Best Practices for Integrating Freelance Developers With Your In-House Team

Hiring third-party developers on a freelance basis has become an increasingly common strategy for development teams looking to round out their skill sets. This approach helps teams save capital, meet project requirements, adhere to project deadlines, and deliver a quality product. However, there remains a degree of skepticism about whether adding third-party developers to your team is a viable long-term strategy for companies. How can you consistently introduce outside resources to your team in a way that is predictable, productive, and successful?

We have put together a complete guide for your company to understand the best practices for adding freelance developers to your team. From onboarding third-party developers to permanently embedding them in your team, we've got you covered.

Contractual Relationship with Third-Party Developers

Companies looking to bring in a third-party developer will issue a contract that outlines the expectations, responsibilities, expected goals to be attained, timelines to be adhered to, and communication protocols to be followed. The contract also outlines the invoice terms for the hours of work to be provided by the developer.

This contract can usually be extended with due notice to the third-party if the work exceeds the planned deadlines. It will also often be coupled with a Statement of Work (SOW) that will outline the specifics of the project assigned.

Advantages of Third-Party Developers as Part of your Team

Save Time and Capital

According to Glassdoor, the average time to hire a full-time software engineer or senior application developer is 35 days or 28.3 days, respectively. The interviewing, shortlisting, and training process requires an investment of time and capital. These numbers are reduced when onboarding third-party developers who are already up-to-date with their skills. This is particularly handy when project deadlines are at hand and the team needs added labor power.

Additionally, your company will be saving capital in overhead costs like company benefits, office space, office supplies, and electricity and system use.

Specialized Experience

It is very probable that while building your product, you will come across a scenario where the existing team members do not have a specific skill set that is needed. It may also happen that while trying to onboard employees within your organization, you realize that the employees are less proficient in a given skill than you expected. In such a situation, your best bet would be to hire a third-party developer with specialized skills and relevant experience.

Faster Time to Market

A third-party developer generally requires very little or no training and can start working almost immediately. Take a look at these statistics from an Upwork Survey:

  • 62% of hiring managers said they prefer to engage with independent professionals to get jobs done more quickly.
  • 53% of hiring managers found that working directly with independent professionals reduced costs
  • 49% of hiring managers pointed out that access to highly skilled talent is the key reason to use independent workers

Overall Team Agility  

Skills from third-party developers will keep your company's full-time employees motivated to stay up-to-date with their own skills. Additionally, making a third-party developer a part of your team introduces “flexibility” among team members, which can be scaled and modified as the need arises to adapt to market changes.

Risks of Adding Freelance Developers to Your In-House Team

Outsourcing your project development needs can be intimidating. Here are some common risks that third-party developers may introduce. Please note that these risks are generally time-variant and can differ based on the length of the contract.

Communication Gaps

It is quite possible that a developer can be hired via a phone or video interview without personally meeting the person. It is also possible that the developer is in a different time zone. This may give rise to communication difficulties where setting up meetings at a particular time can be an issue.

How to address this: At the time of signing the contract, agree on a time that the developer will be available for a status/task assignment call every day. The requirements in the contract should also state that the developer accounts for their time and tasks performed in a report that will be updated on a daily or weekly basis.

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Collaboration Difficulties

Additionally, once onboarded, the third-party developer may have difficulty working alongside other team members. This typically happens due to the feeling of being an “outsider” to the company.

How to address this: Since the developer is now officially onboarded, it is the duty of the team members and the Engineering Manager (EM) to make them feel like a part of the team. This means not only involving the developer in work-based decision making, but also requesting that they participate in other aspects of team building and getting to know members of the team.

Sensitive Data Exposure

While working as a part of the team, the third-party developer may be exposed to project data that is of a sensitive nature. There is a risk that, through negligence or ill intent, they mishandle the information and release private information to unauthorized recipients.

How to address this: After the developer's contract has come to an end, all the project- and organization-related access should be revoked to ensure none of the information is used outside the organization. The contract should also mention that none of the company or project information should be used for personal reasons, and it should highlight actions that may be taken if the developer is found to leak sensitive information. Educate the third-party developers on the critical terms and conditions of this provision.

Failure to Grasp the Project in Detail

The SOW may contain information that is not clear to the developer. They may make assumptions about the project only to find that it does not meet their expectations. Often, the work or task may turn out to be more complicated than anticipated, which can lead to delays in the agreed-upon timelines.

How to address this: At the time of handing over the SOW, the developer should be given a demonstration that explains the working of each task in detail. Based on the demo, the developer can then clarify any misunderstandings from the SOW.

Risk Variation Based on Contract Length

The above-mentioned risks will differ based on the length of the contract. For example, the third-party developers that are hired until a project is completed will find that communication and collaboration gaps reduce over time, in contrast to the developers that are hired for a mere 2-3 weeks. It is likely that the latter would not have enough time to overcome these difficulties.

The key to minimizing risks is forward planning, timely communication, consistent follow-ups, and empowering your team members with relevant project and deadline information.

Best Practices to Seamlessly Integrate Third-Party Developers Into a Team

Here are some field-tested ways to seamlessly onboard third-party developers into your team.

Get them up to speed

Ensure that knowledge transfer sessions are organized before the developers begin their work. These sessions should strive to give them maximum information without overcomplicating the information transferred. Similarly, the developers should be provided all the relevant documentation and platforms in advance, so they can explore the same and prepare to start working with minimal supervision.

Enable them to communicate with your team

A work report on a daily or weekly basis can be the primary means for communication and feedback between the developer and the EM. This report can outline the tasks to be performed and the deadlines for each. It can also highlight the developer's progress and issues faced. This can then be communicated on time to avoid future roadblocks. Daily task assignment and status update meetings can be set up to discuss the plan for the day.

Account for differing work approaches

Every individual has their own approach to performing a task. As an EM, it is advisable to encourage an employee’s preferred approach to get the most productivity from them. This should be done while still ensuring that the tasks are performed efficiently and on-time. Play to the third-party developer’s strengths and always align them toward the team’s common goals. Find out what motivates them to work the way they do, instead of forcing them to conform to a strict work approach.

Vet their skills and assign tasks accordingly

It is advisable to conduct a live interview to get an overview of the developer’s skills and strengths. Ask clear questions with regard to their skillset and comfort level of working with new platforms, tight timelines, key strength areas, etc. You can also conduct a short test to verify their skills.

Set proper expectations based on the length of their contract

Default to an agile methodology and designate tasks to be done in "sprints." Set realistic goals to be completed in each sprint and plan for backlogs (if any). Give the developers a holistic view of how the timelines are split into sprints.

Where to Best Incorporate Third-Party Developers

It is advisable to add third-party developers to projects like App Development, Software Development, Quality Assurance, Web Applications Development, Web Designer, UX/UI Professional, Product Specialist, Data Entry Operator, Content Developer, and Customer Support Engineer.

Projects like these can be picked up either from the inception phase or even midway. Less time can be dedicated to training the third-party developers since the methodology in these project types remains almost constant.

It is NOT advisable to add third-party developers to projects as Database Administrators, Project Implementation Specialists, or Project Managers. These roles require an in-depth understanding of the project from start to finish. In case there are issues with extending a third-party developer's contract, you will be left with the job of training an in-house employee completely from scratch.

Preparation and Standardization Go a Long Way

Successful placement of resources within your existing team can encourage long-term partnerships between developer firms and encourage mutual growth for both third-party developers and the companies they are deployed at. Fifty-nine percent of hiring managers agreed that organizations that aren’t adopting a flexible workforce are falling behind.

Crowdbotics recognizes these advantages and provides managed app development services with vetted developers. Crowdbotics' developers can work as part of your team or take over the entire project for you. We have broad experience in a number of sectors, and our development experts are prepared to give you a detailed project estimate right now – just get in touch.

Originally published:

November 12, 2020