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Why you shouldn’t rely on the gig economy for web development

Posted on August 17, 2016

 

If you haven’t heard of the term ‘gig economy’, you probably soon will. It’s a growing trend within the United States, and refers to businesses using ‘gig workers’, or freelancers, on a project-by-project basis. Rather than employ a full-time staff member, or outsource to a company, businesses contract these gig workers until a specific project is finished.

As the owner of a small business, you may not have access to a particularly large budget for your website design. In your search for a web developer at a budget price, you may be tempted to try the gig economy rather than hire a web development company such as Engage Web. There are several reasons why this may not be the wisest course of action.

In the gig economy, people with skills join a website or network that connects people looking for short-term jobs, or gigs, with people offering gigs. The highest profile example is Uber, where self-employed drivers use the Uber app to find people wanting a car ride.

Visit sites like Fiverr or Elance, and you will find people with IT skills who you can hire for very little money to do all, or part, of your web development. Before you rush off and hire one of the freelancers for your website, consider the downside of the gig economy.

Lack of continuity

Web development is not just a matter of building a website and walking away. If the site contains complex code, there could be bugs that need addressing. Most business websites will need regularly updating with content, as well as design and development updates. For this, you need a web development company that is prepared to have a long-term relationship with your business and your website.

Gig freelancers, because of the rates you are paying them, will probably do the minimum necessary to fulfil your web development brief. They may not want to continue to work with you after the brief is completed. Many freelancers are not interested in loyalty to your business. They want to finish the gig then go on to the next one. They make their money by completing a job as quickly as possible, before starting another. Rather like builders, they could be balancing several jobs at the same time, so getting them to return and finish yours before better paid jobs take their focus can be a challenge.

Language and time barriers

Many freelancers working in the gig economy are not UK based. The reason that many can work for low rates is that they are living in places in Asia or Africa where living costs are a lot less. They may speak English, but not fluently. Your verbal interpretation of the brief could be misunderstood because of language barriers.

That’s not to say their skill levels aren’t high, mind you. Some of the best developers live outside of the UK and USA.

If the gig worker lives in a different geographical time zone, then there will also be communication problems. If your website stops functioning properly because of code bugs, then it needs fixing quickly. Calling up your gig developer first thing in the morning where you are could mean a call in the middle of the night for them, making them unable to respond to your frantic telephone calls.

Quality of work

Many gig workers can produce quality websites, but not all. According to a survey from Stack Overflow, 69% of web developers are self-taught, so you cannot judge the quality of their work through qualifications. An established web development company will have an extensive portfolio of work by which you can judge its quality. This will not always be the case for gig workers, which will make them a riskier proposition.

Lack of innovation

According to Rob Lennon, at Thunder, gig developers are not innovative. He said:

“(Gig) developers may seem like a steal, but in my experience they will only do exactly what you ask, nothing more. They aren’t decision-makers or collaborators, so you have to be extremely organized to use them efficiently.”

The director of client services at PostUp, Shelley Alvarez, said that PostUp does not use gig workers because the company is interested in long-term relationships with its clients, explaining:

“That becomes very challenging with short-term employees.”

Some predict that the world of work is shifting towards the gig economy. This may be ideal for short gigs like taking an Uber taxi ride, but when it comes to web development, a well-established web development company should not be replaced by the gig workers, even when gig workers are cheaper to hire.

After all, if cost is your only true deciding factor, you can get a website for free. Here’s why you shouldn’t do that, either.

Darren Jamieson

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 15 years’ experience in these fields.

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