5th August 2021
How to hire your first software engineer
Finding a SaaS solution to an everyday problem feels like striking gold. It’s that initial burst of enthusiasm that sets many a SaaS founder along the road to developing and launching an app or website fuelled by their passion and desire to see their product flourish.
Unfortunately, drive and ambition can only get you so far. At some point, you’re going to need something tangible to actually put in front of your target audience that they are willing to pay for.
Many SaaS founders do not have the necessary skill set to plan out and code their own product from scratch. It’s also true that software developers don’t always make for the best entrepreneurs, and vice-versa, so it’s very likely that any tech start-up will have a division between those who start, maintain and grow the business and those who actually build out the tech on which the product stands.
The relationship between these two arms of the business is crucial to get right, so let’s take a look first at the options available to a SaaS founder with a limited or non-existent knowledge of coding and software development.
The first crossroads you’ll come to is the choice between in-house or outsourced development. In general, the pros and cons of each mirror those that would exist if the same question were applied to any other industry, for example copywriting or marketing. So here we’ll try and zero-in on how this distinction particularly effects software development and common types of SaaS business model.
This is an obvious but important point – in-house developers will be more invested in your product simply because they are employed and paid by your company. This then has a number of knock-on advantages, of which we’ve listed a few here:
The biggest drawback to in-house development is, of course, the cost. Full-time employees are expensive, and require your business to reach a certain threshold before you can even think about hiring. For bootstrapped founders, this isn’t really an option.
Similarly, if your staff leave to pursue work elsewhere, your project will be hit by a significant delay as you re-hire and get the ball rolling again as new staff pick up where the previous cohort left off, which can prove difficult and time consuming.
Ultimately, unless you’ve managed to secure a hefty amount of early investment, most SaaS startups won’t have the money to spend on hiring a team of devs to work for them full time.
Ultimately, the biggest advantage outsourcing has to offer is the cost-saving, not just in terms of money but also time – which is arguably an equally valuable resource to a SaaS founder. No HR, no lengthy interview process, no ads – the list goes on.
On top of that, outsourcing works well with the often turbulent world of SaaS development. Outsourcing your development will allow you to scale it to your needs. Practically, this makes it less likely that your business will be dragged under by a lengthy salary bill before it manages to start turning a profit. The inverse is also true – if you start to hit your stride unexpectedly and choose to capitalise on the momentum, you can easily buy more hours from your outsourced partners to put their foot on the gas.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that you can get a lot of the same advantages of an in-house team if you manage the relationship well. Personability and clear communication from your end should be reciprocated, and after a while your outsourced team will naturally become invested in your product. In the world of freelancing, reputation is everything, so it’ll be in their interests to see you succeed.
Most of the draw-backs of outsourcing development work have already been alluded to above, but we’ll recap them here.
Probably the biggest drawback is the reduced involvement you have with the team when compared to an in-house set-up. This is where communication is key, but it’s almost inevitable that wires will be crossed at some point. Before any work begins, you’ll want to makes sure that both parties have agreed on timeframes, as well as a reporting schedule and availability on a weekly basis.
Whilst you’ll save time in the long-term management of staff, you’ll still need to invest significant time in hiring the right agency. Currently, software development outsourcing is increasingly being sent overseas, and whilst this can drive down costs, it adds yet more barriers to communication, from language to time-zones.
The closer to your own base of operations you can find a dev team, the better. Being able to meet in person is a huge advantage to building up the kind of trust you’ll want to have with such a key part of your business.
You’ll also have to prepare contingencies for the long term, and familiarise yourself with some basic concepts of software development to make sure you’re not being led down the wrong path.
For example, you’ll want to ensure that your product is being built in such a way that you could take the source code to any other developer to continue working on it should your current development contract fall through.
You don’t want to end up tied to the same company for all of your development needs going forwards, as this will leave you at the mercy of the contractor who will position themselves to be the only ones who can work on your product should it need changing or updating.
Unsurprisingly, the best solution to your development needs will depend on your situation and the resources you have available. To conclude, we’ve listed some examples of what you should be looking for based on your current setup:
You should consider outsourcing if the following apply:
You should look to hire a dev team if the following apply:
With these considerations in mind, you should be well placed to make the right pick for your own SaaS development journey. If, as many bootstrapped founders do, you opt to outsource your development, be sure to invest the time in finding a working relationship that you can put your trust in.
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