1 2 Previous Next 15 Replies Latest reply on Sep 13, 2012 9:23 PM by jormond

    Better to hire a firm or a consultant?


      We have a small office in Sherman Oaks, CA (Los Angeles) that needs to have an invoicing & database system built. With my limited knowledge I created preliminary blueprints of our relational databses. I also created the first draft of main layouts we will need. From there, I began creating the relationships and quickly realized that my knowledge-base wasn't going to cut it.


      Now we are looking at bringing in a consultant or firm to develop our system to work wonderfully - but there are so many pros/cons to hiring a firm vs freelance consultant. It seems that the price tag will be significantly less if I hire a freelancer - but then they wont have the resources and knowledge that a firm would offer. I'd love to know what some of you think about this dilemma. I'm also open to recommendations of developers in this area. I can't afford to make the wrong decision.


      Thanks so much!


        • 1. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

          Tara, get some references from those you are considering and follow up on them. Cost is relative. the "freelancer" may be less because they don't have the overhead. Or they may be not as good. I'm a freelancer who had a firm, and I agree there are pros and cons. If I charge as much as the "firms", then I'd better be good (fast, accurate, well-versed on how to best meet your needs).


          Recommendations are often subjective, too, so get more than one recommendation/reference.


          • 2. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

            Hey Tara,


            You should talk to a few firms/consultants, and see if any give you that warm fuzzy feeling from the combination of their knowledge and personality. While breadth of knowledge is important, don't discount how important a compatible personality is: If you need more work done in future, it's nice to have someone you look forward to talking to, vs. "Do I really have to phone that jerk?" There are a lot of amazing developers working for firms as well as running one-person shops.


            Full disclosure: I'm a one-person shop, and I'm damn charming!


            While location isn't necessarily important with all the remote software available these days, California is a hotbed of good developers, if proximity is important to you. You can find them here:




            I hope this helps.







            Paul Spafford

            FileMaker Database Superhero,

            Spafford Data Solutions


            Tel: 613 838 9956






            FileMaker User Group in Ottawa:


            • 3. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

              New Insight leads to next question:  Thanks to everyone for the great tips.  I now see that one of the core issues is that in most things i do (website development/design and video editing) I know the questions to ask to determine if someone is knowledgeable about their area of "expertise" and therefore good enough to hire.


              Because I'm FMP user rather than developer Im having a tough time coming up with a system for knowing what the questions are to even ask a potential hire... beyond getting recommends for other clients. On the plus side: I do know our office's needs very well so I created a list of both needs and questions as they came up while I was building the first (albeit lame) first draft. 

              • 4. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

                Based on your description, one person could easily do your project, handling

                the coding, business logic analysis and communications.


                Whether you go with a ³firm² or a ³consultant², your outcome will come down

                largely to who is doing the actual work on your project.


                Here are my recommendations:


                • Know who is working on your project and make sure that you will be

                speaking with them directly when needed.


                • Make sure you have a commitment that the person doing the work will remain

                to project completion (to the extent possible).

                Changing developers has a transition cost that you should not be forced to



                • Have the master password from the beginning.


                • Etc.


                Hope that helps.


                All the best,



                Tony White

                Tony White Designs, Inc.

                Tel: 718-797-4175



                • 5. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

                  Hi Tara,


                  You can provide the information and ask for quote - that's how we handle it.  We never go over quote unless the specs change and an Amendment is created and approved by the Client.  Most good Developers (whether independent like me or from a firm) will stand by their quotes.  Since you've created the blueprints and outlines, a quote should be a fairly simple request.  And many independent contractors know just as much as a firm.   :^)

                  • 6. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

                    Hey Tara,


                    Ask to see samples of their previous work. Notice whether it solves the problem it was supposed to, and if it is user-friendly. While it is nice to get someone who has built a similar system in the past, it's not vital. I always tell my clients that I rely on them to be the subject matter expert (which it sounds like you are), while I am the database expert. When the subject matter expert and the database expert work together to figure out what needs to be done, they can usually bang out a pretty quick requirements document without too much trouble.


                    Also ask for ideas on what they would do for you. Don't expect the person to sit down and develop something right away, but they should be able to tell you in general terms what it would look like and how it would operate.







                    Paul Spafford

                    FileMaker Database Superhero,

                    Spafford Data Solutions


                    Tel: 613 838 9956






                    FileMaker User Group in Ottawa:


                    • 7. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

                      Paul has sage advice that may NOT always be used. I have many solutions (including websites) that just are NOT for view by others than the client. Get recommendations from clients, and ask if they'd be willing to share screen shots or other peeks.


                      And also, Tara, I have clients that need tutorial on their solutions, not just "do it and show me". If you have the time and inclination, you can ask that of the developer.


                      Lot's of choices, eh?


                      • 8. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

                        And any potentials, read their blogs or any postings you see from them on the forums.  It can give good insight into the relationship your are about to invest in. ( It's not an absolute, but the extremes definitely stand out ).  For example, I have encountered 3 developers that i would absolutely NEVER hire, and a handful that I would seek out and pursue like a mad-man.

                        • 9. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

                          My recommendation is to go with a firm for a two reasons.

                          1. The code remains consistent among a firms develpers who adopt the same principles.

                          2. If a develper has to leave a project, the firm can put another developer right back in and communication is good among a firms developers.


                          There are may excellent consultants as well. The primary thing is your are looking for their experience whether they are from a firm or work as a consultant.

                          • 10. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

                            Hi Tara,


                            Whether you work with a firm or an individual it really comes down to your relationship with the person who is developing the system for you whether they work as an independent or for a firm. You need to feel comfortable with the person who is working with you and you are looking to them for advice and ideas to develop a truly great system that will do all the things you want.


                            A good firm will ensure that there will be a backup for your system in the event the original developer is on vacation, sick or not available. In addition they will develop your system uisng best practices so any developer can easily take it over. That's not to say an independent would not do the same but firms have to follow standards so different people can easiliy maintain systems.


                            It's not an easy task finding the right fit so take your time and don't rush into a decision.

                            • 11. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

                              I believe that the question of firm vs. individual is very secondary to who your developer is. If you find someone who is bright, experienced, responsive, and easy to work with, you've found gold. And I believe there is a lot of gold out there to be found.


                              Databases are often evolving entitites such that it is common to continue working with the developer for years after the initial database is delivered. As businesses evolve, so must the database. I work with many clients today who started with me in the 90s when I first started with FileMaker.


                              Gordon Shewach

                              Desktop Services

                              Ann Arbor, MI

                              • 12. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

                                A "firm" is not necessarily composed of all code developers doing the same things. Our firm was meant to be more diverse, so more client needs could be met. Some of us did NOT touch the hardware, some of us did not know JavaScript from a cup of coffee.


                                • 13. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

                                  The important word being used by many who have replied here is 'relationship'. You have to be part of the process to get what you want and the developer you engage needs you to be responsive and cooperative.


                                  Yes a firm will cost you more because they have bigger overheads. All of the bigger firms started out with people who worked as consultants... and many consultants choose to remain independent. None of that reflects on their skill or their ability to satisfy your needs.


                                  My oldest client chose me because I was not a big organisation but rather a lone individual who they could have a relationship with and who would be responsive immediately to their needs... not just put them in the queue.


                                  Yes... developers blogging and sample sites might indicate proficiency but that might just as easily represent their idle time with no work or their ability to market themselves...


                                  Paul has recommended you look for a consultant on the FMI listing. This is a good place to start. I don't agree, though, that in this day and age you have to choose from those in your geographical location. You have your choice of consultants from all over the world. My business would never have survived all these years if I didn't get remote work.


                                  You could safely choose Paul or Beverly or Tony or Joshua above (sorry I don't know the others) and none of them are in your region. ;-)


                                  Good luck...


                                  - Lyndsay

                                  • 14. Re: Better to hire a firm or a consultant?

                                    Hi Tara,


                                    There's another question that I'd pose for you!


                                    You say that you do develpment for the web and you've also joined TechNet. To me that indicates you are potentially interested in more than a simple invoicing system once you realise the power and dexterity that FMP can bring to your business needs.


                                    If that's the case then the person that you engage should ideally be someone who can help you get started towards becoming dextrous in the ways of FileMaker. You don't have to try and learn it all at once but sitting alongside a developer as he or she maps out your system's requirement is a good way to get started on the learning curve.


                                    I've been fortunate to work with this sort of developer as we've grown our own system and I could not wish for a better outcome. Now we pair-program the changes as that gives us an extra pair of eyes to watch for any unintended consequences of the new code.


                                    FileMaker's dexterity to interact with the web continues to be enhanced with each release so I'd be surprised if you did not find future opportunities for using the program in your business.


                                    Just my 2c!



                                    1 2 Previous Next