Hiring inexpensive developers and assistants in exotic countries for minuscule wages sounds very exciting and a great way to jump start your business and online ventures, and it is. Every business, blog writer or freelancer should be aggressively looking for ways to leverage their time and skills. However, managing projects and outsourced developers is not easy. There are many problems that will arise in any outsourcing arrangement. After hiring dozens of outsourced companies and individuals from countries all over the world I have learned some valuable lessons.
Projects are about People
Establishing relationships and connections beyond curt online communication, is essential to successful long term relationships. There will be disagreements and misunderstandings just like in any social setting. Communicating through email, chats and even Skype is not the same as meeting people in person. Extra care needs to be taken in establishing the relationship and ensuring that both sides understand each other. Sometimes this can seem to be an inefficient use of your time, when all you want is to get projects completed quickly and cheaply. However, it is in the interests of both parties to try and develop long-term professional relationships. It is time consuming and expensive to be to be constantly looking for new developers and familiarizing them with the work you are doing. When you find good people do everything you can to encourage them to continue working with you including, many thank yous, clear and courteous communications and of course, give bonuses when the quality of work exceeds your expectations. Success is all about the people you are working with. For that reason, I recommend sites like oDesk which offer hourly billing. Project based outsourcing is too adversarial, both sides want to get as much as they can and get out. Hiring people for ongoing work shows a commitment by both sides for long-term mutual benefit.
Don’t get angry with outsourced workers, no matter how awry the project has gone. Try to end every business relationship professionally. I have found the need to go back and rehire developers that I thought I would never work with again just because other developers were far worse. No one is going to be perfect so don’t expect them to solve all of your problems. Great developers do not want to work with bullies. They want to be respected for the quality of work they do.
Great Quality Work is an Art
On any outsourcing site you will see people offering insanely cheap prices to do virtually any type of work. Most outsourcers without a track record and reputation will offer their services at very low prices just to gain some positive feedback. Of course, you generally get what you pay for. One thing that many non-technical people don’t understand is that quality coding, design and even planning is much more an art than a science. All outsourcers are not created equal and most projects are not cumulative types of work. That means you can’t just swap out workers to continue where a previous developer has left off. Internet projects are not like building a house out of lego where anyone can come in and add the next blocks to finish it off. More often then not, if you have to change a developer the previous work will likely have to be completely redone because of problems with the way the first developer worked. A small team of talented people is far more productive than dozens of mediocre workers. Good developers generally refuse to work on edits to other coders projects for good reason, poorly written and remarked code is a nightmare to follow. It is usually faster and cheaper just to start from scratch.
Its all about Planning
The most important work in any development happens in the planning stage. Beware of developers who don’t spend a lot of time upfront clarifying exactly what you want and how it should be done. Inexpensive and inexperienced developers will want to rush into the coding and quickly try to finish the projects regardless of how poorly it works. They care far more about getting paid then being part of cool projects. Artists expect to get paid more but also want to build something beautiful that they can add to their portfolio. Artists only want to build great things they can be proud of. Talented people will appear more expensive in terms of hourly wages, but quality work is always cheaper over time. Beware of the many novices who pretend to be artists. These are the worst people to work with. They act like artists but don’t have the skills to do the work.
Find Outsources Who Disagree With You
The best developers and designers will generally disagree with you the most in the early stages of a project. They are the experts and will generally fight with you if your ideas are weak or don’t make sense. This is exactly as it should be. You should listen to experts, that is the only way to build great things. It is the developers that agree with everything you say that you need to be leery of. Most outsourcing companies exist to pump out work quickly so that they can make as much money as possible. They are the ones that say “Yes, sir.” “Of course, ma’am.” And after a poorly hacked together solution, they are the first to ask, “You send us money now?”
With a great team, amazing things can happen. With mediocre developers all the time and money in the world will still produce lousy garbage. Always be on the lookout for great talent. When you find them do everything you can to keep them.