How to Get Great Results and Save on Costs with Hourly Based Software Developers – Part 2

We work with many of our clients on an hourly basis so I wanted to share some tips on how you can save on development costs and get great results working with hourly based software developers,

In the first part of this three-part series on working with hourly software developers we addressed the following frequently asked questions…

  1. When does is make sense to hire an hourly based developer?
  2. How can I save money with an hourly based developer?
  3. How can I ensure that my project stays within budget without having a fixed price?

In this second part we’re going to cover several tips for working with hourly based developers to ensure that your project is a glowing success.


Tip 1: Do a pilot

By creating a pilot it allows you to begin gathering user feedback early in the project from real end-users.

The pilot should be a minimum viable product (MVP) with a feature set just barely enough to begin gathering user feedback.

This can be a huge cost savings because it helps test your theories about what your customers actually want before you go full speed into developing your software.

Imagine the alternative where you spend the extra time to make every single feature just perfect in version v1.0 without actually getting it in front of users.  Chances are you’ve just implemented something perfectly that your users don’t really like or care about.

Once you get the MVP in front of real end-users you can begin gathering feedback and build the perfect version of something they’ll actually use.

Checkout The Lean Startup by Eric Ries to learn more about developing an MVP.  It’s safe to say that this has been the most valuable book I’ve read this year.

Tip 2: Create a prioritized feature list

Before we begin any development we work with our clients to create a prioritized feature list.

This allows the client to identify exactly what the pilot must achieve to be of value to their users, but also to identify the order in which the features should be implemented.

If the features are not prioritized then most developers will begin implementing the features in whichever order is most convenient to them.  They may have several features under development at once, none of which are urgent.

Now imagine the scenario where you run out of budget and you have nothing to show for it but a bunch of half-completed, low-priority features.

By implementing the most important features first it helps protect you in the case where you decide to do an early demo for investors/potential customers or run out of budget.  In this case you have the features done that you really care about and are better prepared for success.

Tip 3: Ask for estimates

It’s not uncommon for a client to assume that a particular feature is trivial to implement when in fact the developer knows it will take weeks or even months.

Having a ballpark idea of how long each feature will take to implement will help you more intelligently prioritize your features.

Something that is just a nicety may become a low priority when you find out it’s very difficult to implement, or may become a high priority if it’s trivial.

We’ve found the quickest way to do estimates is to assign each feature a difficulty rating from 1 to 4.

Here is the legend we use…

  • 1 = a few hours to implement
  • 2 = a day or more to implement
  • 3 = a week or more to implement
  • 4 = a month or more to implement

This sort of quick estimation will give you a rough idea on what you’re dealing with when it comes to the relative difficulty to implement each feature.

Tip 4: Set a monthly budget

We encourage our clients to set a monthly budget which we agree not to exceed without their permission.

We then work through their prioritized feature list, starting with the most important items, and stop working when the list is completed or that month’s budget has been exhausted.

This sets clear expectations about the cost for that month’s development iteration and helps prevent costs from spiraling out of control.

This iterative approach is more of an investor mentality where our clients reevaluate each month if what that have completed is ready for release, or if it needs another round of investment in development.

Next Time

In the third and final part of this three-part series I’m going to cover several more tips for working with hourly based developers to ensure that your project is a glowing success.

Here are all three articles in this series…

If you have any questions or would like to hire us for your next project please contact us today and we’re happy to guide you through the process of hiring an hourly based developer.

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Andrew Savala
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Author: Andrew Savala

Andrew Savala is the CEO of RedSwimmer, with a background in designing and deploying complex payment kiosk systems. Andrew offers high-value, strategic consulting services to companies looking to develop their payment kiosks.

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