Passionate SMB owner seeks like-minded developer

There are two ways to produce goods in today’s world. There’s the industrial era assembly-line model, and there’s the ancient, but going through a renaissance, artisan or maker model.

Any kind of relationship hinges greatly on compatibility. Hiring an expert, say a developer, is no exception. It is a relationship you are after, so compatibility is crucial.

There’s a lot of things we can consider when we determine compatibility, from the uncontrollable personalities to the very mundane work schedules.

But the one I want to focus on today is work methodology. How a developer approaches the creation of the app. How a client wants her app to be created.

Workin’ in the coal mine

One the one side, we have the assembly line, that spit out products as fast as it can, as cheaply as it can. Whenever I think of it I keep hearing Lee Dorsey’s “Workin’ in the coal mine” song. The clink of chains and picks sounds to me like a demand for “more! more! more!”

Clients often want a clone of some existing app. One of their competitors built a successful app, and they are playing catch-up. Or it’s an individual who figures if Facebook is so darn successful, then so can he if he builds his own Facebook.

They usually want the app built fast and cheap. They do not really care how it’s built. They don’t care much about their user’s experience. They come with a clear execution plan (“clone this app”) and expect the developer to just build it.

They don’t care that their app will look and feel like dozens of other apps out there. In fact, this is their main argument for why it should be quick and cheap to build: it already exists.

Assembly line developers are great candidates for remote work. Because you just need them to execute a well-defined plan, it doesn’t matter as much that you might never meet in person, or that your timezones are so far apart one of you needs to get up in the middle of the night for a meeting.

You will find that there are lots of them (in very fierce competition) on sites like and

There are No Shortcuts to Making Great Work1

On the other side, we have artisans and makers, who’d rather take the time to perfect their art. Each product that comes out of their shop is unique. I was reminded of this artistry while reading a great interview with Mira Nakashima.

Clients who seek an artisan usually are passionate about what they want built. They view the app as an extension of themselves, of their brand. They often are thinking outside the box.

They usually just want to put into app what they do themselves, manually, to cater to their clients’ needs. The app is almost like another product of their business. Almost like a child to them.

They are the folks who will gladly sit down to brainstorm. They have a long-term vision. They know this is not going to be a “3 days and we’re done” type of endeavor. They are after someone that is more than just coding skills.

They want that unique product at the end. They want an app that will become a differentiator from their competitors.

It’s better for you to have regular contacts with your artisan developer. You’re going to have many a meetings with one another. This is a longer-term relationship: keeping in touch, getting frequent status reports, exchanging ideas, will all be much easier if you can meet in person or through Skype. (Being in overlapping timezones will definitely help)

You might find artisans on outsourcing sites (, but they will be drowned in a sea of assembly-line coders. Your best bet to find makers is at local hubs (Impact HUB Ottawa) or through vetted outsourcing sites. (LocalSolo, TopTal)

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match

Needless to say at this point: I think it’s extremely important to match the right client with the right developer.

An assembly-line developer will have no time (or interest) in figuring out what your long-term plan is.

An artisan will likely not be amused by very tight deadlines and muzzling of her input and ideas.

You definitely want to know what it is you are after when you look for your next developer. Or, hopefully, the developer you first approach is able to steer you to someone who is a better match if she is not.

A great deal of your appreciation of their work, and of your app, will rely on that initial matchmaking being a good one.

[1] Quoted from Mira Nakashima: There are No Shortcuts to Making Great Work by Matt McCue

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