I am a serial entrepreneur seeking personal freedom within one year. This site is about that journey.

How to hire a great software developer for your project


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99% of freelance developers are not like this guy

99% of freelance developers are not like this guy

I’ve probably hired over 1000 remote / freelance developers in the last 17+ years. Some for small one-off projects, others for large infrastructure projects. I have hired from India, Pakistan, Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Canada, Uruguay, Belarus, China, Mexico, Africa, and nearly every state in the union. Most of the hiring that I have done has been via online freelance sites like oDesk, Elance, and Freelancer.com. Some of it has been a result of guys who just hit me up in Skype looking for work. I honestly have no idea how they find me, but it is usually when I have no work at all when they do. One of the questions that I am frequently asked is, ‘How do you know they are going to do a good job?’. I hope to answer that here.

  • Know up-front what you are looking for
    I feel that one of the biggest and most expensive mistakes that you can make when hiring an outsourced developer is going into the project not knowing the platform you want to use, the type of developer you are looking for, or how you want your project built. Platform agnosticism is really an advanced move and should only be used if you are already experienced in managing projects. As an example, do not list your project as ‘I need someone to build me a website’ if you are also wanting to manage that website. Be specific… ‘I am looking for a WordPress Designer to build me a website’. If you are not specific about the platform that you want to use, you will wind up with developers deciding for you, which can lead into more costs both now and in the future. If you are not sure about what your needs are, be specific about that … but realize that the education is likely going to cost you something.
  • Know the difference between a front end designer and a back end developer
    This is pretty basic, but is something that you should clarify with your developer before hiring. Developers are usually stronger in one of the two. If you find one who is strong in both, keep them around, as they are twice as valuable! Some people will hire a back-end developer expecting that they are going to be able to build a fancy user interface for them… and are usually disappointed with the results. In most cases, if you want it to look good and work well, you’re probably going to need 2 different roles, especially if you are working with folks overseas.
  • Set your expectations clearly on the front end
    Unless you are specifically hiring with the goal of having a developer help you plan your project, make sure to have very clear requirements for what you expect them to do before you begin the recruitment process. Anyone who gives you a fixed cost bid on a description that says ‘I need a .NET guru to build an application’ is just fishing. A good rule to follow is ‘What’ not ‘How’. You don’t need to be specific about ‘How’ your project gets done, but you do need to be specific about ‘What’ you want it to do.
  • Pay attention to good ratings
    But give developers with no ratings a chance. There are a lot of folks who have been coding for a long time but only just recently started freelancing and so they have not had the opportunity to develop their profiles yet. Sometimes these guys are the hardest working and smartest ones!
  • Test Test Test
    Make them build a specific easy application for you while you watch from remote before you hire. This will quickly weed out the guys you don’t want, especially when you mention in the description for the project that they will need to do this before being hired. When you do hire them, start them on something small and non-critical as a first project. Have them fix a few bugs before implementing a new feature.
  • Pick up the phone
    This is another obvious one, but I think that it is often neglected. Get into Skype with them and pay attention to how they communicate in chat. Have them call you via Skype. Are they easy to understand? Ask them about the project to make sure they have an understanding of what you are wanting to do. Can they explain it to you? Are they friendly? Courteous? If not, this might be a sign that things will not work out in the future.
  • Let your team evaluate them
    If you have a team, this is a must do for any new hire, outsourced or not. Your team members will catch things that you didn’t, and they are ultimately the ones who will need to work with ‘the new guy’ … so it is best to make sure that everyone agrees on the hire on the front end.
  • Take your time
    Make sure to leave yourself enough time to go through the process. I’ve hired people for small projects within an hour of posting a request, but for larger projects,  you need to be more picky about who you have on your team.
  • Go to your network first
    Remember to think first about the people who you have had success with in the past, and invite them first to bid on projects. The more frequently you work with someone, the better you are able to work together, and the less time it takes to ramp up into a new project.
  • Notice the personal touches
    There is a lot of competition on freelancer sites, and so in order to make things easy… many freelancers will develop canned responses for bids that include templated information about them or their company along with a list of links. This is fine, but the ones that attract my attention are the ones who specifically mention the project that I’m hiring for, the technology I am hiring for, and the ones who are able to explain to me specifically how they think that they can help. I’m happy that they are excited to work on my project… I am excited too… but to set themselves above the 100 other freelancers who applied in the last hour, I would like to know exactly why they think they are a good fit.
  •  Research the candidate
    Do they have a gitHub account? What kind of stuff have they worked on and published there? What about LinkedIn? Do they have a website / profile outside of the freelancer site that you’re reviewing them on? Who have they done work for in the past? Do they have a portfolio of previous work? Is it current? Have they taken any Brainbench tests? oDesk tests? How did they score?
  • Make sure that you are comfortable with their timezone / availability
    If you are working with an outsourced developer from overseas, make sure that you are able to at least overlap some time with them when you are both awake so that you can meet with them on a daily basis. If you are unable to do this, your project will have limited success.
  • Ask the right questions
    Do they fix bugs or add new features first? (The right answer is ‘bugs’). Do they use SVN, Git or any other repository? (They should answer ‘Yes’). Do they make new code releases daily? (The right answer is ‘Yes’), Are they able to meet with you daily to discuss project status? (The correct answer is ‘Yes’).

Hopefully these suggestions help you along the way as you hire your next developer! This list is by no means complete… I’ll likely keep adding to it as I think of other things. If there is anything else that you can think of, Please feel free to leave comments! If you are looking for someone to help lead a team for your next project, let me know!

 

Cookie Carts and Business Strategy Part 3 (Value)


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In the previous post in this series, I wrote about the mindset that you need to cultivate in order to intentionally build your business with personal freedom as your goal. In this post, I am going to talk a bit about something that relates to mindset, and that is value.

If YOU are the only value that your business offers, it will be very challenging for you to ever reach your goal of personal freedom. When evaluating the products and services that your business offers, are these things that only you can fulfill for your customers? The self employed and professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc…) are especially challenged with this problem because they are usually stuck in the situation where they are trading time for money, and their skills are usually specialized. This is, after all why they are getting paid, right? It can be difficult to get out of this cycle, but not impossible.

Where does a hamster go for Spring Break? Hamsterdam!

Where does a hamster go for Spring Break? Hamsterdam!

If the only value that your business provides is the result of trading time for money, your business will forever be spending time to make money, and you will have a very difficult time creating scale because you will always be limited by the amount of time in any given day and limited by the number of talented people you have to fill that time. This is particularly an issue for businesses who require highly skilled individuals to perform the work. The more skilled the service you are offering, the harder it is to find quality people so that you are able to scale.

One approach that you can take to solve this problem is by developing value added products and services for your clients, focusing on those things that you are able to Delegate, Document, and Automate while pricing for value instead of by the hour. Here’s an example…

My wife went to a chiropractor for an issue that she was having with her neck and shoulder. A few weeks later, I went in with her to talk with the doctor, review her x-rays and evaluate our options. While I was in the waiting room, I watched as 4 or 5 patients sat on some kind of a chair that swivels. It was pretty funny watching them, as it looked like they were sort of dancing the merengue while sitting down. There were also people there doing various stretches and using all sorts of torture devices hanging from the walls and ceiling. These people were all there for more than an hour while we waited for the doctor to see us. When we went in, after reviewing her x-rays and talking for a bit… he explained his pricing plan … several packages ranging from $1200 to $5000. Included in some of the packages was the option of doing all these funny stretches and exercises for an hour every visit. An actual ‘adjustment’ is anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes long, and he also had a masseuse who comes in for patients with certain packages. This guy had delegated the work to his patients by documenting and automating a process that they could use in order to get well on their own… and he had also added value beyond himself by offering the services of a masseuse.

Petting is so pas·sé.

Petting is so pas·sé.

He also does not charge by the hour at all, but by the session, or rather by the package. Remember what I said about adjustments being anywhere between 15 minutes to 45 minutes? This is the actual time he spends with you. Each session cost might cost $125 but if he averages 30 minutes with you and the rest of the time you’re outside his office dancing in your seat, he is dancing all the way to the bank averaging $250/hr.

This is what is known as ‘Value Pricing‘. The entire time he was there, he didn’t mention hourly rates at all, he presented everything he does based on the value it has to us. Is it worth $5000 to get my wife out of pain? You better believe it.

Hopefully this post helps you on your journey to personal freedom and gives you a good start to exploring value pricing, and learning how to value your time in your business.

What steps are you taking to increase your value? Let me know in comments or else just say hello!

Cookie Carts and Business Strategy Part 2 (Mindset)


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Is that a bad thing?
In this series, I’m writing about how to build your business in a way that it will run without you around. The first thing that I want to talk about is the mindset that you need to cultivate in order to begin to either pull yourself out of your existing business or to intentionally build and manage your business with personal freedom as the goal.

First and foremost, you need to determine that you are a business owner, not a manager. What’s the difference? Glad you asked. A business owner works ON their business, a manager works IN their business. As a business owner, you may need to occasionally wear the manager hat … but your goals are usually different. You should constantly evaluate your business from the perspective of an owner looking at it from the outside.

Another way to think about this is that a business owner develops systems and processes that are then managed by roles (people) placed within them.

Any time that a task comes across your desk, you should be asking these questions:

  1. Am I the only person who can do this?
    If you are not the only person who can do this, why are you doing it? If you are the only person doing this, spend some time thinking if that is actually true… and if it is, why? Hire champions who you can trust, learn how to delegate and get really good at it. For the bonus round, learn how to train champions to train champions.
  2. Is this something that can be documented?
    I used to spend a lot of my time supporting clients and staff on things that they really could take care of themselves if they knew how. I have since gotten into the habit of saying ‘Please make sure to document this if it isn’t already’ when-ever I delegate anything. In some businesses a simple FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page will suffice. Other businesses use larger systems like a Knowledgebase or a Wiki. No matter what you use, make sure that your clients and staff know where they can find information that they need without asking you for it.
  3. Is this something that can be automated?
    9 times out of 10 the answer is probably going to be yes. With a little time and effort I am willing to bet that most things related to the daily support of your clients in your business can be automated. If you are in a service industry, you might not be able to automate the actual service … but I am confident that there are many things that can be automated surrounding it. As a quick example… I used to keep track of all the time I spent on every task manually, and then invoice my clients manually after pulling in all of those tasks as line items into invoices within QuickBooks. I have since automated that entire process so that when I start any task, the timer starts automatically. Timesheets are sent weekly to my clients, and invoices are created and sent based on those timesheets. This works for me as well as any of my staff with zero effort. I used to spend hours every week reviewing varied timesheets and invoices sent to me by all my contractors and then placing all that information into invoices to send to my clients. I don’t do that anymore, and now I have more time to focus on working ON my business instead of IN my business.

I hope that this post was helpful and begins to clarify the direction that I want to take you on your own journey to personal freedom! Stay tuned for the next post in the series, and please let me know in comments what you are using to help you develop a personal freedom mindset!

Find out more about projects that I’m working on here, and stay tuned for the next post in the series!

This month’s 30 Day Hustle project for January 2014


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wordpress-logo

If you use WordPress, this will be of interest to you.

As part of my 30 day hustle with Jon Acuff,  this month I am working with one of my partners and good friends Deepak Oberoi on a small project to be launched before the end of this month. It is a business setup to support the needs of those who use and maintain WordPress enabled websites and blogs. In addition to custom WordPress development, We are going to be offering the following services on a monthly, weekly or daily basis:

WordPress core, theme, and plugin updates
Wordpress Backups
Wordpress Security Audits and Intrusion Protection
Wordpress Spam prevention
Wordpress Optimization (speed, database, performance, and seo)
Wordpress Uptime Monitoring (Pro-active and 24/7)

This service would be great for an individual, business or organization who has a WordPress website and wants the peace of mind of knowing that it will be optimized, updated, secure and available. Anyone familiar with recent security issues with WordPress and various hacking attacks should totally understand how important a service like this is.

If this sounds like something that you could use, and if you would be interested in receiving a discount and a free gift when we launch, complete the form below so that we can send you more information when we are ready to go! Also… feel free to share with anyone else you think might benefit.

 

 

Finding Freelance or ‘Work From Home’ Jobs


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If you are fortunate enough to be in an industry that allows for it, there are many opportunities to be found online to work from home. Most of the sites built for freelancing have a strong focus on IT related work, but several of them cover many other soft-touch areas such as writing, marketing, sales, telemarketing, virtual assistance, graphic design, etc… I’ve tried several of them and have had success with some:

 

odesk_logo

Being self employed, ODesk has always been my favorite freelancer type site. I have worked with them as both a service buyer and provider. They have a great system for keeping track of time spent on various projects, an awesome user profile and review system, a very large community of users. Their policies are straightforward and common sense. Their fees are also reasonable. They have a great timekeeper application that eliminates the need to manage time spent on tasks, or you can enter your time manually. They also support fixed price projects. As an employer, Odesk is super easy and straight forward. Employers pay nothing to use Odesk or post a job.

 

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Elance is now merging with ODesk, which I think is great for both communities. I’ve always considered them to be pretty expensive if you really want to make best use of them, but they have recently made some significant changes to their fee structure, opting for a flat 8.75% model similar to Odesk.

 

 

 

 

Guru-Fl-logo

Another contender in the freelancing space, these guys have a really vibrant community of freelancers and employers. Their fees average between 7% and 12% depending on several factors.

cropped-craigslist-logo

Everyone loves to trash Craigslist, but I have actually had some success finding freelance gigs there. Use street-smart common sense, and you will too. When in the jobs category, do a search for ‘telecommute’ and / or ‘contract’. Also don’t be afraid to contact job posters and ask them directly if they are open to telecommute. You may be surprised!

 

Freelancer_logo_color_on_black_large

Probably one of my least favorite freelancer type sites. Freelancer.com users are extremely competitive, and as a domestic software developer I have had very little luck with getting jobs there. Estimated budgets are frequently set way below where they should be, and buyers will infrequently give complete information for a bid requiring estimates. The fees they charge are also high in my opinion, on a sliding scale based on the membership that you choose, anywhere between 3% and 10% of the job. They also charge employers another 3%. As an employer, they have fees out the wazoo, pretty much following the Ebay model. Their website has also been very buggy lately, and doesn’t even really work well at all in Chrome. They do have escrow built in though, which is nice.

 

How do you find freelance / work from home jobs? Let me know in comments!


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