If you've been toying with hiring a software developer to join your company, you probably looked into the average salary for this role. With US News reporting that the average software developer makes between $84,020 and $140,470, you might be concerned that having an in-house developer is a bit out of reach from a financial standpoint.
However, you don't necessarily have to hire a full-time software developer to create your new project. On the other end of the spectrum, you can hire a freelance software developer and pay them by the hour for their work.
What is the average hourly rate for a freelancer in this role, though? Does hiring a freelancer or a software development company make more sense? Let's dive in and take a look at everything you need to know.
Freelance software developers choose to work as independent contractors rather than full-time employees at a company. These IT professionals work to design and build programs such as desktop and mobile apps or operating systems. It's common for freelancers to have a specific area of expertise rather than a well-rounded grasp of all aspects of software development.
This means you might need to hire several freelancers to complete your project in a way that fits your needs. It's also possible to hire a software development company, which typically has a full staff of IT professionals specializing in different aspects of the development process.
The hourly rate charged by freelance software developers can range enormously, depending on many different factors (which we'll touch upon in the next section.)
You typically find two types of developers that have branched out into the world of software development freelancing.
The first are people that are brand new to the world of development. They recently graduated from a software development boot camp and are often willing to take on just about any type of project for low rates.
You can sometimes find that newbie freelancers are actually quite skilled when you consider how little experience they have. That being said, you are gambling to some extent when you hire a new developer, particularly when it comes to a complicated project. It isn't uncommon for entry-level developers to not have the best gauge of their abilities. This can mean they make promises they can't keep and end up under-delivering.
The average hourly rate for a relatively inexperienced freelancer is about $50 to $75.
The second type of person who commonly works as a freelance software developer is a seasoned professional. These were once high-level salaried employees who decided to branch out on their own and get away from the 9-5.
These individuals are highly experienced and have worked on a long list of custom software projects over the years. It's common for seasoned pros to charge between $100 and $300 an hour. While this is a steeper price than newbie developers, you might find that a seasoned pro works more efficiently and can better estimate how much time it will take them to complete the project.
According to another data source, the lower range of freelance developers in North America is about $50 an hour, while the higher range is about $250. The average hourly rate for freelance developers in Western Europe is between $35 and $175, while Eastern European freelancers typically charge between $25 and $150 an hour.
The average rate for freelancers in Australia ranges from $50 on the low end to $150 on the high end, while Indian freelancers typically charge between $10 and $80 an hour.
It's worth noting that an hourly rate is only one of the options when it comes to paying a software developer. Another common pricing method is a fixed rate on a per-project basis.
As you can see, the range in the hourly rate for freelancers is pretty wide. Let's take a closer look at some of the factors that influence how much a freelancer charges for hourly work.
One of the primary factors that will influence how much it costs to hire a freelance software developer is where they are located. In general, freelance software developers tend to have a lower hourly rate in South America, Europe, and Africa than they do in the United States and Canada. For this reason, there are a lot of companies that will choose to hire tech services offshore.
That being said, you'll want to consider some of the downsides of hiring offshore software developers just to save money. You don't want to overlook the potential issues that can arise from communication bottlenecks, cultural differences, language barriers, and time zone incompatibility.
You'll also find that the hourly rate of freelance software developers can vary quite a bit depending on how much experience they have. Someone who is just starting out and has very little experience will most likely charge a lower hourly rate than someone who has worked as a software developer for ten or more years.
That being said, price doesn't always correlate with quality, and you might find an entry-level person that perfectly suits your needs and your budget. At the same time, it's worth considering that someone new to the field might take longer to create the same project as someone that has more experience. That means the cost difference might not be as large as you expect if you are planning to hire someone by the hour.
The complexity of your project will inform the technology required to produce it. This will impact who will be qualified to build your software, as well as how much it will cost.
Of course, tech skills are probably what you'll look for first when you're determining who you should hire as a freelance developer. However, you shouldn't overlook the importance of soft skills as well. Freelancers are aware of the value of soft skills like adaptability, social skills, and communication skills, and people that are better able to handle the human-to-human aspect of the interaction will likely charge more.
If you are creating a highly complex project, you can expect that it will cost more than something that's quite simple. Complexity doesn't just apply to the development process, but it also has to do with testing, launching, and maintenance.
Lastly, your anticipated time frame will also have an impact on the cost if you are hiring someone on an hourly basis. For this reason, it's important to be realistic about how long it will take to develop your new software. If you're overly optimistic, you might find that the total cost of hiring a freelancer was more than you were hoping to spend.
If you're planning on building a web app, you can learn about how long you should expect the whole project to take from start to finish in this article.
One of the primary reasons people are drawn to the idea of hiring freelancers for their software development needs is that it tends to be one of the most cost-effective solutions.
If you're running a small business, you'll likely find that hiring a full-time developer will be much more costly than hiring a freelancer, particularly if your software development needs are minimal. This is because full-time employees will require an annual salary and all of the additional benefits that come with being a W2 worker.
When you hire a freelance software developer, however, you won't have to deal with any of these additional costs. You can simply hire them hourly or project-by-project, making it much more straightforward as an investment.
While many individuals and small companies are driven to hire freelance software developers to cut costs, there are several drawbacks you'll want to consider before you go this route.
One of the primary challenges you'll face is receiving ongoing support when it comes to maintenance. Since you don't have a team of dedicated developers to help you maintain your software, you might find you don't have the help you need once the project is technically completed. Depending on your project's complexity, this can pose some serious issues.
If you hire a software developer in a project-based way, they will simply move on to other projects with other companies when they complete the agreed work. So even if they'd like to offer maintenance support down the road, they might be too busy working on a new project to give you the help you need.
While it's possible to find a freelancer to replace the person who designed and built your software, this approach has some potentially frustrating aspects. Finding a new developer can take some time, and you might find that the time it takes for them to catch up to speed is more costly than you would have anticipated. If you are paying the developer by the hour, the cost of onboarding and training can start to add up fast.
It can be a good idea to discuss the potential of continuing to work with a freelancer on an as-needed basis in terms of software maintenance. This can help you stay ahead of the game and avoid the scramble to find someone who can help you with issues that crop up down the road.
Another potential downside to hiring a freelancer is that they tend to drop projects mid-way through, particularly new developers that are in over their head. It can be a struggle to find someone else that is willing to come on board and complete their partially-finished project.
It's also possible for freelancers to simply ghost you– disappearing with the code and never again responding to your messages. This will be much less likely if you hire an experienced developer that you found through personal recommendations, but it's still something you should be aware of before hiring someone for the gig.
If you're on a strict budget, it's easy to tunnel-vision on the cost alone when hiring a software developer. However, it's important to understand that the cost is only one of many factors you should be incorporating into your decision-making process.
After all, you're likely aware of how costly it can be to try and save money on important projects. For some situations, a freelancer might be a perfect choice. In others, though, hiring a freelancer could become more expensive when you have to hire a company to fix issues down the road.
Whether a freelancer or a software development company is a better fit for your project will depend on several factors. Hiring a company can be a better choice when you have more complex projects and are looking for ongoing support. You can also expect a software company to stay up to date with the latest IT trends, ensuring that your project isn't instantaneously behind the times. They will also have a complete team of experts with different specialties, while freelancers usually just specialize in one area.
On the other hand, a freelancer tends to cost less per hour but is generally only experienced in one particular area of focus. As a result, they can provide more flexibility than software development companies and less structure.
Hiring a freelancer can definitely make sense for certain projects, but in other instances, a full team is better equipped to create the outcome you're looking for. If you have an idea for an app or a digital product that you want to make into a reality, we're here to help. At Planetary, we work with businesses of all sizes, from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.
Are you wondering if we're the right team to help you create your app? Then, get in touch and tell us about your project today.
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