At some point in your app business journey you’ll eventually need to hire a programmer, artist, or both to help complete your game. If you’re an indie developer and have a limited budget finding someone that is talented as well as reasonably priced can feel like a scene in the film Mission: Impossible. However there are a few secret tactics that you can employ to make finding and hiring a programmer for relatively cheap, easy.
Before you start vetting potential outsource workers, it’s crucial that you have a written plan for what you need done. This list makes it easier to convey to programmers and artists not only what’s required of them but it also helps to clarify your own overall expectations for the game.
Break it Down to Version 0.1
Professional programmer and writer, Derek Sivers from Sivers.org, shared some interesting advice for entrepreneurs on this process. He suggested breaking down your big app idea into version 0.1. From his years of experience in the field, he noticed that one of the most common mistakes people tend to make during development is attempting to do everything initially.
“OK. You know software version numbers? Mac OS version 10.4? 10.5? What you just described is version infinity. That’s everything it will ever do in the future. First focus on launching version 0.1,” stated Sivers. You can always add the rest later.
It’s important when dealing with outsource workers to have clear lines of communication and to not overwhelm them with a mammoth project during the first consultation. Derek advises devs to write down everything they want Version 0.1 of their app to do in a text file. List every click and feature to create a long list of clear and simple actions for reference.
Use Outsource Sites
Once you’ve completed your list, it’s time to start searching. The following sites are great resources for hiring programmers online and even artists:
Outsource sites like Upwork and eLance feature a large database of freelance programmers and other professionals that are available for hire. If you’re seeking a programmer and don’t live in an area where it’s possible to hire someone locally from an agency or university program, these sites are ideal.
Fiverr is also a good option to consider when looking for a good deal. The site has a lot of young students majoring or taking classes in programming, IT, and coding that are willing to program your app for slightly less as a way to earn real-world experience. However like all of these outsource sites, there are pros and cons. Fiverr doesn’t feature the same screening guidelines as the traditional sites like Freelancer.com. So, it’s important to approach your search strategically to avoid the likelihood of being scammed.
Outsource sites are one of the most effective methods to find a programmer because of the large pool of prospects that they offer. The second best option to consider using are general job sites such as Monster.com, LinkedIn, and Craigslists.
Hiring a Programmer – Tips for Posting Your Ad
When you’re trying to hire a programmer always try to cast a wide net. Your results will be better if you picked someone out of 100 screened applicants than out of just 10. Try to post multiple ads on more than one site and keep them short and simple. Don’t discuss in-depth project details in the beginning as Sivers suggests, break down the tasks and just focus on one or two core features that you need a programmer skilled in completing. The idea is to design ads that will attract the right people.
When posting and responding to Ads use the following tips:
- Post multiple ads. You can post in different related categories and different sites like Upwork and then Guru. Remember, it’s all about casting a wider net.
- Avoid the impulse to actively search for people. Try to wait for them to come to you. You want to find people that are serious about working and are equally interested in the opportunity.
- Instead of paying extra for a featured listing, pay by the hour and set the bidding time limit to 7 days max. The bulk of your bids will pour in within the first 3 days.
- Add a ‘magic phrase’ request in the ad. Use special keywords like ‘Game Dev’ or ‘Programmer’ and mention in the ad to applicants that it’s VERY IMPORTANT when they reply to include this word in their email subject line or at the top of the message. The magic phrase can be anything as long as it’s not offensive. This simple instruction can be a great indicator on whether or not the individual is a serious applicant and if they pay attention to the little details that matter. When the responses start flooding through disregard any reply that does not have the magic keyword included where you instructed. You don’t want someone that can overlook a ‘very important’ instruction, working on your game.
- Don’t take too long going through the applicants. Scan all of the responses, look for your magic phrase, ask them a few core questions, and if they’re missing anything or don’t pass your vetting move on to the next response.
- Aim for quality not necessarily the lowest bid. I know it may sound counterproductive, especially if you’re trying to get a programmer for cheap but a poorly skilled programmer can cost you a lot of money later down the road. Avoid issues by being open to all reasonably priced bids not just the lowest of the low.
- Go for applicants that have good reviews from past customers. Avoid wasting time with individuals with bad reviews or none at all.
Note: On Fiverr.com employers have to search through applicants Ads called ‘gigs’ instead of the other way around. Most of the programming and mobile development gigs on Fiverr feature a custom order button which allows you to request a specific project. Before requesting an order or gig thoroughly search the site for worthy applicants. Take advantage of the option to message any user before ordering. Get a price quote and ask questions to see if they might be a fit.
- Always be friendly and professional when responding to applicants. If they’re not a good fit remember to decline politely.
The Interview & Final Selection
When hiring a programmer it’s important to evaluate the following:
- Communication Style
- Previous Work History
- Same Page or Ease Level
These five factors will help to determine whether or not the applicant is someone you could see yourself working well with. Creating a mobile game is time consuming which means you’ll be working with your programmer on a regular basis. It’s important to hire someone that is skilled but that you also get along with.
When you’re working remotely, communication is huge. You need a programmer that has a clear communication style and that can explain things to you when required. It’s best to conduct the interview via any public chat based software like Skype. Use text chat instead of voice to avoid any awkwardness or accent barriers if they happen to have a different native language than yours.
Attitude is another trait to look out for. Never hire anyone that exhibits a rude or negative attitude. Also thoroughly inquire and review their past work. Download some of their previous games. See if its buggy or runs smoothly. To create a great game everyone has to be on the same page. If you don’t feel like they ‘get’ your end result goal for the project or you just have a bad vibe about the partnership don’t hire them. Trust your instincts and pick a coder you feel comfortable with.
When it comes to price determine your budget and the highest you’re willing to pay beforehand. The average price range can be anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 depending on the complexity of the game. Compare their price quote and experience against your other favorable applicants and select the two you feel are the most qualified and reasonably priced.
Hire your Top Two
After you pick the two applicants that are your favorite out of the bunch, hire both of them. Try to pick them from different sites. Although it may sound strange to hire two programmers, the interview process isn’t over quite yet. This is a test or as some prefer to call a ‘trial run’ to see which candidate is the best for the job. Refer to your list and pick a task or small portion of your game that you need done and offer just that singular assignment at a very low price. Give both candidates the exact same task. The small portion of the game that you give them to do can be anything on your list like a basic user interface structure. Hire the programmer that delivered on time and did the best job out of the two.
If you follow these tips you can get a good deal that’s not only fair but considerably less than what most people pay for a great programmer.