Picture this: You’re an aspiring game developer. You have an amazing mobile game idea that you want to turn into reality. But sadly, you’re only good in one area, which means you need to build a small dev team to work on the other areas that you have no business dipping your hand in. The trouble is, you have zero connections in the field. None of your friends and family members are particularly interested in helping you achieve your goal (which is kind of sad, actually). The good news is, you have saved enough funds to be able to hire total strangers who are experts at what they do. And the bad news? Well, you don’t know where you’re supposed to start in building your dream team of game developers.
Now, you have two options when it comes to building your dev team: hire locals and build an in-house dev team or hire online freelancers and work from your lovely home. Going for the former has its own advantages and disadvantages. But we’re not going to talk about that, as obviously stated by the article title. Instead, we’re here to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of building a game dev team with online freelancers remotely working thousands of miles away from you.
You will have access to a MUCH larger talent pool. Look, we’re not saying people in your country don’t have talent when it comes to game development. But simply looking for local talent robs you of the chance to hire more capable individuals scattered around the world. Having an abundance of options is always a good thing. Instead of posting your project at an online job portal that’s mainly populated by people in your country, why not post it at an online freelancer portal instead? You’ll be surprised at the number of talented individuals that are more than willing to work with you remotely and help you finish your game. Many of them are already well-experienced in game development and could teach you a thing or two about how to run the project.
You can run your project from anywhere. Working with online freelancers allows you to be completely mobile. There’s no need for a physical office. As long as there’s an internet connection, you’ll be okay. Want to work while having a cup of coffee at Starbucks? That’s fine. Want to check on how things are going while you’re in the middle of a date? That’s cool, though not recommended. Want to run some tests while on vacation in Fiji? No problem. Not having a physical office means you won’t have to deal with office-related things as well. Like renting a space, paying electric bills, and buying office supplies. This will save you a lot of money. You can use the money on boxes of Doritos or cans of Red Bull instead. Whatever you need to get through late-night work sessions.
Online freelancers are cheaper to hire. No, we’re not talking about their per hour rates, which can be really pricey if you’re looking for someone with tons of experience in game development. We’re talking about the HR benefits that come with hiring local talent. If you go for an in-house dev team, you will enter the traditional employer-employee relationship. Which means you have to pay for your employees’ health insurance, social insurance, and whatever else your government mandates that you cover.
With online freelancers, this won’t be necessary – they pay their own insurances. Online freelancers aren’t in the same category as employed individuals. The only thing you need to worry about is their salary. Similar to not having a physical office, this saves you a lot of money. You can use the extra money to pay for a pricey but incredibly talented and experienced online freelancer instead. If you can find an equally talented individual with a cheaper price tag, then much better.
Online freelancers can be hired for one-time projects only. Unlike traditional employees, you don’t need to invest long-term on an online freelancer. Well, unless you specifically want your partnership with them to go the distance. Working with the same people has its own benefits, like continuity. Online freelancers typically work on short-term projects or gigs. So it’s perfectly fine to hire one for only a specific task and then part with them as soon as the task is completed. You won’t be compelled to keep them around. This also works if you chose to go the in-house dev team route. Have a task that none of your team members are capable of doing? Outsource it to an online freelancer instead!
It’s possible to get more work done. Online freelancers typically work from home, which means they won’t have to spend time commuting or traveling to and back from work. This gives them more time than usual employees to work on your project, though it still depends on the work ethic of your chosen online freelancer. Some are even willing to work during weekends (with pay, of course). Furthermore, freelancers (online or otherwise) prefer to keep clients to have a more reliable source of income since it can be hard to consistently find projects. So they’ll be working their asses off to make sure that you keep them or get you to come back to them for more work in the future.
Trust and confidentiality issues. Since online freelancers are total strangers halfway across the globe, it’s going to be hard to place your trust in them. You don’t know them personally, and you won’t be able to call their past employers (if they worked as a regular employee before) for reference unless they’re willing to have you check their background more intensively. So, basically, it’s a risk.
There’s also the issue of your game’s confidentiality. Online freelancers who don’t have a single drop of decency and loyalty in their veins could easily steal your ideas and create a similar game using the information. You definitely don’t want that to happen. As a countermeasure, you can have your online freelancers sign a legit, lawyer-approved non-disclosure agreement or NDA.
Communication issues and time zone differences. The most obvious disadvantage with online freelancers is time zone differences unless you hire someone who’s either in the same time zone as you or close enough to make communication easier. If you hired someone who typically works the same hours as you, regardless of time zone, then great. Otherwise, you’ll have to work out a convenient communication schedule, though since you’re the client, you’ll have more control over this.
Another issue comes in the form of language barriers. What if the game designer of your dreams lives somewhere in a country where English isn’t a widely-used language? Would you be willing to work through the language barrier? Remember, instructions could easily get lost in translation, so to speak.
You won’t have full supervision over online freelancers. Since you won’t be hovering over their shoulders to check up on their work every 30 minutes, it’s going to be difficult to keep track of progress. Furthermore, online freelancers – or freelancers in general – work in their own time. They have their own schedules, which you have no full control over. (For freelancers, this is one of the perks of working remotely.)
Worse, online freelancers can suddenly stop working on your project without giving you a heads-up. They can simply bolt without leaving a trace, bringing with them all the info on your game. Not only will this set your project back a couple of steps, but you’ll be forced to search for another online freelancer and then have them continue where the previous freelancer left. Which requires you to bring the new online freelancer up to speed on your game’s current progress.
You won’t be able to build real work relationships. No, not the romantic kind. Obviously, having a game dev team of online freelancers means there’s no chance of weekend beer sessions after reaching a certain milestone in your project. You won’t be able to build relationships similar to employees who see each other every day in the office. Of course, if you’re the anti-social type who hates interaction and only focuses on the tasks at hand, then you won’t have a problem.
It can get lonely, though, especially after completing your project and achieving success. Who are you going to celebrate your success with? Your laptop, who has been with you through thick and thin? It may be shallow, but being able to high-five your teammates in person feels better than typing “WE DID IT!” every five minutes in whatever communication platform your remote team uses.
It can be really difficult to find the right individual. There are millions of freelancers working online, which makes it difficult to search for the best suitable individual for your team, especially if you don’t know how to filter search results. There’s also the chance of missing out on a potentially excellent fit because you hired too soon. Like, the day after you made the hire, an online freelancer possessing greater talent suddenly pops up in the marketplace without you knowing. Obviously, the trick is to be extremely thorough with your search, especially if you’re looking for a long-term investment. Also, be prepared to filter out dozens of scams or individuals claiming to be “experts” at what they do, only to end up being completely incompetent.
As you can see, hiring online freelancers for your game development project isn’t always a sure thing. You will need to take risks when hiring them. But the benefits are well worth it, especially if you end up with hardworking individuals who share the same passion for game development as you. Ultimately, opting to roll the dice with online freelancers depends on the working environment you prefer, your willingness to work with total strangers, and of course, your budget.
If a game dev team full of online freelancers is your cup of tea, here are a few online freelancing portals to help you get started.
Upwork – A result of the oDesk-Elance merger, Upwork is one of the most popular online freelance portals. It has a very friendly interface, easily accessible to anyone. Searching for freelancers is made easier with numerous filter options, allowing you to look for freelancers who possess the exact skill set you’re looking for. The downside to Upwork is that the service fees are rather pricey – both for clients and freelancers.
Freelancer – Another popular online freelancer portal. Headquartered in Sydney, Australia, Freelancer.com is quite similar to Upwork. Clients post jobs, and then freelancers try to outbid other freelancers to get the job in a sort of contest. Although Freelancer.com has a relatively lower service fee, the fees system can get confusing. If Upwork isn’t to your liking, Freelancer.com is the next best place to post your jobs.
PeoplePerHour – PeoplePerHour has a less friendly interface than Upwork or Freelancer.com. But it will be a breeze once you get the hang of it. The platform has a great quality of freelancers, with the option to look into experts (be sure to carefully check their background, though). PeoplePerHour also allows you to hold onto your payment until you’re completely satisfied with the work your chosen freelancer turned in, allowing you to request for edits when necessary.
Freelance Writing Gigs – If you’re specifically looking for a writer to work on your game’s texts, Freelance Writing Gigs (or Freelance Writing Jobs) is a great place to start. You can also hire copywriters and content writers for your game’s website (assuming you have plans to create one). The interface looks a bit outdated, though.
Guru – If you don’t want your instructions to get lost in translation, Guru is your go-to place, as it’s mainly populated by US-based online freelancers. You’ll just have to work with the time difference, though, if you live somewhere in the eastern part of the world. Guru is also a great portal if you’re looking for programmers.
All of these online freelancing portals have their own advantages and disadvantages, just like when it comes to hiring remote members for your game dev team. It’s best to check out each of them and see which one suits your taste the best.