Many organizations think hiring a freelancer, whether a software developer, a tester, or a DevOps engineer, is only about producing a tangible outcome. You need to complete a project or a task, and the freelancer comes in to work on it for a fee. It seems like a simple interaction, right? There’s a job to be done, so you want someone—ideally an expert—to handle it for you.
However, hiring freelancers from this viewpoint overlooks some critical aspects that they bring to the table. Of course, a hired freelancer will do the work that you ask, but that’s like buying an expensive sports car and only using it to go to the supermarket that’s five minutes away. You’re not making the most out of the exchange.
Getting the work done is an essential part of hiring a freelancer, but most miss out on what I consider the most valuable asset brought by a new consultant or contractor—their unique perspectives.
Why Freelancers Are More Than Just Another Body
Freelancers come from all walks of life, with different experiences and backgrounds forged by working with various teams throughout their careers. They have worked in other industries and tackled multiple challenges along the way, bringing a wealth of knowledge that you and your team might not have considered. It’s like finding a flashlight to shine a bright light in a dark room after getting used to the dark for so long.
It’s easy to fall into a routine when working in the same environment every day for a long time. Everyone gets comfortable in their workflows and habits, and that comfort zone can lead to stagnation. Over time, most teams begin overlooking inefficient processes or outdated strategies. As an example, here are a few recent situations I’ve encountered when joining a team as a freelancer:
- One organization had a troublesome end-to-end test suite cobbled together of an old version of Selenium and shell scripts that were extremely brittle and prone to failure. The team kept using this system despite its problems because everyone was already used to its quirks.
- A group of developers at a startup—most at a junior level— didn’t do code reviews. Their codebase was quite a mess of buggy code and bad practices. When asked why they didn’t take the time to do reviews, the tech lead responded that it slowed everyone down, and they didn’t feel the need for this practice because they could patch quickly whenever a problem arose.
- Another startup team had a CTO who refused to set up a continuous integration pipeline despite multiple requests by their engineers. Apparently, he had terrible experiences with CI/CD in past organizations and didn’t want to go through them again.
These situations sound incredulous, but many workplaces go through them, especially on smaller teams.
The Benefits of Hiring a Freelancer Beyond Doing the Work
Bringing a new freelance software developer, tester, or DevOps engineer into your team can shake things up in your organization. Their expertise helps them understand how to improve and set things up correctly, not just fill in the gaps and do the work as another body. The experience they carry by working with other organizations is also beneficial by introducing new tools and best practices that your team might not be aware of.
Another benefit of hiring a freelancer is the fresh perspective they bring to the table. Their lack of awareness about how your team operates is a good thing since it opens up possibilities that the team hasn’t thought of before. Have you ever asked at work why something is done the way it is and received the response “That’s how we’ve always done it!”? This mentality can eat away at your organization by holding on to subpar processes for far too long.
As an example of how new viewpoints and skills brought by a freelancer greatly benefit an organization, here’s how I was able to help the teams overcome some of the inefficiencies or oversights I mentioned above:
- For the team using Selenium and shell scripts to run their tests, I helped guide their main QA person through a quick one-week experiment using another end-to-end testing tool that helped replace most of their old, flaky process. Seeing something different in action let them experience better and more stable alternatives firsthand, leading them to excitedly switch to a modern test automation environment with fewer issues.
- For the junior startup team, I encouraged the senior tech lead to establish code review and mentoring guidelines for any code changes. While it did slow them down for the first few weeks of the new process, they quickly saw the benefits of these reviews. Not only did the team catch bugs and other issues quickly, but they also began learning rapidly from each other. A few months later, the tech lead thanked me for helping set this up because the team was becoming more efficient.
- I took the lead on setting up a continuous integration service for the startup that didn’t want to take the time to set one up. Initially, we agreed to set it up as an experiment, and if the CTO wasn’t sold on the idea, we’d scrap the system. After a few weeks of using this system, the CTO was surprised at how it was helping produce the team better work at a faster pace and wished he had overcome his negative biases of CI/CD earlier.
Summary: Benefit From Your Freelancers Beyond the Scope of Their Tasks
Hiring a freelancer will help you complete any jobs to be done efficiently and effectively. However, if you only hire a freelancer to do a specific task or project and nothing more, you’re missing out on some of the most valuable benefits they can provide to your organization. The positive impacts a freelancer provides outside what they’re hired for can energize your current team with a new mindset that will boost their work and take your organization to the next level.
Experienced freelancers have seen it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly. The next time you or your organization considers hiring a freelance tester or developer, don’t just look at it as a way to offload extra work. Instead, take full advantage of their unique perspective. Ask for their thoughts on your current workflows, and be open to their suggestions to help you see things in a new light. Hiring a freelancer isn’t just a short-term solution—it’s a strategic move that can bring long-lasting benefits to your organization.
If you’re looking for a freelancer to help with software development, testing, or DevOps, I’d love to chat. With over 19 years of experience working with startups across the globe, I can help provide fresh perspectives to elevate you and your team’s workflows and processes. Curious to learn more? Reach out to discuss how we can achieve this together.