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5 Easy Ways To Screw Up Hiring Contractors

I LOVE working with contractors. I mean, I built an entire agency around the concept that you should be able add high-quality developers to your team, plug and play, on a month-to-month basis.

I love working with contractors and it’s surprisingly easy to screw it up – to hire the wrong person, to contract out the wrong task, or to be the sort of client they’ll never want to work with again (and maybe warn all their contractor peers about.)

So if you’re a startup or a tech company who’s interested in hiring contractors, read on for a list of ways you can screw it up … so you can avoid them!

5 Easy Ways To Screw Up Hiring Contractors

1. Screw it up by trying to learn how to code instead of hiring a contractor or finding a technical founder

Does your startup have a technical co-founder? Someone who can code and build with the best of them? Awesome! Then you can save a significant amount of money by building your minimum viable product yourselves.

But if your co-founder is more of an “ideas person” or a non-technical person – we recommend hiring a contractor or multiple contractors. It’s much faster and more affordable and flexible than hiring someone in-house. On average, the hiring process takes three to six months – that’s time that could have been spent building your product!

Sidenote: Zero shame if you have non-tech founders! Some of the platforms and apps we use every day were founded by people who didn’t have a tech background!

Non-tech founders who’ve been incredibly successful: 

2. Screw it up by overspending on in-house hires when money + time is tight

If you have a technical co-founder who can code and build your platform – awesome!

Buuuuut if your co-founder is the only person on the team who can code, the speed at which you can bring your MVP to market (and thus find investors or get money in the door) will be limited by how fast they can code.

And if your co-founder / coder has the audacity to need things like, say, sleep? Well, that will significantly slow down your progress. The simple math is this: three or five people can code faster than one person. A team will be able to bring a product to market faster than one person. Click To Tweet

If you’re nodding along and thinking “Yes, I’d obviously like to have 5 people working on my product – but our budget is tight” – I’m going to recommend hiring contractors. Again.

Why? In-house hires come with contracts, benefits packages, unemployment, etc. Typically, benefits account for up to 30% of a job’s compensation. Meaning, if you’re paying an in-house hire a salary of $100,000 a year, the cost to you of employing that person is closer to $130,000.

Meanwhile, when you bring in a contractor – particularly one of ours, who are on month-to-month contracts – you pay them the agreed upon pay rate and … that’s it. No paid vacations, no health insurance. Hiring contractors can be significantly cheaper!

3. Screw it up by hiring junior or mid-level engineers to architect your long term solution

When it comes to contractors, it’s easy to fantasize about a situation where someone parachutes into your team and is an immediate fit – without you having to do any of that pesky interviewing or onboarding.

Particularly when it comes to working with overseas contractors, it’s incredibly important to make sure someone is senior level which means both their programming prowess and their culture fit. You want to work with someone you trust, who understands what you’re building, and who’s product-focused, not just task-focused.

A really great contractor knows that product development is an iterative process and that – very likely – a founder will change their mind and the product will evolve over the course of the project. They’ll be communicative and open to showing you what they’re building as they go.

A senior level engineer will make sure your technical architecture is built once, the right way, not cobbled together. Think of your product like a house; a house built on a shaky foundation won’t last. A senior level engineer will be your architect - they will make sure your foundation has been laid in a way that will last a lifetime. Click To Tweet

4. Screw it up by using the wrong pay rate

I have a lot of opinions about using fixed rate jobs with contractors. Well, really I have one opinion: Fixed rate jobs aren’t good for anyone and that’s why Neutech doesn’t use them. Click To Tweet

In a worst case scenario, here’s what happens with fixed rate jobs:

The client changes their mind or there’s scope creep, so the product takes longer than expected. Who eats the extra cost? If the client eats it, they’re mad. If the contractor eats it, they’re mad (and significantly harder to work with.)

Or the contractor might rush the project. They’re incentivized to finish the project as quickly as possible to make a bigger profit, taking shortcuts with code or delivering something that’s not scalable.

At Neutech we use an hourly rate via retainer, NOT a fixed price and we recommend that anyone who works with contractors does the same.

With us, you pay for our time, nothing less, nothing more. Something that takes longer, takes longer; we communicate those timelines to you and give you a rough estimate so you know what to expect.

This is just the nature of software – coding a complicated platform in a way that is sustainable and scalable takes time. With an hourly rate you know that we're always working for money and for time. We're never taking shortcuts in our code and we're not financially incentivized to do anything but our best work. Click To Tweet

5. Screw it up by having contractors work on core sensitive IP

Yes, I own an agency that provides senior designers and developers to augment your product and development teams. (You can grab a spot on my calendar to chat about your project here!)

That being said, I’m not going sit here and tell you to only hire contractors ever.

In fact, when it comes to core sensitive IP, I tell founders to hire someone in-house.

Let’s say you have an algorithm that’s got a high IP and complexity that’s very specific to the organization. Of course you could have a contractor work on that, but you don’t necessarily want them to be exposed to your IP if you can avoid it.

It would probably feel better to have someone who belongs to the company – someone who has  equity –  handle your sensitive IP.  Also? You don’t want to become reliant on a contractor who leaves after their contract is up and you’re out to dry with noone who can help handle your IP.

But if you’ve got your one in-house person working on your IP? Go ahead and bring in contractors for the other layers of the onion.

Bring in contractors to work on things like: 

  • Front-end screens
  • Integration
  • QA (both automated and manual) 
  • DevOps
  • Design
  • UI/UX
  • Backend work
  • Project Management
  • Product Management

I could go on and on about the merits of using contractors to develop your products – and I’d love to chat if you’ve got a project you’d like us to work on! Just know that if you’ve been trying to build something great but have been hung up by the expense of hiring a big in-house team, there are other options. A great group of contractors could be exactly what you need to bring your dreams to market. 

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