These top 5 issues when hiring a product developer are avoidable. Keep them in mind when looking for a developer or designer to save you time and money.
Keeping Files. So, you got a file you can view, but can you use it? I can’t count the number of times I’ve received a viewable only file and had to reverse engineer the design because the raw files were held hostage by the first contractor. It’s an unfortunate practice, but some designers aren’t upfront that the real usable file will cost more. Some simply will not give up the file as it would allow you to go to another designer. I always give the files to my clients, it’s the best thing to do to have happy clients in the end. The other option, of course, is designers can become unavailable for many reasons, such as retiring or quitting, and can’t help you. Without the raw files it could cost you double. Make sure you always get the raw files so you can get edits done down the line.
Designer owns it, not you. Ownership of the work you are paying for is very important. Intellectual Property is one of your most valuable assets, learn everything you can about it. You should always own the work unless you are paying them with ownership. When I work with clients, everything I create while working for you, my client, is yours. I rarely do any design work for ownership or profit sharing. The only way for me to own something is to not pay me. Do you know how many times I’ve had to do that? Zero. This is because I structure the work in phases and each phase is paid for upfront. Not every developer or designer does it this way. Make sure that you know and are good with the ownership part of your proposal.
Full payment for no delivery. If it’s a small job, under $1-10k range, then all up front can be quite reasonable. However, I’ve had clients come to me after hiring a product developer and spending the entire project budget, often tens of thousands of dollars, up front only to have the company never deliver. Because of this, they have usually spent most if not all their budget and recovering from this is very hard if you are a startup. Your developer should break up your project into different phases or parts and its common practice to do so with good designers and developers. If you need just a single service, such as CAD models or sourcing an already designed product, single payment is reasonable, but not when you just have a sketch and want to make it into a real product.
Manufacturing troubles. After getting a great design done, I’ve had clients come to me to fix the design because it’s un-manufacturable. It could look good in CAD, renders are great, and maybe the prototype even works. Because of this, a product could get through design and still not be manufacturable. The chance of this, however, is low with the tools and technology available in manufacturing. Either way, having to rework a design is expensive and while I try to keep the original design looks, it’s not always possible. Not every designer understands manufacturing and costing. Keep this in mind when looking for a designer and pick a Product Developer with the needed skills so you don’t waste money. Make sure to ask them about manufacturing methods and make sure they can perform DFM (Design for Manufacturing) work or provide a referral for it.
Lack of Scope. I’ve written about this several times, but a lack of scope can cause many easily avoided issues. However, one of the biggest issues of skipping it is the lack of defined success or failure. This makes it hard for anyone to know exactly where the project should go. Make sure you have one. If your developer doesn’t create one with you at the beginning, then you might want a different developer. See our previous blog posts on project scopes: Project Brief vs Scope of Work, 9 Great Points on Scope Creep, and The 4 Things Your Scope of Work Should Have,
When hiring a product developer, keep these points in mind. Make sure you find one who will truly help you along your path to launching your product. Check out Entrepreneurs article about hiring a firm for some more great info