Simple Freelance Question

I own a marketing/publication company and want to start a web design division (or separate company) to offer my 300+ small business clients web design/development services.

The feedback I’ve gotten from this site so far is that I’m better off starting hiring freelancers than hiring staff.

My question is about freelancers… I wouldn’t want to hire a different freelancer each job, but partner up with just one company and give them all my work. I know I can find per job freelancers on elance etc, but where would I look to find a U.S based company to do all my jobs? Sure I could do it via elance etc by just asking each company if they want lots of work, but I was hoping somebody here might have a better way to go about it.


You might be better off finding a portfolio of freelancers rather than a single company. There are a lot of folks out there who will cut deals on a volume of similar jobs (I am one of them), and if you are handing work off to other folks, then there is money to be made on that handoff.

But if you go through a company, basically you are placing another level of markup into the equation. So it is a tradeoff between how much work your company can do overseeing a bunch of freelance labor (if done right, it should be minimal) and how much of that oversight you are willing to pay to pawn off on another company.

There are companies like the one I used to own (and still exists) that specializes in this kind of work. They have a bunch of vendors and they take outsourcing work in volume from web shops - they are effectively resellers of services, with varying levels of management depending on the company.

I wouldn’t depend on individual freelancers. They can “disappear” suddenly for a variety of reasons. Better to have a company that manages various staff and/or freelancers so if there’s a turnover of staff it doesn’t affect your clients.

And the benefit of hiring a company is that if your business increases for a few months then gets quiet, they can handle the varying workflow. They know where to find extra people when needed and have other business when business from you gets slow. If you hire a freelancer yourself, and things slow down, your freelancer will have to go elsewhere and might get tied up in other projects, so when you need him/her again, they’re not available.

Ok, so it sounds like I want a company, not freelancers. So where do I find these companies? Call every one in town? Has to be a directory somewhere of companies willing to do this kind of work Anyone have a recommendation? Thanks.

You need to narrow down the skills/services you are looking for. If you looking for a single company to do ‘web development’ services you probably won’t find a perfect fit.

Too bad you’ve had bad luck with freelancers. I’ve been doing this type of work for over ten years and have met quite a few other freelancers through my years of membership here at SitePoint. We are all still quite visible.

To the op – no matter who you hire, “company” or freelance contractor, you need to research references and portfolios. Don’t be afraid to ask for them and don’t accept screen name web testimonials. There are a whole lot of “companies” that are one-man shows and some of them fly by night as easily as individual contractors.

Freelancers can be good, but if the goal is to get a turnkey solution for having a stable and available provider of a variety of skills it’s unlikely that a freelancer would fit the bill. A freelancer can only provide x hours of service per day/week so you just can’t count on their availability.

shyflower is certainly correct that many ‘firms’ or ‘companies’ are simply one-man-shows. I get so many inquires by firms that refer to themselves as ‘us’ but are in fact a single person - the tip off is always when someone has a tiny company but gives themselves the CEO title.

But that is not a hard obstacle to deal with. With few exceptions, an established company will have enough documentation that is easily available and you don’t need to be asking for references just to ensure that they really are a company. You can search for a DNB rating, can check around for their presence on the web, google individual/named resources from their website (the site does name names, doesn’t it?), etc. and it’s usually pretty easy to find the one-man-show.

A good freelancer is valuable, though, so don’t be 100% against it. For your purposes I’d find a firm that you can outsource to just to avoid capacity problems.

To cut cost it’s better to hire an offshore company to handle your web projects.

Too bad you’ve had bad luck with freelancers.

It’s not about having bad luck – freelancers are people who go on vacation, move on to different jobs, get sick, die, etc.

As far as one-person shops, that doesn’t mean the shop can’t handle a wide variety of services. I don’t have any full-time employees, but I can provide a full-range of services because I have a large resource of freelancers who work with me, and when any of them are tied up with other things, I can cover them, and vice versa.

It’s about having coverage so that you can make your deadlines and stay on top of the workflow.

Oh! I understand now. You staff YOUR company with freelancers, but for some reason greggpow shouldn’t do the same thing. :rolleyes:


Oh! I understand now. You staff YOUR company with freelancers, but for some reason greggpow shouldn’t do the same thing.

yes, that’s correct, because I’m a technical person with lots of resources and can check my freelancers’ work, back them up when they are not unavailable, and help them when they get stuck on something.

There have been many times when someone has contacted me because they tried to outsource to a freelancer directly and didn’t get a workable site, sometimes because they didn’t know how to communicate to a technical person, sometimes because the freelancer did not have the skill for that particular task.

Still, however, there are advantages to using a company rather than a bunch of freelancers. I routinely work with both and I know that as the volume of work increases, the overhead associated with freelancers goes up. This is because unlike employees, which you have some control over, each freelancer imposes their own terms, work style, availability, etc. and this results in more management time.

Managing 25 freelancers would be much harder than working with 3 companies that have 9 resources each because each of those teams would have a manager or at least a PM to help distribute the load.

So, the volume of work is a big consideration hence the success of many services/reselling companies the have been successful providing overload services to freelancers/boutique shops.

Do you think it would be reasonable to send an invoice at some point for basically work to date rather than wait till the very end of the project or would this probably not go down to well with a client?

It’s a good practice to do that, in my opinion. But, you need to have set the clients expectations first.