Should you outsource your MVP or prototype to websites such as Upwork or Elance?

Should you outsource your MVP or prototype to websites such as Upwork or Elance? It’s a good question, in this article we will look into it. My name is Lars Holdgaard and I’m the founder of the Danish startup called Jarboo. Please read this article attentively and share it if you like it.

During the last many years websites such as Upwork or Elance has grown much more popular. So what are these websites? These are the websites where you can take your software project and you can get a local guy to do your job. The person could be in India or Philippines or even Ukraine, Russia or similar places. So the question is, should you build your prototype there?  And the answer is often “Yes” because it’s cheap. In this article we will want to talk more about what are the pros and the cons and when you should consider doing it and when you shouldn’t. Because, as stated above, there are pros and cons.  Sometimes you should definitely use Upwork and other times you might consider getting a prototype build somewhere else. Let’s look into it.

There are just a couple of things to consider.

  1. How complex is your project?
  2. Is “Time to market” important?
  3. Do you need to be challenged?
  4. Does your prototype need to be scaled?
  5. Is security an issue?

The more complex is your project the more problematic it gets. Also if it’s important to get it live soon that you have a deadline, well then often Upwork isn’t the right way to go simply because there’s a lot of communication challenges often coming and there are a few more things you have to consider before the matter of deadline arises.

First you have to ask yourself, what do you get from outsourcing? And the most important thing is you should get a cheap prototype. You can ask something, you can get it and you can get a very cheap quote. So, if you don’t plan to spend a lot of money then this is definitely a great way to go about, which is a good thing but something has to be aware of is you get exactly what you asked for from here. So, if you are technical founder yourself, then this is actually sometimes a problem because you get exactly what you asked for and often that’s not a very good idea because you are not having the opportunity to be challenged by a new or modified approach or idea. So often it is a very good idea to be challenged by someone who understands the technical demand of your vision. So more often than not that just doesn’t happen in the same level on Upwork or similar services. In addition you will experience some different challenges, which may be interesting but you will experience communicating with different cultures because if you hire someone in India that is going to be way different than communicating with someone in western country and it is needless of saying the thought processes are very different, so if not challenges at least experiences to make.

What you don’t get from outsourcing is being challenged in your requirements. If you have a good outsourcing company locally, upon inspecting the job that’s needed done, they will simply say, “look, you don’t need this and this and you should do this instead”, and that makes sense because they understand the code and understand your vision and that’s something that’s worth remembering. In addition you don’t have same users experience because cultures differ, especially in Asia. They are not used to the kind of user experience that you expect. So you won’t get a finished product in the same way. Then it comes to the tree:

  • Scalability
  • Stability
  • Security

Your product won’t scale if it’s done without a technical understanding. Also, it won’t be stable, which means that you’ll often experience crashes or even security could be hacked so forth. Of course this is a bit difficult to sit here and just say that this will happen, but I’ve just seen it so many times that I take the liberty to say that these things will happen just when you outsource on websites like Upwork unless if you get really lucky with a person.

There’s just often these problems regarding these things here, so I would say that even though you get a cheap product, you get exactly what you asked for and you can check the product before it’s handed over which is great, but it also has some drawbacks. So if you use some of these websites for outsourcing you’ll get a cheap product but you will also spend a lot of time developing it and have to spend a bit of time testing. So you’ll have to spend a lot of time getting the right product finished and things get even more expensive than you originally thought when you started. Because you have to do a couple of iterations that you didn’t think about and some of the things might come up like this isn’t working or that doesn’t work.

So what I would say here is, for smaller and simpler things it works great, it is when things grow into more complex things like a big system then the problems get bigger and it gets much more difficult to actually do the outsourcing yourself and that’s when it gets very unmanageable. So I would say here is, as for small products if you really have concern over price you should definitely go to Upwork for outsourcing but for the bigger ones you really have to get help because the bigger the product gets the more problematic it is and less scalable will be. I have just seen so many people starting out to achieve a prototype, extending it and they still never get live because there’s so many problems with scalability and I think one just have to remember this.

I just give you an example. Suppose you say you are 21 year old, who’s studying marketing at university and you want to make an app for iPhone to find the nearest place where you can buy doughnuts which is horrible idea, but in this case yes you should just use Upwork because it’s so simple.  It’s an iPhone with a couple of places where you can actually find the doughnut stores and it wouldn’t make sense to get a complex company here and help with that because it’s so damn simple and plus you don’t have a lot of money when you are 21 years of age. So, money is very important in this case. There’s no question I would definitely go for Upwork.

But in this case, where this is like the total opposite where your true friends are Management consultants who want to become entrepreneurs and they have found this way to optimize projects in construction industry and need software that can handle complex mathematical optimizations on building. So my point is here, this is the total opposite scenario and there’s no question you should never use Upwork because they will go in and they will never get a product because it is too complex and if they didn’t have experience managing outsourcing, it’ll go bad. So of course this is one end of the scale and this is a different one. But in between there are definitely reasons that you should consider getting help outside. There are some of the things you don’t get when you outsource that I stated above which are just worth remembering.

Well, if you don’t do outsourcing what can you do? And the options are,

  • Employees: Yes you can of course hire experienced, knowledgeable employees if you have enough funding. You can also go for a technical co-founder which is also a great idea.
  • Consultants: They are not good at all for startups because they are too expensive.
  • Building yourself: It’s great if you learn some programming and do it yourself. But you shouldn’t probably do that if you are not from technical field because that might often land you to hazardous situation where you might be required to spend a lot of money and time on reprogramming it.
  • Jarboo? There are also these companies like us who do the outsourcing for you very cheaply as well. You get all the western things with scalability, stability and security. You get all the benefits of having a local company.

I am not promoting here but my main point is you should see this package of options as toolbox. Employee is tool, consultant is tool, doing yourself is a tool, so is Upwork and even Jarboo is a tool. So you should look upon these tools as some problems are better solved by a tool than another. That’s my point.

So if you like this blog article share it, tell your friends and family about it. There are other articles also available on many topics of startup. Don’t forget to go through them as well. Thanks for reading this.

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