Status: it’s complicated. What to do if you don’t understand anything about IT?
Development is a costly activity from all points of view. You have to pay programmers’ salaries, wait for several months, be involved in the project yourself, discuss ideas with the team, and monitor the work. All of this is your time, money, and energy. Many startups waste resources because they decide to hire a software developer too early. So, the first and foremost question to ask yourself is: do you really need to hire a programmer now? Figuring out how ready you are to start developing a product can be tricky. Several tips you will find below.
🎯You need to look for a programmer if you:
- Thought out the idea clearly. When planning the launch of a startup, it is important to imagine the product in every detail. What user pains will it cover? What services are primary and secondary? How will monetization be structured? It’s important to answer these questions for oneself. If you don’t have a strong concept, which is thought out in detail, then starting development is pointless: you can’t build anything good without a foundation.
- Conducted a research, which confirms that you can make money on your idea. Even if the idea is thought out well, there is no guarantee that it will ‘be a success’ — if it is not justified by research and numbers. It is important to analyze the market, find out the needs of future users, identify competitors and understand how to stand out from them. The marketing strategy will partly determine the development. For example, you will understand which features to implement in the product first, and which can wait. You will also be able to roughly calculate the load of the service: do you plan that initially there will be 100s or 100 000s of users.
- Have sufficient budget. Development is a costly activity, and no one can tell you the exact amount down to the dollar in advance. Unforeseen changes may occur in the process of creating the product. You may want to adjust the concept, make additional integrations, or improve the product in some other way. If you save as much as you can on development, the quality of the product will suffer. Therefore, you need to calculate the budget in advance taking into consideration the unforeseen costs.
- Have already deployed MVP (minimum viable product), and you see that it is in demand. If your application with a minimal set of features is already generating revenue and you understand which way to develop it further, it’s time to look for developers.
- Have an attractive brand under your belt. If you’re launching a new product under a brand that your audience already knows, you probably already have a concept and marketing strategy. All that remains is to make a quality product that will not disappoint loyal customers.
Do you recognize yourself in these points? It means that you can start developing a mobile app. If you have some doubts, here are a few more markers that show that it is too early to hire a programmer.
🎯 You don’t need to hire a developer for a startup, if you:
- Think you’ve invented a new Facebook and want to develop a complex product for a multimillion audience from scratch. Most likely, a good developer will not take such an order. You need to start from a small one, look at the metrics and conversion rates, and gradually expand the functionality of the product. Too complex application, first, will take a very long time to develop — the market situation may change a lot of times. Secondly, there is a risk that your idea will not justify itself, but you will spend a huge budget on development.
- Aren’t sure about what you want. You can have a consultation with the developer on the technical implementation of what you want to do. However, no one but you, who is the future owner of the product, will define the concept. It is important to come to the programmer with a well-thought-out idea and clearly define how the product should work. Otherwise, global issues will have to be solved on the go, and this will not benefit the quality of the product.
- Have significantly limited budget. If you need a quality product and you need it to succeed in business, then you should not choose the cheapest options. You can hire a software developer for different amounts of money, but those who sell their work for pennies will also have doubtful competence. As a result, in an attempt to save money there is a great risk of throwing money away. You can reduce costs by releasing a product with limited functionality at the initial stage. But even in this case, the services of programmers cannot be absolutely cheap.
When the programmer is actually needed: whom to look for?
So, when you have a clear product idea, market research, and a budget for development, it’s time to look for a programmer. There are three options here. You can hire a freelancer, choose an outsourced development team or hire staff. Each solution has its pros and cons. Let’s understand all the advantages and pitfalls.
To hire a freelancer
The most low-cost and, it would seem, the easiest way is to refer to a freelancer to develop it.
👍 Advantages of working with a freelancer:
- You can pay considerably less than the market: there are beginners among freelancers who are willing to work for low rates. In addition, even an experienced programmer will cost less than in the studio, because there are no management and office maintenance costs.
- There are a lot of freelancers: you can find a specialist for your needs. For example, if you need to release a product urgently, it can be problematic to negotiate with the studios: developers are busy with other orders and will not be able to immediately put all their efforts into your product. Also, among the freelancers there will probably be someone free.
- Many programmers now offer their services online and make websites and applications “ready-to-use”. One person develops both the backend and the frontend, and sometimes they do the design too. For all questions, you can communicate with one person. This is convenient if you find a common language.
👎 Disadvantages of working with a freelancer
- The reputation of a freelancer is not confirmed by anything: a person can disappear in the middle of a project, fail to meet deadlines, or take an advance payment and make a completely low-quality product. You need to carefully choose a specialist by portfolio and reviews, but even this will not give a full guarantee.
- If you do not have a technical background, you are unlikely to be able to distinguish a serious specialist from a beginner. This means that you will hardly be able to assess the reliability of a specialist and the justifiability of his prices for services.
- The wide expertise of the majority of freelancers can be a disadvantage. If a person can do design, interface development, and internal system logic, their knowledge in each area is probably not very deep. Often narrow expertise specialists offer better solutions.
To cooperate with a studio
You can apply for the development of the product in an app development company — a web studio. A full-fledged team of designers, programmers and managers will work on the project.
👍 Here are a few reasons to turn to a team of professionals:
- Long-standing studios value their reputation, and their internal processes are well-tuned. You don’t have to worry about deadlines and product quality. For sure, everyone has force majeure, but you won’t encounter rough violations in your work.
- The contract will clearly state the cost of services, development time, product features and guarantees. The programmers will not disappear and will be responsible for the fulfillment of obligations.
- In software development companies there are many specialists with different experience. They can select for you programmers with deep expertise in your niche.
- Unlike hiring programmers as a staff, here you don’t have to worry about management and wait for the team to work together. You will only have to clearly communicate your ideas to the team and periodically monitor the progress of the work.
👎 Also there are several disadvantages to work with the studio:
- The cost of mobile app development will be higher than freelancers have. This is explained by the fact that studios mostly have experienced developers, and the project will be worked on not by one programmer, but by a whole team.
- Unlike hiring in-house employees, you will depend on how the contractor’s company is organized. You will not be able to fire weak specialists or fundamentally change the project management process. That is why it is important to get to know the team and learn about the progress of the work beforehand. You may have to talk to several teams in order to choose the right one.
To employ your own staff
The last variant is to hire a developer for a startup for your office. This is probably the most uncommon case, but sometimes it makes sense.
👍 Why to hire software developers as a staff might be a good idea:
- A full-time employee will be able to devote 100% of their time to your project and will be involved in all internal processes. Perhaps, this will speed up the development process.
- In the office you can better control the process of work, always see what the programmer is working on and communicate at any time on matters of concern; you can do that without mediators and long waiting time.
- Depending on how the work goes and how quickly the product is needed, you can work with one employee or hire more developers.
👎 What are the disadvantages of this solution:
- You are completely responsible for the selection of personnel. You will need to choose a reliable employee. It will be difficult to assess the programmer’s skills without expertise in IT. If you do not work well together, you will have to fire the developer and look for a new one. All these are unnecessary bureaucratic complications, wasted time and money.
- It is expensive to hire a lot of narrow-skilled developers who will work only on your project. But one wide-skilled programmer is unlikely to deliver the maximum quality of work.
- You are unlikely need a team of programmers for a long period of time. Usually development is a project task. When the product is ready, it will only need support. In case, there are no serious problems, the person on staff will sit without work.
The ways you don’t need to look for a programmer
It is a real challenge to hire a developer for a startup with no background in IT. The wrong choice can ruin the whole project. Let’s have a look at typical mistakes.
1. Refer to the cheapest freelancer
If specialists offer their services with prices much lower than the market, there might be a reason for that. Most likely it is a beginner, who does not have enough competence to do the job at a good level. Trying to save money this way, you can lose both money and time.
2. Hire employees at a junior level
Some people think that it is enough to hire one experienced programmer and a few interns. This is another way to save money that is more likely to do harm than good. Beginners need to be trained, and this is a waste of resources. You will have to pay the salary of an experienced programmer, who will teach inexperienced colleagues, instead of concentrating on the development of your product. This will be a waste of time.
Junior programmers are usually employed by large studios, with a willingness to invest time and effort in them. For a startup, where time and money are limited, beginners are not suitable: it is better to hire software developers with experience.
3. To choose the first studio that comes along
Cooperating with an outsourced development team is an optimal solution that reduces risks and costs. You don’t have to evaluate the competence of freelancers or recruit staff yourself. However, you shouldn’t blindly trust any application development company either.
Before hiring a developer for a startup, look carefully at the portfolio of the future contractor. If there are projects similar to yours in scale and subject matter, this is a good sign. Look for reviews of the company, talk to the team, and ask for details about the work process. The more carefully you choose, the more fruitful the collaboration will be.
Why a good development team is your fairy godmother
The majority of startups choose an outsourced team to create a product. A studio with a good reputation has many advantages over in-house developers and freelancers.
🎯 While working with the team, you can expect:
- Predictable product quality. Have a look in the studio’s portfolio to see what projects the programmers have already worked with and where these products are now. If the studio has experience in creating successful apps for startups, that’s a good sign. If these startups are in segments close to yours — even better.
- The most accurate calculation of budget and timing. Experienced developers and managers, who often work with startups, are well aware of how long it takes to develop a product with this or that functionality. They will be able to calculate their time with high precision, as well as warn about all possible changes in advance.
- Professional communication. Project managers in software development companies are used to communicate with customers who do not understand programming — you will be able to answer any questions with easy language.
- Expertise. A team of experienced specialists will be able to take responsibility for the result. If suddenly you propose solutions which are non-feasible from a technical point of view, good programmers will not fulfill the order mindlessly. You will be explained why it is difficult or impossible to take into consideration this or that request, as well as offer alternatives.
Since digital products in all areas are rapidly gaining popularity, there are a lot of development studios now. It is not necessary to be limited to your region — a lot of them work remotely.
There are studios with different sizes, and there are many approaches to development, too. For example, the classic approach involves working on the entire site step by step. But for startups, a “flexible” agile approach with Scrum methodology is more relevant. In this case, all the development time is divided into sprints, and for each sprint, the team produces a finished piece of product. For example, a Scrum team can develop a payment page for an online store with payment system integration in two weeks. This method allows better control over the development process, to change something already in the process, and to release the MVP to the market as soon as possible — with a minimum set of the most valuable features.
It is important to understand that the development of the product will not happen without your participation in any case. Regardless of the performers or the chosen methodology, you can’t just give the programmers a technical task and come back for the result in a few months.
For the success of the business, it is important to communicate with the team regularly: to discuss arguments, to see what has already been done, and to adjust future plans. Creating a product is all about collaboration. But true professionals will work autonomously much of the time, and come to you with specific questions and suggestions. The choice of a good software development company is important, to minimize your labor costs and delegate as much as possible.
How to look for a development team and what is the cost?
The main question is where do you find the right team of real pros? If you have never reached out for development services, this is a new market for you, and it can be difficult to navigate. Here are the most effective ways to hire a developer for your startup.
1. Buzz marketing
If you don’t know whom to contact, ask your friends what good studios they know. This will help you to learn about the work of companies, not from advertisements, but from people’s real experiences. Maybe that’s how you’ll choose your own contractor. Or, at least, you’ll understand exactly which teams you shouldn’t deal with. That’s valuable information too. However, the buzz marketing method is only good if you have a wide circle of professional acquaintances. If not, the information will be very limited.
2. Corporate blogs and social networks
Subscribe to specialized social networking groups and read the corporate blogs of different companies. Firstly, this way you can quickly begin to get your bearings in the market and learn about the big players. Secondly, you will identify studios whose approach is close to your heart, who make products that suit you, and your search will become narrower.
3. IT-conferences, contests, networking events
Business events are now taking place both online and offline. If you find out that a major conference or award is coming up, don’t be lazy to look through the participants. There might be interesting studios with experience that is relevant to you.
4. A usual search on the Internet
Enter the desired query into Google and start methodically browsing through the studios’ sites. This method is long and time-consuming, but it will help you to get maximum coverage. Pay attention to company portfolios. If there are not a lot of cases, or they were published about a year ago, it is a red flag. But dozens of cases, a few of which are very fresh, indicate that the studio has a lot of experience and developers are not sitting without work.
At the first stage of the search, it is better to select several studios, rather than one and then choose from them. Write to each one with a description of your project and see what terms and prices they will offer you. Typically, application development takes at least 2-4 months, and costs from 20 thousand US dollars and more — depending on the complexity of the task. If too optimistic terms and prices are promised then you should be wary. On the contrary, if they offer to work long hours and for a lot of money, this is an occasion to find out what causes such prices. Find out how many people will be in the team, how the work is structured, and how you can control the process at various stages.
Talk in person with the teams whose conditions will suit you — by meeting or calling you will better understand with whom you can work comfortably and effectively to. Do not rush to make a decision and do not be afraid to spend time on a thorough search. These efforts will definitely pay off.
How to make the right choice?
The fate of your business will largely depend on the quality of programmers’ work. We have done a detailed research on where to look for developers and how to choose them. Here are a few key tips to help you to hire a developer for a startup and make no mistakes:
- Feel free to ask any questions. The more you learn from a conversation with a prospective contractor, the better. Ask anything you do not understand. You are an expert in your business and do not have to understand IT. It is the task of the programmers or the project manager to tell you about the development process in an understandable way.
- Compare. There is no need to go to the first freelancer you see, or go to the studio that will be first in the search results. Consider as many options as possible, compare them. Let your decision be a balanced and informed one, not a spontaneous one.
- Discuss all the nuances in advance. Discuss with the prospective contractor how much the work will cost, what time-frame should be considered. Ask what may go wrong, in which cases additional time and money will be required. Agree on how often you will communicate with the team and how you can monitor the work.
The more information you have, the easier it will be for you to make a decision and hire a developer for your startup. At Purrweb, we specialize in MVP development for startups in different niches: from medicine to foodtech. Our specialists are always happy to answer any questions! To get a consultation, just fill out the application form below.
- Anton Kiryukhin
- Olga Fleryanovich