If it hasn't happened to you, it has probably happened to a friend or colleague: a relationship with an outsourced developer starts off well but runs off the rails, taking a project right along with it.
The truth is, the truth hurts: the relationship probably didn't really start out that well. Niceties and professional courtesies might have obscured a fundamental problem that doomed it from the start: communication, or more specifically, the lack of it.
WordPress developer and Codeable expert Raleigh Leslie offers 5 action steps to improve communication and ensure that outsourced developers are clear on project requirements. At the same time, the steps underscore the importance of working productively as a team. Here's what to consider.
1. Trust your gut instinct, right from the start
Sometimes people prefer to lean on the strength of a referral rather than rely on their own judgment when hiring a developer. While referrals are a great way to begin a search, they are no guarantee that a developer is right for you. Still, it's wise to heed an almost certain sign of trouble: developers who confide that they prefer the "wing it" approach to a project. Raleigh says:
There's nothing that could be more dangerous for working with an outsourced developer than figuring it out as (you) go.
2. Write a focused project brief that defines outcomes
If you weren't facing a problem, you probably wouldn't be reaching out to a developer in the first place. It's defining the actual issues you're experiencing, the scope of your project, and desired outcomes that can be vexing. This process might take time, and it shouldn't be rushed. Raleigh encourages clients to think in visual terms to navigate this pivotal step:
You need to focus on the specific outcome you're looking to get. So being very clear about not so much what your problem is but...what it will look like when that problem is fixed or when the project is complete should be the goal.
Such an outlook can prevent what is usually called "scope creep", unexpected changes that might occur in the scope of a project when it has not been clearly defined.
3. Foster a climate that encourages questions
Once a brief is complete, the temptation (on both sides) is to jump in and get to work, sometimes skipping right to executing the tactics. This hurry up tempo does not bode well for a successful project. Specifically, Raleigh says:
Your outsourced developer should be asking you questions – smart questions – related to your brief.
Reviewing the project brief thoroughly can be intensive. It's also recursive, requiring both sides to anticipate the what ifs.
4. Be flexible with budgeting
If you've selected a developer with care, they should cut you some slack on incidental expenses that might surface until a project is completed. You, as the client, can help by providing a cushion for those things that a developer shouldn't be expected to roll into a project's costs. To prevent this from happening, Raleigh suggests not to go all-in with your money, as hiccups are likely to show up:
If you use 100% of your budget on a project, you're kind of setting yourself up for failure because there are always things that come up. There's usually always something.
5. Avoid finger-pointing if problems arise
Emotions can run high during a time-sensitive project, especially if problems arise at the very end that could cause the project to run off the rails. At this point, you must remember to stay focused on the end game and resist the temptation to play the blame game.
Whether that's on the developer side or the client, it doesn't really matter. You just need to identify what isn't right and fix it.
When looking for hiring an outsourced developer, expectations management plays a critical role in the success of your research. Ultimately, your projects. And contrary to what you might have heard, this responsibility is not an exclusive domain of the developer. At least it shouldn't be.
Both parties – developer and client – should work in harmony and manage each other's expectations, speaking up when things start to go awry and making changes when expectations threaten a deadline or a project's viability. Raleigh calls it "a shared responsibility", an important one that keeps a project on track until it reaches its destination completely.
This blog post features Raleigh Leslie who is a senior in-house WordPress expert at Codeable. Raleigh helps clients and other experts be more successful in requesting and delivering freelance projects within Codeable's quality promise. He's helped thousands of freelancers and business owners with getting results they require when outsourcing WordPress projects.