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    8 Tips to Find the Right Custom Software Developers for Startup

    Once you have a project idea and tech stack preferences, it is important to find the right software developer for your startup. But what factors to note while making a choice and hiring them? 

    At Surf, we have been working on clients’ custom projects for 12 years. Fintech, eCommerce, healthcare, and other companies address us with different tasks and challenges. Having analyzed our experience in custom software development for startups and large businesses, we offer you some tips that can help understand whether an IT vendor is able to deliver you a high quality product. 

    Our DesignRush profile awards

    Tip 1. Decide on the type of software developers your startup needs

    Choosing software developers for your startup, estimate the resources you have and formulate requirements to find perfect candidates. In the majority of cases, startup owners prefer contractor teams or hire freelancers. Both solutions save much more time, quality, and cost than choosing in-house developers. So, let’s compare the benefits and disadvantages of the solutions to find the one suitable for your business needs. 

    Freelance developers services for business

    Hiring freelance developers for startups comes with a variety of pros and cons. 

    On the plus side, many freelance developers have experience working in software development teams and understand how to work effectively with remote colleagues. They are often focused solely on coding, which allows them to be more productive than full-time employees in terms of output per hour. 

    Additionally, with the rise of online platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr, startups can easily find qualified professionals who are available to work right away.

    On the downside, there is a risk that freelance developers may not have the same level of commitment to their projects as full-time employees do. There is also the risk that they will only be available for a limited amount of time, meaning that startups may have to search for new freelancers if the project extends beyond their availability. And if you hire specialists without a recruiter’s help, managing freelancers and coordinating them will become a headache. 

    Besides, there can be a lack of accountability when working with remote individual talents, which can lead to frustration and delays in getting projects completed on time.

    Contractor developer team services for business

    Hiring a contractor is not as cost-savvy as working with freelancers, but the solution offers too many pros to be refused. 

    On the plus side, well-established processes in management and communication, specialists with proven experience, and an opportunity to painlessly extend employee resources make contractor teams perfect for any startup. 

    Even if your project suddenly expands, new developers can be added and replaced quickly, allowing you to scale your development team up or down when necessary. This makes IT contractors ideal for companies with dynamic needs. The specialists can find the right developers at the right time without having to commit long-term.

    On the downside, there are some drawbacks to using a contractor developer team for startups. The biggest one is that in some cases you don’t have the same level of control that comes with a freelancer or in-house IT team. For example, when a contractor has poorly built processes, it can be difficult to track their work. 

    See the quality you get when a contractor team has properly built development processes
    Meet Surf

    Tip 2. Check hard skills and soft skills

    Whether you’re looking for freelancers or contractors for your business, you should check their skills before the working process starts. However, recruitment approaches will differ in these cases. For 12 years of finding and hiring software developers in our IT family, we’ve worked out our own approach to it.

    First of all, we divide the interview into three parts

    1. technical screening 
    2. soft-skills interview
    3. technical interview

    In technical screening, a recruiter offers a candidate with a compelling resume an online-test previously created by our tech leads. If the candidate demonstrates good results and successfully copes with the majority of questions, they pass. 

    The next step is a soft-skills interview with a recruiter. Our HR specialists evaluate candidates based on their experience of having previously worked as a part of an IT team. Relevant questions help us find reliable and passionate programmers who are eager for collaboration for creating projects to be proud of.

    The final step, a technical interview, is usually led by a team lead or tech lead. It’s the most complicated and long part of the hiring process, and it covers a variety of theoretical and practical questions about programming language and any technology in particular, depending on the position the candidate wants to take. 

    For example, it can be Flutter, one of the most demanded tech stacks our company uses in creating mobile and web apps for our clients, or Kotlin/Swift for building native apps for business.

    Flutter apps by Surf

    Native apps by Surf

    Tip 3. Monitor developers industry-relevant experience

    When hiring a developer for your startup, it’s important to check their experience. A developer’s potential is only as good as the skills they have developed in the relevant field. You should assess an applicant’s ability to solve problems related to your line of work and see how they can apply these skills in a professional setting.

    To check if an applicant’s experience is enough for your tasks, you should start by looking at their portfolio. Look for projects that showcase the types of problems they have been able to solve and how they have used technology to do so. Ask them about the project and why they chose certain approaches as well as any challenges faced and how they were overcome.

    It’s also vital to check their qualifications and certifications in the relevant field—these will give you an insight into the depth of their knowledge. Alternatively, if the software developer has been involved in open-source projects or other collaborations, discuss it to get a better understanding of the candidate’s capabilities.

    If you are planning to hire freelance developers for creating an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or a finished product, they are likely to have experience in some narrow areas. And if you’re hiring a contractor team, especially the lange one, they will show you more.

    For example, the Surf team, as an experienced IT contractor, has participated in a variety of projects from different business areas: eCommerce, banking, healthcare, insurance, entertainment, engineering, etc. Having met and overcame numerous challenges, we successfully created apps together with teams of KFC, SAP, and Y Combinator startups.

    Learn why Y Combinator startups trust Surf and what results our team brings to clients
    Read our case studies

    Tip 4. Get a proof of UX/UI expertise before hiring

    It is important to look beyond the technical skills of a software developer team and consider what design solutions and services they can offer. First of all, check the applicant’s portfolio and previous projects they have worked on to get an idea of their overall style. 

    Don’t forget to ask about the design solutions you like most of all. Who worked on it, what the client’s request was, what results they got after implementing the UI/UX. You should also learn details about pre-project research your potential developer team offers (or not). It’s usually the basis of a well-thought and functional interface design. 

    We usually follow the algorithm

    1. Analyzing previous app design (if any). It’s not only user interface design quality, but also functionality. It helps find out how users interact with a mobile or web application and get some insights about what they need for a better experience.
    2. Conducting business research. It includes competitors’ products analysis, in-depth interviews, and building a comprehensive strategy. 
    3. App design and prototyping. Creating Customer Journey Map (CJM) and clickable prototypes, we offer interfaces for successful user experience, and finally build a user flow based on the target audience needs and business purposes.
    4. Creating UI. Following the main steps, we think of an application look and ways to emphasize the unique nature of the client’s brand with the top design solutions.

    Payment applications designs by Surf

    Tip 5. Learn the details of a communication flow to get an outsourcing service you need

    While finding a specialist, it’s important to understand the communication and management processes of your potential contractor or freelance software developers. This means understanding how they prefer to receive feedback and instructions, what kind of timeline they require for each project, and how you will get intermediate results about the project progress. 

    If the vendor’s approaches are similar to yours or if you at least approve them, you will easily get the service you like and have tasks completed on time and within budget.

    Discuss the approach each candidate prefers and how this may differ from your company’s methodology. This helps you determine which candidates will be able to fit best into your team and workflow, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

    First of all, you should decide on

    • Software development approaches and models best fit for your startup.
    • The main channels of communication.
    • Frequency of your online meetings to sync with the contractor or freelancers.
    • Tools you use to control the workflow and service quality remotely.
    • Team members responsible for exchange of the latest information on the workflow.

    With these steps, you will easily hire the right specialist and get the results you expect exactly when you need them.

    Tip 6. Agree upon financial issues

    Decide on a pricing model to find out if it is an appropriate choice for your management style and budget planning. In this paragraph, we’ll describe two solutions optimal for startups. 

    Fixed price

    With a fixed price model, clients can ensure the cost of their projects and all the services before it begins. However, this may come with some risks. When the project is more complex than expected or something needs to be revised down-the-road, then an extra agreement must be made that could cause delays and blow your budget out of proportion. It’s great for small tasks, but you might want to think twice if you’re expecting anything bigger.

    Time & material

    It’s an appropriate solution for long-term projects. A development process is divided into sprints and estimated each month. The main benefit is that software developers do not need to go through the complete approval procedure to add any necessary changes. So, specialists are focused on results and service quality more than on implementing a strictly-regimented list of features, and businesses get better results, saving their nerves and time.

    At the Surf team we work using this model. Or clients note transparent price formation and feeling of control as one of the main benefits of the time & material model. 

    Tip 7. Discuss transfer from outsource to further in-house development

    One day you will decide to take your project to in-house software development. And when it comes, it’s better to be sure that your contractor or freelance developers are ready to provide complete and accurate information collected during all the product development stages. So, ask if they have a relevant experience or detailed understanding of the process in advance before hiring.  

    To say some words about our experience, we usually start forming the detailed technical documentation about the project from the very beginning. It covers all requirements and hypotheses, technologies and tools our engineers use, testing approaches and results, etc. So, our clients can take up product development in-house at any stage. 

    Moreover, we usually suggest creating some features together with the client’s developer team to help them in setting up the further workflow. We also answer all arising questions and, if necessary, our specialists help interview and onboard new engineers for a client’s in-house team. With this service for businesses, our clients feel free to manage their projects as they like. 

    First Flutter-powered banking app in Europe developed by Surf and successfully transferred to in-house development

    Bonus: why begin with MVP development for your startup?

    When you have hired a contractor, don’t rush to develop a product with a full set of features. Ask them to start with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) instead.

    Creating an MVP gives businesses an opportunity to see if their application concept is worth investing. Not only does this allow them to determine how viable their project truly is, but it also provides business owners with invaluable feedback and information from target audiences. It helps shape necessary changes for further development of the project.

    With well-thought MVP, startups get numerous benefits

    • Fast time-to-market. You add only key features or even one core feature, and launch the application to see if it will become popular among its audience. 3 to 6 months are enough for the task.
    • Cost-effectiveness. You won’t spend much money on a complex application if it isn’t worth further building. Especially if you choose the right tech stack.
    • Opportunity to attract investors. Properly planned and built MVP works for this purpose better than anything.
    • Getting users’ feedback fast. Your project will be estimated by your audience to help you choose the right development direction and prioritize features. 

    When your MVP is successfully finished, and investors approve it, it’s time to monitor user behavior and form a backlog—a list of features to be added in each iteration. You can trust it to your contractor team or freelancers you hired or continue in-house development.

    Diabetes Management App MVP developed by Surf for a healthcare startup

    To sum up

    1. To find software developers for your startup, choose the tech stack and form some requirements to the result.
    2. Hiring freelance programmers can provide startups with flexibility and cost-effectiveness. However, it is important to consider the potential drawbacks before making a decision. Freelance specialists are not as reliable as a contractor team.
    3. Contractor IT teams for startups are more expensive than freelancers, but with them it is easier to ensure that code quality is up to your standards. 
    4. Conducting thorough research on an applicant’s previous work and achievements will help you make an informed decision when hiring a software developer for an MVP or full product building.
    5. Monitor industry-relevant experience, read case studies on the specialists’ websites and feel free to ask questions about it. If they have already developed a project in your niche, they are likely to implement your ideas well.
    6. Discuss the financial model a specialist offers to business owners, time & material or fixed price.
    7. Ask if a specialist has experience in projects transferring to in-house software development and learn more details about how they do it.
    8. Start with MVP development services for fast time-to-market, high cost effectiveness, and an opportunity to get the audience feedback about your application core features. 

    💡 To add one more important thought that will help you hire the right IT vendor, ensure that the team uses various tech stack including new tools. If they make their own innovations and are always able to explain why choosing a certain technology is optimal for your business needs, it’s a good sign. And if they insist on using only long-standing tools when there are obviously alternatives among the new ones, you should consider more on choosing a vendor. 

    Entrusting your project to the Surf developer team, you will get high quality products, save up to 40% on software development by using top tech stack, and enjoy collaboration with an experienced IT company. We are a Google Certified Agency and one of the first three companies to receive early access to Google technologies. Furthermore, our team is the first to implement technologies announced at WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference), so our clients get future-oriented apps.

    Passionate and talented developers, a well-established management system, and transparency in everything make us a contractor trusted by world-famous startups.