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How hard is it really to hire a contractor?

I've gotten to the point now that I think a lot of small start-ups must reach. I'm making a living (just), and things are picking up - but the workload has increased, with development work continuing, support work (not too much but some), coordinating beta's and testers, trying to do some marketing - the usual stuff. I can't do it all but I can't afford staff.

So I'm thinking I need someone to do some coding projects but I keep putting it off, firstly because I worry about my IP (unfounded?) and secondly because I think the hit of finding someone suitable, subsequent knowledge transfer and reintegrating what is done is going to be more than the benefit.

Has anyone gone down this route and was it worth it? I am thinking of one of the online contractor marketplaces - no idea which.
Anon123 Send private email
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
 
 
Short answer: it's certainly possible, but it's hard.

I know an enterprise software maker in Germany, the owner of which used to find long-term contractors on RentACoder (which has since gone through a name change and acquisition by Freelancer.com.) He developed a methodology that enabled him to find very good people, despite the fact that RAC was always perceived as a low-end marketplace. The company only has a virtual office and contractors are all over the globe, even local people work from home on company's terminal servers.

I don't know the details, but I recall coming across his request for bids on RAC, which looked more like a job ad. Essentially, it was a test project, about a week of work, with a promise of much more follow-up work at the same rate if the result is satisfactory. He did interviews over Skype and so on.

On a related note, I posted a couple very small graphic design projects on RAC, set up as competitions, i.e. multiple people did the work to my brief, but I only paid for the one I liked. There are entire businesses such as 99designs.com built around this model, though my experience was mixed.
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
 
 
+1 to test project
Bring back anon Send private email
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
 
 
Thanks guys - yeah, kind of what I have been thinking. The problem is that when I really need some help, I don't have the time to go through a hire process, so I need to force myself to think about it the next time things are a bit less hectic, and get someone on board who will then also (hopefully) be available when I actually need them.
I might start by just trying to outsource some of the boring stuff that I never seem to be able to get around to - website overhauls, video tutorials, etc. Maybe I can free up enough time that way..
Anon123 Send private email
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
 
 
I'd recommend (and did this myself) finding a part timer that can handle some of the less critical stuff -- managing your beta testers, slowly learning your product so they can help with some support, etc.  Basically their job is to free up your time.  The required skill level is a lot lower, which means a person like this is a lot easier to find (probably even in your local area).
Doug Send private email
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
 
 
I have done some of this with mixed success.  A couple duds but some awesome results too that definitely made it worthwhile to weed through a dud or two.

Definitely do a test project of some sort and let a couple people do it so you can get a good feel for what it's like to work with them.  Also since they are contractors rather than employees you can't assume they'll be available when you need them so it's good to have a couple.

The hardest part is that usually it takes more time, energy, and money to explain what  you need done and review the results at first than to just do it yourself.  But if you never get past that, you can't grow. 

Of course if you wait until you're in crisis mode you won't have time to hand the project over to someone else.  When crisis mode hits I always wish I'd taken the time to get someone up to speed sooner so I could use them now.

Regarding your IP -- I have relaxed a lot in this area.  I was very fearful of exposing my code for the longest time, but I now feel this attitude held me back some.  Most people don't have the big picture view to steal the code, repackage the software, then market it.  I'm not saying that NEVER happens but it would take a level of energy and discipline to pull that off, I think most people with that temperament would sooner create their own product. 

But this is another way in which doing small test projects first is helpful. 

Also, I usually hire people outside of my country.  My thought being even if they do steal it, who will they sell it to?  If they sell it in their country it would tick me off but not take any money out of my pocket 'cause I would never sell it there.

Of course with all that said I don't think my program is as sophisticated code-wise as most on here so I have less IP to worry about.  But look at most companies - they have multiple programmers and could not expand without them.  I say use a non disclosure contract and be careful but don't let that fear paralyze you.

Good luck!
Emily Jones Send private email
Thursday, December 05, 2013
 
 
> I might start by just trying to outsource some of the boring stuff that I never seem to be able to get around to - website overhauls, video tutorials, etc. Maybe I can free up enough time that way.
 
> I'd recommend (and did this myself) finding a part timer that can handle some of the less critical stuff -- managing your beta testers, slowly learning your product so they can help with some support, etc.  Basically their job is to free up your time.

This is how I did my first technical hire. Not a freelancer doing contract work, a full time guy whose job was to be in charge of the web site in return for a money transfer once a month. However, not an employee, and not in the same country.

I also hired office staff to deal with things like answering the phone, cleaning the office, doing some of the technical documentation, running errands, washing dishes.

Finding anyone that can even touch the main product code though is a totally different matter. This person needs to be someone you have personally met and preferably is willing to live in your area or travel to it regularly. You have to be on the look out for this person constantly since it can take 10 years or more to find them, and be willing to pay market rate for skills comparable to your own as the principal. $300k on up with the sky the limit.

But the regular office staff you can just pay a bit above standard rate for your area. This might be $10-$20 an hr.
Scott Send private email
Thursday, December 05, 2013
 
 
I would recommend getting a recommendation from someone you know and see if they can recommend anyone.

I run a SaaS site and a few other websites and I freelance full time.  I have connected with several clients via job board sites that I work with on an ongoing basis. 

Once you develop a relationship with a developer you can call on them as projects become available for them. They have recurring work that finds them and you have a developer you'll be comfortable working with.

I wouldn't worry too much about IP with developers.  I have seen a few offshore contractors copy sites but typically most developers aren't going to 'steal' your IP.

Start small and test out new developers on small projects.  I would pay incrementally for work completed so you're comfortable with the results and they are comfortable with you making payment.  Initially get an incremental review/payment at least every couple of days to make sure they aren't spinning their wheels or producing poorly coded/functioning work.

Good luck with finding a contractor.
Scott U Send private email
Saturday, December 28, 2013
 
 

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