E-commerce agency or freelancer? Who is better to develop shop on Prestashop?
CEO & IT Architect
CEO & IT Architect
This question gives many online shop owners and managers sleepless nights. For example, in order to develop online sales, the owner of a regular shoe shop will need new competences in technology and e-commerce marketing.
The choice of development and maintenance service for an online shop can be compared to choosing an accounting service. For a small business, as the owner you can perform these tasks. But as your business grows and the number of your responsibilities increases, it will be more cost-effective to outsource these tasks to an accountant. In this case, a smaller, cheaper, even one-person accountancy firm will be a good choice.
However, as your business grows, it will make sense to look for an accountancy and advisory firm that employs tax consultants. It will be more expensive, but optimising taxes will more than pay back the cost of hiring specialists.
The situation is similar when choosing a company to develop your e-commerce shop. In today’s article, I’ll tell you when it’s worth going it alone and when to consider working with a freelancer or e-commerce agency.
Working on your own is only possible if, as the owner, you have the necessary technical competences and the whole project is not too big. For larger projects, a programmer must be involved.
However, this creates the need to ensure that your programmer will do their job well. This means the need to hire another person supervising their work in the role of an experienced manager or e-commerce consultant.
In such a case, before you decide to develop your own IT department, analyse the costs of setting it up and maintaining it, and then compare them with the costs of outsourcing this work.
By definition a freelancer is a person who performs designated tasks for the client under a contract other than an employment contract. They should have knowledge and experience of the work to be commissioned.
So it could be a translator, a graphic designer, an accountant or, in our case, a web developer.
Choosing a freelancer seems more beneficial for someone who wants to prototype a small sale model to see if the project has a chance to grow and make money. The freelancer’s main responsibility will be to install and configure the PrestaShop store platform and ensure that it runs smoothly.
Many freelancers can make a simple store for you on PrestaShop for a few thousand PLN and you can find freelancers who will do it really well. Of course, they have long lead times.
Before starting the collaboration, a deadline for the implementation should be discussed and how many hours the freelancer will be able to devote to the development of your project, which should be included in the contract.
In case of a freelancer, there is more risk than just a missed deadline. There is the issue of resting responsibility on one person who may fall ill or go on holiday.
Over time, the shop will probably need to grow, so relying on one person may prove problematic.
An e-commerce agency is a team of professionals that usually includes: project managers, coordinators, web developers, software architects, UX/UI designers, graphic designers, SEO specialists, content creation specialists, etc.
With the whole team behind you, you have more control over professional project management. The project manager manages people specialised in their narrow fields.
In the event of problems, the owner of the shop contacts only one person. For example, when the servers have gone down and the website is not working, instead of calling the programmer and then the hosting company, the owner calls their designated project manager at the agency. The shop’s administration panel could also get hacked.
It is difficult to find one person who specialises in every aspect of e-commerce. Therefore, a team of people is of greater value than working with a single freelancer, although it is likely that collectively the team will perform more tasks, which will cost more in total.
There is no right universal time to make transition from freelancer to e-commerce agency. Prices also vary considerably depending on logistical, administrative and other aspects.
The best time for change is when you feel dissatisfied with the work being done by the contractor, or the collaboration is not working well for some reason.
One person can slow down the growth of a company, because the more people, the greater the workload being done in a shorter period of time. For example, when we want to quickly implement a new integration into the shop because a competitor already has one. You may find that an agency will do it in 2 weeks and a freelancer in 2 months.
After all, if a decision is made to move away from a one-person collaboration, they may continue to be a consultant for the company to oversee activities, but the main tasks will already be carried out by the agency.
Regardless of who you are working with, the collaboration needs to be based on trust. Disagreements between employees and the freelancer or agency should not be allowed to stand in the way of business.
Each agency and organisation has its own workflow and system for implementing solutions, using Continuous Integration or Continuous Delivery. Change in the type of collaboration involves a transformation of the functional implementation model. There are costs associated with the transfer of accesses rights and time is needed to introduce new staff to the project. During this time, the freelancer can take on the role of project manager, although they don’t always feel comfortable in the new role. It is therefore possible that sooner or later the cooperation with them will end.
Changes to design incur additional costs. In most cases, projects are continued. In the case of PrestaShop, if we are dealing with developers who know the system and have already worked on it, it is not a problem for them to take on such a project.
The documentation for PrestaShop does not cover everything and what is not described you simply need to know. In the programming process, people create a lot of their own solutions. So a new employee will need time to get the hang of it. A larger project requires working with a larger company from start to finish to avoid an introductory period.
It is difficult to say unequivocally, but in our experience, companies generating more than PLN 500,000 a year choose to work with an e-commerce agency. Of course, this is an estimate, as it also depends on the business model and margins.
Typically, owners initially choose to work with freelancers. It is worth choosing an agency if the project is big from the start, so that the agency can lead the entrepreneur by the hand, take the right measures and implement the project from the beginning in the right way, enabling rapid and at the same time stable development.
An e-commerce agency will offer a more all-round service to the client and be more involved in the development of the company than a single person. Thus, it will work more hours, and this is combined with increased costs on an annual basis.
There are times when a freelancer is doing a project for the first time and needs to educate themselves on a subject in which agency specialists already have experience. For this reason, the agency’s work is faster and more efficient. So even if the agency’s hourly rate is higher, employees will do more in an hour than a freelancer.
Do not forget that the project can be handed over to an agency as a test to check their ability to work on it. All changes made to the project should be compatible, the developer needs to merge them so that everything works well.
This is all managed by a version control system, so it is worth asking the freelancer or agency about it before starting the collaboration. Not working in this system can mean incompetence. Familiarity with the system is very important, as removing a faulty change without a code management system is much more difficult.
The disadvantage of some agencies, apart from higher costs, is the dilution of responsibility, as there is no single decision-maker. For this reason, it is worth checking whether anyone at the agency besides the project manager is familiar with our project, so that we do not rely on one person if he or she is indisposed.
The advantage, apart from more effective and efficient working, is the variety of solutions. For example, an agency may introduce a complaints handling system and generally deal with the technology system in a more extensive scope than a freelancer. An agency will have more time, allowing the business to grow faster. Non-sales competences are also important, so in addition to the creation of the shop’s website, the creation of documentation and the management of logistics, information and the flow of goods should be taken into account.
In conclusion, we can say that the choice of contractor for your shop is strongly dependent on the budget, size and requirements of your online shop. Hopefully, you now know whether a freelancer or an e-commerce agency will work better for your project. Regardless of who you choose, I encourage you to read the following article – How to choose an e-commerce agency.
Still not sure whether to entrust your project to a freelancer or agency? Take advantage of our Free Consultation. We will analyse your project and, based on our experience, advise you on good solutions, answer your questions and, if necessary, prepare an estimate of the implementation costs.