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How to Find Developers for Your Startup

By Tamas Torok
November 14, 2017

If you need development talent, consider one of these four approaches: learning basic coding, hiring a freelancer, augmenting your development team, or hiring a software development agency.

Finding talented software developers for your project isn’t easy, but augmenting your team can provide the resources you need in a short timeframe.

This year, Coding Sans conducted research asking tech leaders about their biggest challenges. According to our State of Software Development 2017 report, the biggest challenge startups and tech teams face is hiring software developers.

This challenge won’t go away soon. More than 90% of the respondents said they’ll need more software developers in the future.

As part of the Coding Sans team, I’ve made web and cross-platform applications for both startups and established companies for years. Many of these companies faced knowledge gap or capacity problems.

In this article, I’ll show you four ways you can find the right tech talent for your project without hiring a full-time employee, as well as tips for getting started on your own.

1. Be Your Own Developer

If you’re in the early phase of product development, chances are you can test your assumptions with cheap solutions.

Creating a minimum viable product (MVP) doesn’t necessarily mean that you need coders – yet.

An MVP consists of only the most crucial features. It has a simple purpose: test and validate or invalidate assumptions about your product.

While building an MVP, emphasize the most valuable part of your app. Skip the fancy features and focus on those that deliver key benefits. Most importantly, be absolutely clear about your target audience’s needs and desires. What makes your app an irresistible part of their lives?

An MVP can exist in different forms, and these allow you to test your assumptions/features in different levels. Here are some types of MVPs:

Some of these MVP forms require basic coding skills. However, resources like Product Hunt include lists of tools that help anyone, even non-coders, build their product.

After a while, though, you can’t avoid hiring a coder. This typically comes when replacing the products’ functions when manual work becomes overwhelming.

If you can’t find a tech-smart cofounder for your company, you may want to outsource the coding part of the project. The next section covers how to make outsourcing work for your project.

2. Hire a Freelancer

The freelancing industry is growing rapidly. Freelance workforce grew from 53 million in 2014 to 55 million in 2016, and it currently represents 35% of the U.S. workforce.

Freelancers can be divided into several categories, such as freelance business owners, temporary workers, and independent contractors.

Harvard Business Review Freelancer graph

Source: Hbr.org

As the graph suggests, you have options when it comes to finding talent. Freelancers with development skills can deliver anything from small adjustments to your site to entire projects.

A freelancer is perfect for a project too small for a software development agency but too big for your current team. It’s easy to hire a freelancer for a short-term commitment, and you can give freelancers projects depending on your company’s day-to-day needs.

Working with someone on a contract basis has many advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages include:

  • Flexibility
  • Lower operation costs (less equipment)
  • Lower wage costs (hiring outside your country, or offshoring)
  • Saved time (employee training isn’t necessary)
  • Less administrative overhead (reduced employee onboarding)

But partnering with a freelancer can also cause headaches, such as:

  • Slower communication
  • Less availability (a freelancer often has multiple clients)
  • More coordination and oversight (tracking code quality, regular meetings)
  • Less control over the final product

Make sure you consider both the advantages and disadvantages before making a decision. However, it’s usually better to hire a freelancer than to hire someone full-time for a very short period, especially if the project doesn’t require much human capacity.

If you’ve set your sights on a freelancer, Upwork and Guru are good resources for finding the right person. They provide large talent pools and allow you to browse options.

3. Augment Your Development Team

If you already have a development team but have a project larger than your current team’s workload capabilities, consider team augmentation.

It’s not uncommon that a specific project requires more developers to speed up development.

The best way to handle this problem is to search for a software development agency and hire the required number of people on a short-term basis. This method works for software teams who need specific expertise or more capacity but only for a limited time.

Team members from a single software development agency are usually in the same physical space, so they can discuss issues and coordinate workflow among themselves. This leads to faster product development.

FINIS, a swimming gear brand, faced a problem when it wanted to create its own fitness-oriented mobile application. Its web development team would have had to work outside its specialization to create a mobile application from scratch.

Ultimately, FINIS decided to outsource app development to a software development company and augmented its existing team. This made it possible for FINIS to launch its mobile application without putting extra pressure on its current development team or hiring more full-time employees.

FINIS swimming exercise mobile app

The finished product, created by FINIS’s augmented team

The collaboration was a success: FINIS worked closely with an external software team, which allowed the company to deliver the product in time.

4. Hire a Software Development Agency

You can hire an entire software development agency if your project is complex and requires a wide variety of expertise. This means that a dedicated team works on the project and is 100% responsible for the delivery.

An advantage of this method is that team members know each other and have significant experience working together. However, since they’re external partners, you’ll have to coordinate closely with the agency to keep the project on track.

Let’s look at an example of a company that used a software development agency.

Ecat is a tool that helps organizations monitor, review, improve, and embed their precise processes. Ecat’s founders needed help building their product. They didn't have much in-house tech knowledge, so they decided to work with an agency.

Their biggest problem: timing. Software development companies in Ireland and the UK quoted the Ecat founders a 12- to 18-month estimate for getting the system up and running.

Ecat then looked for software development agencies outside of Ireland and UK. The company found one who finished the project within 6 months and for half the price of previous quotes the company had received.

When the Ecat founders looked outside their home country, they were able to find a software development company that fit their needs. They got a reliable, long-term partner; reduced development costs; and sped up development.

To find reliable developer teams for your project, try Clutch’s database, which includes verified references from past clients.

Developer Outsourcing Matters

The demand for technical talent is huge, and if you’re a startup, it’s hard to compete with big companies for the talent you need. Outsourcing software development can solve that issue.

Software outsourcing can take many forms, but what matters most is access to specific expertise on demand. You can also easily scale capacity up or down depending on the human resource demand of your project.

Consider freelancers, team augmentation, and development agencies as three possible solutions for your coding needs.


About the Author

Headshot of Tamas TorokTamas works for Coding Sans, a software development company. He is responsible for the full marketing operation and also writes actionable guides, which help companies successfully outsource software development.