How to Hire the Right Developer to Get Your Business off the Ground

By on March 2, 2013

How to Hire the Right Developer for Your Business

Do you have a great idea for an online business? Once you have a winning concept, you need a way to bring your idea to life so it can start generating revenue. Unfortunately, if you don’t know how to code, it can be difficult to get your idea off the ground. To transform your concept into a quality site, service, or program, you need to find a talented developer — but this process might be harder than you think.

How to Know if You Should Hire a Developer

Trying to start an online business without programming skills is frustrating to say the least. If you don’t know how to code, you can’t evaluate another person’s skills, and hiring someone can feel like a high-stakes guessing game.

Some businesses can get away without hiring a developer. If you’re creating an online store, you can always do it yourself through a website like Etsy or Shopify. If you want to write content, you can start your own blog using Tumblr. Virb is great for starting a marketing website for your business. But if you’re trying to build a software project or something more complex than what these websites offer, you have no choice but to hire a developer.

My story is the quintessential tale of hiring one bad developer after another, and suffering through the losses until we finally found the right person. The first programmer I found on an online forum spent several months saying he would build our product, but he kept getting distracted by other projects. The second programmer I hired from a job board got us our product quickly, but bugs cropped up immediately, and every problem we fixed seemed to create two more.

After that, I tried to hire a full-time developer. I discovered that developers, at least in the Bay Area, are in high demand and short supply, so I outsourced to an offshore consulting company that offered good rates. We decided to rewrite most of our program, but it took them four times as long as they thought it would. Finally, I hired a better company, and one of its developers did a great job. He spent several months cleaning up the other developers’ code, and we finally got the program we wanted.

With that said, it’s okay to have bad code at first, as long as you can release your product. Once your product is out and your company starts making money, you’ll be in a better position to meet the right people and will be able to afford to hire competent programmers. You might lose some sleep, but coding problems can be fixed, and as long as you’re driving forward, a bump in the road won’t hurt you too much. In other words, it’s okay to fake it till you make it.

Consider Hiring a Consultant

If you have the resources, the best route to take is to hire a consulting company. Programmers are in high demand, which makes them harder to hire. And if you hire people full-time, you’re stuck with them. They may even require equity in your company, which makes it harder to call it quits if things don’t work out.

A consulting company can help you figure out your process, narrow down your scope to a minimum viable product, provide high-quality developers, and help you hire a full-time developer once they’ve finished their part of the project.

Hashrocket, thoughtbot, and Pivotal Labs are some of the best-known companies providing this service. They’re expensive, but you get what you pay for. You can pay less per hour elsewhere, but many companies may take longer, ship late, and provide low-quality code. It’s better to pay more per hour and have a better product sooner at a lower overall cost.

If you can’t afford these companies, contact them anyway, and ask them to recommend smaller companies that might be able to help you.

Can You Do It Yourself?

If you hire truly talented developers, you won’t need technical knowledge. They’ll be able to communicate everything you need to know. But if you don’t have the budget to hire somebody else, you can learn to code yourself.

In hindsight, this is the route I wish I had taken when I started Impact Dialing, and that’s why I recently started another company called Epicodus. Dev Bootcamp, gSchool, Hacker School, and Epicodus can all teach you coding skills. If you learn some code, but still want to hire someone else to do the work, a basic understanding will at least help you identify good (and bad) developers so you can reduce risks in hiring. (And once I found a good developer, I spent time working with him and discovered why the code I’d paid for was bad — it was a very valuable lesson!)

No matter what your budget is, make sure you’re moving your product or service ahead. Find a high-quality developer, hire a consultant, or learn to code. You believe in your idea. Now, you just have to find the right talent to build the foundation of your business.

Michael Kaiser-Nyman is the founder and CEO of Impact Dialing, a service that makes auto dialing simple. Connect with him on Twitter and Google+.

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