In-House Developer v. Software Agency: Who to Hire

For many businesses in need of software, there are two main options. You can hire an in-house developer, or recruit the skills of an agency. They’re fairly close cost-wise, especially in comparison to hiring a whole team (which, if you have the budget, you probably already have or should), but both have their advantages.

If you are struggling to choose one or the other, keep your goals in mind. For example, does your project require one-time software development? Or are you maybe selling an app that will regularly require new features? Of course, there are other things to consider. Here’s a run-down of everything you might need to know when hiring an in-house dev or engaging an agency.

Software Agency

One of the biggest advantages of an agency is the access to their whole team, featuring members with different skill sets and varying perspectives. Take our company. Everyone at Romega has a different set of experiences, so we will often come up with multiple ways to solve a problem. Specifically speaking, if one of our developers get stuck, there are more people to help. It’s totally possible that a single developer can do the same, but it’s ‘built-in’ when you have a team.

If you need software to help run your business more smoothly, but won’t need a lot of ongoing work on new features, it makes sense to invest in an agency up front, then just pay a basic ongoing cost for updates and maintenance.

You might be wondering, doesn’t all this make agencies more costly? Actually, no. Even with a higher hourly rate, it’s often less expensive to engage an agency. You can avoid the payroll taxes or cost of benefits for an employee, which add up over time. Also, hiring one person who can code the backend, maintain the servers, design and code the front end, as well as think about the overall user experience, is really difficult and very expensive.

In-House Devs

While they are more expensive, the biggest advantage when hiring in-house dev is that you can have someone in the trenches with you. This person is learning your business inside and out, giving 100% of their time to your company. This can be a huge asset if your project requires intimate knowledge of your business’ long-term goals.

Consider your goals again. Do you want to sell software as a service? If so, you’ll eventually want to have an in-house team, so starting with an in-house developer might be the best way to go. Often times, hiring in-house early on can be more cost effective as you can exchange equity ownership for a lower development cost.

There’s one potential pitfall we occasionally see in our business. When companies hire an in-house developer, they sometimes think that they’re also hiring a one-person IT department (or vice versa). Some skills do overlap, but they’re very different jobs. If that’s what you need, keep in mind that it will probably be hard to find a programmer who is also able to be an effective IT person.

There is no hard-fast set of rules on whether you should hire an in-house dev or find an agency. We truly try to advise what’s best for our customers, so if you are on the fence, give us a ring and we can talk about the pros and cons of each for your specific project.