It’s a question faced by almost every startup founder: Do I need to hire an in-house developer?
Hiring technical resources is all about understanding how time and quality interrelate. If you’re working with developers on contract now and are wondering whether it’s time to hire in-house, here are some red flags you should be aware of:
- Your developer doesn’t move with urgency. Contract developers handle multiple projects at once, so they might prioritize other projects over yours based on a timeline or profit.
- Your developer doesn’t understand the aesthetics or functional details you need. Outsourced developers might have a different creative vision. Large firms or those operating overseas may not grasp the aesthetic that will appeal to customers in your region.
- Your definition of “done” is different. Some people work until the last pixel is perfect while others prefer to launch raw and make changes as the product gains market traction. If your definitions of “done” are misaligned, you’re in for a challenge.
- Your development team is experiencing high turnover. This is common in an aggressive technology market, and it means your project may stall or get passed from one person to the next.
Evaluate Your Needs
If you’ve observed these indicators, you need to look objectively at your progress and evaluate whether you should continue with an outside developer or consider hiring someone in-house.
Specifically, look at the projected cost of a staff developer. What can you afford? Are you self-funded, or are investors lining up to give you capital? Some sourcing options may appear quite inexpensive on the surface, but future expenses to fix major issues from cheap work can cost far more in the long run. A developer with more than 10 years of experience may charge $100 per hour to work on your project, but he may also have the breadth of knowledge necessary to get your project done in 100 hours. The alternative is to hire an outsource company that could charge $30 per hour but may take up to five times as long to develop the project.
Secondly, consider your timeline. If your project can be developed in a relatively short time, it really doesn’t make sense to hire a full-time person. Hiring someone for a project with limited scope means you’ll spend unnecessary money keeping that person around once the job is finished.
Lastly, if your idea is sensitive and you don’t want anyone outside your team knowing about it, hiring in-house makes sense.
Find an In-House Developer
Once you decide to hire, you’re up for a challenge.
Recruiting firms are sharks when it comes to poaching top talent with promises of big salaries and upside potential, and the cost of technical resources has ballooned in this hypercompetitive environment.
But just because it’s hard to find a developer doesn’t mean you should settle for anything less than a perfect match for your startup.
The trick is finding someone more motivated to build an excellent product and grow something from the ground up than reach for the salary and stability of larger corporations. Keep these three ideas in mind when evaluating potential candidates:
- Look for someone with a well-rounded skill set. An in-house developer or team must have all the skills needed to develop your product. A great in-house team should understand not only the primary code base for the product you’re developing, but also how other technologies interact with your product. This peripheral view of the technology landscape is important to effective development.
- Evaluate strengths and weaknesses. Ask your potential hire specific questions: Can you set and meet your own deadlines? Do you prefer to work alone or with a team? Do you specialize in front-end or back-end development? What’s your competency level with both? Make sure you’re getting someone who not only has the skills you need for your project, but also complements and balances individuals that are already part of your team.
- Prioritize creative vision. Tech-minded people tend to think analytically, and as employers, we often focus on technical skills. But you should look for someone who also has a creative vision. At the end of the day, someone who balances technical needs with business drivers will be able to create a superior product.
Before you begin interviewing candidates, look inward at your company. Understanding where your project lives in the market, in the technology space, and in general will further define your needs and bring clarity to your best development option. Once you know what you need and what you can afford, you can make the decision to hire in-house and evaluate qualified developers.
Alex Friedman is the co-founder and president of Ruckus, a full-service agency, tech partner, and accelerator that is devoted to helping businesses grow. At Ruckus, Alex has been at the forefront of developing technology for nearly a decade, advising entrepreneurs and growing brands and Fortune clients alike.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.