Freelancers vs IT Consulting Firms. Pros and Cons.

Digital services is the most outsourced field not just in the USA but in all the world. It’s so great when you find a trusted partner to outsource some work, it can be a freelancer or a company. So you are maybe looking for reason to choose a freelancer over a company or the other way around.

Ok. Based on my own experience, some client’s feedback and market growth I will be 100% honest with you, and will share with you some pros and cons of hiring a freelancer or a company/agency for your next product or project.

What’s the real difference? Where is the secret? Maybe you can think the price is the only most important thing to get in mind, but no. There are more facts that you should consider.

I’m pretty sure that freelancers works and consulting companies/agencies works as well; the difference is on your goals, your budget and timing. If you can get feedback from friends about working with freelancers or companies, it can be a good escenario for you in order to take a good decision.

Now I will how you show pros and cons based on my own experience. Let me say that I have worked with both freelancers and companies at the past for specific projects.

 

👨‍💻❌ Freelancer cons:

  • Some freelancers out there are not working full-time as you expect. They can just disappear from the map and you can’t do much to change it. Remember that freelancers, most of the times, are working in more than one project at the same time. If your project needs a top-level communication skills, and your deadlines are very important, please take note about this.

 

  • Cheapest freelancers are based out of USA, where Internet connection and professional English skills can be a disadvantage to keep meetings, provide product advisement and predict bad events on future.

 

👨‍💻✅ Freelancer pros:

  • One of the best point is favor of freelancers is pricing. They can offer you, sometimes, a better financial proposal because they don’t spend money in other ares that incorporated companies does. For example, most of freelancers works from home, so they don’t need to pay for an office or transportation. Make sense?

 

  • Availability: Some freelancers are more available to accept new businesses almost right away.

 

🏢❌ Company cons:

  • Availability: The best IT consulting firms around the world have excellent but limited designers, developers and marketers assigned to specific current projects. So, if your product needs a to start right away, maybe you will expect that kind of delays. Once you started working with a company, everything will continue fluently. Working with 4Geeks, for example you can expect a complete schedule with meetings, releases and some others important dates.

 

  • Pricing: I’m not pretty sure if pricing is a disadvantage when you partner up with firms or companies, compared with all the value you receive. But if compare this price with freelancer price, you probably will see an increment.

 

🏢✅ Company pros:

  • Professionalism & legal entity: If your product is already in the market, you should not play a different game.

 

  • Product advisement: When you partner up with a company or firm, you are backed by a complete team of consultants, designers, engineers and marketers, who can provide you “free advisement” about your product on specific areas. That’s the power of leverage on a company and its experience.

 

  • One-stop shop: If your project needs more than one guy working full-time or part-time, the company can setup a right team of top talented engineers for you, and it’s really awesome. At the end of the day, if you trust enough in that company, you can outsource all your work to them.

 

 

Providers listings

Platforms like UpWork, Freelancer and People Per Hour are some very good and popular websites to contact and hire freelancers, in almost any category you need…. web programmers, mobile programmers, digital designers, copy writers, data entry, and more.

At the other hand, platforms like Clutch, VenturePact and GoodFirms are popular company listings websites to search a company related to your needs like Digital Marketing, SEO Services, IT Services, E-Commerce Development, Software Development, Blockchain technology and more.

These platforms let you find the right provider by filtering hour rate, customer feedback, years of experience, country/market and more custom filters.

I would love you read your experience, good or bad, working with freelancers or companies. So, please use the comments section below to drop us a line about your past experience.

If you are looking for an IT consulting company, feel free to reach out to us. We focus on helping companies with its product design, product development and product marketing.

Take care!

SmarterSelect: 4 Main Product Challenges Solved

Digital businesses need a good ideation, implementation, execution and growth, but at the development side the challenges are huge as well. As much as a product grows, so do the challenges and problems to solve.

In this opportunity I want to tell you the main product development challenge our engineering team faced, and I will show you how we fixed it. Maybe your business are facing some similar issues and this post can help you to find a solution.

SmarterSelect is a web platform to create and manage forms. As they say: “Online Applications. Made Easy”. Over 1 million active users (and counting) are creating and managing online applications, grants, scholarships on SmarterSelect every week in the United States.

SmarterSelect enable partners like Texas Tech University, San Angelo Area Foundation and Vermeer to manage online applications.

4Geeks created a engineers dedicated team, getting together Ruby on Rails engineers and Quality Assurance experts, to solve past issues and improve the product constantly.

Let’s start! Here is the 4 main problems we found and how we fixed it.

Challenge #1: QA manual

Too many projects faces issues in production, customers don’t like that for sure. Our first recommendation is to add human power to avoid mistakes on development. QA people is amazing to think on hundred of combinations for test scenarios, that what SmarterSelect needed.

We added QA experts to the team, in the same building to improve communication on issues and help the developers to create ever more code quality.

Listen to this podcast episode when we talked with Meli, the QA Leader in SmarterSelect.

Challenge #2: Dockerize the app

I remember having some bad nights working with server infrastructure, libraries. With Docker we got rid of that, same container, same for all environment, we forget about the differences on development, staging or production.

Also, some advantage we see is when some new developer joins to the team. There will be no need to spend hours or days trying to install all gems, libraries and dependencies with just a docker command, voilĂ ! environment ready. Our client is definitely happy for that.

Challenge #3: Implemented CI tools

The team introduced CircleCI to the projects, helping us on running the small (increasing)  set of automated tests before putting any code into main branches.

For every PR (Pull Request) we run CircleCI containers and confirm the code is not breaking any configuration or code.

Have you implemented (or thinking to do) CI tools on your project? Comment below your experience.

Challenge #4: Rails upgrade

This is a huge deal. Some day we decided that It was time to move from Rails 2 to Rails 4. It sounds crazy but we didn’t want to do a little migration to Rails 3 to later move to Rails 4. It was time to do the roughest change.

So for 4 months the team was focused on create features and migrate at the same time. It was a complete successful, and now we are thinking on move to Rails 5 for sure, but our client doesn’t know (probably he will find out here).

We improve some security issues by that migration and we also did some refactors on old legacy code.

 

Bonus: Download the full Case Study in order to get know how SmarterSelect grew up more than 110% in 2018.

If you need help with your business/product and your annual revenue is $3M+, please reach out to us; our consultants will be happy to assist you on find the right path and solution.

Best way to get your first product customers

I have seen tons of digital products die, because of many kind of reasons, but the main reason is because they can’t get enough customer who pays for their product. So, you know… that product will die very very soon.

My role in 4Geeks is helping companies or individuals to build profitable digital products. My own experience in past projects (includes wins and a lot of mistakes) is letting me to advice another companies in the right way. Ohh!! It’s important to say that my team in 4Geeks is so talent.

I will provide you some espectacular techniques that helped me to get our first customers. Hope it can help you too:

#1. They need trust in you:

No body will give money if they don’t trust in you. It’s so basic to understand that people out there will not give you money if they can’t trust in you, as a honest and valuable person. So, the first step to be trusted by other people is helping.

Helping? That’s correct. You need to provide the larger quantity of value to your community. The sells will happen later.

So, if you are distributing a digital product, focus on create a community and feed them with good content every single week. Here you can get support in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and so.

Remember: value, value, value…then sell.

In another posts I will guide you with some tips to build a strong community on social media.

#2. Expose your customers reviews:

Social selling is so powerful and maybe did not know it. People are taking important decision based on other people’s decision. If you understand this, your business can grow

If you manage a software product, the easiest way to get customers feedback is on your Facebook Page. So, users can write a review right there, 100% public. Take a look at the following screenshot:

If you need help to setup reviews and rating on your Facebook Page, please consult this support page and expose your customer reviews. Easy peasy.

#3. Have a plan:

After start getting paid customers on your company, you need a plan. This plan needs to be so congruent with your goals and budget, and it can help you. It’s not necessary this be the perfect plan. Use your family and friends feedback to tuneup your plan.

A robust plan will help you on a second or third stage, when you need to create auto process and speed up operations.

Internet is a powerful gun to let you reach millions of people in one minute. What’s your plan?

I would like to suggest you to read Crush It!, by Gary Vaynerchuck. Here a preview:

#4. Focus on customers:

Your product or your company maybe is so brilliant, but your product is nothing without paid customers. That means you need paid customer to have a real business. So, please please please focus on building a strong customer engagement.

In this point, the customer service is so crucial.

You can use some auto marketing tools like chat on your webpage, newsletter, exclusive content, forums, Facebook Groups. In 4Geeks Payments, for example we run a chat room for developers, API documentation, guides and so.

In other posts I will guide you to how to use a email marketing and chatbot tool to drive your attention into your customers, automatically.

#5. Don’t be afraid to request payments:

 

Do you know what’s the main reason that companies are not charging users? It’s because they are not requesting payments. Why? Because they don’t trust in their solution or service. It sounds so weird, but it’s true. Don’t panic. It’s a common mistake when you are a early entrepreneur.

To fix this, you have to learn how to close a deal, but before you need to trust in your team, in your product or service… and you need to build empathy with your customers.  You company goals depends on you.

 

If you already have a plan and if you need help to building your digital product, with no matter your industry, maybe my team here in 4Geeks can support you. Just fill out this contact form  and an expert will guide you to the next step.

Nearshoring to boost your business

Day by day we enjoy to bring value to our clients projects, who are, almost in 90%, located in our development offices abroad. (Costa Rica and Mexico). But, at the first time we talk to our clients they are hesitating if a nearshore company is the solution for their problems and needs or not, is it better to do offshore ? why not having my own IT department ? how can I trust you ?. Those are some examples of questions We answer to our clients and leads in a daily basis.

Starting from the basics I will like to make a difference between Nearshore and Offshore.

Offshore

It’s to development products but generally overseas, with mostly languages barriers and not compatible time zones. I can think on different countries mostly in Europe and Asia, countries like India, Pakistan, Ukraine and Rusia.

Offshore can represent a considerable reduce on your operational costs, also, considering different tools to find freelance developers in those countries will save you some money. However, there is a gap in time zone, which goes from 6 hrs to 9 hrs difference.

Communication has a key rol on project success, having that time difference can impact badly for your project, by waiting valuable time to get response on some specs, also, you may need to do extra effort creating documentation and adapting Agile methodologies.

Nearshore

You will have your team within a short time zone different (1-2 hrs as much). With that been said, you can start aproaching agile practices, meetings and avoid miscommunications.

You can visit your team really easily, accesible flights and short period of time in an airplane. For example, a flight to India can take 15 hours and it can cost $800 but flying to Costa Rica can take from New York at least 4 hours and it can cost $250.

There’s can be a reduce on cultural and language impact, being at the same continent there are similitudes in cultural aspects, but also, in most of the American continents English has an important roll on education, we can make sure that language won’t be a problem.

We are Nearshore !

Knowing the differences we can see that nearshore teams can be more expensive than having offshore, but you will get more ROI because you will have more control on your team, there is no lacking of hours, waiting emails, responses, the communication becomes agile and understandable.

In 4Geeks we provide different nearshore offices located in Costa Rica and Mexico, providing to our clients competitive pricing and the opportunity to meet our offices and enjoy these countries.

Take a look at this video of Costa Rica. Enjoy !

Teams, Microsoft’s Slack rival, opens to all Office 365 users

By Ingrid Lunden.

After unveiling a limited preview of Teams in November last year, Microsoft is now rolling out its collaboration and communication platform, positioned as a rival to Slack, more widely: Teams is now available, and free, for all 85 million monthly active users of Office 365, Microsoft’s suite of cloud services and apps as a web app and native apps for Windows, iOS and Android.

Along with it, the company is announcing some 150 integrations with third-party services like Asana, Zendesk and Hootsuite, alongside the ability to chat (with other humans or with bots), security services, customization options and more.

(No word on when and whether Teams would expand outside the Office 365 ecosystem: “We’ve had some discussions but right now remain focused on our huge user base,” noted Mira Lane, Microsoft Teams’ UX lead.)

The wider launch comes in the wake of some reasonable success so far. Microsoft said the Teams preview has had some 50,000 organizations sign up and try out the service.

That figure includes both companies that have tried it as well as those who have stayed on to become active users, and Microsoft would only tell me that many stay on, with the number of people per company ranging from small groups to organizations with hundreds of users. (Notable customer wins, it said, include Accenture, Alaska Airlines, Conoco Phillips, Deloitte, Expedia, J.B. Hunt, J. Walter Thompson, Hendrick Motorsports, Trek Bicycle and Three UK.)

For a new app that is coming to the market after the meteoric rise of Slack, as well as other competing services like Workplace from Facebook and Hipchat from Atlassian, some might argue that Teams and Microsoft are late to the game.

In its favor, Microsoft is banking on the low-friction aspect of the service: Those being targeted are already using Microsoft apps like Excel, Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint and Power BI, so there will be familiarity and convenience. And it’s free to try out.

As we noted when Microsoft debuted the service in November, Teams throws a lot at the user from the start. If you’ve ever used something like Word or Excel, you know that this is a very Microsoft approach.

The basic interface follows a lot of what you might already know for workplace collaboration products, which are often based around a left rail that lists discussion groups, and the main stream to the right that charts conversations.

Within that, Microsoft takes you into a pretty huge range of different options that tap into its many other products. These include direct chats, the option to hold audio and video calls, the ability to call in spreadsheets and other documents, run some analytics and more, along with spaces for “evergreen” content as well as others for more rapidly changing data.

On top of this, Microsoft has built a chatbot framework that initially is dedicated to helping you use Teams better, but over time will include integrations built by developers to bring in a variety of other services too, similar to Slack, Messenger and a number of other chat services.

This seems to be intentional, not accidental or a sign of disorganization at Microsoft.

“The shift to modern working styles that are open and transparent by default are part of our core philosophy of one size does not fit all,” Lane said in an interview. “Organizations are different in how they do business and collaborate. Some will use multiple tools, for example Yammer for a CEO to speak to the whole organization, but for more tight collaboration they’ll use Microsoft Teams. We think it’s okay to be fluid.”

The strange balance that Microsoft is trying to strike here is between giving you too much to do, too many options; but also the lingering question of whether all this will be enough to sway users to the service.

This is not just an issue when considering Microsoft Teams compared to products from different companies, but when comparing it to Microsoft itself, which already has a number of applications where users can communicate and collaborate with each other, including Yammer, Skype and more.

So far, the experience has been that while some services have definitely gained traction (Slack now has more than 5 million daily active users, and 1.5 million paid accounts), given that there are millions more businesses in the world, there is still a lot to play for, and a lot to win. “We’re seeing people kicking the tires on all products and looking for something more enterprise grade,” Lane noted.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/14/teams-microsofts-slack-rival-opens-to-all-office-365-users/

Raising Seed Capital: Top Tips from NYETM

There is another great NY Enterprise Tech meet up tonight, on recruiting tech talent for startups.  Clearly I am late in blogging about February’s, which was about how to raise seed capital – so I am taking care of that now, with this post.

The topic is paramount for anyone who has a great idea, but needs potentially game changing funding.  February’s NYETM featured a panel that offered some very helpful tips. Work-bench Associate Vipin Chamakkla guided the conversation, to help attendees get answers to questions about seed investor “appetites”, pitching preferences, etc.

The panel included Karin Klein, Partner at Bloomberg Beta, Eliot Durbin, General Partner at Boldstart Ventures, Mike Brown Jr., General Partner at Bowery Capital and Brad Svrluga, General Partner at Primary Venture Partners.

As you will see, each has their own approach, yet a few common threads emerged. It helps to have connections.  Be smart when approaching investors: do your homework and make sure that there is a match.  Every venture and market space is different; there’s no single formula for evaluating startups.
The demo portion is an important part of every NYETM, and I should mention that were some very cool demos before the panel took the stage – see the end of this post for further details.

Please feel free to chime in via comments, or e-mail me if you think I’ve missed anything.

Describe your focus, portfolio examples and average funding check 

Eliot Durbin said that Boldstart invests in enterprise tech, smart data, big data, and the Googlization of IT. Their checks are in the $750K range. A portfolio example is Replicated, which was on the evening’s demo roster (see the end of this post).

Bloomberg Beta invests in companies that make work better, in the $200K-1M range, said Karin Klein.  The technologies range from security to HR, and include analytics, bots, and machine intelligence. They were in early on Pathgather, an online learning solution.

Mike Brown of Bowery Capital tracks ventures that relate to Internet natives and their influence on IT spend.  They like to lead or co-lead investment rounds, in the $500K range.  ActionIQ, a marketing tech play, is in their portfolio.

Brad Svrluga said PVP invests $250-700K and likes SaaS, enterprise mobile, and vertical industry solutions, including fintech. They funded Alloy, an API to Know Your Customer (KYC).

When is right time to approach seed investors?

Eliot: “We want to be the first check.”  The timing can vary, for example in Replicated’s case it worked out well, as they saw and solved a huge pain point.
Karin said that earlier is better, in general – but this depends on who you are.   A founder with a track record can afford to wait longer.

The prototype stage is a good milestone.  But this can vary, e.g. Pluralsight bootstrapped for nine years before seeking funding.

If a venture is pre-product, what else does it need to have?

Mike said there are some non-obvious factors.  In enterprise tech, it is good to see that the founder appreciates implications of the long sales cycles involved.  They should have an ideal customer profile in mind and factor in sales velocity equations.  Could the founder sell him the pen sitting on his desk?

Brad likes founders who are solving a problem they’ve lived through, and to see that they have a real understanding and passion; as opposed to business school projects.

What KPIs do you evaluate when vetting startups?

Eliot: “It’s got to have magic.”

Karin said that it is a highly contextual, and hard to generalize.  E.g., with HR tech you want to see easy end user adoption – Pluralisght hit upon a pricing model that was very attractive.

What is the best way to pitch seed investors?

Karin loves to see demos; use a pitch deck if it helps tell the story.
Brad likes a good Genesis story.  He really cares how they’re pitched, because it’s the “single best data point for how founders pitch customers and employee candidates.”  A pet peeve is unrealistic market size numbers.  Coming in through another founder in their portfolio is the best way. Sending a cold email suggests that you are not being strategic.

Eliot: When pitching, walk in with a good sense of what they are looking for and what you want.

Mike likes those who are very good at selling software.

Audience Questions: One bootstrapped to $40K monthly revenue, and was wondering if they should go to seed or A round funding.

One of the panel members said “Skip us if you can – you will retain more equity.”

Why take your money?

Elliot said that Boldstart can help get customers.

Karin offered that Bloomberg Beta can help fill in gaps in the venture’s team.
Brad talked about PVP’s expert network, which saves search fees for portfolio companies.

What percentage are repeat vs. first-time entrepreneurs?

“Both are nice.”

“This depends on the bias of portfolio.”

“For the very first time, there’s not as good a chance”

Brad said that about half are first timers.

Before the panel, two vendors showed their wares.  Replicated is a container-centric platform that enables software companies to manage and distribute an enterprise-grade, installable version of their product behind the firewall and into their customers’ private data centers or private clouds.  HYPR   decentralizes the storage of biometric data to enable secure password-less authentication across mobile, desktop and IoT systems.

From flacksrevenge.com.

Silicon Valley startups rein in spending and prepare for layoffs

Hi guys. I would like to share with you the following video about how some biggest venture-backed companies in Silicon Valley is bracing for layoffs.

So, what do you think? I’m happy to read your comments.

Mall4G, all-in-one e-commerce platform

Mall4G is very cool project for entrepreneurs, self-producers and SMB around the world. Mall4G is an all-in-one e-commerce platform for entrepreneurs who enable you to get your own eShop site, with all batteries included.

Whats all batteries included?: shopping cart, custom URL, SSL certificate, stock management, custom designs, shipping handlers/management, POS for offline store, reports and analytics, billing, sales orders, and more.

Mall4G was launched on beta 1 month ago and it’s starting to getting traction. Was selected among the top 25 startups worldwide to participate in WebSummit 2014 in Ireland. So, Mall4G project was selected among 70 of 200 better ideas in Costa Rica.

Mall4G is connected to several third parties services (payment processing, etc), all supported by Python. HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript for frontend. This project is hosted in Google Cloud and some others cloud providers (DigitalOcean and Linode) for testing and fixing.
If you want to feel the Mall4G experience, sell more and keeping growing your business, signup here.

 

HealthQuo, health online platform

HealthQuo is a video health online consultation with verified medic around the world, dedicated to solve humans issues.

HQ is based in UK but it’s open to entire world and provides a communication channel between healthcare professionals and people, allowing them, thanks to technology, to be closer as they had never being before

As a healthcare professional you will be able to offer your services to people that you could have never reached. As a patient, you can seek for professional guidance from verified and certified professionals who will provide you the best attention and service.

In this project we are handling some technologies to ensure the running correctly always. Yes, is hosted in cloud, of course, making a load balancing through several instances around the world.

For backend side we used Python, the 5-star lang for projects with deadlines. We used WebRTC to ensure everyone can use their webcam and mic without installing any plugin, just using their browser. After each appointment, HQ generates a PDF with the prescription and doctor’s notes.

Right now we are working on it, to enlarge the features list.

Well, that’s it. If you want to learn more, go to the website.

17 Web Resources That Will Improve Your Productivity

Maggie is a writer, and she posted on BusinessInsider review about many web resources for improving own productivity in the office, and we want to share it with you and your startup.

Is highly recommended try to follow, at least one of this list, and see how the productivity can change.

We don’t have added any description on the links, because we want you enter and discover it by you.

Many resources mentioned here are mobile apps, web apps, browser extensions or simple web articles to looking for inspiration.

Ok. Here we go:

  1. Clear Focus
  2. Coffitivity
  3. Do Nothing For 2 Minutes
  4. Doodle
  5. Evernote
  6. Feedly
  7. FocusWriter
  8. Hootsuite
  9. IFTTT
  10. Lift
  11. Pocket
  12. Productivity Owl
  13. Selfcontrol
  14. Unrollme
  15. Wakerupper
  16. Workflowy
  17. WunderList
How you watch it? Well, we will be glad to read your comments.