As Bubble’s popularity increases amongst startup founders and business owners, more and more professional Bubble developers of all types are entering the market. There are freelance Bubble developers for hire on Upwork, Fiverr, and other freelance sites. And then there are Bubble agencies, many of which are listed right on Bubble’s partner agencies page.
But how do you know which one to work with? When does it make more sense to hire a freelance Bubble developer vs. a Bubble agency?
The reality is that there’s no fixed answer to this question. It all depends on your project’s requirements, business needs, in-house skill sets, budget, flexibility, and time.
To help you understand when to choose a Bubble freelancer vs. agency to build your app, we’ve put together this quick overview on the offerings of both and the use cases in which businesses hire one over the other, as well as how to evaluate both.
(Note: if you're still wondering if Bubble is the right tool for you, refer to our guide What is Bubble.io? to learn more about Bubble's capabilities.)
Bubble agency vs. freelance Bubble developer: what’s the difference?
Generally speaking, agencies offer more quality assurance and guidance from a project’s start to finish. Whereas freelancers offer a lower cost and more flexibility. However, there are a number of other factors and reasons businesses might hire one over the other.
To help you figure out which is right for you, let’s explore the key differences between both below.
What are they?
An agency is a group of experienced professionals with a range of specific skills that are managed by a structured system. This includes a formalized set of processes, formats and tools that they use to complete clients’ projects. Agencies equip their employees with resources and assign them with particular tasks to work on.
What benefits do they offer?
- Centralized process, resources, and internal tools: When working with a Bubble.io agency, they will have a standard process from start to finish that incorporates scoping, development, QA, review, etc. Teams work in a well-organized manner and coordinate, which allows them to operate smoothly without much hindrance. Through their experience doing many projects, they’re able to pull best practices from each and use that to continuously refine their workflows.
In addition, an agency will have a team and many resources in place to execute projects. They can accomplish tasks quickly and thoroughly as they have often built their own internal tools and resources over time.
- Consistent talent and output: Through an official hiring and vetting process, agencies bring together an experienced team of professionals with a wide breadth of skills. Their multifaceted team can typically accommodate all of your development needs. In addition, since every aspect of your project is delivered by one team who adhered to a strict set of processes, the final deliverable is likely to be very consistent and polished.
It’s also worth mentioning that you’ll be more likely to receive strong business advice because of the breadth and depth of the industry knowledge available at an agency.
- Wide range of specialization: One of the reasons agencies can do more is that they have more people who are skilled in numerous areas of the software development process. Each individual specializes in a certain phase of building your product so that you don’t have to seek out additional people (or rely on one person to be a jack-of-all-trades).
Agencies hire and deploy individuals for their expertise in specific roles. For example, you’ll be assigned product managers who will be very good at scoping, designers who will be great at designing, and developers who will be highly skilled at logic and coding.
- Assurance of continuity and availability: Because an agency is a team of many people, it is inherently more stable and resilient. It cannot walk away or leave unexpectedly in the same way a single person can. Since an agency is a grounded business, it is more official and professional in most circumstances. They’re more likely to stick with you to project completion, as well as still be available six months later for updates and tweaks.
In addition, if one developer or person on the team needs to roll off, somebody else can take over to keep the project on schedule because they have the same process they follow each time.
What are the cons of an agency?
- Cost: it’s typically more expensive to work with an agency.
- Less flexibility: agencies have multiple clients and operate with several teams using a strict standard process that can’t always be changed on the fly.
When should you hire an agency?
If you are non-technical and software development is fairly new to you, agencies are a great option. They will take care of everything with their own resources, guiding you from project start to finish with minimal time investment on your part.
Based on the pros and cons mentioned above, you should hire agencies when:
- You have a medium or high-budgets
- You have long-term, ongoing service needs
- Your project is complicated with multiple phases
- Your product needs a broad area of expertise
- You have little to no software development expertise and experience
- You don’t have the time to manage the process (i.e. need a low-maintenance, full-service operation)
- You need fast-paced, high-quality product delivery to meet a deadline
Freelancer Bubble developers
What are they?
Freelance developers are independent providers who are self-employed and contract with various companies. They have specific individual skills that they’ve acquired over time. They may or may not have their own process that they like to follow – that part really depends on the individual.
It’s also worth noting: freelancers offer less quality consistency, as the pool is made up of both the best and the worst talent. There’s a chance that you could hire the best talent who finds it more lucrative to work for themselves. On the flip side, you could also end up with subpar talent that can’t get a job at an agency. We’ll discuss how to avoid the latter later in this article.
What benefits do they offer?
- Lower costs and unbundled services: Because you’re only paying one person (versus a whole team), Bubble.io freelancers are typically more affordable with less overhead to compensate for. In addition, if you don’t need a full package of services, freelancers allow you to unbundle and assemble your own team according to your exact needs.
- More flexibility and customizability: Freelancers set their own projects, schedules, and priorities. When you work with a freelancer, the two of you can independently adjust the process and pivot to fit your specific needs better. By being an individual contributor, freelancers are easier to plug into your own operating systems, workflows, and teams.
- Hyper-specialization: Most freelancers specialize in a specific field or skill, making it beneficial to hire them to work on a targeted one-time part of a project. Oftentimes, the reason a professional chooses to become a freelancer is because they are especially talented at a specific niche skill-set.
- Option to “try before you buy”: As individuals who aren’t associated with a company or agency, there’s a potential to hire freelancers to your own team if you’re satisfied with their services. This is different from an agency, which usually has no-hire or buy-out clauses in their contracts.
What are the cons of freelancers?
- Reliability: sometimes there are certain reasons and factors which can cause freelancers to quit your project in the middle. Because they aren’t bound to you, you may have limited recourse if the project fails.
- Limited resources: freelancers are just one person and can get only so much done in one day. There is the chance it might take a freelancer longer to finish a project due to a lack of time and resources.
- Breadth of skills: since freelance developers tend to specialize, they may not have the expertise to work on every piece of your project if something unexpected arises.
When should you hire a freelancer?
If you have experience with software development, as well as the know-how and time to scope, design, and project manage your own product, freelancers can work well for you. Freelancers offer a flexible way to complete specialized projects (or elements of projects) with a smaller budget.
Based on the pros and cons mentioned above, you should hire freelancers when:
- You have a small and limited budget
- You want more control and involvement
- You have the time and technical expertise to manage a freelancer’s tasks and responsibilities
- Your project is small
- You need more selective services
- You want to augment your existing team (with the chance that you’ll hire the developer after testing them out first)
How to select the right Bubble developer?
The landscape of both freelancers and Bubble agencies is varied – with a handful of established and reputable vendors and a long list of fly-by-night outfits thanks to Bubble’s emerging success as a super customizable no-code tool. So how do you know who you can trust to hire?
Whether you decide that a freelance Bubble developer or agency is right for you, there are a few common dimensions you should consider when evaluating vendors. These include:
- Their portfolio (i.e. who have they worked with?)
- Customer testimonials (i.e. how satisfied are their clients? What feedback is there about what it’s like to work with them?)
- Their approach/process (i.e. how will they tackle your project?)
- The way they talk about your project (i.e. do they speak from a point of specific experience and confidence, or general puffery, hype, and over promise?)
If you’re only considering Bubble agencies, we recommend paying extra close attention to the following criteria:
- Agency size and number of projects: to trust the agency’s claims, it’s important to see that they’re established and have built up a credible track record.
- Portfolio in your area (use case and industry): make sure they can show that they’ve built similar types of apps and worked with clients close to your specific company size (e.g. startups or enterprises).
- Customer reviews and testimonials: check to see if they have case studies and attributable client reviews.
- Robustness of their approach and process: how detailed are they in defining your app’s features and design upfront? Are they asking the right questions about your product and needs?
On the other hand, if you’re evaluating freelancers, we recommend narrowing in on the following assessment point:
- Freelancer resume: Look at the individual’s resume. Do they come from prior jobs and roles that lead you to believe that they’re proficient at the skills they offer? For example, if they used to be a software engineer at Google, that’s a good sign that they’ve learned from the best.
Refer to our other article How to choose the right Bubble developer or agency to build your app for a more in-depth list of criteria and questions that you should consider to find a freelance Bubble.io developer or agency that you can trust to get the job done.
Need a Bubble developer to help build your app?
If you’re ready to build a custom app on Bubble, but need to launch fast without the risk of going over budget or missing deadlines, Airdev can help.
As the most established Bubble agency, we’ve built all types of complex, production-grade Bubble apps for sole non-technical entrepreneurs, fast-growing startups, and Fortune 500 enterprises.
You can work with us in 2 different ways:
- Agency model: Under this model you can hire a full team to build your application from start to finish for you. Click here to talk to us about hiring a full team.
- Freelancer model: Under this model you can hire an individual freelancer to help with your Bubble development. This model is best suited for those experienced with software development and want to augment their team and existing apps. Click here to talk to us about hiring a freelancer.