How to hire the best independent developers in the gig economy
Over the past two decades of my career in the tech industry, I’ve experienced both sides of the gig economy – as a freelance writer and as a tech leader hiring independent developers. Back when I was a developer, I worked as a freelance developer to broaden my skills and knowledge, and since becoming head of engineering, I have hired independent developers for companies to which I was working on.
In this article, I want to share my insights on hiring independent developers and best practices for finding and hiring the best independent developers in the gig economy. As leaders in engineering, it is important to understand and take advantage of the odd-job economy, as it has become one of the most important developments in the way we work. Outsourced labor will be part of the future of work whether you like it or not.
Hire an independent developer
When to hire a freelance developer? If you’ve never hired independent developers before, you might be wondering why you need them. Here are some common reasons why businesses hire freelancers:
- Access to a variety of skills, on different technology stacks and niches, such as iOS mobile development, e-commerce website development, etc.
- Independent developers are more readily available. Independent developers are usually available within a few weeks.
- Independent developers are more affordable. While their hourly rate may be higher in some cases, compared to a permanent developer, it will end up being more affordable as there won’t be any additional expenses like insurance, 401k, or superannuation.
- You may not need a long-term, permanent developer. A company may decide that there is a project that can be done once and that will not require maintenance or continuous work. Or there may be a project that requires a specific skill for a specific milestone, like setting up a DevOps infrastructure, refactoring an old tech stack into a new one, redesigning a user interface for a web application, small bugfixes etc.
- You have a distributed team. This has grown in importance over the past year, with a surge in remote work.
Importantly, the evidence suggests that affordability tops the list for small businesses, even if they are not a fully distributed team.
When not to hire an independent developer
Hiring independent developers may not be the right decision, for the following reasons:
- You may prefer to work with people in the same office / time zone. The data shows that there is a large population of independent developers in Eastern Europe and North America, followed by Asia and the Middle East.
- You may not be confident in the skills and / or quality of freelancers.
- There may be intellectual property and security issues.
- The use of freelancers can have a negative impact on the potential value of the business for startups trying to secure funding.
- For startups trying to secure funding, hiring freelancers can have a negative impact on the perceived value of the business.
Important factors to consider when hiring independent developers
There are several important factors to consider when hiring independent developers. Understanding and applying these best practices is crucial to producing positive results for a business employing a freelance workforce. Therefore, to be successful, engineering leaders must think holistically to bring organization and technology as close as possible to decision making.
Think value on deliverables
Before you hire, think about how much value you would like to get from that person. For large organizations, short-term contracts (less than three months) often don’t add much value, as most people take time to master various technologies, large code bases, tools, and processes. used in large organizations. For small and medium-sized organizations, processes and codebases aren’t as complex, and shorter contracts work better. It also depends on the nature of the work – for example, if the developer is working on a specific project or if they perform ad hoc tasks, as usual.
Set correct expectations
A well-defined task or project list is important to get the most out of independent developers, so that they know what is expected and perform their tasks as efficiently as possible. It can also be used over time as a clear benchmark to measure whether the developer is meeting expectations.
It’s not enough to simply educate independent developers about your organization’s coding standards and conventions. It is also important to review the work they have done so that standards and conventions are followed accurately. Therefore, code review is essential, especially for the first few tasks they are working on. This should be done to ensure that the developer conforms to your organization’s coding standards.
Eliminate any possible bottleneck
If you are providing commercial tools to get the job done, like a desktop, make sure they’re fast enough that they don’t become a bottleneck to get the most out of the developers. If possible, make sure that all software, IDE, graphics software, etc., is configured on their workstation before starting so that the developer does not need to spend time configuring software while on the go. could do something more productive, like learning about your company’s code bases and coding standards, understanding the current architecture, etc.
Before hiring a freelance writer, think about how much time someone in your organization will need to spend upgrading these developers. This comes back to my first point about thinking about value rather than deliverables or the project. If an existing employee or employees (e.g. developers, product managers, designers, analysts) need to spend a few hours a day with freelance developers to upgrade them, and those freelancers will only be with the organization that for a month, Then ask yourself if it’s really worth hiring them.
Invest in tools and processes
If your business doesn’t already have the tools and processes to effectively support remote and asynchronous working, you definitely need to invest in them. The future of work is here to stay, and now is the right time to put in place processes and tools such as ticket tracking, workflow management, time tracking, communication tools, etc. It is also great to have standard procedures for the team so that independent developers can educate themselves on these resources to integrate effectively. For example, these standard procedures might detail how to start a sprint, how to run a retrospective, how to sort out bugs, how to handle incidents and outages, how to deploy a feature, etc. When there is best practices and models to follow, independent developers will know what is expected in each situation without having to check with you often.
Always hire the right people
The best independent developers for your business are the ones for you, and only you, as the engineering manager, can assess who are the best. So my advice is short and sweet: always hire the right people for you, understanding and applying the best practices I’ve shared in this article.
Although they are independent developers and may not be in the organization for a long time, follow a selection process similar to what you have for other full-time employees in terms of assessment. their technical skills, as well as their willingness to be a good team player. After all, these independent developers will always have to do their job well and they shouldn’t be given a special pass because they are independent.