Hiring a designer or developer for your next Web or mobile project

Hiring a designer or developer for your next Web or mobile project

Unless you happen to be an amazing coder and designer in addition to your savvy business skills, you will eventually need to hire an employee or find a contractor to help you with the ever-growing Web and mobile world. This can be a challenging experience – here are some tips.

Q: Should I hire an employee or just go with outside contractors?

A: If you are just getting occasional work done then it’s better to go with external contractors.  This way you can get exactly the expertise you need, perhaps hiring a separate designer, developer and maybe server admin expert for different parts of your project rather than having to hire a mini-IT department.

Once you notice you are spending big bucks on a consistent monthly basis, it’s probably time to hire at least one “generalist” in-house tech guru.  Try to find someone who has some good design skills, knows at least some coding and knows the basics of servers and hosting.

Q:  I have heard you can get great deals outsourcing abroad. Is that okay or better to hire locally?

A:  There are designers and developers half way around the world that will do your work for a fraction of the local cost and sites that will help facilitate this (e.g. www.hiretheworld.com, www.freelancer.ca)   This may work well for some smaller projects like logo designs and graphics. For more sophisticated Web and mobile apps, it gets a lot trickier with remote developers. Sometimes you want someone local you can meet with, especially if things go off the rails.

Q: How much should I pay?

A: This is a tricky one.  It may be tempting to go for the bargain hourly rate of an entry level person rather than paying the big bucks for the local guru but the only thing more expensive than hiring a top notch developer, is hiring a cheap one. You may be able to pay someone with less experience $20 an hour and it will take him 100 hours for your project for a total of $2000 or you could pay someone at the top of her game for $200 an hour and it will take her five hours to complete for a total of $1000 at much better quality.

Q:  Can I hire just one person to cover all my mobile and Web needs?

A: Probably not. There are some very talented people that are good at information architecture, design, coding for both the Web and mobile but it’s really rare to have all these diverse skillsets packed into one homo sapien.

Q: Should I go with a fixed price or hourly contract?

A: If your project has any kind of ambiguity to it, not many contractors will quote you a fixed price. If they do, they will have to add a big margin to cover the big risk of not knowing how long it’s going to take. Once you trust your contractors, hourly rates can work well. If it’s something they have done many times before, they can quote you a fixed price.  Make sure you get more than one quote; there can be a huge range in pricing.

Q: Should I go with a web or mobile development firm or just hire freelancers?

A: If you hire a firm, you may get more reliability, project management and professionalism than the lone ranger developer but it usually will cost a lot more. They have their overheads to cover, and the actual developers and designers make only a fraction of their billable rate.  If you are okay with meeting in Starbucks with your freelancers and okay that your project may not always be their top priority, then you may have better luck with hiring freelancers.


Wavefront (http://www.wavefrontac.com) is a mobile focused accelerator and a good place to start to find local mobile talent.  Local mobile development companies include Dynamic Leap Technology (http://www.dynamic-leap.com) and Appnovation (www.appnovation.com/).

Meetups – Check out technology Meetups in the Lower Mainland (e.g. www.meetup.com/Vancouver-WordPress-Meetup-Group/). Go to one of the meetings, you will soon get a sense of who knows their stuff.

Digital media programs – find talented grads that still have hourly rates that are not yet in the stratosphere, two great ones are Capilano University’s Interactive Design Lab (www.interactivedesignlab.com/) and BCIT’s New Media and Web Development (www.bcit.ca/study/programs/6415smcert).

Co-working spaces and accelerators – Drop by a local co-working and technology accelerator like Launch Academy (launchacademy.ca), the Hive (hivevancouver.com), the Office (www.theofficevancouver.com/) or Zen Launchpad (zenlaunchpad.com).

Written by Dr. Ivan Surjanovic and Cyri Jones, 
adapted from BizTech101 column in Business in Vancouver

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