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Would you use a Web Development Company or Independent Contractor?
I'm a non technical tech entrepreneur looking to get a website and mobile app built that requires creative design and functionality as well as e-commerce.
Should I hire a web development company or should I consider an independent contractor? What are the pros/cons for both? Is it possible to negotiate a fixed rate contract or should I expect to pay an hourly rate? Any advice on how to evaluate potential developers?
Edward Robertshaw Advisor
I run a contracting company. I would say the gain is you get fast and tested results. You can cherry pick what you want.
The downside: its difficult to align interests. You can do things with equity and bonuses but contractors usually want cash. Contractors are not the same as employees or founders with the long term interests of your company.
Thats simplified but a good overview.
Lane Campbell Advisor
There are plenty of opinions out there. To offer advice pertinent for your specific startup we would need more information about your business plan. If you think you are going to need to make a lot of changes after the launch I would avoid hiring either. You should recruit a technical co-founder who can help make the process smoother during those important early stages.
If your product is not going to require a lot of iteration during the early stages then you can afford to outsource it. You mentioned contractors and development companies. There are also considerations for onshore vs offshore resources.
If you do this stateside here are my thoughts:
Contractors tend to cost less and you can hold them personally liable for the deliverables unless they have an LLC. Not that you would, but you can.
The Web Development company route will typically cost more than one contractor but you should be gaining the benefit of a team and with it some continuity should a developer move on from that company.
If you do this offshore consider the following:
Time Zone differences can delay progress big time. It might okay to stay up till 2a.m. once or twice a week but if you need to spend a lot of time with your developers it's not going to be a long term way to live.
There are no intellectual property laws in any country with inexpensive labor. If they take your code after you pay them, well good luck dealing with that.
No matter what route you go, pay for progress, get deliverables outlined in the contract. Use escrow if they require a deposit. Don't jump on the 50/50 payment terms and don't use a wire transfer to pay anyone for a deposit. Read the contract and ensure it's clear you own the source code in any contract you work out with whomever you choose. Not a license to the source code, you need to own the whole thing (with exceptions for open source software used). You need to retain all rights to the brand. Don't sign an agreement that gives your provider the right to use your brand in marketing without paying you.
Lastly, most importantly, above all else, FORCE the provider to work out of your repository. If they want a deposit fine, do it by escrow, but if no matter the terms they won't commit code to your repo then don't even consider them for the project. The last thing you want is to be stuck having paid for a project only for the provider to have walked away without finishing and you have none of the source code.
Farhad Faqiri Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO Easydeck
If you are not very technical and do not have any wireframes or other designs then Hiring a dev. company might be better but it costs usually more.
However, this does not mean that they have better programmers. In fact they most likely outsource the development to cheap countries anyway. But if you do have exact ideas of what you want and have some front-end or back end skills then i recommend hiring an independent contractor. They are cheaper but need lots of micromanaging. Regarding the rate, I find that fixed rates only work when you know EXACTLY what you want. Otherwise go hourly.
If you need a dev firm that is cheap but very skilled you can pm me. I know a team that is located in Russia and ave worked with them for a while, they are amazing.
George Lambert Advisor
Interim CTO - CTO's for Hire
1. Should I hire a web development company or should I consider an independent contractor?
If you hire a contractor you will have to manage them, and most likely give them a spec to carefully follow. I tell people the most important thing to know upfront is "The Definition of Complete." Money invested in a plan and design before deciding on a shop or a contractor will save you money and make sure everyone has clear expectations.
2: Is it possible to negotiate a fixed rate contract or should I expect to pay an hourly rate
Many contractors will work on a fixed rate if they clearly understand the problem, but they will be unfriendly to the idea of constant revisions without an increase in compensation. Paying Hourly will increase your costs, and disincentivise them to complete your work faster. Fixed Price often gives you a faster turn around.
3:Any advice on how to evaluate potential developers?
If you are NON-Technical - hire someone to help you plan. Remember - you need more than an initial app but you need management of the app from cradle to grave. Transition to a cheaper Network Operations Plan is critical to maintain costs. If you are locked into a developer your updates will be subject to their availability.
If you would like more detailed assistance, schedule a half hour to speak to me as I have used both extensively. These are the products that I have overseen http://flightlookup.com/gtt/
Steve Simitzis Advisor
Founder and CEO at Treat
I've hired some great dev shops, but the overhead can get expensive, and you'll often end up working closely with a single dev anyway.
Hiring an independent contractor gets you someone who you might be able to convert to full-time. With a dev shop, converting to full-time is next to impossible. Even if your contractor stays freelance, you could still have a long-term, multi-year relationship with a developer who knows your code inside and out. With dev shops, the turnover is fairly high, so even if you keep your relationship going with the shop, you'll have new developers approach the code for the first time.
If you're starting a company, you're not just thinking about getting the first version out the door. For a dev shop, build and release is where it ends, then it's up to you to figure out the rest. But as a company founder, "the rest" is where all the fun happens.
Anton Trakht Entrepreneur • Advisor
CEO at Kultprosvet Full Stack Web & Mobile Dev
Independent vs Company
-In both cases you need to be able to assess the quality of developers. So you'll need the tech person who can help you, otherwise it's better to work with recommended teams or individuals only
- working with teams is easier in regards to management and planning, but you pay for this services so it's more expensive usually
Fixed vs Hourly
- fixed price is always better when you 100% sure what do you want as a result. but if this is the start-up and you work on the concept while the product is developed then choose hourly approach, so you'll be flexible
- you can check the references, portfolio, check an example of the code, but the best way toevaluate potential developersis to give them a test task, get the estimation and check the result and schedule in the end.
Ania Karwowska Advisor
Founder & CEO, HighSkillPro
I run www.HighSkillPro.com which helps businesses find and hire vetted top quality service providers. To answer your question, you can hire a full web development company to get your web or app off the ground or build an MVP, and all without breaking the bank. As long as you are comfortable just building the features you need (i.e. forget about bells and whistles for now), you can find a very good team that can do that very affordably and fast. If you need help thinking through it or finding good but affordable development teams, feel free to get in touch (our clients pay about 30-60% less than anywhere else).
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Aleksandra Czajka Entrepreneur
Freelance Senior Software Engineer, Developer, Web Developer, Programmer - Full Stack
I'm an independent freelance senior software engineer. Have been in the industry for a decade and freelancing for most of it. Here's some of my thoughts on the subject...
Seems you're getting lots of opinions here that are sounding cut and dry. But, it's not that simple. Obviously, I'm going to say go with a single person because this is what I do with start-ups. I would also say that because for me, as a person that has done this for many years, it's very straight forward to implement a project like this. Other independent programmers, who knows. It all depends a 100% on who you get.
The best advice I can give you on how to vet tech people is this: don't get swindled by the perception of knowledge by someone that makes you feel silly by asking technical questions about your product or anything else. I've seen many programmers try to make themselves seem smarter by hording information. Make sure you work with someone that can answer all your questions and wants to.
Make sure you pick someone based on integrity as well. You will not know how your code is developed. You wont know how secure your data is. You won't know whether there's a lot of bugs. You won't know a lot of critical information about your project...unless your developer is a person that values integrity.
Vetting a developer technically? I don't even know why you would need that. I mean, if they can't do your project....how will they do your project? You can definitely ask for their portfolio of stuff that they've done in the past, but, you can even get someone who is starting out and build your project/MVP as exercise. It all depends on what you want from your developer. And, getting another technical person to vet your developer? That's just silly. That's double work for you. You have to find two different people now.
I don't believe in giving developers a test. If you do give them a test, make sure it actually applies to what they will be doing. Whenever I get a test that has nothing to do with the work I will be doing, I get really pissed. Any time I need to vet a technical person, I talk about their experiences, ask them open ended questions about the projects they've done. When they advance to a face-to-face interview, I sit down with them and show them a project/code that is similar to what they will be working on and discuss the code and what it does. Someone could be very good at what they do and fail a silly programming test. Plus, it's kinda disrespectful to be tested, for one, and tested by someone who doesn't know the subject, for second. Do you give a test to your accountant?
Building a start-up, you will need access to your developer on and off on a as-needed basis after your MVP is completed. For this reason, an independent developer is much better. Companies have many projects going on. You will need a dedicated person to answer your questions and concerns, fix bugs, build new features requested by your clients, etc.
Definitely go fixed price. Get your wireframes down. You want to do this even if you're going hourly. Why would you ever want to start development without having complete plans down? Later on, after your MVP is completed, you might switch to hourly for new features, etc. However, even here you should get estimates for small pieces of work.
For the love of god, whom ever you work with, before you pay anything make sure you get the code you're paying for. Make sure the project runs on your hosting account as well. I hear a lot of horror stories where the developer was holding the client hostage and demanded more money. They were able to do this because all the code was on the developer's hosting account.
Lot's of scattered thoughts here, but hope they help. Feel free to reach out if you want to have more of a conversation on the subject. I'd love to give you more pointers and answer any further questions you might have.
Amir Yasin Advisor
I'm honestly really surprised no one has yet suggested that you find a technical co-founder you trust. Even if they can't do the project they are in a much better position to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the actual dev team. Going the route of trying to hire a dev or team without at least some technical support on your side is just asking to be taken advantage of, especially if you decide to offshore your efforts.
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