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Read this before you hire remote devs

12th September 2022

Over the past decade I have painstakingly built a remote dev team. It took me from being a cash- and time-poor freelancer to owning something I can respectably call a web development agency.

But the process is far from straightforward, there are many pitfalls for the uninitiated, so I’ve put together this checklist for hiring remote devs.

Of course, if you’d rather not build your own dev team, you can always use ours! Our contact details are below.

The checklist:

✅ Be very clear about what you’re looking for

This sounds obvious but the first time I did this I made the mistake of just shortlisting loads of candidates without being highly specific about what I was looking for. Whatever criteria are on your list, make sure these items are too:
1️⃣ Reliability. Obvs!
2️⃣ Communication skills. It doesn’t matter how good someone is – if they can’t communicate well with you, your team, and your clients, then it isn’t going to work.
3️⃣ Adequate equipment to do the job properly. A good enough computer, connection, work room etc. etc.. Figure it out in advance.

✅ Respect your applicants. Create and share a clear protocol.

Tell people in your first contact with them how you plan to conduct the hiring process.
Respect their time – you’re likely to annoy good candidates if you forget that they’re busy people just like you.
The relationships you form should be mutually beneficial & respectful.
So do not allow the availability of plentiful skilled foreign labour at low rates (by your standards) give you a power trip: this leads to the worst kind of neo-colonial attitudes & will make you a terrible employer.

✅ CVs are meaningless. Create a test.

Interviews can tell you whether or not a person can communicate, and MAYBE whether they’re going to be fun to work with.
But for determining skills and abilities, they’re useless.
So set them an arthurian challenge. If they can successfully complete x then they get the job. Make it fun.
But … DO NOT be tempted to let candidates loose on client work (even if you’re paying them). For all you know they might wreck something, possibly your reputation.
Dan Norris (author of The 7 Day Startup and the man who launched WPCurve in a week: a very inspiring guy) talked about creating a dummy website similar to his clients’ sites and having candidates log in and perform various tasks on that as an aptitude test.

✅ Accept some level of risk – but always protect your interests

Even after 1) checking someone can communicate and 2) putting them somehow to the test, you still don’t know very much about this person.
There is still a good chance that they’re not the right fit. And there is a chance (very small) that they might be actively dishonest.
Tread carefully, especially at first, and protect yourself. Use your common sense. I would suggest not sharing client contact info or server/service passwords.

✅ Create a corporate culture you feel proud of

If you are transitioning from a 1 person company to a 2 person company then for the first time you’ll have to think about “culture”. It’s down to you to create one! How you behave towards your team not only creates the atmosphere in which you must (all) exist during your working days, it permeates your client relationships and your supplier relationships as well.
This is your legacy. Consider it.

✅ Build the relationship

Your relationship with a remote worker needs to be built up gradually, but this process takes place over strange, de-humanising platforms like video, text chat and project management software.
You are aiming for a situation – and this won’t happen overnight – where you can trust each other with money, client contacts, server credentials etc., and where you know that you can depend on each other when the pressure is on.
This cuts both ways.
In the early days a big risk is that your new worker will ghost you.
This is rude and annoying but sometimes people find it easier to just vanish (and lose their job) than to ask difficult questions or admit that they don’t know how to do something.
You can mitigate this risk by being super-approachable yourself and by fostering a culture where people are open and safe to expose their vulnerabilities.
This takes bravery and hard work – emotional work.
It will pay off in lasting relationships and decent behaviour all round.

✅ PAY (and I can’t stress this enough) ON TIME. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

In all relationships, but especially in trans-continental, electronic ones, you’re only as good as your word. So if you lost that, that you’ve lost everything.
Don’t make excuses.
Pay on time.
There have been times when the rest of my life has been collapsing around my ears and I’ve had to sell investments at the bottom of the market in order to keep to my word, but I did it and so must you.
This is about self-interest sure, but it’s also about not being an asshole.
As someone’s boss your scope for making someone’s life undyingly miserable is pretty much as high as it’s ever been (kind of like being a parent).
Don’t forget that and don’t abuse your power.

✅ Practicalities

Decide in advance – so you can answer questions – how you’ll handle practical issues such as
👉 Hours. Do you care, or will it be results oriented?
👉 Public holidays. Obviously they’re different in different countries.
But to avoid misunderstandings your employment contract (did I mention that? you’ll need one, even if you don’t “need” one, then you need one) should stipulate exactly which days are to be worked and which not.
👉 Sick leave. It’s a thing.
👉 Annual leave.
👉 Payment frequency (I suggest weekly for the trial period to build mutual trust then monthly or twice a month to keep transaction costs down)
👉 Payment method. I’ve used worldremit.com (not affiliated). This works great but once on a work trip to Hong Kong I found out (on pay day) that it didn’t work from there. I had to trek across rush hour HK at the last minute to find a remittance centre which would take my money. This was the closest I’ve come to missing pay day & not a nice moment.

✅ Systematise everything (but not too soon)

A good motto (for lots of things) is “Don’t a dick to your future self”. Document everything you learn. You don’t know when you’ll need it.
But don’t make the mistake of over-systematising or systematising too early. Figure out the best way to onboard new hires manually, and simply make notes. When the time comes that your hires are making hires, these notes will come in very handy.

In conclusion – don’t be an asshole. But you knew that.

That’s it from me. Thanks for reading!

If you need to get some development work done and would like to skip the time, expense and risk of building your own team, use ours! Ugli is a multi-disciplined web and software dev team with all the skills you need to get your projects out the door, on time and at very competitive rates. Get in touch any time on [email protected] 

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About Tom Fallowfield (Ugli)

I run Ugli - a distributed web and software dev team. We partner with UK creative agencies to realise their digital creations, allowing them to focus on design and strategy. Drop me a line any time. I'm always looking to make new connections!

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