Hiring a single developer while reaping the rewards of an entire team

Jeroen van der Horst
Account director

Sometimes, you only need a single developer to help create your online product or platform. However, since they must possess very specific knowledge and experience, they can be quite hard to come by. Bastiaan Koetsveld, owner of VoorkomLeegstand, faced just such a challenge.

Vacant property management

“Real estate owners use our services to avoid the risks of (temporary) vacancy,” Bastiaan explains about his company VoorkomLeegstand. “Think of e.g. squatting, vandalism, unnoticed leaks and all the damage they can cause. We help to maintain the liveability of the area. Via our platform, we offer (temporarily) vacant properties as residential or office space or as studios for artists and other creative individuals.”

The heart of the business operations

Circa five years ago, Bastiaan worked together with in-house developers to create a back- end management system. It was designed to bring supply and demand together and support the company’s own processes. This platform is now used to support (almost) all of the company’s operational processes. “The system forms the heart of our business operations,” Bastiaan explains. “It was in need of an update, however. I wanted to rewrite the system in a new PHP framework: Laravel. That should help to make our platform more robust, flexible and scalable. We want a system that supports both our own and our clients’ operational processes more effectively and to which we can more easily add new features in the future.”

Flexibility and cost considerations

Bastiaan needed a developer who understood what had to be done. “We needed someone who would think along with us and provide input. Someone who could come up with ideas of their own after we painted the big picture,” Bastiaan explains. “We made a deliberate choice not to recruit anyone ourselves. We manage vacant properties; we are not a technical firm, nor do we want to become one. By outsourcing the further development of our platform, we can focus on what we do best.” Bastiaan was also eager to avoid the many obligations and high costs involved in hiring Dutch developers. “I chose to work together with Proshore because it allows me to remain highly flexible,” he explains. “I only have one Nepalese developer working for me at the moment. However, if I want to expedite the process, I know we can easily scale up the operation.”

The costs of the whole ordeal were also an important factor. “I wanted to go live with the first version within six months,” Bastiaan adds. “It looks like we will make that deadline. I am certain we would not have been able to achieve the same results with the same budget if we had used Dutch developers.”

“Only three out of forty developers passed the test” Bastiaan knows from experience how hard it can be to find good Laravel developers – in the Netherlands and abroad. “That kind of specialist knowledge is truly scarce,” he says. “For Blendr – one of the other projects I am involved in – we once recruited international freelancers via Upwork. The developers who offer their services on that platform all promise to possess the skills you need. Unfortunately, that is not always true. More than once, we were left disappointed with the results.”

Bastiaan’s business partner therefore decided to create a test, specifically for the Laravel framework. “Before developers get to work for us, we have them take the test first,” he explains. “To date, more than forty developers have taken the test and only three candidates have passed it. One of them was the programmer from Proshore who now works for us! He was not the fastest of the bunch, but he did complete the assignments the best.”

The benefits of an entire team

The collaboration with this specialist is going well. “It is nice and clear,” Bastiaan says. “Every week, we work on a sprint. At the start of the week, we discuss what the developer will be working on. At the end of the week, he gives me a demo and I offer him feedback on the newly added functionalities. That works great for me, because it keeps me closely involved in the process.”

Even though Bastiaan is only working with one developer, he still enjoys the support of an entire team. “For example, I can exchange thoughts with other experts at Proshore about strategic choices, if I feel a need to,” he explains. “Furthermore, everything my developer builds for me is first tested internally by Proshore’s permanent test team, even before I ever see it. By that time, most of the bugs have been eliminated, which really saves me a tonne of time.”

Working together remotely

Are there any challenges to working together from such a great distance? “Not really,” Bastiaan says. “That was never really an issue for me to begin with. The Nepalese developers possess the knowledge they need and their English is generally excellent. Working together remotely may take some getting used to, especially if you are not familiar with such tools as Slack and Trello. You’ll get the hang of it soon enough, though. Once you have sorted out your communication and the quality of the work is in order, it is certainly worth the time you invested.”

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