Four scenarios when a consultant is the right choice

📅 October 30, 2018

👷 Chris Power

From my experience

Throughout my years as an independent software consultant, I’ve seen a lot of things. From large companies, to small bootstrapped startups, I’ve been there. I’d like to share some of the reasons I think hiring a consultant works for some companies, based on my own experiences.


1. You’re losing money and time trying to hire a new developer

During the interview process, you’re eating up developer hours going through this whole dance. All the while, your teams throughput drops dramatically.

A lot of companies merely don’t have enough full time developers to handle their workload. In fact, this is the most common scenario I see when meeting people and talking about their consulting needs. Hiring a good senior developer can be extraordinarily hard. When you post a job req, you’ll have to use various means to get the word out; social media, company website, hacker news, indeed, recruiter, etc… When you get leads, you’ll have to sift through them. Not all leads are created equal. Some candidates don’t have the required knowledge in your tech stack, some may be too junior for the role, and some leads may not have any real experience whatsoever. When you follow up with a promsising lead, you’ll spend days, and possibly weeks coordinating interviews. Then, when you’re finally ready to make an offer, you may have already lost him/her to a competitor.

During the interview process, you’re eating up developer hours going through this whole dance. All the while, your teams throughput drops dramatically.

This is a very common scenario where a consulting firm can fit in very well. When looking for new developers, a firm that works within your tech stack can fit in nicely to help with your workload. With you’re team putting out great code at a solid rate, you can take your time to hire the right full-time dev, without worrying about missing deadlines. Then when you find the right full time hire, you can move on from the consultant knowing your team didn’t miss a beat.


2. You have a big pipeline of features that you want to churn out quickly

By hiring a contractor for a specific amount of time, you can get quality work done right away.

This is another common scenario that I see pretty often. Sometimes a company can have many features for their product that need to be churned out quickly. Maybe there’s a deadline to hit, maybe there is a huge opportunity to corner a niche peice of the market, or maybe it’s something else. Whatever the scenario may be, you’ve suddenly found yourself with a lot of work and a tight window to squeeze it in. After this window closes; however, you won’t need so many resources to push out new features.

By hiring a contractor for a specific amount of time, you can get quality work done right away. Then, when you don’t have extremely pressing needs, you can complete the consulting engagement and continue on with your normal team. This will keep your team lean, and ultimately keep your costs down in the long run. Could you imagine hiring a full time employee when all you needed was 6 to 9 months of extra throughput?


3. You need experience for your team

A knowledgeable contractor can coach up your team to use best practices, write better tests, and develop products more thoughtfully

Does your software have lots of bugs that aren’t addressed? Are you feeling overwhelmed with bug reports and customer complaints? Many times, businesses build great products but just don’t have the right team to support them.

Hiring a consultant that specializes in the tech your company uses could be a huge boost to your team. A knowledgeable contractor can coach up your team to use best practices, write better tests, and develop products more thoughtfully.


4. You want to prototype a product quickly to get feedback

If you’re an entrepreneur and you have a great idea for a product, hiring a team of full time engineers is a very costly endeavor. Instead of just building a product, you’ll be worrying about benefits, salaries, equipment, office space, and so on. If you’re product doesn’t do as well as you expected, or if there isn’t as much work as anticipated, you’re left cleaning up the mess and having to let go of some staff.

I’ve worked on multiple projects where someone just had a simple idea for a business. The smartest people I’ve met knew the importance of staying lean. They hired consultants to build the first iteration of their product (their MVP) and hired a full time dev to take that product in house. By using a firm, they were able to quickly scale a team of 3-4 engineers, and immediately scale down to one full-timer when the timing was right. This ultimately saved them money in the long run, because one engineer was all the needed for a few years of maintenance.

To conclude

These are just a few of the most common scenarios I’ve seen throughout my experience. Hiring a contractor may not be the right idea all the time, but it’s certainly a great idea in a lot of situations.