Whether you've hired freelancers/contractors before, what are your biggest concerns when it comes to working with freelance designers or developers? Pros and cons perhaps? :)
As a freelance engineer myself who has hired other freelancers as well, I can tell you that experience, communication and integrity are the key when looking for a good freelancer. I wrote a blurb about things to look for when interviewing a freelancer way back when: http://thecodebug.com/?p=1554. Feel free to reach out if you have further questions!
As somebody who has been a freelancer myself, built and invested in dozens of startups and currently running a highly successful Incubator Fund ( http://StartupStudio.Online )
I can say the biggest downside to hiring freelancers to build your product is that they do not have any skin in the game. Most times they do not have Quality assurance processes set in place and they will only be committed to delivering the basic MVP that was agreed upon for a fixed cost. Building a startup is a full time job and building a great startup requires the team to go far and above what is the basic requirement.
Far too may times my coders and designers have implemented and come up with new ideas that went on to show tremendous growth for our startups. They only do this cause they are paid a salary and they know that if the startups succeed, they will grow with it. A Freelancer does not have such motivations for him.
The only Pros I see working with a Freelancer is that they may cost lower upfront, but in the long run, they will end up costing you far more..
Unless you know what kind of developer you need and you know the development processes, then I would suggest to figure out that first.
A lot of people put developers on the same level and just compare prices. This is like not distinguishing between carpenters, plumbers and architects when you want to build a house. If you randomly pick a developer it can be the same as hiring a carpenter to build the entire house.
As for development processes and standards, I've seen a few cases when the founder would be satisfied that their app or website is published, but they wouldn't even know where the source code lives. If their previous developer has disappeared, then there is no way to fix anything or build new features. In the worst case you will have to start everything from scratch and pay twice.
If you do not have processes, management and leadership, a freelancer will almost certainly be very problematic. If your an expert, you can effectively manage other experts, but if your not, things are not going to go very well.
Non-experts should hire companies that have a demonstrated ability to execute.. In this case, product development for startups.
All the research on startups, including our own, shows execution risk is 99% of the reseasin for startup failure. Execution is about leadership, management and good processes taylored to startups.
Freelancers, small companies, large companies ... basically you will have the same risk @Steve Owens wrote about. A company will not save you from havoc but keep in mind that a company has to work profitable and earn money. So a bonus for successful implementation can be a huge benefit either way.
For a startup, a contract is best to attract professionals - have something on offer for them so it is a win-win situation in the end. Plus you gain flexibility.
Finding the right person/company will still be the biggest obstacle and therefore the highest risk.
Esp. for contracts with large companies: Success in IT depends on the people. A large company with good references may not provide the best people to your company (as they are probably already involved in other projects). That said, references are only valid if you get the people in charge for those projects.
I think Steve nailed it.
Hire a dev company unless you understand agile software development processes.
That or find a technical cofounder.
Some will leave you in the lurch or jump ship if something more attractive appears.
Many are incapable of seeing the potential of your project even though it could secure them long-term employment.
It is consequently difficult to entice them on board as co-founders or partners.
Some freelancer sites actually prohibit partnership proposition announcements!
I've found that most freelancers don't fully read & understand the spec and either:
These waste a LOT of time.
There is a simple solution.