6 lessons from dating to help you find the perfect developer: Part one

Need a hero to build your website? Take a leaf out of the online dating world – here’s how

You need a hero. You’re holding out for a hero til the morning light. And he’s gotta be sure and it’s gotta be soon…right? You’re not alone.

When it comes to “hero” developers everybody wants one. Whether it’s that idea for the killer app you can’t get off the ground or the desperate re-build your site needs, demand for developers runs high.

The most common question I get asked whenever I’m speaking at an event or just chatting with start-ups is “how can I find the right developer”?

My answer is pretty simple – think of it like dating. Hiring a developer can seem at best slightly daunting and at worst a potential minefield (just like dating).

However, when you apply certain strategies to help you narrow your search down to the right kinds of people, you increase your chances of success (also like dating). And finally, finding a developer can be done online (exactly like dating).

This is the first of two parts. Here I’ll share the first three lessons from dating to help you find the perfect developer – stay tuned for the next three.

1. Knowing what you want

If you don’t know what you want, you’ll never get what you want. Whether you’re creating a profile for Match.com or writing a technical brief, clarity and details are all important.

Nobody responds to a dating profile that says “nice guy looking for nice girl”. It’s too vague, too generic and too dull. Ditto with developers. I often see briefs along the lines of “I need a really smart app that will change the way people exercise. Must look really slick.”

No serious developer is going to give that the time of day and you’ll just get very generic proposals back from people who probably don’t have the right skill set anyway.

Instead, take the time to work out exactly what you need and describe it in as much detail as you can. Explain what you’re trying to achieve and the issues you’ve had so far – good developers love problem-solving and solution-finding.

If you don’t have the technical experience to write a really great brief your first job should be to find someone who can help you craft the brief before it even gets to a developer. If it isn’t clear to you, it won’t be to them.

2. Look outside your immediate circle

Like your perfect mate, your perfect developer may not be in your immediate vicinity. As with dating, it pays to widen the search area. Matt Mullenweg, CEO of WordPress, says 99% of the talent in the world is outside the major hubs.

If you can’t find the skills you need in your immediate vicinity that’s not a problem – lots of development jobs can be done very effectively remotely. On oDesk there are around eight million freelancers working with two million businesses across the world – maybe your ideal match is in Chicago, or Sydney or Dublin. Unlike with dating, distance need not be a barrier to a successful business relationship.

3. Flattery gets you everywhere

Anyone who’s ever signed up to an online dating site will know that some of them messages you get are, well, a bit rubbish.

All too commonly approaches are of the “You look nice wanna be my friend?” type, i.e. destined to go straight into the reject pile. Well faint heart never won fair developer.

Good developers are in demand and can afford to pick and choose their projects. Naturally they will pick the ones that sound interesting, well thought through and fit their skill set.

Select carefully and explain why you have singled them out in particular. On oDesk there is an option to post a job privately and invite specific freelancers to bid on it.

Stipulate exactly why you would like that developer to work on your project. Was it something in their profile that you thought was really relevant? Did you like the work they did on X app or Y website? Be genuine. Woo them.

Want more tips? Don’t miss Part two!

Hayley Conick is Country Manager for oDesk in the UK

 

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