Have you been burned by app developers who couldn’t see your vision? Don’t get burned by outsourcing to a developer or development team who are only OK. Find superior service capabilities using these 5 Easy Steps for how NOT to get burned by outsourcing app development in 2019:

Step 1: Validate with Scope and Clarity in Mind
Step 2: Interpret Estimates and Pricing
Step 3: Choose the Right Partner
Step 4: Cut Your Search Time in Half
Step 5: Conduct An Interpersonal Interview

Step 4: Cut Your Search Time in Half

Should I Look On Upwork or Clutch?

There are quite a few platforms that can help you cut your overall search time in half, and now that you have a much better idea of the criteria that make sense for you, it’s time to talk about where to actually look. 


I will be forthright in telling you that even though I hire primarily on the referral of existing team members (great developers will know great developers), when I need to hire someone I can’t find within my existing network, I do use Upwork.  Not because it serves my needs every time, but because nothing better is out there yet for finding freelancers. The truth is, it’s been a mixed bag and Upwork is basically a landmine that does not serve the interests of someone using it for the first time.  But if you know how to avoid these “gotchas”, it can be a great resource.

First, let me start with the great part about Upwork: you can reach people all over the world and the search function is a scalpel allowing you to cut through, right to the people that have the exact skills you’re looking for.  The job success rating and “Top Rated” badges make for easy identification of the wheat from the chaff. You can see someone’s portfolio. They also make it really easy for you to start projects without worrying about payment and contractual obligations (granted they take a 10-20% commission that gets deducted only from the contractor side).  All of these are great on paper.

Now, the absolute worst part of Upwork is so bad it can turn the above into a vanity metric: the lack of identity verification.  

If a candidate says they’re based in the U.S., the first thing to do is to proceed with caution and insist on a video call. I guarantee this will rule out most of your candidates.  Upwork does provide identity verification now, but they also allow people to be on the platform without it, and that’s most important to note. By insisting on a phone call before you talk shop, you can save yourself a lot of time.   

The second thing I ask is whether they would do all of the work themselves for my project or if they have a team.  There are a ton of people masquerading as the former when it’s actually the latter. (I make it clear on my Upwork profile that I’m part of a team but this isn’t common practice).  In the latter case, what you’re basically working with is an agency.

But hey, maybe you’re looking for an agency, in which case, haaaave you met…


Clutch is a directory of top-rated digital agencies.  I’m a huge advocate for them because I believe in my heart of hearts that they do things right.  They’re methodical in their approach and with their algorithm for rankings: https://clutch.co/methodology.  I dream of a future where Upwork applies the same due diligence.  

Disclaimer: My firm is on Clutch and is pretty visible on it, but the same is true on Upwork and yet I litter my recommendation of them with caveats as well.

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Example: When our physical presence in Las Vegas dropped, I saw our rankings there reflect that drop by changing from #1 to #4.  Meanwhile our main presence in Orange County was reflected in us sustaining our ranking there. Geography is far from everything, and that’s the point: they caught it anyway!  

Similarly, our firm focuses on two areas, but while we are ranked nationally on healthcare apps (https://clutch.co/app-developers/health-wellness/leaders-matrix), we’re not leaders for fintech (yet!) where we don’t have as much experience as in healthcare.  

Thus, I believe Clutch is particularly great for finding teams that have a physical presence in the geographical area where you’re looking, and/or if you are looking for specialists in a certain niche.   

The only “gotcha” I would point out here is that you should know about sponsored listings.  This is how they make their money so I don’t begrudge them this, just buyer beware. Look for the barely visible “sponsor” highlighted in this screenshot: https://www.awesomescreenshot.com/image/3960160/4ab7b7fee1f3a7ccb222684e8772fab6

Reality Check: Upwork or Clutch Beats Nothing At All

Despite the “gotchas” on both platforms, and despite the many more gotchas on Upwork, there’s one very good reason to hire someone at the top of either platform: Visibility.  If you’re going with someone at the top, that means they have more to lose.  Although Upwork’s rating system is less methodical and transparent than Clutch’s, a dissatisfied customer can cause material damage to rankings on either platform.  A top-rated developer on Upwork and Clutch is incentivized to continue their track record of delivery and not leave you hanging when things get hard. Protecting that badge can be a strong motivator.  Honestly, it is for us too when the projects become difficult.

A Quick Note: Demand A Portfolio

Before you speak with a candidate, always ask to see a portfolio of similar projects.  Many will tell you their work is under NDA. This is a pretty easy way to weed out subpar developers.  I’m not saying NDAs don’t matter – I actually have to sign them for just about every project. But when you’re a good developer and you do good work, once the fully finished product is done, good entrepreneurs have no qualms about releasing that NDA to the wind because they’re proud of their work and their relationship with a talented developer and it’s also free marketing for them (who doesn’t want the SEO?)


The caveat: in cases where the work is for a much larger company (Fortune 500), there can be too much bureaucracy getting in the way of approving permissions, and too much liability for contractors to break the NDA.  

When you do get to see a product, grill the developer on exactly what aspects of it they created.  Were they a solo developer or did they work on the frontend only or backend only, or even just some parts?  Then ask for a reference to cross reference. If they only worked on parts, don’t be afraid to ask for excerpts to review.  Ideally, you would have the capability or resource to review it, but if not, at least it shows a willingness to reveal the extent of their work.  You should only make a judgment based on the actual parts of the project that they worked on: a backend developer should not be judged on a beautiful UI.   

Related Articles for Streamlining the Hiring Process

Feeling confident about where to look? Read on: 

Step 5: Conduct an Interpersonal Interview

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