How to Find and Hire Freelance App Developers

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Many freelance app developers exist – but how do you find the right one for your business? Finding, recruiting, hiring, managing and paying an engineer can be as challenging as actually coding an app for a non-technical founders. To help founders weigh their options, the team at Gennovacap compiled a guide to help make the appropriate hiring decision for your next freelance app or web developer.

Depending on the needs of your project, there are different ways of finding and hiring the best app developers for your business. Do you help finishing a backlog of work? Developing a one-off project or creating a proof of concept product? Does your startup need a superstar? When you know your answer, you will have an easier time knowing where to look and who to hire.

How to find freelance app developers:

There’s an abundance of sources for finding technical talent – but sifting through the many options for the right engineer can be hard. To help in your search, we’ve broken down the places you can look into four categories: freelance marketplaces, in-person networking, recruiters and hiring a professional agency. The best sources for finding technical talent will connect you with many qualified candidates quickly.

Freelance Marketplaces for App Developers

One way to source the top talent to on sites like Upwork, Guru or Freelancer. To get started, you will need to submit a project outline of your app to the platform and freelance app developers will begin sending proposals to win the job. Make sure your outline includes the technical requirements or you may get bids from the wrong types of developers. Sort through the proposals and ask the applicants you are interested in to complete a code skills test before offering an interview. There are plenty of developers on these marketplaces and a skills test will help you filter out the less serious candidates.

Finding Freelance App Developers on a Marketplace

Freelance marketplace downsides: There are overseas development agencies that may act as an intermediary for the developers and their individual profiles on marketplaces. You might find yourself working with someone who is not a developer, but an unnecessary middleman.

Meetups or personal network:

Personal networks or networking events at meetups are great places to meet app developers to hire, but it takes time to cultivate a working relationship. If you know professionals that work at tech companies, you could consider asking them if they or their network would be interested in being a technical co-founder or advisor. Gennovacap is constantly networking with other app developers in Austin, TX because it’s important to our business to have quality developers we can hire as necessary.

Hiring Freelance App Developers Personal Networks

Meetup downsides: This process can take time, time that your project might not have if it’s to be successful.

Technical recruiters:

Professional recruiters have large candidate pools to hire engineering talent from. Finding freelance app developers through a staffing agency can be worthwhile if they cover the costs of healthcare and manage the payroll for the contractor.

Finding App Developers with a Recruiter

Recruiter downsides: Recruiters typically markup costs by 30%. If you’re a larger or more established company that can afford that, then it may be worth it, but otherwise it can be cost prohibitive.

Professional App Development Agencies:

If you’re hiring a freelance app developer to build a product and bring a whole team to help out on the project, then a professional app development agency can be a good fit. If the development agency is great at providing turnkey services like project management, front-end, back-end to DevOps, the agency can provide great management value while developing your app or software.

Hiring an App Developer Agency

How to hire a freelance app developer:

How do you hire a technical person when you don’t know what to ask? The way we hire and evaluate engineers at Gennovacap is based on 4 core areas:

  • Work experience. We recommend avoiding hiring freelance engineers with less than 5 years experience. Working as a freelancer can be challenging and you don’t want to take the time to hire and pay someone not up to the job.
  • Coding skill tests. Understanding how a developer solves problems, comments code and their methods are important to determining if they are right for your project.
  • Interpersonal and communication skills. A successful developer needs to know how to work well with others, is receptive to feedback and knows what questions to ask.
  • Their network of engineers. If your project is to succeed, there will definitely be times when your business will need additional staff. Having trusted employees with their own network to hire from can save you having to start the challenging talent search over again.

With professional development agencies you can find reviews of their work online on places like Google, Yelp, Upwork and Clutch. While many of the reviews on sites like Google and Yelp lack substance or a way to know if it’s real, Clutch’s reviews are verified by a third party interview process. Just as you would look over a freelancer’s experience, make sure you look into an agency’s performance by reading their reviews.

How to manage your freelance app developer:

Once you find and hire an app developer, you can use project management tools like Asana, Github, Gitlab, or Pivotal Tracker to track their progress. These tools are essential to managing remote app or web developers. App developers work best when they have precise instructions to follow so they can develop the app quickly, with fewer questions. If you expect an engineer to understand what features you want and when without providing adequate details, then prepare to be frustrated.

The best way to avoid problems in the development lifecycle is to have great product management. A product roadmap will help provide a plan and resources for developers to deliver new features quickly. Using tools like Sketch, Invision, Figma or Photoshop will enable you to rapidly describe features that you can write up into user stories with functional and architectural requirements.

If you don’t have experience with product management, you may be better off hiring a professional development agency to help. An experienced agency will know better ways to identify problems, present solutions, write the technical requirements and policies for adding new features. Here is a quick outline of how we recommend managing your product:

  1. Develop well thought out user stories
  2. Write up features for each user story
  3. Include architectural requirements for the data layer (name the models for the database, attribute names, and data relationships to add clarity for the developers)
  4. Prototype the feature requirements for the user stories
  5. Breakdown front-end and back-end jobs in the feature requirements
  6. Prioritize the work on a weekly basis for the app developer

Next, you need to plan your timeline for the work to be done. Daily standups with weekly sprints is the typical workflow for 99% of software development. Whatever you plan for, expect delays because issues will always arise.

The next step in the process to effectively managing your freelance app developer is to test their code for quality assurance. Design a plan for testing all the features you wrote up in the requirements. Not only is this good practice for checking the performance of the app developer you hired, it’s always easier to fix flaws in your app the earlier in the development lifecycle you find them.

Finally, make sure you find an app developer that knows how to get your app to market. If they can’t, you may need to hire another app developer just to deploy the app to stores.

How to pay your freelance app developer:

Everyone loves getting paid and paid quickly. The best advice we have when hiring an app developer, is to make sure that they are paid on time. Experienced app developers are skilled employees who have little tolerance for late pay. They can – and will – find other work instead. If the developer is under performing on delivery, have a third party review their work.

If their quality is poor or too slow, renegotiate your terms with the developer – or find another one. Upwork and other freelance marketplaces have built-in payment escrow systems that can ensure the contractor successfully delivered your product. If you feel confident enough to manage without an intermediary, Paypal, Venmo, Zelle and cryptocurrency are all great ways to pay freelance app developers.

If you’re offering equity in your startup, make sure that you have a legitimate term sheet and vesting schedule described for the developer. Typical vesting is scheduled over a 48 month period, on a monthly basis and with a one year cliff. Depending on the deal structure, the best way to get developers to sign is to pay out both cash and equity. The equity allows you to save on the cash you need to pay the developer up front, so make it worthwhile.

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