Freelance vs Agency – A Developer’s Point of View
One of the many benefits of working as a web developer is that it requires very little in terms of a permanent location or equipment – all you need is a laptop and a space to rest it and you’ve got all of the tools you need. This may leave many budding developers wondering whether to go it alone or to apply to the many web agencies out there in order to book jobs, learn new skills and ultimately, make a career out of coding. As one of the newest recruits to The Web Kitchen’s team and a former freelance developer, here’s my guide to choosing the right route for you.
Freelance Web Developer
With such a vast number of individuals working as freelance web developers, working solo means a huge part of your job will be seeking and winning new clients. Especially while trying to establish yourself, it can be hard to book clients as they often favour more experienced developers, or an agency.
Sign up to as many “People-per-Hour” style websites as possible and seek out experienced graphic designers with an already established client and contact base to partner up with.
One obvious benefit of being freelance is the freedom to roam – web development can be done anywhere in the world, whether it be a drop-in office space, in-front of the TV or even on the beach! However, being a freelancer does have its drawbacks. Although web development is so well documented online thanks to forums such as StackOverflow, there’s nothing quite like *finally* wrapping your head around a problem you’ve been stuck on by either discussing with your team or considering different ways to approach things by reviewing or editing someone else’s code.
There’s no 9-to-5 as a freelancer, which means that the working day is yours to plan. This could mean a more flexible daily start time, freedom to finish a little early to meet friends or taking as many holidays as you desire. But, this works both ways; working freelance can often mean it’s difficult to say no to a job, no matter how short the deadline, or taking lots of less well-paid jobs to meet monthly targets. This can mean sudden periods of long days or lots of late nights. At an agency however, web builds are more structured, well managed and have clear and fair deadlines, meaning less overtime and less stress!
Agency Web Developer
One of the biggest advantages of working in an agency is the range of different projects that you get to work on. At The Web Kitchen, we work with a variety of clients – from huge media brands to schools to charities, making each day different switching between projects.
Working for a variety of clients helps to quickly expand your knowledge and keeps the job interesting!
As a freelance developer, it’s easy to get stuck creating websites for one industry as many new clients come through referrals. It can be good to become a specialist in one field, as you’ll have a great portfolio of websites to attract new clients within that field, but this can also become repetitive.
Working as a developer in an agency affords you the time to do what you really want to do – develop websites. Cutting out the time searching for new clients, answering emails and going to meetings leaves more time to focus on honing your coding skills, keeping up-to-date with the latest trends in the industry and dedicating ample time to each project. I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my skills since joining The Web Kitchen – both from having a team to work with and simply from having more time to develop!
Working in a multi-disciplinary agency such as The Web Kitchen where developers work alongside graphic designers, project managers, photographers and videographers means every day offers the possibility of collaboration and a deeper understanding of the web development industry. Weekly and monthly team meetings allow the whole team time to put forward ideas and consider different points of view. There’s always the opportunity to pick up new skills outside of web development, such as using Sketch or managing clients, all of which give you a better overview of the entire web development process. It’s also great to have a team of people to grab a pint with at the end of the day!
While both are good options to begin any career as a web developer, I’d thoroughly recommend seeking agency experience first and foremost. Working freelance has some brilliant benefits but nothing quite accelerates your learning as quickly as working alongside experienced developers and a creative team!