Pros and Cons of Hiring an Agency vs Individual Freelancer at Upwork.com

When hiring a freelance agency at Upwork.com, every client should evaluate both advantages and disadvantages of this cooperation. The article lists benefits a client is likely to enjoy when working with an agency as well as the pitfalls to be aware of. It would be of interest to startup and business owners, CEOs and CTOs of larger companies and everyone who wants to learn more about Upwork.com.

Upwork.com remains one of the most popular freelance platforms all over the world today. From its foundation in 1999, the company has raised a total of $168 million through 10 private equity funding rounds. In one of our recent articles, we explained how an Upwork agency differs from a team of individual freelancers and discussed the projects worth hiring an agency for. Today’s article would focus on some benefits an Upwork client would enjoy and a few pitfalls to beware when hiring an agency vs an individual freelancer.

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Pros of Hiring an Upwork Agency

If you post job offers at Upwork.com or plan to do so, here are a few arguments in favor of hiring an agency vs individual freelancers at this platform.

Cons of Upwork Agencies

  • In most cases, Upwork agencies already have coordinated teams, so the client is devoid of the need to cherry-pick team members with the similar skillset and level among the ones who applied for the project.
  • The client could lower the overall cost of the project if an agency is hired. As the teams would be formed by members with varied professional levels, e.g. junior, middle and senior devs, there is no need to overpay for a Senior Dev in case a Junior Dev could cope with some tasks.
  • Agencies are more likely to show an in-depth involvement in the project and align their vision with the client’s due to the corporate culture they stick to.
  • Agency could help a client to determine the requirements and scope the project. This is especially beneficial for the founders: while this could be the first project of this kind for a client, the agency could have already worked on a similar project in the past.
  • Agencies could also assist with scaling the project and, in a broader sense, with consulting services. For instance, if the agency already had prior experience with a similar project, they could point out to the piece of functionality to be improved/removed. This could be an already proven solution for the project, which the client did not even think of.
  • When working with agencies, the clients usually have a better legal protection. Contrary to individual freelancers, companies registered at Upwork can be sued. Some companies at Upwork, including Logicify, also have professional insurance, which is a benefit to the client.
  • An agency team is likely to have a dedicated manager, who is knowledgeable in every team member’s personal touch (skillset and tech stack, pace, fortes, etc.). So, the estimates the manager would provide on a project would be backed up by experience, thus more accurate.
  • As there is a division of responsibilities in the agencies, communication with them is smoother and more effective. A client is likely to communicate with the agency manager, who would further coordinate the work of the team members.
  • Again, due to strictly outlined spheres of responsibility, it is easy to find a person in charge for a specific problem, determine the root cause and address the issue in a timely manner.
  • Agencies offer a transition of talent as the project evolves. The developers who worked on a beta version of the product would most likely be involved in working on the alpha. They know the product’s ins and outs, and this saves time on knowledge transfer/research by a new freelancer.
  • Agencies are likely to offer a continuity of services and knowledge. If a team member leaves in the course of the project, another could be added to the team easily.
  • Paying to the agency is easier than to a team of individual freelancers. The client just transfers the funds to the agency bank account and does no longer care about the amounts split between the team members - the agency admin or financial person does this instead.

Cons of Hiring an Upwork Agency

While there are quite numerous advantages of hiring an Upwork agency vs individual freelancers, some disadvantages could be found as well.

Pros of Upwork Agencies

  • As agencies are usually hired for long-term and expensive projects, client are facing higher risks too. To avoid losses or irreversible damages in the course of a longer project, clients are recommended to start their cooperation with a new agency by a short trial assignment.
  • When working with an agency, a client does not always articulate the requirements directly to the freelancers working on the project. In most cases, there is a manager in charge of transmitting the client’s vision to the dev team. So, the communication is made longer and somewhat more complicated.
    Under time & materials contracts at Upwork, Logicify allows and promotes direct communication of developers with the client.
  • The same concerns control over the project flow. While some clients are glad to entrust the whole process to a remote team, some prefer to remain in full control of development. With agencies, such an individual management is sometimes not possible. The agencies often take advantage of this and shadow-outsource their work, without making the client aware of this.
  • Agencies might practise shadow working or replace team members without informing the client about this, for instance, a middle developer could be substituted by a junior without an official notice.
  • Agencies have freelancers with varied levels working in one team. So mediocre or unprofessional people may skulk behind diligent professionals. As the agency’s rating is shared by all freelancers employed in it, poor developers could get high marks at somebody else's expense.
    However, if freelancers work per hourly rates, the client could usually track the work each team member accomplishes.
  • When hiring an agency, the client usually overpays for the management of the freelancers employed in it. Yes, this makes the project a bit more expensive, yet saves time. Up to the client to decide whether he/she prefers to pay extra money and hire an agency, or spend more time coordinating the work of individual freelancers.

So,

there is no hard and fast recipe whether to hire an agency or individual freelancers at Upwork; the final choice depends on the client’s personal preferences, experience and the type of project. At Upwork, there are many bad and good agencies as well as bad and good individual freelancers. To properly select a vendor for a project, Upwork clients are recommended to have a seasoned and strong CTO (or a CTO role) within their company. This person should be in charge of selecting a reliable and skilled remote workers to be hired and manage their work. A good idea is hiring an agency for a small (trial) project to check their professional level. Further, a client could keep on cooperating with this agency on larger and more complex projects.

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