LearnWhy you need to get rid of your freelance developer ASAP

Ryan
writes on February 18, 2007

If you’re building a web app and you don’t have a lot of cash to play with, you won’t be able to afford a full time developer.

If you’re a young startup and you can afford a full time developer, you’re probably spending too much money and will quickly go out of business. (This still applies to those who’ve taken funding. Don’t waste your cash on expensive payrolls).

Ummmm … now what?

This is a major long term problem and it’s one we’re wrestling with right now at Carson Systems.

Our two web apps (DropSend and Amigo) were built by two different (and very talented) freelance developers. We got them built quickly for a very affordable price (around £6K each).

Feel the pain

When you’ve outgrown your freelance developers, you’ll know it. Trust me. Here’s the dead give away:

Getting bugs fixed and new features implemented starts taking fricken’ forever.

So what if you find yourself in this situation, but you still can’t afford a full time developer?

You’ve got three options:

  1. Figure out how to increase your revenue so you can hire someone
  2. Raise some funding
  3. Go offshore

We’re taking option #3. DropSend and Amigo don’t really generate enough revenue at this point to justify a full time developer (we could, but it wouldn’t be a wise business decision).

The problem is that things are stating to take way to long to get fixed.

So we’ve decided to create a two person team (one full time developer and one part time project manager) in Russia that will work for us full time. Gone are the days of battling our freelancer’s other clients for their time!

It’s working

We just started with our Russian team, and you know what? I absolutely love it.

We were fortunate enough to have friends who already had in-roads in Russia, so they could help us find the right team. This is vital. I don’t think you have a prayer if you hope to go through rent-a-coder or some other 3rd party service.

You really need someone you can trust, and that can only be done through recommendations.

So we’ve got a full time developer for a very affordable price. This includes: desk space, hardware, broadband and a little bit of project management by a second person (our developer doesn’t speak fluent English so we go through a project manager).

Rock and roll. DropSend and Amigo are really going to get a kick up the pants and you should see some great new improvements and bug fixes soon. I can’t wait!

77 Responses to “Why you need to get rid of your freelance developer ASAP”

  1. jerry on July 1, 2010 at 3:35 am said:

    GOOD. Im glad your outsourcing. My job got outsourced 2 years ago. I had a real hard time finding a new job but finally found one paying about 60% of what I was previously.
    When I whined about it, everyone thought outsourcing was great! It means cheap stuff from foreign lands where people work for 90$ a week! Thats exactatlly what my replacement in India is making.
    It was software makers that were telling me “If I can’t sell my software in India I’ll have to lay off programmers.”
    GUESS WHAT!! Now India has its own developers! And they don’t want your expensive stuff anymore!! AND they want to sell their software to American companies!!! Where does that leave YOU.
    People only worry about themselves until they get bit in the ass.

  2. Do your Russian developers comment the code in English? How about when they check code into CVS or SVN?

    Vic Okezie, thanks for telling us “your jobs will all move offshore in the next five years and you would end up being computer instructors in public schools”.
    Can’t wait to work with you, sir!

  3. GREAT blog. This whole site that you have set up is top-notch. Well done. I stumbled across it as I was looking for an article on home remodeling.
    I’m really looking forward to reading all of your archives. Terrific job, keep it up!

  4. Your blog is very interresting for me, i will come back here..

  5. Stephen on March 25, 2009 at 2:54 pm said:

    Hey Ryan,

    The heyamigo signup page fails to work for me, invalid security certificate error.

    But hey, it sure looks pretty.

    Stephen

  6. Thatâ€s nice in theory, but the fact of the matter is we canâ€t guarantee weâ€ll have work for the rest of the month and we have mortgages to pay, bills to foot and children to feed. Living costs in the UK are much higher than in areas like Russia so we need to earn more, these are simple facts of life.

  7. Hmm, such interesting thread.
    Actually I agree, it is pretty hard to find “right” developers as well as to find a good project. I am freelance developer, originally from Russia, but now I am residing in Canada.
    I have been working in IT for more than 16 years and 7 last years as a freelancer.

    Unfortunately I really know what type of code can be made by some “developers” from rentAcoder and other websites. I finished (redid) several projects after them.

    I guess, the main reason why it is so bad, is just because of so many incompetent people are trying to work in IT. 🙁

    If you need, I would be glad to help you to find developers in Russia or implement your project. You may contact me on my website: http://www.pavelsavin.com

  8. Don’t just tantalize and torture us like a nude dancer… close but no touching allowed…

    You trying to make us jealous?

    How about some CLUES how the rest of us can round up some qualified Russian web dev talent.

  9. If you are going to get rid of your freelance developer, then I suggest you find a new one at http://www.workpost.com.

  10. Reply to Allen’s post about ‘talented designers and developers in Germany’ + request for help in finding a developer.

    What is your relationship with Igor who has ‘talented designers and developers in Russia’ in his nearly identical post of 19 Feb 07?

    On another topic I have had horrendous results with 4 differnet Indian programmers I found on getacoder and getafreelancer.

    If anyone has any suggestions for finding a good offshore developer with good English skills and good web database experience, I would be keen to hear from you. My preference is to work directly with an individual programmer – possibly a small team of 2 – 4. The project has a budget of $4k+

    Thanks Colin K

  11. Iâ€m web-designer from Germany. A lot of talented designers and developers here want to work with Europe and USA as an outsource development teams, but simply donâ€t know how to make a connection. Do you know some kind of boards or forums, where we could represent our portfolios and find EU and USA clients by ourself without any third party agencies?

  12. Fully agree with the author of the post. Being one of the managing partners of offshore outsourcing company I know hundreds of similar success stories. The important thing is to find the carefully and professionally managed company that is responsible for work results, has the proven methodology and processes in place plus proven track-record.

    Don’t hesitate to request their references also!

  13. The worst thing that any IT Manager can do is to delegate your life blood IT operations offshore. I see from the Carson Systems web site ,youâ€re based in the UK. I’m based in the US, however many of our augments regarding the Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Offshore are the same.

    The Concept that you advocate sounds so wonderful. Fire the UK or USA based developer and hire a cheaper resource Offshore (i.e. India). In implementation, the chances of your offshore resource performing well, is not as good as having the Resource working at your site. Dude, in USA we have an old saying……”You Get What You Paid For”!!!!

    Going cheap on IT can destroy a business. Also, using these resources teaches business to rely on Offshore IT Resources, which eventually insures that the firm will become dependent on these sub-par services.

    Many large firms in the USA are realizing that OffShoring to cheaper resources has “Cost More”, since the job has not been done right the first time. Projects take longer and deliverables are not quite what was planned.

    If your thinking of Outsourcing your IT, my message to you is that, you should be thinking of Outsourcing yourself. It absolutely foolish for any IT Manager to think that delegating away vital IT functions of a company to some Developer in third world nation is going save you money and keep your systems up and running. The only good application of Outsourcing is the Outsourcing of incompetent decision maker who chose OffShoring of their companyâ€s IT, over in house development!

    I have been in the business of running an IT Professional Service Organization for over 20 years. My message to you is to “Keep your Freelance Developer” and donâ€t go Offshore!

    If you have time, please check out my Blog at Peningo Opinion Blog

    Thank for letting me voice my opinion!

    Edward
    Peningo Systems

  14. Hi, Ryan.
    I’m from Belarus. Just found your projects and sites from one russian translation of your “4daily working week” article – very nice. Thx for you great projects i’ve really got a lot of ideas from you cause now i’m in search of something cool which everyone call now Web 2.0 start-up 🙂 Has a lot of awesome ideas, but trying to understand and analyze what of them could be succeed. Found some useful and helpful part of business model and real data research. You’re doing great ! Good luck!

    p.s. what consider this topic 🙂
    Suppose it will be cheaper to hire in Russia just a regular translator instead PM

  15. GramBorder on March 20, 2007 at 7:40 am said:

    Hi all!

    I want to all of you know, World is mine, and yoursite good

    G’night

  16. Do your Russian developers comment the code in English? How about when they check code into CVS or SVN?

    Vic Okezie, thanks for telling us “your jobs will all move offshore in the next five years and you would end up being computer instructors in public schools”.
    Can’t wait to work with you, sir!

  17. Andriy.Tyurnikov on March 2, 2007 at 4:36 am said:

    …and one more…
    “Just one thing to all you US/UK developers:
    Reduce your costs/accept lower fees and we can/will work with you. Otherwise, your jobs will all move offshore in the next five years and you would end up being computer instructors in public schools.”

    No,no,no – borders tend to disappear and almost every good developer here in Ukraine (we have almost same situation with Russia) plans to leave the country. Very modest flat will cost $60K for me here and now. I’ve seen “work” of $9/h Asian students – it is terrible. Forget about very cheap very high quality, it simply does not exist.
    You should meet managers of our IT shops – they do not know where to look for programmers (and average salaries still grow + 25% each year, in 2006 it was + 50%)
    Good developer will survive, weak ones – will lose their jobs. Borders simply will not save them. That is all. Keep your business profitable, and work with professionals, from all over the world. =)

  18. Andriy.Tyurnikov on March 2, 2007 at 4:23 am said:

    I am from Ukraine,
    Currently I am looking for long-term cooperation with people from Western Europe or United States, but I still track situation on local job market.
    It is just an impossible luck to have a qualified Web developer for £750 a month. There are two options:
    1) You are lucky – get ready to loose your developer.
    He is getting small salary, and he pay no taxes.
    2) We have different vision of “effective” term.

    I now few PHP and Java shops here in my city, but I do not know even one company or group, which charges less than $25/h (if no hidden costs, or “phantom teams”).

    But if you have $2500-4000 per month – you can find qualified self-motivated individual, who will be your full-time worker.

    P.S. rent-a-coder = time wasting. for both clients and developers.

  19. Gustavo on March 1, 2007 at 6:29 pm said:

    Carl, I both agree and disagree with your comments. I live in Argentina, and I work as an off-shore developer. And it works. And as you said, the recommendation is crucial. However, I have also worked with customers from Kenya as a freelancer and never had not one problem, not technical or with the language.

    It’s a cool thing you share your business experiences though, good luck with the Russian team.

  20. Ryan, I always appreciate your insight. Your posts are much more in line with real world situations, rather than some idealistic circumstances.

    One question I had though was what resources would you recommend for someone looking to find reliable offshore programmers?

  21. Actually, Ryan, Russia is anywhere between 3 and 12 hours ahead of UK.

    Croatia is only one hour ahead, and my team has been doing outsourcing work for UK clients (US ones too, but it works slightly differently). In any case, I still hope to see you in Zagreb this May! 😉

  22. “Just one thing to all you US/UK developers:
    Reduce your costs/accept lower fees and we can/will work with you. Otherwise, your jobs will all move offshore in the next five years and you would end up being computer instructors in public schools.”

    That’s nice in theory, but the fact of the matter is we can’t guarantee we’ll have work for the rest of the month and we have mortgages to pay, bills to foot and children to feed. Living costs in the UK are much higher than in areas like Russia so we need to earn more, these are simple facts of life.

  23. Hey guys, too much talk about outsourcing or not. I have been working with a team the last 3 months and so far it has been good. Communication everyday and progress properly managed.

    The problem with UK/US start ups is that you expect so much from these guys. You say silly things in progress description etc that you would not tell/ask an average local developer. And you always change what you want along the way.

    You have to weight your options and Ryan just did. He understands the complications in using his Russian team (communications, copyright etc) and paying a UK developer (legal, payrolls, costly etc) before he decided on this route. I did the same and it’s working well for me.

    Just one thing to all you US/UK developers:
    Reduce your costs/accept lower fees and we can/will work with you. Otherwise, your jobs will all move offshore in the next five years and you would end up being computer instructors in public schools.

  24. So you worked with an Indian team before and fired them, why was that? How do you know the same things won’t happen again?

    For someone who has only been doing outsourcing for, what, two weeks, you seem to be awfully bold in your suggestions. Give it time.

  25. How often do you communicate with the team?

    About twice a day

    What do you use as your main method of communication?

    IM and Basecamp

    How long did the whole process of setting up of the team take.

    About two weeks

    Will you be visiting Russia soon?

    Yes – hoping to go in the summer

    Sorry but this post is ridiculous. Youâ€re commenting with supposed authority about a subject you clearly know nothing about. You havenâ€t every worked with a full-time developer, you have a few weeks experience in off-shoring, you say donâ€t use a rent-a-coder service even though youâ€ve never used one, youâ€ve only ever used 2 freelancers and yet feel qualified to say theyâ€re not a good option

    Wow, you act as if you actually know me, or anything about my life. You’re wrong on every point:

    I was a full-time developer (PHP and Coldfusion) for four years.

    I do have experience with off-shore teams as we started building DropSend with an Indian team and fired them.

    We’ve used many freelancers, not two

    I’m going to stop responding to comments that are factually incorrect – I just don’t have time.

    I actually got a bit of a chuckle out of this one, because less than six months ago, one of your tips was to never work with people outside of your time zone! So what changed?

    Russia is only 1-2 hours ahead of us, so I don’t really consider this to be a “different timezone”. The comment you’re referring to was really meant to apply to large time zone differences.

    Do you feel it benefits your products to discuss these issues so openly?

    You bet. It helps me examine things from different perspectives. I’d be the first to admit I’m not always right 🙂

    BTW, did you have concerns about your code base turning up in unwanted places? Did you get a contract which gave you full rights to the IP and NDA or Confidentiality agreements?

    Nope.

    Couldnâ€t you have arranged a maintenance contract with your existing freelancers?

    No. The reason is that when someone is on a maintenance contract, they fix things when they want to, not when I want them to. It’s a complete nightmare.

    In my opinion, you have taken the easy way out – ponied up the dough to get the application written, then decided to deride the very people who got you into the position you are in [with some “beautifully written software”] by essentially labelling them as incompetent and lazy once the job is done, while not paying them for additional [high quality] work.

    Let me be very clear about this. This was purely a business cash flow decision. If DropSend were bringing in more cash, then of course I would hire full-time UK developers.

  26. Ok, maybe this is working for you, but it just sounds like you’re just in the initial stages of enthusiasm for it. To say that it’s the right move for everyone, or even a minority? Nah. Come back in 3 years and tell us then whether it’s something that’s really working, you might find that you get less negative comments with a bit more experience under your belt on this 😉

  27. bisi: perfect analogy!

    Outsourcing programming is like smoking — not everyone dies of lung cancer!

  28. I actually got a bit of a chuckle out of this one, because less than six months ago, one of your tips was to never work with people outside of your time zone! So what changed?

    There are great developers out there across all price segments. That said, finding the right development team in a country with very different laws that the one you operate in has always scared me.

    At SitePen ( sitepen.com ), our people are currently limited to the US and the UK, but if we were to work with offshore developers, we would not be doing it to cut costs. As a web app company, without cutting edge developers, it’s hard to innovate. And I’m willing to travel the world to find the right people, regardless of reasonable cost, because without the right team, there’s nothing that sets us apart.

  29. Ok …Lots of people are complaining !
    How much do American Developers Charge ?
    Everything has to be relative .. i.e you can’t say that all smokers will die of lung cancer or that all lung cancer patients are smokers .
    Offshoring may not work for some people but it does not mean it wont work for everybody .
    It is not a fact that applications developed by local programmers are better that those developed overseas . There are so many variables . In business sometimes you have to dine with the devil . You can’t always have it nice and rosy .

  30. Couldn’t you have arranged a maintenance contract with your existing freelancers?

    750 a month of guaranteed income may have swayed their decision to support the applications fully once they’d been deployed, as I’m sure you realise that a freelancers’ primary objective is to keep food on his or her table, not to be a slave to whoever thinks their application is the most important.

    In my opinion, you have taken the easy way out – ponied up the dough to get the application written, then decided to deride the very people who got you into the position you are in [with some “beautifully written software”] by essentially labelling them as incompetent and lazy once the job is done, while not paying them for additional [high quality] work.

    I’m curious as to how you can write an article telling people to get rid of freelancers, when you yourself own the results of two kickass freelance developers’ work. It’s slightly hypocritical IMHO.

  31. I have been considering this myself. I signed up to ODesk as they let you use freelance talent from all around the world and they have this control panel where you can see regular screenshots of the developer’s screen(s) and even a webcam if they have one. I must admit it seems a bit creepy to be able to ‘spy’ on them to such a level, but I rationalize it as being little different to having a real employee in the office.

    The rates are a bit more in general than what you’re paying though (often double!) so I guess it might pay to have the contacts as you do.

    As a very-unbusy freelance developer (I only do high rate stuff now perhaps 15 hours a month) I’m in total support of outsourcing. If you can get the value, it’s good economics, and freelance developers in the West need to differentiate themselves and be able to justify higher rates. With the quality of developers nowadays, however, that is not hard.

  32. WiseOldSi on February 20, 2007 at 6:26 pm said:

    Very pleased to hear such a positive response to offshore development from a first timer. Changing the location of your developer for a price cut seems like a great idea! I do find it concerning that your Russian developer will not be able to understand source code comments for himself nor able to understand common ‘intuitive’ variable names within your two systems.. however great to see someone taking the plunge – PLoop! hehe

  33. Hmm, why not hire someone part time, like 20 hours per week? I think you might be confusing fixed # hours/wk with FT.

    Also, why didn’t you just start with an offshore team from the start? If it makes sense now, why didn’t it make sense then?

    I have some more detailed tips for offshoring on my own blog, here:

    http://www.pervasivecode.com/blog/2007/02/20/tips-for-offshoring/

  34. Hmm, why not hire someone part time, like 20 hours per week? I think you might be confusing fixed # hours/wk with FT.

    Also, why didn’t you just start with an offshore team from the start? If it makes sense now, why didn’t it make sense then?

    I have some more detailed tips for offshoring on my own blog, here:

    http://www.pervasivecode.com/blog/2007/02/20/tips-for-offshoring/

  35. Ah, I don’t know if you should tout this as some new rule. Software is a very, very, very complex business and people have been struggling with it for years.

    If you are a full time startup your development may well be full time (for at least some period of time). Unless you have some reasonably small fixed product in mind then you’re likely going to continue needing development work. Software is usually Iterative Process. Good Software is almost always an Iterative Process. Both dictate some kind of medium-term commitment.

    Fundamentally, quality software development isn’t cheap and likely never will be. The best freelancers don’t just throw code at you but help you through the process of your product development. They’re more like consultants than code monkeys.

    I second lemon obrien on that it’s usually the original developer who can most quickly fix bugs. But if you’re expecting to pay them the same hourly rate for bug fixes or 2 days of work on a new feature, than what was quoted for say, 6 weeks of full time development then you are asking for trouble, especially if they have to drop everything and do it now. You can’t have your cake (full time first class support at the same hourly rate) and eat it too (pay someone ad-hoc for this service).

    Is that what happened?

  36. Guillaume Maury on February 20, 2007 at 7:55 am said:

    If I were you, I wouldn’t hire a developper who can’t read and write fluently in english….

    English is the language of software development and someone who doesn’t speak english can’t be up to date with the latest technological advancement (need to wait for the books to be translated if at all), won’t have access to as much documentations, won’t be able to access as easily expert knowledge by asking question in mailing lists….

    Now, you could say that it’s not so important, that it doesn’t matter that the developper has only access to a restricted amount of knowledge… but as some states (Paul Graham or Tom Demarco,Timothy Lister in PeopleWare) there is a significant difference in terms of productivity between a good programmer and a bad programmer… and I don’t think one can be a good programmer without learning about new technologies, reading books about minority programming languages (which are almost never translated), reading blogs….

    I say that, because I work in a japanese company in japan, and I can see the huge difference of level between those that speak english and those that don’t….

  37. Ryan,

    I hope my post didn’t come across as too negative. Reading it back I fear it did, but that wasn’t my intention.

    Simply, I wanted to point out that outsourcing – in my experience – seldom delivers the benefits and cost savings you might think. To a large degree, this is due to what Slobodan and Garth said – you need to have excellent communication with your team.

    The single instance I have found where it did work was when I worked for a company that set up a dev shop in Bangalore. They had one of the UK people move over there to run it (very important for communication) and they concentrated solely on bug-fixing the product code base – not development or customisation for customers. The codebase was large (2mill+ lines of code) and bugs were extremely numerous, so this worked out well and gave cost savings over using UK devs.

    As for examples of studies, well I don’t exactly have the URLs in my head, but I’m sure you’re able to Google for them. Case studies are easily found, and research from the likes of Gartner:

    http://www.google.co.uk/search?source=ig&hl=en&q=outsourcing+failure

  38. Hi Ryan,

    I have just been going through this thought process myself. We aren’t really in a position to put on a local full-time developer but at the same time I have too much work on for me to do it all myself. I have been in this position about 3 times in the past.

    What I have previously done is put my head down and work really hard for the next three months to complete all the work and the new projects I have been contracted to do. That means for the next 2.5 months I won’t reallly be looking for new work. Then in the last two week I generally pick up another project to keep me going again.

    Now this is fine if I wanted to just keep my business at the same size but I want to grow. So with a glut of work at the moment I thought now is the perfect time to bring on a developer. I have been looking at different options, both local and offshore and think I will head down that track. It provides much more flexibility and ultimately if communication is a problem it is probably my fault for not being organised enough to provide proper details that the developer will need.

    I say give it a go. If it doesn’t work out then chalk it up as another business lesson.

    BTW, did you have concerns about your code base turning up in unwanted places? Did you get a contract which gave you full rights to the IP and NDA or Confidentiality agreements?

    Kind Regards,
    Colin

  39. Ryan just a few questions…Do you feel it benefits your products to discuss these issues so openly? (Obviously you’re looking for some level ofattention with a title like that and with your historically openness with your work) Do you feel you’re performing a service to the software world by lauding off shoring for a very small businesses in an era when many large tech companies are reevaluating their offshore strategy? Ultimately what is your motive for being so transparent and to push this so early on?

  40. Ryan,

    Not that “Twelve Things I Wish Iâ€d Known Before I Built A Webapp”:http://www.carsonworkshops.com/summit/2006/sanfrancisco/slides/ryan_carson.pdf was written on a stone tablet, but “Work with people in the same timezone” seems to be a far cry from your current direction.

    I find it interesting that you are now telling companies to do something that, just a few months ago, you were telling them NOT to do.

    I’m not really questioning the move to outsourcing…I mean if it works for you, do it…but I have to question a recommendation that you can’t have more than a few months experience with.

    Disclaimer: I am a US freelancer whose latest contract came from a company in my time-zone 🙂

  41. Thanks for sharing. This is a very real concern for me since I am using a freelance developer.

  42. Sorry but this post is ridiculous. You’re commenting with supposed authority about a subject you clearly know nothing about. You haven’t every worked with a full-time developer, you have a few weeks experience in off-shoring, you say don’t use a rent-a-coder service even though you’ve never used one, you’ve only ever used 2 freelancers and yet feel qualified to say they’re not a good option…

    frankly, you are not qualified to give advice.

  43. There is a 4th option: partnering with a developer….

    True, but this involves giving up equity. IMHO, giving up equity should always be your last resort.

    Hi Ryan,

    I forgot to thank you for the article last time – so thanks. You do bring up many good things to think about.

    However, I don’t agree that giving up equity should be your **last** resort. It depends on a lot of things. Finding a talented dev with complementary thinking that you enjoy working with may lead to a product that more than doubles the success of the company as compared to going it alone. Not to mention that the right technical person may also help conceptualize and create amazing products down the line…. I’d be willing to give up equity for that.

    So I guess I’d see it as more of a long term investment. But I acknowledge that giving up equity is a risky proposition and you really have to trust your people skills as well as your ability to judge technical skills.

  44. Are you freaking kidding me? Did I miss some satire here along the lines of suggesting the Irish eat their babies? I have a lot of respect for you company, so please don’t take this the wrong way but this just sounds crazy and unethical.

  45. I’d like to elaborate on there being a fourth option to partner with/work with …

    1) yes you can get a developer in house
    2) yes you can get someone freelance
    3) and yes go offshore

    All can solve major issues (as well as compound new ones as has been highlighted in all the posts so far).

    Why not outsource to a company? We have been running successfully by supplying design/advertising agencies and development companies with jsut such a service where we can design/develop and manage either elements or an entire project. We just simply bill each month or work on a retainer as the job demands. We don’t demand any equity as a tie in to a contract and most of the time we are simply responsible with delivery of a product whose IPR is already clearly established. It works…

  46. Communication is key when outsourcing and remote working. I have been working 7 years from home in the UK for a US company, and before that, I worked with a South African remote team for 2 years.

    Internet methods such as IM just don’t cut it for communication – the constant interruptions will drive you nuts. Video conferencing is usually a waste of time too – you might as well place a photo of the remote team on the wall and place the team on speaker phone.

    You need the ability to schedule some ‘face’ time and meet up with your workers on a regular basis, otherwise things quickly spiral out of control after the honeymoon period is over. If you have any issues with your communication, your information is open to interpretation. This is something that is really difficult to measure and will come to bite your later if you donâ€t keep an effective and uncomplicated line of communication open. What concerns me is that you have a project manager who is communicating to the programmer because he canâ€t speak English. Personally, I wouldn’t give someone a vital role such as a developer if we couldn’t effectively communicate directly.

    Will you be visiting Russia soon?

  47. Hi Ryan,
    Hope it works out well for you.

    Couple of general questions:
    How often do you communicate with the team.
    What do you use as your main method of communication, i.e Video conferencing, IM etc.
    How long did the whole process of setting up of the team take.
    Would really like to get an update post on this in a month or two, to see what you find are the main problems (if any) with outsourcing.

    Regards
    Ansar

  48. I see that all comments here are from people outsourcing projects to offshore teams, so it might be interesting for you to hear an insight from someone who is on the other side…

    I’ve been leading a European offshore team for past 6 years and I can tell you that Ryan got it right – the single most important thing is to find the right team, preferably a team that has been recommended to you (as it was in the Ryan’s case).

    Hiring an offshore developer/team is very similar to hiring local developer. You have bad developers and you have good developers. I’ve seen a lot of projects done by UK developers that have shitty code, which are slow, unmaintainable, etc. Additionally, we worked on quite a few projects that were started by UK developers – who “disappeared” without completing projects.

    Judging by other comments main problems people see in offshore development are the long term cost and language barriers.

    Claim that long term cost is higher might be true in some cases – usually when you get extremely cheap developers. If you pay someone $7 / hour (like most Indian Elance developers ask for) of course that you can expect that, as the project progresses, any quality that was in the code will disappear and you will end up paying someone to fix it or lose money since your product won’t work. On the other hand if you find a trusted developer and pay him properly (or even a bit above usual price for an offshore developer – which is still a lot cheaper than hiring an UK developer), he’ll be happy and you’ll be as he will produce quality code.

    The other problem mentioned – language barriers. This is often a real problem, but it has a simple solution. Do the same as Ryan – hire an intermediary, a project manager that is fluent in English. It will still be cheaper. Also there are a lot of teams (like the one I lead) that have that “functionality” already build-in, i.e. that have a project manager who will make sure that your message is relayed properly and that you get what you wanted.

  49. Hello, Ryan.

    I’m web-designer from Moscow, Russia. =) A lot of talented designers and developers here want to work with Europe and USA as an outsource development teams, but simply don’t know how to make a connection. Do you know some kind of boards or forums, where we could represent our portfolios and find EU and USA clients by ourself without any third party agencies?

  50. “Our two web apps (DropSend and Amigo) were built by two different (and very talented) freelance developers. We got them built quickly for a very affordable price (around £6K each).”

    Are they small or mid sized applications ?

  51. Ryan Carson on February 19, 2007 at 8:04 am said:

    There have been numerous studies that suggest that companies that outsource their development initially make savings on developer time, but end up in fact paying out more because of the increased project management required and code quality issues.

    Andrew – are these studies available online? I’d like to have a read.

  52. Speaking as a sometime freelancer in the UK, I can hardly say that I agree with your suggestion that people should outsource their work to Eastern Europe or Asia! I’m a little biased, as you can tell.

    There have been numerous studies that suggest that companies that outsource their development initially make savings on developer time, but end up in fact paying out more because of the increased project management required and code quality issues.

    I’ve worked for large UK companies that have outsourced and experienced these exact problems. In fact, in my experience, it has never been a success in the long term.

    I will be interested to see how you progress. I hope it’s successful for you (‘cos I like ya). To everyone else though – keep it in the UK!

  53. Ryan Carson on February 19, 2007 at 7:35 am said:

    Interesting! Can we have an update in 3 or 6 months time on how you feel this is progressing?

    Sure – If I forget, just remind me.

    Iâ€d be interested to know a little more about the logistics of such an undertaking. Pardon my newbieness, but do you host the source code on a local server that the offshore developer checks code into? Any info is appreciated.

    We use Basecamp and we create a Subversion repository for each project. When they commit things, they automatically get pushed to a dev area. Works well for us.

    There is a 4th option: partnering with a developer….

    True, but this involves giving up equity. IMHO, giving up equity should always be your last resort.

    but I have to say it does NOT make me feel good to know that itâ€s ok and possible to get a Russian developer for £750 a month

    The wage we pay our developer is the current market rate for a Russian offshore team. He’s very happy with it. What’s the problem?

    you were unable to raise capital

    Ummmm, whoever said we were trying to “raise capital”?

    [you] have entrenched serious competition

    We’re too busy with our own products to be concerned with the competition right now.

    and ainâ€ts makng no money.

    Wrong again. DropSend is profitable.

    Sorry to be harsh, but if you’re going to comment, please at least get your facts right.

    Is it taking way too long with freelance developers because:

    – Theyâ€re slow
    – They have too much work with other clients
    – The code is too much of a mess for anything to be changed quickly

    Too slow: yes because they’re also doing work for other clients. There’s nothing we can do about this because they don’t work for us full time.

    Too much work with other clients: see above

    The code is a mess: No, both DropSend and Amigo are beautifully written.

  54. We have worked with offshoring talent. From my experience there is a huge difference between hiring someone to fix bugs and add to existing development, and the innovation and implementation cycles that experienced and talented local people deal with when creating and implementing techmology. It takes a real innovative and creative person, not to mention experienced developer, to build something that works well, deals with the inherent issues with the technology, and follows business requirements well. True innovation is built on the backs of all members of a business team as well, and cannot rely simply on a spec doc thrown over the wall to a developer. Communication in some form is not ideal in any offshoring model, no matter how well its handled. And the final implemetation cycle, especially when it comes to technology, always requires troubleshooting experience and teams of people working face to face to communicate all the issues clearly and work through the problems. If technologies worked well everytime, then allot of solutions could be automated, but most are not and thats why we have custom solutions and a need for local talent to write them.

    I would be careful about putting a wrapper around technology and say offshoring solves all issues. As technology continues to deepend, widen, and specialize itself, there will continue to be a huge demand for local talent. Dont underestimate what local talent creates and has built for you. Unless you know all the hurdles that were worked through by a US software developer, I wouldnt assume its just as easy to fix and implement by an overseas team and a VPN connection.

  55. Is it taking way too long with freelance developers because:

    – They’re slow
    – They have too much work with other clients
    – The code is too much of a mess for anything to be changed quickly

    It seems like there could be a lot of things that you can tweak before resorting to offshore development. I’d be interested to hear if you addressed any of these first.

  56. kind of retarded…the larger the system gets, the more complicated it will become; therefore, the longer it will take to fix bugs and add new features making your system even more complicated.

    the one thing that is the saving grace, is having the same developer(s) work on it; they know everything, and will get it down faster/better.

    but, you were unable to raise capital; have entrenched serious competition, and ain’ts makng no money.

    so, is this the last gasp?

  57. Applications such as DropSend and Amigo will require maintenance and expansion of features by the very definition of their deployment. The type of problems you experience with the apps, such as maintenance and bug fixing taking too long, and additional features being difficult to deploy, suggests that these were not planned for when the apps were initially developed “quickly for a very affordable price”. (Maybe more time and more money would have catered for more planning…?). It might have been also been a good idea to draw up a better maintenance contract with original freelance developers.

    I hope that the Russian team works out – though I think Benâ€s comment is valid – but I have to say it does NOT make me feel good to know that itâ€s ok and possible to get a Russian developer for £750 a month – for so much, much less than somebody in West Europe or the US would ask for. It is a difficult issue, especially because for some in Russia and many other countries this may be the best or only way of earning money – but in any case I still would not be overwhelmingly proud of such an arrangement.

  58. Hi,

    There is a 4th option: partnering with a developer….

  59. Thanks for the insights and straight talk, Ryan. I’ve been having similar thoughts except I’d be targeting the Philippines for my resourcing needs. In addition to having contacts there, they have well-educated folks with great english skills.
    I’d be interested to know a little more about the logistics of such an undertaking. Pardon my newbieness, but do you host the source code on a local server that the offshore developer checks code into? Any info is appreciated.

  60. Really interesting that you’ve chosen this route. Guy Rintoul (http://guyrintoul.com) did an interesting presentation this weekend @ BarCampLondon2 about the value of Test Driven Development when working with offshore developers. Essentially he was saying that since there can be language difficulties, writing the tests up front makes the technical specification even clearer and really helps break down the communication barriers.

    Be interesting to hear what development model you guys are following and how it works out! 🙂

  61. OMFG…so the only way I we can make it is to know some people in Russia?? That…uh…sucks.

  62. Interesting! Can we have an update in 3 or 6 months time on how you feel this is progressing?

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