Hey guys today’s post is going to be covering the very tangible areas of what I have found to be invaluable in my process of taking new ideas and turning them into real, technical products and solutions – outsourcing your work, so you can focus on ALL the other areas of work required to make something successful.
Currently my main project is the same app I’ve been working on for almost nine months now ‘Remap’…I long time right? And not a penny to show for it … some might say it’s disheartening, but thankfully I’ve been able to hang out with a lot of ‘entrepreneurs’, and have amazing mentors at the Cambridge Accelerator Program who continue to remind me that creating new ideas take time, and the rewards come later.
Once piece of advice I’ve received numerous time is that I should get a technical Co-founder on board – it means I would no longer need to outsource work, so development would be free, I’d have someone on for the long run, and the business development wouldn’t be so lonely. I completely agree that there are a lot of pro’s to this, but at the same time outsourcing work has become so cheap and easy (will get to this process in a second) that essentially in taking on a technical co-founder I would give up 30-50% of my company for what may eventually cost me $5000…and that’s kind of pricing my company pretty low (anyone seen breaking bad, S5E5?).
So I’ve decided that for me, what I require, my skills, and how I feel comfortable working outsourcing is what I will go for. So far it’s going great, but there are inevitable downsides you have to face.
I’ve outsourced work before, and the NO1 problem that arose is that both I and then person agreeing to do the work had not effectively communicated what we expected from the working relationship: I hadn’t explained all the work required, and in some cases the developer/designers promised more than they could deliver just to get the job.
So before I go into the process of hiring and outsourcing I’d just like to go over some steps to keep in mind for risk mitigation of not getting an end product that you expected:
1 – Interview far and wide. Post jobs requiring quotes for the full job, not by the hour (and offer payment the same way)
When setting up a project you want to get a very wide scope of what the the average cost of creating your product would be. Of course there will be a lot that charge much cheaper than the average, and much more. But generally if you get ten people giving you quotes, that will give you a good idea of how much you would want to be paying. Always pay by the milestone, and not by the hour!! People can screw you over by quickly knocking up ‘unexpected’ extra hours. That almost happened to my, but thank god my business mentor advised against it, and saved me a lot of money and stress.
2 – Create a pinpoint specification requirements list, detailing every single thing that is required of the person.
Here’s a bad example for a specification list:
” I need someone to make an app platform game like sonic the hedgehog. It will have a few different screens, and works on lots of phones”
Here’s a slightly better one:
“I need a team to provide all design, development, and sfx/music for a basic platform game. It will involve the same gameplay as sonic the hedgehog, but with different characters (to be discussed) – all in all ten characters. It will involve three different levels with different backgrounds, a menu screen, and the ability for user to save their game and scores, and share their progress on fb and twitter. The app will be made for use on Iphone, Android, and ipad devices.”
Even this will need a lot more meating out. But, for example I recently had a team creating a game for me, and they refused to work on sound effects for me, because they claimed we hadn’t agreed on this in the price. I was able to bring up the specification I provided them in seconds and show them exactly where in the agreement we agreed on this.
3. Use a safe freelancer website where you know disputes can be sorted out, otherwise make a contract before any work is started or money has changed hands. You can usually find very good contract templates that people have already used in business and are sharing here – https://www.docracy.com. Then just make a few customisations. The freelancer website I always use for finding designers and tecchies is www.elance.com . An incredible website – once you post a job you’l most likely have at least ten quotes by the next day. I can’t tell you how much stress and money and restless nights I’ve saved by setting up air-tight contracts, or full agreements prior to starting work. Although at the time it’s seems so easy to go with a ‘friendly agreement’ it is incredibly likely, even if you are on friendly terms, that this will involve both parties getting disgruntled, upset, and ultimately a lot less positive about the working relationship and the results. This is just my experience, but for me contracts work.
4. Start with small milestones to gauge if they’re as good as they say they are.
In my experience of programmers – the better they are at selling themselves, the more they turn out to be full of sh*t. So, if you find someone like this, but they do have a great portfolio, ideas, etc, and you really believe they can create an amazing product for you, then take them out for a test drive! They say the whole thing will take them 200 hours to make? Ok, ask them to spend 5 hours creating the menu screen and a few basic features. Obviously pay them for this 5 hour stint. If they are as good as they say they are, and you like working with them, awesome, carry on working through. If they turn out to be crap then you can politely say thank you, but no thanks, pay them the 5 hours and wipe the sweat off your brow you didn’t already agree to marry tha bugger.
Wow, this post is getting quite long!! Here’s a summertime song
What a song….
Right, I’ll try to keep this rest of the post succinct. My advice for taking an idea, and getting it made:
– Post detailed description and requirements of what you want made, and how it works. Use elance.com, getacoder.com, freelancer.com. My personal favourite is elance, but they all work. They’re free, but charge 10% of whatever you’re paying your freelancer.
– Choose three that provide a good quote, portfolio, and review
– Interview them all
– If you don’t like any candidates go back to step 1, repeat as many times as you need to find the best possible person/team to make your product.
– If you do find that special someone, set up a milestone early on to check their abilities. If this is good hire them for the long run.
– Keep in contact at least every other day. In my opinion it’s important to make sure they’re sticking to a timeline, and that you show consistent interest in the product development.
– Don’t let teams get away with underproviding. If you’ve agreed with them to pay a certain amount for a service, make sure everything is provided. Some will try to do less work unfortunately. Make sure you get what’s a agreed.
Right, that’s a mini guide on outsourcing your work. I’m outsourcing two projects at the moment:
Available on android tomorrow, and iOS next week. Outsourcing cost me around £300 for design, sfx, and development, which is pretty good. I found the team on elance, and despite a few hiccups and disagreements we’ve gotten there! The app will be free so take a look, and give us a follow on twitter @slothhop🙂
Remap – A gamified app that integrates therapeutic concepts to allow users to track and improve their mental well-being.
The app that has taken nine months, and counting. I’m testing my prototype (prototype, not product because I was unlucky with my first choice of developers and didn’t get exactly the high-quality, full product I had hoped for). Now my luck has changed around. App development companies were quoting me for up to £100k to have this complex app made. I’m extremely passionate about this app and strongly believe in it’s potential. And I’ve found a developer who is similarly very passionate. When he applied for the job and gave me a quote for $800 to make this, design and development I was very wary. I checked out his previous work (clean, attractive, functional, intuitive), I interviewed him for 2 hours, we agreed on every single aspect of what needs to be done, and that he would send me a new version every two days to test. This guy is an unexpected blessing! So we’re very happily working together – him in the states, me in my bed (we work to each others’ time zones). We just reached the first milestone. I’m happy with his work, and we’re continuing. Best of all he works fast – first product (which I’ll provide for free) on iphone in two weeks.
The main point of this post is that these days we have such incredible resources to connect with anyone with any skills around the world. It is completely overwhelming, but it means we can create things we never even dreamed of, with teams around the world. It’s so exciting, and freeing to be able to outsource our work for low cost, with relatively little experience of business.
If anyone has a tech business idea but no idea where to start I’m always happy to provide advice, encouragement, and a few signposts to help out.
Happy outsourcing!! :)