How to choose between a WordPress agency or freelancer?

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with a business owner who initiated some phone calls with me via Clarity.fm.

If you don’t know by now, I love Clarity.fm for this very reason – the ability to help strangers quickly and easily by answering the questions they have.

One call turned into two, and now I think we’ve spoken 5 or 10 times. And as we’ve talked, we’ve discussed the notions of hiring a freelancer and hiring a WordPress agency.

Each has its own benefits and places where it’s appropriate.

But as we talked about it, I realized I hadn’t ever written anything about it here.

So I thought I would give you my take on how to choose between a WordPress agency and a WordPress freelancer.

The benefits of a WordPress freelancer

One of the benefits of working with a freelancer is that, depending on their current workload, you have the chance to potentially consume as much of their time and you like, without having to hire them permanently.

After all, as a business person and site owner, you may or may not need them for a lot of work once the major site development is complete.

Mind you, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t spend consistent time keeping your site fresh and updated, but that’s something easily handled with the various support providers – not necessarily the developer that produced your site.

Another benefit of hiring a freelancer is that you get to evaluate them directly. There’s no hiding. They either do the work or they don’t. They either hit their deadlines or they don’t.

Hiring a WordPress freelancer allows you to develop trust and rapport, which is huge! Because that trust will pay future dividends.

Hiring a WordPress freelancer allows you to develop trust and rapport, which is huge!

As you can see, there are a lot of upsides to hiring a freelancer.

The challenges that come with freelancers

It is unreasonable to assume that a WordPress freelancer will be great at everything. It’s insane to hope that they’ll be amazing at CSS, while also having a natural desire to do DevOps  and other server config effort. You shouldn’t expect that a person will be equally amazing at coding the front end design, the back end integration, and high performance query optimizations on your site.

You shouldn’t expect it. But you do. We all do.

Our natural tendency is to want the person we trust to be good at every possible web skill and technique that our project requires.

Our natural tendency is to want the person we trust to be good at every possible web skill and technique… So if you need twenty different skills, you should likely look at a WordPress agency.

But if you need one particular skill, you might be able to find someone who is good at it, and worth whatever they’re charging.

The benefits of working with a WordPress agency

While I can’t tell you what’s true for every single WordPress agency out there, many of them work similarly to the way we do at Crowd Favorite (where I’m the CTO).

One of the things our clients like the most is serious project managers who know how to track and manage a variety of stakeholders on large or complex projects.

Another benefit of working with an agency is that you can work with a team that brings a variety of talent to any situation—from front end, to integration and API work, to performance optimizers, and more.

Also, the benefit of working with distributed teams is that you can have some working while you’re awake, and others work while you sleep.

Crowd Favorite isn’t the only agency that has staff around the globe. You can get this from many agencies with distributed teams. The benefit of working with distributed teams is that you can have some working while you’re awake, and others work while you sleep.

The challenges that come with WordPress agencies

They’re busy. Most agencies have more work than they can comfortably consume. So sometimes you have to wait.

I recently spoke with a prospect who had been told that their project wouldn’t likely start for a year. Seriously? At that point, why even have the initial call? Know what I mean?

Thankfully, that wasn’t from folks like WebDev, 10up, Modern Tribe, or Reaktiv Studios.

Another challenge may be their price. Most of the agencies have to cover some overhead and that’s going to shift the hourly rate a bit.

Additionally, they recruit senior folks—which helps in the long run—but that means it may be more expensive than that developer just getting started as a freelancer (at a much lower rate).

Maybe the biggest challenge is that WordPress agencies will give you homework. They know part of the work is only something that you can do. Freelancers won’t all push back and assign you work, but most of the agencies I know will do so—only because they’re as committed as their clients to launch successful projects.

So how do you choose?

Here’s my take.

  • If you want to build a long-term relationship but need a variety of skills, hire an agency.
  • If you want to build rapport and trust with a person you may even try to hire directly into your company, hire a freelancer.
  • If you want to manage your short term expenses, hire a freelancer.
  • If you want to manage your long term expenses, consider an agency.
  • If you want to get started right away, hire a freelancer.
  • If you are open to a longer process and potentially a deeper dive into discovery, hire an agency.
  • If you want to accelerate your project, hire an agency that can put a whole team on your project.
  • If you want total control over the person and the code their writing for you, hire a freelancer.

Both work. Both deliver benefits.

And, of course, nothing stops you from signing up with WP101 and learning to do it all yourself.

About Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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