a contractor, since agency fees can vary widely depending on the size, scope and length of the project. 

If your IT department simply exists to help the rest of your organization achieve its larger business goals, and if it’s not focused on website creation or maintenance, then consider the following when outsourcing your web development:

  • Set clear expectations and performance standards early in the partnership. Likewise, know your outsourcing company’s strengths and limitations so you can adjust schedules and responsibilities as needed.
  • Choose an agency that fits with your corporate culture and understands your company’s overarching business goals.
  • Check references, and if possible, get permission to speak with the agency’s past or current clients in similar industries.
  • Hire an outsourcing company that will deliver a return on investment that benefits your entire company, rather than just helping you to reduce costs in a few areas. 

Additionally, if you need an expert in Java for one project, but someone experienced in C++ for another project in a few months, your best bet may be outsourcing, which will allow you to avoid committing to long-term employment contracts. There are many talented developers who choose to freelance due to the flexibility to travel and work on various projects. Plus, you can widen your search for the best developers regardless of geography, reduce recruitment costs and quickly get your website up and running for customers.

Pitfalls of Outsourcing

According to a survey conducted by Lieberman Software, 62% of respondents stated that IT outsourcing contracts ended up costing more than initially planned. Out of the 500 IT professionals surveyed, 27% revealed that outsourcing costs were significantly higher than they originally anticipated.  

The allure of outsourcing—from cutting costs, to cultivating a concentrated focus on releasing deliverables—is especially appealing to startups with shoestring budgets. Nonetheless, outsourcing IT projects, websites included, also creates security risks by exposing sensitive data to third parties. Outsourcing also diverts important focus from your company’s product roadmap, perhaps at the expense of meeting your customers’ long-term needs.

Benefits of Outsourcing 

It is advised that companies use in-house talent to build applications if technology happens to be their core business. Other startup founders would agree that, in addition to quicker response times for bugs and ongoing support, in-house teams are essential in organizations where technology is the core competency. And if your website requires a high degree of customization that will constantly evolve over time, then dedicating a full-time developer may be a worthwhile investment. 

Although Schneider focuses more on the dilemma of app builders, the same hiring logic can be applied to companies looking for a professional to build their corporate blog or website. In addition to being more responsive to your organization’s needs (i.e. if you’ve hired someone who is the right fit with your company’s culture), in-house developers will likely have more knowledge about your business and its support needs and technology challenges. There are also potential time savings in terms of communication and training, which are often required when onboarding outsourced teams that are geographically dispersed.

Vetting Candidates 

If you decide to build an in-house team, hire a candidate who not only has the right qualifications, but who can also work well with existing groups and quickly get acclimated to the work environment. Personal qualities such as adaptability, curiosity, drive and work ethic go a long way when it comes to hiring and retaining new employees. 

During the interview, focus on open-ended questions that quiz candidates on past projects and challenges in previous jobs, as well as how they dealt with them in various settings. Listen to not only how they respond, but also for their enthusiasm in explaining the projects they worked on. This will help you develop a better understanding of both the candidate’s talent and his or her ability to fit in with your overall team. 

You should also ask to see an online portfolio of past projects, and it’s probably best to set up a test to see your potential developer’s skills in action. 

When to Do It Yourself or Hire an In-House Developer

If you’re a small startup or one-person team simply looking for an easy solution to create an essential website, then blogging platforms and SaaS applications may be your best option. These programs also tend to be simpler and more cost effective than hiring a new employee, let alone paying a monthly retainer for a contractor. 

Solutions like Squarespace, WordPress and Zoho Sites offer pre-built templates that require little to no manual coding for launching fully functional websites. For additional customization beyond the platforms’ standard features, most offer Pro or Premium subscriptions that grant access to advanced functionality, such as checkout buttons for e-commerce sites.  

With the various SaaS-based content management systems (CMS) available on the market, barriers to entry have lowered for small businesses looking to create sleek and dynamic websites, which is the first step in boosting a company’s online presence and overall marketing strategy.


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