Since joining Freelancers Unlimited two years ago, I’ve noticed a big shift in our business in the Greater Toronto Area and I have begun to inform my clients. At the time that I joined, when it came to web-related requests, i.e. web design and web front-end and back-end development, the pattern definitely favoured the need for a freelance or contract web designer, with fewer requests for a developer or coder (we were also getting resource requests for freelancers who could do both design and development but the value in that is the subject of a different article). For the past six months or so, I’ve definitely noticed a shift in the pattern. Clients today are asking more frequently for developers and to a lesser extent, designers. The shift from one type of web resource to another is fine with us. We’re perfectly happy searching for and placing either a designer or developer, but there is a big difference that we think our clients should be aware of, and this applies equally to both freelance placement and fulltime placement. Available developers are hard to find.
Many of our clients are ad agencies, and they of course have been in the business of hiring and retaining designers at all levels for many, many years. There has been a shift, of course, from print designers to digital designers over the years, but for the most part the designers on staff are now designing for both print and web. The younger generation in particular, when I ask them during an interview if they have a preference for digital or print, they look at me like I’m from another planet and tell me they’re perfectly comfortable doing either. It’s just a different medium. No big deal. So our clients’ digital or web design needs are being met for the most part. What our clients need now are developers. This is a relatively new addition to the head count of any creative department. So depending on the client, they need either a freelance or a fulltime developer to not only help with the creation of new sites, but to help with maintaining existing ones on a regular basis.
Web developers are in huge demand right now.
As a result, it is getting more difficult to find available developers, especially at a moment’s notice. It is a bit easier to find developers interested in freelance or short-term contract work. They’re happy moving from contract-to-contract, project-to-project, mostly working offsite during the hours that work for them. They’re also able to charge hefty rates. I can’t tell you how often potential candidates are interested in the assignment I have but they turn me down because the rate is just too low (sometimes it really is too low, but sometimes it’s really not). Some other client will offer them more relatively soon, and they know it. Making things even more difficult, they don’t need or want fulltime jobs. They’re in such demand, and the nature of their work is so easily done remotely, that they don’t need to work for a company in a fulltime capacity. Freelance or contract is more appealing. I have had to tell clients who are desperate for a fulltime developer to be patient. We can find them. There is always going to be someone who prefers the stability of a fulltime job but it won’t be easy. This will take some time.
Start your search early.
If you think you’re going to need a developer in the next two to three months, then start searching now – whether you’re looking for a freelancer or a fulltime resource! This is especially true if there’s a need for a specific coding skill/language making the search even more difficult. Clients are also going to have to loosen up the purse strings (if not from a salary or rate perspective then maybe other perks like free parking or some other benefit) in order to attract qualified talent. Being more flexible when it comes to offsite vs. onsite, working hours, etc. will also help. Those clients looking ultimately for fulltime resources may want to consider starting out with a short-term offer (a 3-month contract, for example), and then assuming that both sides are happy, offering a fulltime job at that point. Hopefully during this time the client has shown what a great place it would be to stay on a fulltime basis. If the freelancer still isn’t interested, then maybe renew the contract for another 3 months while you continue searching for someone interested in fulltime. Regardless of the offer or approach, it’ll help if clients can plan ahead, be patient, and be willing to be creative with their offer.