Does my startup need a full-time developer? I am asked this question frequently so thought I’d share my thoughts and experience on the subject.
There are a large number of non-technical founders who have great ideas but don’t have the ability to actually write code. Therefore they often presume the first person they need to hire is a full-time developer, which is not always the case.
Do it yourself!
If you have yet to build a product then I would recommend looking at the plethora of prototyping tools out there. Creating a prototype is quick, free/cheap and relatively simple. It can be used to show investors, partners and importantly gather user feedback to validate your ideas, so when you build a product people will actually want to use it! You will also have something to give a developer, which would help communicate your ideas.
You can get free trials from services from like Amazon or Marvel, or Zapier that connects other services, and you don’t need to be technical to drive any of them! You will need to apply yourself and read some stuff, but if you’re not prepared to do that then I would suggest running a business is not for you anyway.
Of course, you can also use these resources even if you do have an in-house tech team!
What if my idea needs developers from the get-go?
There will be many businesses that need developers from the word go. But this doesn’t mean you have to go out and hire people from day one. Finding freelance resources is a lot quicker than hiring a full-time employee. It can be a good way to build and test your ideas both with customers and investors without the cost of a permanent member of staff.
Using a freelancer does have caveats though
A freelancer won’t save you the normal due diligence carried when out hiring someone full-time. Don’t skimp on following up with references. Ask the same questions of the 2-3 people you speak with (I always make a spreadsheet for consistency!). Remember, amongst other things to give the referee an overview of your project and ask them if they think the freelancer is a good fit.
Depending upon the length of engagement, a freelancer doesn't have to be the perfect cultural fit. They just need to be able to competently deliver the result you need.
You will need to check their code is properly commented along with clear documentation that you can pass on to your future team. Making sure the freelancer has the right communication style will also help if you want them to hand over to others later.
These are my thoughts on the subject and I’d love to hear what you think! Let me know if I can answer your questions.