Product Development September 18, 2020

Build vs outsource?

Alex Z. @hustlinowl


I am new here. From early observations, most of us here are able to create their own products. I would also assume most have more time vs resources. I am the opposite.

I have a full-time job and young family. I know how to code but also like to sleep.

I am curious if most hackers here are DIY or visionaries who hire out others to help code their ideas.

  1. 8

    If you have the skills, often outsourcing takes more time than actually doing the work. 🤷🏽‍♀️

  2. 2

    I'm having this exact issue. I'm a developer with a side project, and I don't want to spend all my waking hours writing code, so I naturally turned to outsourcing.

    I've outsourced backend dev work to 4 different freelancers and had experiences ranging from OK to terrible. I've done it primarily through Upwork, and at multiple price points, from $25/hour to $75/hour. The developers were either writing low quality code (even though I had explicitly mentioned that I was a developer and would be doing code reviews), or were charging way too much for simple tasks (even though I obviously have a very good idea on how long something should take), or were really bad with communication and would essentially ghost me for a few days 😒. I have some tips for making the most of dev freelancers, most of them obvious, but I'll share them if anyone's interested.

    On the other hand, I've also outsourced landing page design and the resulting HTML+CSS work once, and had a great experience. It was pretty affordable, I was happy with the output, and the communication was excellent. Maybe it's because the freelancer was actually skilled and reliable, or maybe I just felt that way because I'm not a designer and I appreciate the output more since I know I can't do it myself.

    Major caveat: My side business is profitable and earning just enough to pay for a non-trivial amount of work without breaking the bank.

    I'd love to hear other devs experiences and tips as well for dealing with outsourcing dev work.

    1. 2

      I will add that the feeling of having work done on your side project while you are relaxing with family/friends is awesome :)

  3. 2

    I had the experience of outsourcing parts for Eventon to an agency I found on Freelancer. The person (and his team) were great, easy to communicate, precise, all that. But they missed an essential understanding of my idea. Everything went awkward further, as I had to reiterate a lot on what they were working and they recognised that as me being picky and at some point they said we want to continue working with you on hourly base, not fixed, which was a lot outside my budget. Long-term I decided to drop the web support at the beginning and during Corona I had to pivot the idea a bit as the original idea was "team events management", so I niched down to "team celebrations management".

    My final recommendation is not to go with agency, but build skills for the money you can afford. Even if that is harder, trust me it's much more worthy to spend the same budget on courses and training rather than outsourcing something you care about to a team that does not align with your vision.

    Here is another experience I had before that one, via Fiverr. 😅

  4. 1

    I used to code everything myself. Now I have a full-time team that codes for me.
    You can think of it as starting off directly as a product manager, or experienced entrepreneur. If you know how it should be made, how it should work, can oversee the creation then you don't actually have to write each line of code. Set a clear direction, clear expectations, have deadlines and use your team to build it.

    That said, I usually don't recommend "outsourcing" if people have no idea how to plan a software product because it rarely ends up going well. However, if you know how to do it, then you can interview and hire the right people to get it done.

  5. 1

    if you really want to make that idea big then I would really suggest to get a cofounder with relevant skill set and also passion for the idea, it will definitely help you to go long way efficiently or else incase if you have some set of money then can outsource but the problem with outsource is the transition, if it's a small idea like e-commerce to something it might work to gono with outsource but if it's a big idea and a fullfledge product then initially you might be able to make your MVP or something with the vendor but then transitioning that product to your team will be most difficult as till that point you were solely dependent on that vendor and you also don't have relevant skill set to lead the development thus you will need to find someone who can lead that team and then hire a bunch of folks for that team and somehow manage, it is very rarely I have seen this done successfully so better would be to get a cofounder or some trusted friend as a partner with relevant and complementary skills and thus you guys can efficiently go a long way with the saved money spent on more team members or on marketing, etc and in the end you will have built your own independent team as well, yes it is difficult but worth in the long run.

  6. 1

    I work for a development agency Bananacode we tried to work a lot with startups and businesses looking to outsource projects or build new software platforms.

    In my experience if the team you choose is good most of the problems are caused by miscommunication between the client and agency having different expectations on the product.

    Try to be as clear as possible with what you are looking for and be sure they understand the business you are trying to build. It's really important they have the background and understanding and can make decisions with knowledge on the outcome you are looking for

  7. 1

    I'm currently building everything myself as the project itself is not very complex. As a self-taught programmer, I find it very beneficial building something from the ground up. I have learned quite a bit in the process and look to continue understanding the latest technology avaliable.

    Having a limited skill set however will force me outsource certain aspects of the product, such as Graphics or illustrations. I would rather spend a small sum rather than waste countless hours trying to do it myself.

  8. 1

    I always build my MVP myself. Just like writing your thought onto a piece of paper, actually making it yourself helps solidify your vision.

    The biggest reason, though, is that I find this as the most enjoyable phase. Try to remove any expectations from it at this point. Just enjoy the process of creation. If you can't enjoy it at this stage, you'll probably hate it when it grows.

    If all goes well and beta customers love it, then I'd try to delegate or outsource some of the dev work. This is also why I always separate at least separate the frontend, midtier, and feed code bases. It makes outsourcing much easier. And I concentrate on talking with customers at this point.

    I have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old, and I have at least 3-4 active projects going on most of the time, as I believe in taking small and various bets. The trick I find is spending time structuring my time while being flexible to move them around.

  9. 1


    I'm pretty new here so this is my first comment (be kind😁).

    I enjoy your perspectives, especially since I'm comming from the rather opposite side of the spectrum than you guys. I'm the non-technical co-funder, the marketing/sales guy who doesn't know how much time it actually takes to build something and just sells the idea long before it's been built🤷‍♂️

    Specifically, in my case I have 13 pre-sales for my b2b SaaS-product and still debating weather I should look for a co-founder or just outsource the development.

    I know what my product needs to do, who my ideal customers is and how to market and sell it. But strugling with the development side of things.

    In Norway, where I live, we have many different government programs that will help you fund your start-up and cover parts of the development cost. So that's a pretty big incentive for just outsourcing the whole thing (and not having to give up equity).

    On the other hand I understand that it's probably wise to have a CTO in a tech-company, if for nothing else than being the product lead and overseing the outsourced development.

    Anyways, sorry for the ramblings. Just my 2 cents.

    1. 1

      @bonjove although a bit belated, congrats on your first comment 😉.

  10. 1

    I 100% agree that outsourcing gives you alot of peace of mind. And sometimes project managment is more important than code. I believe code actually plays less role. But the most important problem is finding the right remote developer. If you are not on fixed bid project Toptal and Upwork will become very costly very soon(I personally experienced). If you are going to hire hourly basis, be very clear because hired devs love to go towards the direction of easy to implement and more hours than what is important( what is important may not be important for them). This you need to be very careful.

  11. 1

    Think it depends on the complexity of the product. Highly complex, you might benefit from some outsourcing but the biggest time investment I’ve found is the marketing of your product and that’s a tricky thing to outsource, reputation, etc. likely best left to you.

  12. 1

    You could consider a hybrid approach where you outsource some parts which are easier to integrate and take care of the more complex stuff yourself.

    For instance, you could outsource landing page design or frontend work and take care of the backend yourself. If you outsource complex parts of your products, you will pay in the long term when switching freelancers or when trying to adapt their work.

    If you don't know 100% what your final product is supposed to look like, you will also need a flexibility and adaptability which an outsourcing relationship does not really offer (at least not at reasonable cost).

  13. 1

    In my case I built them, because outsourcing them costed me $3k+ (and I could do that in a week). So it really depends. Since you're a dev, you could combine; do parts yourself; outsource the harder parts.

  14. 0

    spend some time doing Buy VS Build Analysis.

    The more evidence you have up front that people want what you are making should really help shape the direction you pick.

    How unique is what you are building?
    Can you mod something open source quickly?
    Can you use noCode?
    Can you have together a bunch of WP plugins to do what you need validate your idea?

    It really comes down to a cash on hand question as well. Do you have a lot of it to dispose of? If yes, then hire it out. If no, then hack it together to get validation.

  15. 0

    Hi Alex, it might sound cheese but if you want to make your decision with our beta getting all criteria sorted out properly, I am happy to invite you.

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