Why to Hire Freelance First

By Matt Bodnar

There's a lot of opinion about the best way to find a software developer. The noise can be distracting and steer you away from staying focused on getting a product out the door and into consumer hands. Below is our story about how we threw out the "all or nothing" mentality of only working with a full-time developer, and the unseen benefits of hiring freelance first.

Two months ago we began searching for a software developer. We had several items on our product roadmap. The urgency to get product built was high. We ideally wanted to hire a full-time developer but couldn’t afford it. We decided to search for a freelancer.

We used oDesk and Elance, and of course our personal networks. Nothing was more effective as the experience using Gun.io (yes, I understand we are biased). oDesk and Elance connected us to mainly offshore developers with limited skills and often times language barriers. Talent was cheap but quality was poor. It lead to dead ends with interested candidates not following through. Traditional job boards didn’t yield a single candidate.

By using Gun.io, we initially hired 2 freelancers and then hired both developers to work with us full-time.

This is why I now recommend to anyone searching for a developer to hire a freelancer before committing to a full-time developer. The first reason is that you’re able to see how a developers works, communicates, and interacts with your team. An interview isn't enough time to judge work ethic and personality. Our team gets to the office early, leaves late, and enjoys going out for drinks after work (sometimes during work). We wanted a team member that understood and enjoyed that work-life culture.

Second, it’s the most affordable way to get product built while you assess if the developer is right for your team. Too many of my friends get stuck in “all or nothing” mode. The reason we were hiring a developer was to get product built. Letting our business suffer because we wanted full-time was not an option.

Third, it was faster than working with a recruiter or agency. We spent months working with recruiters and agencies that yielded no results. By hiring freelance first, we were able to talk about our vision. The more we worked on small projects with our freelancers, the more they grew excited about our mission. Oh, and we didn't have to give a 20% fee to a recruiter. Thanks again, and keep up the good work.

Lastly, it's the best way to find passive candidates. Not all freelancers will make the jump to full-time but some are open to it. We were lucky in that regard. I strongly believe that the reason our two freelancers made the jump to full-time with us was because they were excited about our vision and the tech we wanted to build. It was interesting.

If you have any questions about my experience please drop a comment, or connect on my blog.

About the Author

Matt's mission is to give more than he takes from every interaction while producing as much value as possible for the people he works with. His goal is to learn about people’s most painful problems and help solve them with simple and elegant solutions that make their lives easier and more fun.

As the co-founder of Smart Growth Solutions, Fresh Technology, and Fresh Capital, Bodnar has been fortunate enough to help people in a variety of industries including real estate, software/technology, financial services, food and beverage, and retail. Bodnar previously worked as an import/export consultant in Nanjing, China and spent several years on the Interest Rates Desk at Goldman Sachs before entering the technology space.


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