Choosing Between Scarce Good Developers vs. Less Experienced Developers

Common sense would suggest that good developers are better than inexperienced/junior ones.

That’s the norm in an ideal scenario where those few good developers would stick around, handle a good volume of workload, and generate solid ROI.

Also, interns and entry-level developers may become the weakest link in the company. They are slow and inefficient, often produce low-quality code, require mentoring and guidance from more senior people. Handling junior people is definitely not an easy feat.

Choosing Between a Few Good Developers Or A Good Team with Less Experienced Developers.

However, we don’t live in a utopia – and a lot of problems may require some flexibility.

1. Finding Good Developers Is Hard

Even if you happen to have a team of good developers already, it’s unlikely that your team will stick around in the same capacity and structure longer than 6–12 months. Once you start growing, you’ll figure out how challenging it is to find good developers.

Most qualified candidates are already employed and not looking for a job, running their own startups, or working as consultants and freelancers. Convincing them to work for you is tough unless you’re building something truly innovative and developing an outstanding brand.

2. Great Developers Are Generally More Expensive

Even if you find some good applicants, their salary expectations may be higher due to the market demand.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s just the way it is. Pricing your product or services would depend on your expenses as well. It’s inevitable when you’re building something innovative and complex – but it may be overhead if the majority of the work is more repetitive and less challenging.

3. Capable Developers May Not Necessarily Be Team Players

This is valid for every industry out there. Experienced talent may be confident in their skills and used to a certain set of processes – using specific tools or adhering to various coding standards.

Combining several rockstars together may be tricky. Think about “The Avengers” – all of them excel at their own specialty and there are various conflicts that may arise due to their strong personalities and background.

4. Good Developers Are Bored with Basic Tasks

Very few companies could ensure that all of the ongoing work is exciting and worth tackling by experienced team members. As a result, it’s likely that some of the business requirements will often be boring, tedious, repetitive.

This may be demotivating your workforce who is eager to solve problems that require some creativity as compared to applying the best practices over and over again for generic use cases.

That’s when less experienced people would come in handy.

5. The Better the Developer, the Harder to Retain

There are different studies regarding the average employment duration in the field. Some state an average of two years on the job and most report 1.5 – 2.5 years per company.

Unless you’re able to always maintain a level of interest and challenge that your developers will be interested in covering, this would result in an ongoing back-and-forth and a tedious hiring process.

What Is An “On-The-Job” Training?

Training programs are available in larger companies.

The concept of training depends on the type of role, a candidate’s experience, and the company policy.

The Concept and Process of "Training"

Complete Training For Beginners

That’s common for first-time employees with no work experience to date and those working in franchises with established processes.

You have probably seen that in McDonalds or Starbucks with new staff members undergoing training and being mentored by more senior staff members. The training may take several weeks up to a few months and includes the company processes, the overall goals of the business and the role, the different stakeholders involved and the day-to-day of the new staff member.

Regarding office jobs, interns and entry-level people could be hired separately (1–2 hires at a time) and coached by a senior member. Basically, you have an in-house mentor/peer who’s bringing you up to speed with everything you need to know.

Hiring larger groups (10–20 people at a time) may include a designated trainer leading a course for a few weeks that ends with an exam. Candidates who have passed successfully are then assigned to an entry-level role, usually working closely with a more senior person.

Qualification Improvement Training

This process is somewhat similar to the initial scope but depends on the previous qualification of a staff member.

For example, a bank clerk will also go through the same process of a newbie. But standard job requirements often ask for a degree in Economics or Business Administration or a similar specialty. Dealing with accounts as whole or managing finance isn’t taught at the job. Teaching the specifics of the role, the tools used at the office, and the workflows leveraged by other peers is what it takes to become a full-timer.

Another example is training existing employees a different technology or a type of service. For example, marketers can take on an SEO or CRO training. Java or .NET developers may enroll in a specific JavaScript course that would improve their know-how with the language.

Company Policy On-boarding

This type of training doesn’t teach professional skills. But larger organizations have complex workflows in place and a set of established processes that differ from one company to another.

Therefore, over the course of a few weeks, the new candidate works with a mentor or a project manager trying to apply their existing skill set to the company role. This may again include specific tools or services used by the business staff, escalation protocols, delegation activities and the like. This may focus on communication, reporting, the expected KPIs and maximizing the output of the new member given the traditional workflow that everyone adheres to.

Giving Up Control Over Smaller Projects

After you started your own company and grew enough to hire more people, was it hard to give up control over smaller projects?

There are actually different combinations depending on the:

  • Culture of the company
  • Business model
  • Personality of the founder

Some are easy-going, running on autopilot (turnkey), or don’t require that much coordination.

Giving Up Control Over Smaller Projects

How Was It Like Before?

For me, it was complicated.

I didn’t give up any control over the first 10–12 people.

I kept coordinating daily during sprints, conducting code reviews, assessing weekly agendas and making sure we’re on track. Most of our first hires were less experienced, 2–4 years of experience, thus limited management and process planning know-how.

They were capable of delivering the work. But quality lacked the final touches. Making sure that progress happens according to the time frame was a system of reminders and meetings.

Later on, hiring coordinators and more senior folks, documentation wasn’t up to date. Bringing experience from former companies didn’t directly map to our workflows.

First Few People

The system worked primarily due to the first few people who stuck with us for several years. Early members were intimately familiar with the life cycle of the company, known challenges we’ve faced, and the mechanics of the job.

One of them is now our CTO, the other is our creative lead managing design and front-end folks, and the third one is the QA chieftain.

Since we’ve been together for years now (5+, with the CTO since the very beginning), I trust them to make the right decisions and handle various initiatives, some important, some internal.

Job longevity is now a critical factor for us. Project owners are appointed after at least 12–18 months in. Additional responsibility comes in before the end of year three. My top goal lately is retaining team members for at least 4 years.

Full productivity is reached at the end of the third year (backed by several other studies) and anything under doesn’t cover the full scope of activities one can take over.

Retention and Purposefulness

So it’s about retention and purposefulness. Once we have that, people take their job seriously, commit to undertaking responsibility and find joy in hitting milestones and delivering work for awesome clients.

Upon completing two or three projects together, I reduce the supervision gradually and leave it to weekly sprints or reviews when deadlines are approaching.

Pitching A Better Website To A Well-Known Online Company

What if I approach a well-known online company with a better website I designed that has better UI and features than theirs? Will they buy me out or employ me?

While it’s not impossible, it’s not very likely to happen for several reasons.Better Website

Features and UI Are Not Everything

A beautiful platform with tons of features doesn’t necessarily work better. There’s user experience, conversion optimization studies, and other industry-specific elements that come into play.

Also, a beautiful design may contradict with other areas that bring business. One example is SEO — most wonderful designs are either minimalistic (low on content) or image-heavy (performance implications and still insufficient content). That’s one of the many reasons why certain design decisions are being made in the first place.

Also, platforms are made with market research in mind. Designing a cool hip store for teenage girl clothes and bags is one thing. Creating a non-profit for veterans or elderly people is a completely different experience.

Top creative folks keep the complete digital experience in mind. If their audience uses Pinterest and a dozen sites with a similar look-and-feel (including navigation and forms), they will likely stick to this trend for consistency reasons.

Migrations are really complicated. This concerns both users and staff. A new design plus features will result in a different content management experience and will push back some of the loyal fans. Some of the most popular web projects have undergone thousands of tiny iterations until they deliver a new feature or a UI improvement — gradual ones, barely noticeable, only to avoid discomfort and surprise by their loyal followers.

A Cold Pitch Won’t Do Much

Popular organizations get blasted with offers all the time. It’s extremely hard to sift through the spam and find something of use.

Being able to meet some team members in person may help. Think of conferences, business events, and other ways to build a stronger connection with the team before pitching them a certain solution.

Also, it’s likely that you pitch to the wrong decision maker. Finding the right person in the organization to review your proposal is challenging. And some organizations are really resistant to change. Others have long-term contracts with creative companies or dev studios and are not interested to engage in a conflict of interest.

And what about your credibility? Can you testify that your unique UI and the new features you pitch can increase conversions or grow traffic significantly over the course of a few months? A chief creative designer with a strong portfolio of similar-sized businesses and shining testimonials may succeed. But, it’s extremely tough without all that credibility.

At the end of the day, it’s not impossible. But everything and anything you can do to increase your chances, including meeting the team, finding the right decision maker, and building a strong case, would be paramount to increase the odds of success.

Pros and Cons Of Remote Teams

Remote teams are a wonderful way to scale a business. But, there are certain nuggets you need to assess first.

Scaling Full-Time Freelance

I worked as a full-time freelancer for nearly 2 years before starting the company. My business hours were flexible and a lot of my work was done from home or in coffee shops.

Switching to an office environment wasn’t an intuitive decision for me. I spent a few years working until 2am or later, which is why traveling in the middle of the night wasn’t a smart move.

Working With Other Freelancers

Over the first couple of years, we only had one or two full-time employees. There were a couple of freelancers and two outsourced developers handling a high-scale SaaS project, and that helped us manage our income in a sensible manner with limited risks.

It also helped to work across time zones with several clients without sticking to traditional business hours.

Initial Costs

An on-site team requires office space, desks, computers, utility bills and a bunch of other expenses. While your team is comprised of 4–6 people, the initial investment is still a lot, increasing the risk of going bankrupt if you lose an important client.

There’s another caveat with office spaces, too. You don’t want to rent a small room for 2–3 years and outgrow it in a matter of months if you get lucky and close larger contracts. And renting a large space is expensive (and again, risky) unless you manage to scale with decent profit margins quickly enough.

Legal and Accounting

Hiring on-site staff usually increases your accounting costs.

More importantly, some countries (especially in Europe) treat employees significantly better than employers. Firing someone isn’t easy, and letting them go voluntarily often requires the employer to pay several salaries upfront after the trial period is over.

From an employee standpoint, that’s wonderful. But starting a small business with the legal framework in mind may suddenly turn the tables around if you’re really unlucky.

On top of that, hiring locally may be bound with longer leave notices. It’s not unlikely for us to wait for 40+ days after extending an offer for a full-time role. On the other hand, hiring a remote employee may happen within 2–5 days.

Holidays and Working Hours

Many distributed companies hire staff across different countries (and continents). Time zone mismatch may be tricky to handle internally, but it also helps covering for clients across the world, monitor projects outside of standard business hours, and handling emergencies within hours.

Also, different countries and religions celebrate different holidays. It’s possible to have staff working on Christmas or Ramadan, Diwali, Hanukkah if some of your team members don’t usually celebrate at the same time.


In terms of cons, communication often takes a bit longer in a distributed environment. There’s certain “management overhead” keeping everything in the project management system, documentation, weekly logs and status updates, and the like.

Briefing people across time zones may take longer, too.

Different cultures may perceive information differently (or people simply have different work habits). This requires adjustment and finding the right approach.

Larger companies often have enough work for juniors and entry-level folks. It’s usually repetitive work that is already laid out and requires following an established process. But training juniors remotely is massively complicated, and many prefer to just hire mid-level people remotely than spend 6–12 months hiring a junior person remotely.

Why Digital Marketers Don’t Run Businesses?

Not every digital marketer is a suitable startup or agency founder. Here’s why.

Different Categories Profiling In Various Niches

Digital marketing includes a number of different categories profiling in various niches, such as:

  • SEO
  • Social media marketing
  • Copywriting/content marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • PPC
  • Conversion rate optimization

Some may include other forms of advertising, PR, web design or other tangible areas covered by certain professions.

Leveraging The Power Of The Company

Working as a marketer for an existing organization results in leveraging the power of the company – their brand and workforce, along with the capital.

That means:

  • You are not starting from scratch.
  • There’s an existing business with a (proven) business model that works.
  • There are different team members who can support the marketing needs.
  • Budget is allocated on marketing activities.
  • There is traction that you can amplify instead of bootstrapping and creating your personal and professional brand from the ground.
  • Senior management or C-Suite has already tried certain strategies and has a rough plan in mind that could be refined and executed.
  • There are existing clients (even if its the company alone) that you don’t need to pitch, negotiate with, close, report to – at least for the most part.

Larger organizations also employ several marketers – or even multiple marketing departments. You can collaborate with colleagues and learn from their experience.

Prepare A Business Plan 

A marketer interested in entrepreneurship or a starting a small business has to prepare a business plan and create a unique offer for the market.

  • If it’s a product, there’s a lot of work (and cash) that goes into the product itself before starting.
  • If you’re selling marketing services, it’s already a commodity – competing with everyone else out there requires a lot of time and hustle, as well as building a portfolio at discounted prices over the first months or over a year.

The new business owner(s) is in charge of creating a company, dealing with accounting, sales, the company’s own marketing (with different verticals maintained on a regular basis), technology, legal activities, negotiations, managing a portfolio of clients…

It’s a long list.

Hire Employees

You’ll likely need to partner up with other marketers profiling in different areas of the business. Or hire employees. This gets even more complicated – going through the entire job application process, vetting candidates, conducting interviews, on-boarding and training new people and ensuring that you can afford to pay their salary.

Sure, some marketers are eager to work for themselves and act as consultants or freelancers. They may start a marketing agency and partner up with former colleagues.

But running a business is completely different than starting in an established organization that hands you a business plan or a portfolio of clients, offers you a steady paycheck and fixed working hours. That’s why most people prefer to get a job and do what they truly enjoy instead of dealing with logistics and administration – and stressing over the monthly expenses.

How Is An SEO Consultancy Important For A Small Business?

I’m a firm believer of common sense. It’s often the solution to most problems – even in fields that you are less experienced in.

But common sense has several flaws:

  • People often have varying perspectives on life.
  • Different ideas may be floating around simultaneously.
  • It lacks structure – a process of its own.
  • A small business has limited time and resources.

I’ve seen small businesses that manage to pull it off without any SEO knowledge or consultancy simply because they follow some basic practices that make sense.

But SEO works differently if you try to rank for Google, Bing, Yandex, Baidu. There are cultural differences in each region. There are certain priorities that search vendors have in mind. There’s the added focus on various areas – such as ranking their own services around search engine terms (like products or translation solutions).

The basic philosophy of SEO is fairly simple. You need to produce outstanding content that your audience needs. And receiving links to your content would yield higher results – both in terms of traffic and via ranking opportunities.

What an SEO consultant (or agency) does is dive deeper into the process – considering the search engine ranking factors and business-specific areas that would benefit a business.

For example, local businesses need additional exposure online. Search engines often provide additional products or services that boost one’s presence. With Google, you can sign up for Google My Business and list your venue in their system. This adds a featured snippet for branded search and ads a label for people browsing Google Maps.

This new listing can handle reviews and collaboration from the community. If you own a coffee shop, your visitors may receive tooltips or suggestion boxes inviting them to upload a photo of their own and post a review – which in turn receives additional traffic.

While Google+ failed as a mission-critical social network, statuses are still ranked in SERP results. This may result in additional managed results from your brand for certain keywords.

Businesses serving international regions may need to rethink their internal indexing for each region. If you maintain a website for each location, there are on-site and off-site strategies that would rank the right spot along its Google My Business details, a pin on the map, and the appropriate language version as the first result. This reduces the bounce rate.

Higher bounce rate would also result in deranking your property further down the search pages. It’s logical – that indicates that users are not satisfied with your site and have resorted to alternative solutions.

Same goes for content. Which gets a bit more contradictory – submitting viral content outside of your field may yield higher traffic and more time spent on the site. But the search engine may recategorize your site in a different niche – thus pushing back results for your top keywords.

This also reflects on incoming links. If you are primarily linked through sites on different niches (such as private blogging networks), this would smell fishy. Popular link building services may harm your results instead of improving them.

There are ways around it – You can spin off a subdomain installation that is targeted as a separate site. This is where most people get confused – launching a subdomain versus maintaining a separate property in a subcategory. Both have strengths and weaknesses depending on your business goal.

In order to provide more relevant content for certain data types, search engines monitor for different signals such as structured data or preferred pages to crawl via a sitemap or a robots.txt file. Both could be used to indicate the type of content that a crawler should focus on.

Structuring markup and the on-site SEO, as a whole, have evolved over time as well. Performance is now an important factor for ranking. SSL certificates are mandatory and Chrome is alerting visitors landing on a contact form under an http site (instead of https). HTML5 now allows adding more than a single H1 tag to your content if it resides in a section (or another semantically-legit tag such as header or footer).

Each year Google introduces 500–700 updates to its search algorithm. Some provide clarity, others fight against black hat SEO attacks. Regardless, relying purely on your common sense is often impractical.

There are thousands of different action points that SEO consultants go through for each business. While the investment may be questionable for small businesses, it may be beneficial in terms of long-term results.

Increasing Productivity – Tips

Prioritization and focus are certainly instrumental to higher productivity. Same goes for keeping your health in check (in addition to a healthy food regime and getting enough sleep).

Complying with an established set of processes does miracles, too. When tackling new challenges or attempting to solve a new type of problem, a common productivity killer is the inability to structure the workflow in a manageable manner.

Defining a repeatable (or even automated) process for each activity can increase your productivity. You can design flowcharts using case diagrams or prepare cheat sheets printed on the desk (or pinned on the whiteboard).

These charts are a quick reference in your day-to-day routine, leading you in the proper direction. A quick glimpse can remind you of the actions, potential hurdles, or alternate ways to take them.

In addition, not only do you profit, but team members or anyone new to the project can easily catch up by reviewing these diagrams.

What about cheat sheets? These simplified forms of essential information can be pinned to your whiteboard or placed on your desk.

Assume you’re working on a large project with several steps, such as data analysis or content production.

Instead of searching notebooks or digital documents for guidelines or code snippets, consult your cheat sheet. It’s both a time saver and a mental energy saver.

The good news is that developing these productivity tools does not have to be a difficult task.

When I feel stuck for a week, my favorite workaround is increasing the volume of work within a given time frame.

Spending 50–60+ hours at the office often doesn’t result in a productivity boost. Various Swedish companies have experimented with 30-hour work weeks, resulting in more energized employees.

Productivity results, however, were inconclusive. After all, paid workers are not always motivated to work extra as it may not have a direct impact on their career or paycheck.

If you are a freelancer, solopreneur, or a business owner, maximizing your output is paramount to your success.

My preferred technique could be applied in two different ways:

  1. Doubling the workload within the business day/week or
  2. Solving the same backlog in half the time (or less).

The first approach comes naturally to most entrepreneurs. You’re in charge of product development and planning, negotiations, marketing, sales, financial reviews – you name it.

Simply increase your quota or add a few more activities to your weekly list. Being incentivized to get your work done on time would press you to focus, reduce distractions, create an actionable plan and make sure you’re done on time.

The second option may seem counter-intuitive (unless you’re a fan of The 4-Hour Workweek). You can take advantage of it or force it in different scenarios, such as:

  1. Don’t take days off while on a vacation. Just allocate 2 or 3 hours a day and handle only the high priority tasks.
  2. Schedule some work activities for business trips on the plane or at the airport lounge. Being disconnected is not an excuse to postpone your work or business planning.
  3. Hit a distant coffee shop with only 2–3 hours of laptop battery juice and no charger. Make it count.

That’s also known as the Parkinson’s law: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. It’s also an extension of Pareto’s 80/20 rule. Simply adjust the workload or the timeframe and enjoy your quick productivity boost.

7 Steps to Reduce Your Email Backlog

Dealing with a staggering email backlog daily is a problematic chore. It takes a while to browse through your emails, identify priorities, reassign whenever needed, and handle everything without missing important backlog activities.

Here are 7 practical ways to reduce your email backlog and automate your process in a sensible manner, thus allocating time and focus on what matters the most.

1. Share Your Email Scarcely

For starters, receiving fewer emails would certainly make dealing with the backlog more feasible than it is now. Don’t use your primary email for newsletter subscriptions, social media websites and others that send tons of automated emails and notifications.

2. Automate the Incoming Mail

Spend some time setting up some filtering and archiving rules for your email. The more you fine tune this process, the easier would it be to prioritize and separate the non-urgent emails in the designated folders only read “on demand” or over the weekend.

3. Use Gmail

I may be biased but in Feb 2016 Google announced that Gmail has over 1 billion active users. And I’ve been a fanboy ever since I’ve signed up with an invite in 2004.

Gmail has a number of powerful features that would help with categorization, filtering, labeling emails, using different “stars”, making the best out of their AI-based “Priority Inbox”, leveraging several inboxes in a single dashboard and connecting different accounts to the same inbox.

I’ll mention some extensions below that are known to work well with Gmail, too. Here’s a handy workflow that may do the job as well:

How to Get to Inbox Zero in Gmail, Once and for All

4. Delegate to Others

Some entrepreneurs and plenty of business owners hire assistants who sift through their email and manage their daily schedules accordingly. This has some obvious benefits when it comes to saving some time as a trained human can also interact with partners or prospects and discuss details on your behalf which wouldn’t require your attention.

There are other issues related to costs, trust, reliability – but it’s still a notable option.

With the rise of virtual assistants in the US, Asia, and Europe, looking for some help getting your email organized may be in order, too:

Hire A Smart Assistant And Focus Only On Increasing Your Business Value

Mario Peshev’s answer to When do startup founders and CEOs delegate their email to an assistant?

5. Automated Email Assistant

Nowadays, there are global dashboards and team management platforms that aggregate information from different mediums (social, email, brand mentions, support tickets etc). In addition to that, there are a number of automated email assistants that you can leverage in order to reduce the load, automatically schedule some meetings, plan auto-replies given certain keywords and so on.

Less efficient than a person, but far more affordable. Some AI email bots:

6. Boomerang

Boomerang is a Gmail extension although there are probably alternatives for other clients.

It provides a few handy features, but the two main ones are:

  1. Send later – lets you reply to an email and send it in a couple hours or even days to avoid the tedious back and forth of a quick reply during business hours
  2. Return later – reminds you of an email later in time (can specify date/time) so that your email reappears whenever you want without cluttering your backlog

Here’s a list of the options for reminders:

This particular email is for a low-priority gig for a high DA website open to receiving additional guest posts of mine. I keep pushing it back in time every couple of weeks or so and get back to them whenever I have some extra time to respond. That prevents the email from staying as unread (or forgotten) at all times.

It’s super handy for follow ups during outreach, reminders before a conference and what not.

7. Connect to other tools

Some folks really do forward most of their email to Slack, HipChat, a CRM, a PM system or something else. That may work out fairly well and reduce the backlog dramatically – especially if you set some rules that redirect email to other members in your team who would be the right point of contact.

Most tools are integrated with Gmail or Outlook (or Thunderbird) which is neat, and Zapier or IFTTT can often be used to further integrate those with Dropbox, Google Drive, auto-post received content to internal platforms, coordinate data for content marketers on social media etc.