“I have an incredible app idea, but I don’t know how to code”…
Ten years ago, if you had an idea for an online business, your choices were:
- Learn to code and develop it yourself
- Hire an agency to develop it
Learning to code is kind of like learning a new language, like Chinese. Except it’s a one-way conversation that never ends. And agencies are expensive. Back then, it was hard to find quality contractors you could outsource development to, so you were basically stuck with options 1 and 2.
Nowadays, it’s not so hard to find good contractors. If you have a revolutionary idea, and don’t want to learn to code or hire an agency, well, here’s good news. You might not have to.
Three and a half years ago, I was tasked with building a new SaaS platform that would help small businesses manage their online reputation. I built the roadmap, including plans to aggregate reviews and social media posts from Facebook, Instagram, Yelp, TripAdvisor and others.
After reviewing the plans with my engineer, he explained that, short of a miracle, there was no way we could meet the timeline. We needed more help. So we spent a few weeks searching for local candidates. There weren’t many, and the few we interviewed didn’t have enough experience. Even if they did, they wanted full-time jobs and we didn’t have the budget to keep them on after the project was complete.
We also tried contractor sites. I learned that many of them worked on multiple projects at the same time, so you never got their full attention. Not to mention that they were always looking for their next gig, so you weren’t sure if they would be around as long as you needed them. And most we spoke with weren’t experienced enough either.
We needed a few experienced developers that could work with our existing team to complete the project in six months.
Then I stumbled upon a contractor site that was different. They had a network of developers that were ranked in the top 3% of their industry. Which means they had tremendous experience. They worked on a dedicated basis. Weeks or months at a time, so your project had their full focus. They weren’t looking for their next gig, or eyeing other opportunities.
We interviewed a few developers, and picked those that met our requirements.
Here’s a few general questions we asked:
- What are your working hours? – we needed at least an hour of overlap to discuss projects if they were in different time zones.
- What project management systems have you used? – we didn’t care if they used our specific platform, but they needed to be acquainted with project processes and communication.
- What are you doing to lead a good life? – we sought to work with people who fit our culture.
Here are a few engineer-specific questions:
- What is your process for rolling updates out to a production (live) server? – this helped us understand their thought process and attention to critical processes.
- Please attach a high-level specification you created for a development project (in PDF) – this illustrated their ability to articulate their thoughts and follow directions.
- What are you doing to keep current in technology? – this helped show if they were keeping their finger on the pulse of the industry.
Their rates were double what other sites charged, but we learned they worked two to three times faster and with fewer defects. We actually saved money.
The engineers we hired were based outside the US. We were worried about the time difference and potential language barrier.
But these developers jumped right in, with minor oversight from our in-house engineer. We provided detailed specs and instruction, and they got to work. We’d meet up briefly in the morning our time (which was night their time) and provide clarification. Calls were crisp and clear. Some developers had an accent, but it wasn’t a barrier.
We admired one of the developers so much, we would send him care packages with swag like t-shirts.
If you have an amazing idea, and want to make something of it, find a contractor and get started. You don’t have to be an engineer, or hire an agency. Resources we didn’t have years ago are now available at your fingertips.
“If you have a dream, you can spend a lifetime studying, planning, and getting ready for it. What you should be doing is getting started.” – Drew Houston
And that project we hired them for? We completed on time, to spec, and within budget. In the quarter we launched, it helped us generate the most revenue to date.