I was chatting to a friend from America recently about the problems I’ve had over the last couple of years with web developers. I’ve worked with a couple who’ve both let me down really badly and put me back to square one with my web-based startup. Admittedly much of this was my own fault for not being tough enough with them when it seemed like they weren’t committed to the project. And also my lack of capital meant that I had to engage the developers with equity stakes instead of cold, hard cash. The problem with this, as I wrote about in this post, is that developers don’t often see the potential future value of things. So giving them a share of the company didn’t excite them into action in the way I thought it would, and I slowly drifted down their priority list until I wasn’t hearing from them for weeks at a time.

I understand that a freelancer’s gotta eat, and so therefore will have to take other jobs that offer to pay upfront. But if you have been given a substantial stake in a potentially very lucrative business that you would find the time to make it work. Where are all the programmers out there that have developed the sites for the multi-million dollar businesses out there? I don’t believe that all of those were funded by entrepreneurs backed by Silicon Valley funders. Surely some of them must have been started by geeks in their bedrooms with groovy ideas – like these guys who had to quit the UK and head to the States?

So what’s the solution for cash-strapped entrepreneurs like myself?

Sadly i can’t say I can think of many ways other than using shares / equity as “payment”. A good chat to my developer friend Paolo (who’s one of the rare breed of “geeks” who’s also a great creative entrepreneur – check out his spendamillion.com project) has clarified a few possible steps to consider in the future:

  • Networking events to bring geeks and entrepreneurs together – but will the geeks still be as potentially unreliable? Maybe I should organise one…
  • Using sites such as elance and getafreelancer to find cheap labour – quality and reliability an issue?
  • Break the design, wireframing, development etc into smaller chunks so that it’s less daunting for the entrepreneur, plus developers are less likely to go AWOL at any given stage. Especially if you give each stage to a different developer.

Sadly I think the ideal solution is to find a good, well-respected freelancer or small company, pay them for however long you need them for and make it clear that for that fortnight, or whatever, they completely belong to you and you expect twice daily updates. Now, finding a freelancer with the necessary skills and time….. That’s another matter!

I’d be really interested to hear from anynoe who has any thoughts on how best to get quality web work done with as little capital outlay as possible. Any ideas?

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