How to work more effectively with Freelance Developers

We recently launched one of our most requested features, just in time for on-board a big client who’s been expecting it, but we could have shipped much sooner.

Until about 6 weeks ago, we had a team of 7 freelancers working under our CTO, Bilal, to get our Product moving. To save on cost, we stopped using freelancers. We thought Bilal would be able to build enough to see us through until we hired a second permanent developer. Unfortunately, he’s only just finished about a month of bug fixing.

1. Keep an eye on your freelancers until you’re confident in their skill. They should be earning your trust as well as your money.

Two of the contractors we do trust to work autonomously, a back-end and a front-end. We decided to keep working with them on a fixed-price basis, although they usually work on an hourly or daily rate, to get new features moving again.

2. Freelancers dislike fixed-price work as much as you dislike paying an hourly rate, so be ready to find a compromise.

We thought Bilal would be able to build the front-end of this new feature, saving a chunk of (limited) cash, so, after comparing some other quotes, we asked our back-end freelancer to start work. The front-end work would commence imminently. Only, it didn’t.

3. Don’t underestimate the complexity of bugs.

After a week, it became very clear that Bilal would not have capacity for this front-end work any time soon, so we asked our front-end freelancer to do it instead.

4. If you’re not providing full time work to a freelancer, you come in-between bigger jobs.

The front-end work started almost two weeks after the final back-end commits. Worse, there were several back-end changes that were required throughout the front-end build, the kind of issues that your team would usually discuss while building. Because of the gap in development, these decisions were made, built upon, and then changed, so our back-end freelancer had to return to work he thought he’d completed two weeks ago, within the fixed-price he’d set, as the work was required to meet the original specification. 

5. Stay parallel. If we had put being parallel above all else, we’d have shipped about 3 weeks sooner, and had happier freelancers.

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