From writers to graphic designers to developers, millions of independent contractors are out there, just waiting to help you improve your business.
An abundance of freelancers means there are plenty of valuable workers you can hire for short-term projects. Getting things done is no doubt a priority in your business, and recruiting a team can make your dreams come true that much faster.
What’s challenging about hiring freelancers is finding reliable and high-quality talent you can count on. With freelance marketplaces, thoroughly vetting is important.
It’s especially tough when you need someone who knows how to handle the technical side of things (especially if you lack this knowledge yourself).
Enter Andela, a company that focuses on hiring out software developers from Africa. Backed by Mark Zuckerberg (and other investors), Andela promises to “develop” software developers—and it supplies plenty of options for your business.
Of course, as with any other platform, entrepreneurs are understandably wary. Is Andela worth it for hiring, and how can you decide whether to take the risk?
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There’s plenty to love about Andela, whether you’re asking clients or developers. From Reddit responses to news reports surveying Andela’s success, it’s not hard to find praise for the organization.
From our research, it appears the developers at Andela enjoy their partnership together.
For example, potential applicants on Reddit confirm they’ve tried multiple times joining the training program in Kenya. This highlights two positives: one—that Andela is selective about its process, and two—that local developers are angling for a chance at joining the company.
That’s saying something—especially as applicants have to commit to a long-term contract (with a high buyout if they break said contract). But Andela does note on their website that they only hire “the top 2% of developers.”
The facilities are also slick, and improvements are near-constant. Regular raises are a nice perk, and “fellows,” as they’re called, receive training and a salary with little experience off the bat.
The primary perk with Andela is that the organization offers jobs and training to local Africans at their multiple locations. Of course, after a few years in the business, Andela began recruiting higher-level developers.
Phasing out—or at least cutting back—its entry-level offerings means Andela’s moving toward recruiting more experienced professionals.
Either way, by choosing Andela, you know the people come with a quality guarantee. If someone underperforms, it’s up to Andela to make it right.
For many entrepreneurs, that type of guarantee is enough to choose the startup for all their developer needs. The fact that the startup develops a team to tackle your project—without you doing any of the organizing—is a nice feature.
And, it’s vastly different from the experience you’ll have browsing Upwork or other freelance sites.
Not everything is roses with Andela, of course. There are significant drawbacks to the company’s processes and plenty of turmoil surrounding its business model.
Andela reported mass layoffs at the end of 2019.
What was surprising was their explanation why they laid off over 400 developers. Andela’s chief executive explained that the market demand wasn’t there for freelancers contracting with US companies.
With the layoffs came a shutdown of the training facilities in three countries across Africa. These days, Andela is prioritizing placing developers rather than training up the next generation. To anyone who’s followed them since day one, this is a disappointment.
On the flip side, it might be positive for entrepreneurs that the only remaining team members at Andela are the seasoned developers with top-notch skills. You can still get quality work from the people at the company.
However, they might not be graduates of Andela’s in-house program. They also might fetch far higher hourly rates than the previous generations of Andela developers.
Though Andela doesn’t necessarily publicize its rates, publications confirm that the startup cashes developers out at one-third of the up-front rate that companies pay.
Redditors comment that the pay at the local Kenya facility averaged 60,000 per month. Presumably, that’s in Kenyan shillings—the equivalent of about $559 USD. For reference, the average monthly salary for most Kenyans is around 148,000 KES per month. That’s roughly $1,380 USD.
Rates likely vary based on a developer’s skillset, and Reddit commenters who claim to work there say that frequent raises are part of the deal. The healthcare package is also worth the commitment, they note.
Still, for an organization that grew from a desire to set African developers on a path toward opportunity, the discrepancy between what small businesses pay and what workers receive might seem concerning. It’s worth noting, though, that your investment supports both up-and-coming developers and the company as a whole. Contracting with Andela correlates to more opportunities for its local area and your company, too.
While most business owners are only too happy to discuss their experiences hiring freelancers, there’s noticeably little information about working with Andela. Quora users, for example, frequently ask questions about the process with the company—and often, what they get in return is promotional material from folks at Andela.
As Quartz Africa explained in its discussion of Andela’s Africa layoffs, most European and North American companies were top-shelf clients for the company.
Smaller—and local—startups in Africa seemingly can’t afford to hire via Andela. That leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouths of clients who choose Andela because of its philanthropic efforts. But it’s worth noting that what constitutes a “reasonable” rate in the United States doesn’t necessarily translate to other countries.
So, what’s the bottom line? Unfortunately, Andela doesn’t advertise rates on its website.
Of course, that doesn’t stop Forbes from reporting rates averaging $50,000 to $120,000 per developer.
That’s around $4,200 to $12,000 per month if you’re hiring someone on a month-to-month freelance basis. Developers tend to work full-time hours, by all accounts, which means $25 an hour is the going rate.
For most small businesses and entrepreneurs, a full-time developer (who is available remotely) for $25 an hour is a steal. That said, transparent rate packages aren’t available on the website, so it’s tough to estimate the total cost of a project.
Whether you have the funds to drop on a long-term contract with an Andela developer (or team of developers) or not, think before you leap. You might want to calculate a cost-benefit analysis before jumping to sign a contract.
Deciding whether Andela is worth it for hiring depends on a range of factors.
First, you’ll need to determine if the fee structure fits your budget. But at the same time, you have to consider what alternative costs would be if you were sourcing a developer (or a team of them) on your own.
With Andela, the relatively painless hiring process seems appealing. The legwork is done for you to source qualified and talented developers. You can choose a specialty from Andela’s list and know that the freelancers have the experience you need.
When you tell Andela what you need and define the scope of the project. Then they create a team to handle your needs. Reading through the case studies on the company website, most of Andela’s clients found the hands-off a delightful experience.
For many organizations, Andela’s model is a reliable and safe option for sourcing teams of developers. While it’s not a true freelance model, the startup offers reliable and closely coached teams of developers who are well-versed in remote collaboration and meeting client demands.
With Andela, you might hit the jackpot with a comprehensive team to handle tasks you thought you’d have to muddle through on your own.