When to Hire a Full-Stack Developer vs. an Agency

When to Hire a Full-Stack Developer vs. an Agency

Introduction

We see it all the time: People ask the world of one individual developer—be it design, back-end development, front-end development, architecture, project management, quality assurance—and wrap it all up under the term “full-stack developer.” There are situations where a full-stack developer is the correct choice, but there are also times when a software development agency team is needed.

Knowing the difference could determine whether or not your project will yield a successful result. In the long-run, having a clear understanding of the best choice for your situation will save you a lot of money and headaches.

What is a full-stack developer?

“Full-stack” refers to a group of programming languages and tools a developer learns to gain mastery in both the front-end and back-end development of an application. They are also responsible for the design, the database, the clients, and the system engineering. Full-stack developers are popular because of their varied skills and extensive knowledge of software application development (rather than being mono-specialized or focused in one particular area).

What is a software development agency?

A software development agency is a team of skilled professionals who each have a focused area of expertise, and who collaborate to build a software product from start to finish while following the best practices for software development. A full team should consist of a system architect, designer, project manager, front-end developers, back-end developers, quality assurance, and devops.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a full-stack developer?

Advantages

Full-stack developers have a broad perspective on the way software is being developed and how the pieces connect together as a whole. They can get prototypes out quickly and help other team members. This range of skills and big-picture view could help you save time, money, and resources.

Disadvantages

Some full-stack developers are particular about the technologies and processes they use, which can spread them thin when trying to focus on multiple technologies and processes. As we all know, technology moves fast. A full-stack developer, as a solo contributor, might struggle to adapt to the latest back-end and front-end, database, and deployment technologies as tech changes over time. They may instead stick to what they know. Finally, you will be relying on a single person for the whole of the project. This can be risky if you are building an important project on a timeline and have no one else on the team as backup.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a software development agency?

Here are the pros and cons of working with a software development agency.

Advantages

The main advantage of hiring a professional software agency is that they will break down all the components needed when building a successful software product and have one or more individuals focused on each of the required skills for that component. You’ll get the highest level of skill and quality, as well as the advantage of all of the team members collaborating and brainstorming together to maximize the capabilities of your project.

Disadvantages

The more high-quality work required for your project, the greater the need for a variety of specialists found in an agency. This can be considerably more expensive than hiring a full-stack developer. Specialists can develop better solutions for long-term or higher-performance needs but require a larger cost investment.

When to hire a full-stack developer

For smaller budgets and time-sensitive projects, a full-stack developer can be a great choice. Below are some scenarios in which a full-stack developer would thrive.  

When there’s a limited budget

If you need a wide range of tasks completed that include front-end and back-end development, and you’re on a limited budget, working with one go-to full-stack developer could minimize cost.

When you have an existing team

If you already have a full team of designers, developers, and project managers and are looking to add another developer to your team, adding a full-stack developer to handle a variety of tasks could be a good idea—as long as your technology stack aligns with  their expertise.

When you need a simple proof of concept

Use a full-stack developer to quickly and affordably push out a complete proof of concept to impress investors. Then after a funding round, you would want to consider bringing on a team of experts in all areas needed for a successful product.

When you are a bootstrapped start-up

If you’re fully self-funding a product out of pocket and need to get a minimal viable product built for under $50,000, then hiring a full-stack developer could be a good decision. The developer you hire could also be a potential equity partner, to offset out-of-pocket costs. If you’re going this route, make sure to budget properly for your project.

When to hire an agency

Hiring an agency is best for more robust and complex solutions.

When you are starting from scratch on a large or complex project

A large project is one that would take an agency multiple months to develop with a team of at least one system architect, one designer, one project manager, one front-end developer, one back-end developer, one quality assurance, and one devops. A complex system is an arrangement of a large number of related but diverse elements with intricate relationships and interconnections. If you want to get a larger project completed in a reasonable timeframe and of the highest quality, you will need an entire team.

When you have a larger budget

If budget is less of a concern and you want to follow best practices for the highest quality possible, then hiring a team is the best choice.

When you need an application rehaul

If you are trying to rehaul an old legacy application and bring it up to date using modern technologies, then you will need a full team to get the job done.

When you are adding features to business-critical applications

Reliability and quality are important for any application built, but even more so if you have a large number of users who rely on your application for business or personal reasons. There is less margin for error when having a team involved.

The Bottom Line

For optimal success, outline the requirements and goals for your project before you make your decision between hiring a full-stack developer or an agency. Like most business decisions, you need to balance your requirements with your budget, and understanding your options and the best course for your product is the first step in realizing a successful outcome.

Demand for full-stack developers has increased over the years as startups and smaller-sized companies needed quick solutions and lower development costs. Larger companies looking for more refined product development have continued to use specialized developers from a software development agency to solve complex problems with first-rate solutions.

Hopefully, this article has served as a helpful resource for choosing the right team to build your product!

This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the independent freelancer listed as the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
Article Author
Author
When to Hire a Full-Stack Developer vs. an Agency
Jason L. M.
Top Rated Plus
Software Consultant
Boise, United States
Software Consulting
Software Development
Project Management
UI/UX Design
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