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What to Do When Your Outsourced App Developer Screws Up

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Let’s face it, there’s very little you can do when your outsourced developer has screwed up. If you’re already into a relationship that has gone sour, and you don’t have much to protect you by, read through the very end of the article for a solution. But, if you haven’t started a relationship yet, there’s a lot you can do to hedge against this situation before you enter into a contract with them.


Follow these pointers to ensure there’s an easy way out should the relationship go awry.

Related: 9 Ways to Negotiate a Contract Like a Boss

1. Strong contract

When starting the relationship, ensure that the outsourced developer and yourself or your team is completely aligned with your vision and the product specifications. Ensure that your expectations have been understood well by the developer, which should also be exhibited in the proposal or the contract that you sign with them apart from the conversations you’d have with them. The contract also should clearly state the deliverables along with the timelines for the tasks.

The contract should highlight and address the intellectual property rights, source code ownership and handover, project credits, etc. If everything is well-documented, you’d be in a better position to negotiate when things go wrong.

2. Payment schedule

A well-laid-out payment schedule will ensure that you pay as you see progress. While most developers would bill you in advance for the milestone completion, insist on payments post-delivery of each milestone, except in the case of project initiation fee.

Four to five milestones are a good way to break up payments for the app development lifecycle. Always keep a reserve, even if a small one for when your app is submitted to the app store.

Sometimes, insisting on too many conditions doesn’t give the right signal at the beginning of a relationship as well. In that case, you can throw in a bonus for timely delivery or customer satisfaction, etc. This extra dollars earmarked can go a long way in setting the tone and relationship right at the beginning.

Related: Using an Independent Contractor? You Need a Rock-Solid Contract.

3. Source code pushes

Most of the issues or challenges that I’ve seen people face are with regards to acquiring the source code of their project when things go wrong. All developers guard this piece well and from their perspective, this is the only thing they own up until it is paid for.

You require source code to hand over to a new developer if they have to start building from where the last one left off. If you don’t have that, the new developers would have to start from scratch, which could mean additional investment from your end.

While this maybe tricky, but you can try and get your developer to do daily or weekly code pushes to your code repository on a platform such as or BitBucket. This will ensure you always have the latest source code pushed to you irrespective of the current relationship status.

4. Credibility check

This goes without saying. But then, for various reasons -- inexpensive developer included -- many entrepreneurs don’t invest the time to do a bit of background research or check on the potential developers they intend to hire.

What is their credibility in the market? Are they willing to share a few client references from their last three projects that went live -- not just those they feel will give them a good reference? Do they have a strong understanding of the domain you’re planning to enter and not just experience in building for it -- for instance, on-demand apps, social networking apps, etc.? Have they demonstrated this understanding anywhere by means of unique insights or articles on their blog or publications?

This background check goes a long way in identifying the right partner, so you don’t get into a mess later.

So far, we’ve touched up on how to ensure you start the relationship with the outsourced developer on the right note. But, what do you do when you’re already in a mess and haven’t had a chance to implement all or any of the above? The best thing to do at that time is to ensure that you end the relationship amicably, so that you can procure the source code of your app or website. That’s the only thing that should be of importance to you at that point in time.

Cut your losses and simply move to another developer -- and start off on the right note keeping in mind the above points -- equipped with the source code for the app. 

Related: Remember: Divorce Is Nothing Compared to Business Breakups

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