Building websites or any core software product requires the right developer. It is a challenge finding the person or building the team you are confident and comfortable working with. Here are some tips.
1. Have a technical co-founder or hire a CTO. Partner with a technical co-founder if your company requires core technical work or hire a CTO with the necessary connections and experience. The CTO's job is to make sure the development team delivers as promised and quality is never compromised.
2. Start with a small task. When you outsource development work through freelance websites, most of your communication is email or a third party platform. You don't get a first-hand impression if that person can truly deliver. Joshua Dorkin, founder of BiggerPockets, recommended starting with a small test task to see if you can communicate with your developer and they can handle the job. You will learn about the person’s timeliness and values.
Adi Bittan, CEO of OwnerListens, said, “It takes a very long time to find a great team to work full time on a project, so I would work with freelancers to get basic prototypes out for testing but continue to search for full time collaborators.”
3. Stay connected with the development community. Whether you are a developer or just hire developers, it pays to stay connected with that community. It is easier to hire people when you know what kind of tools and projects a person is working on. You will know when a good developer is looking for a change of job.
Myke Nahorniak, CEO of localist.com, said being part of a community and going to meetups helped him immensely to discover the type of developers he needed for his startup.
4. Start simple. It is best to begin with a simple, functional product and progressively improve it until your business stabilizes or outgrows it. It’s human nature to want a more sophisticated, cleaner and faster product but it is not necessary to begin. Your customer wants the content and value without waiting for the shiny interface.
Instead of rushing things right at the beginning, Rob Biederman, CEO of HourlyNerd, started with a product made by a freelancer on Odesk. Once his business stabilized, he moved on to a formal development firm in Boston.
Jeb Blount, founder of SalesGravy, worked with a local web development company run by his cousin for over three years. When his business outgrew the developer’s capabilities, they shifted, one step at a time, to Odesk. They completed the migration to Odesk gradually, over the course of two years.
5. Research, research and more research. Hiring developers through freelancing websites is far from risk-free. Research every aspect of the developer, beginning with qualifications and credentials, to make sure they are authentic. Check for reviews and references on their profile. You will get a better idea of their capabilities from the developer's social networking and LinkedIn profiles.
Jason Richelson, founder and co-CEO of ShopKeep, said “I went into the Ruby on Rails groups and found a guy who was answering everyone’s questions. He was smart, experienced and I could see he had a great attitude. I contacted him and he became my Chief Technology Officer.”
Research the domain that you are working on. Read sufficiently to be comfortable with industry jargon. You need to ask the right questions if you want to hire the best and, for that, you should have a more than working knowledge of the industry.
Robert Livingstone, CEO of RoyalText.com, said “We spent a year of research learning the mobile marketing industry inside and out. We spoke to multiple development teams in the industry and found our team by an industry referral.”
6. Monitor the development team. Hiring the best developers is the most difficult task but your job does not end there. Frequently monitor your team. Make sure they are working on what was promised. This constant monitoring makes them feel accountable, which will help in improving the quality of the deliverable. There are several tools available for this.
Michael Kawula of Discount Cleaning Products had one bad experience with an outsourced team not working as promised. Now, he uses a different methodology. "We use TimeDoctor to record the hours they spend working for those paid per hour and for others, we pay per task. This seems to work the best," he said.
In the end, it is all about knowing the exact capabilities of your developer and ensuring that the tasks are executed as required. Adam Simpson from Easy Office Phone sums it up best when he says, “Get face-to-face with the developer and be sure to trust your instincts from the interview, regardless of how strong their portfolio is.”