Red Flags When Hiring Freelancers and Outsourcing Development: A Guide for Non-Technical Decision-Makers
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Red Flags When Hiring Freelancers and Outsourcing Development: A Guide for Non-Technical Decision-Makers

Outsourcing has become a common practice for companies seeking specialized expertise or cost-effective solutions. While there are many benefits to this, navigating the hiring process for freelance developers or outsourcing teams can be challenging, especially for those who lack technical backgrounds.

We are often called when our clients face challenges. Over time, there were cases when the client was not happy with their current progress, but wasn’t sure how to fix the problem nor what went wrong. So we stepped in and performed system analysis to give them insights and steps needed to be done in order to meet project specifications and deadlines. In most cases our team is included in tracking the progress or we also add our engineers to speed up the process.

Having had the opportunity to witness both successful strategies and problematic practices in these scenarios, we’ve compiled a list of crucial questions to help non-technical decision-makers differentiate between a reliable developer and one who may pose potential risk.

Red Flag 1: Where do you keep the code?

Understanding the codebase’s storage location is crucial for a project’s continuity and security. Verify that the developer employs a secure version control system like Git. It preserves all code versions, facilitating easy rollback when necessary. Without version control, efficient branch management, change tracking, and team collaboration become challenging. A suboptimal practice is storing code solely on the server, leading to file exchanges among developers.

Red Flag 2: Who will have access to the code?

Clarify who has access to the source code and inquire about the measures in place to safeguard it against unauthorized access or manipulation. It is advised that you or your direct employees have access to the code. Sometimes freelancers can stall when it comes to giving access or information to new developers. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this many times, and there is no way of knowing that this will happen.

Red Flag 3: Transparency

Transparency is crucial in addressing complications promptly and planning further actions. During the hiring process, consider asking hypothetical questions such as, ‘How would you communicate if we’re not meeting deadlines?’ or ‘If issues arise during development, how would you approach them?’ This approach helps evaluate a candidate’s ability to anticipate and communicate potential challenges. If you are currently engaged with an outsourcing company, ask yourself: Do I know how far are my developers with their work? How often do they update us? Are these updates accurate and confirmed with features being delivered?.

Red Flag 4: Do you have a project management tool (Jira, Trello, Asana, etc.)?

Ask about the tools and methodologies the developer uses to track progress, manage tasks, and facilitate collaboration. A transparent project management system enhances communication and ensures project milestones are met. This provides a written record of what is expected to be done, fostering accountability, and protecting both parties by offering a clear overview of the project’s progress and goals.

Red Flag 5: Do you have a communication channel (Slack, Discord)?

Smooth and efficient communication is the backbone of any successful collaboration. Confirm the availability of a dedicated communication channel and assess its effectiveness in fostering real-time discussions, issue resolution, and overall team cohesion, including quick response times. A lack of a centralized communication platform may result in scattered discussions, posing challenges for team members to work collaboratively, track and reference past conversations, and increasing the likelihood of misunderstandings.

Red Flag 6: Can you provide references from previous clients or projects?

Requesting references allows you to gain insights into the developer’s track record and reputation. Contacting previous clients provides valuable information about their reliability, communication skills, and ability to deliver high-quality work. Hesitation or the inability to provide references by the developer may suggest that past collaborations were unsatisfactory.

Red Flag 7: What is your approach to security and data privacy?

Protecting your data and sensitive information is paramount. Ensure clarity by asking who will have access to the data and services. It is advisable to refrain from using shared accounts; instead, opt for an individual account setup for each person. Additionally, maintain the security of your passwords by using a reliable password management application.

Red Flag 8: How do you handle scalability and future updates?

A forward-thinking developer considers the scalability of your project and plans for future updates. Discuss their strategies for accommodating growth, scalability challenges, and ensuring that the codebase remains adaptable to technological advancements.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
– Benjamin Franklin

Red Flag 9: Development methodology

Development methodologies, especially Agile, have become standard practices in the industry. It offers benefits through incremental approach and client involvement. Real-time progress visibility, effective planning, and adaptability to changing project requirements are facilitated. Without Agile, potential misalignments between client expectations and the delivered work may occur.

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