For pugs sake, ask these questions!

How to pick the right third party team.

Two months (or approximately three years) ago, we wrote about getting the most out of third-party teams.

We stand by that advice, but there’s something that has to happen first.

You have to actually find a third-party team. And we know comparing options isn’t always easy.

Sometimes, you “click” with a partner right out of the gate, and that’s awesome!

But more often, finding someone you trust is a confusing process.

Worse, sometimes you only have one crappy option.

Okay, that doesn’t actually happen very often. But if it did, this gif would be perfect!

Anyhow. If you’re trying to narrow down which app partner you want to work with, you could:

  • pick a name out of a fishbowl (serendipity!)
  • make a massive pro/con whiteboard list (deliberate)
  • dig out that old magic 8-ball in the back of your closet (“signs point to yes”)

...or ask some smart questions to narrow down your options (recommended).

If you opt for the last route, here are four questions for your potential partners and one very important one for you:

1. How do they come up with the price? #

How to ask it if you’ve received a quote: “Hey, thanks for the estimate you sent over. I appreciate all the time you put into it. Could you tell me more about what factors went into that price?”

How to ask it if you haven’t received a quote: “I’m curious how you price your projects. Could you tell me more about that and what factors influence cost?”

While the final number may be what you’re most interested in now, it’s really important you know how that number appeared.

Why? Because (a) it impacts how you’ll be billed in the future if you add stuff on, and (b) pricing impacts the relationship, no way around it.

Common pricing options include:

  • Hourly: set price per hour of work
  • Day or week rate: a set price per day or week of work
  • Project-based: set price for a specific type of project
  • Hybrid: a combination of several above methods

Each option has strengths and weaknesses. (We have a full pro/con breakdown in this guide.) The option that’s best for you depends on your cash flow and how often you want to deal with payments.

👉 Related: Not sure how much apps cost? We’ve covered pricing basics on the blog. We’ve also broken down what it’d cost to build imitations of two popular apps, from idea to maintenance.

2. What happens if you butt heads? #

How to ask it: “I realize we might not always see eye-to-eye during the project. How have you handled friction with clients in the past?”

You have a lot of knowledge about your customer and the market. Your potential partner has a lot of knowledge about product, design, and development. These different areas of expertise are a good thing. But it also means you’ll disagree every now and then.

You need to know: what do they do when friction crops up?

There are two extremes here you want to avoid.

  • Someone who always has to be right will make for a miserable partner and project.
  • Someone who always defers to you (a “yes-man”) will make for a bad product.

You want the middle ground. Someone who respects the knowledge you have...but will also respectfully challenge you based on the knowledge they have.

👉 Related: We wrote about why healthy friction leads to better products in this newsletter.

3. What do they know about product development? #

How to ask it: “What context is important to you when you’re creating an app?”; “In your experience, what key ingredients go into a successful app?”; “What information do you need from founders in order to do your best work?”

Most founders aren’t just building an app—they’re building a product that’ll be the foundation of their business.

This may sound like nuance, but there’s a not-so-little difference.

Building a product means, yes, creating a killer app. But it also means understanding context, the customer, the market, and the founder’s business goals. In fact, that’s the only way to build a killer app!

A partner who gets this will ask detailed questions about:

  • The industry you’re in
  • Who your customers are and what they want
  • What tests or research you’ve done
  • How you can keep the product lean at first

If you’re building a product (and not just an app), make sure the team you’re working with cares about that stuff.

4. What’s their track record? #

How to ask it: “Could you walk me through several of your past projects? I’d like to hear more about the work you’ve done and what happened afterward for your clients.”

It’s easy to talk big. It’s much harder to make big things happen. That’s why it’s so important to evaluate the work a company has done in the past.

What you’re looking for here isn’t a perfect track record (if they claim to have one they’re either lying or just started), but a consistent one.

You want to be careful of teams that consistently:

  • Build apps that crash and burn
  • Blow budgets and timelines out of the water
  • Upset and lose clients
  • Do half-finished or poor work

You should be encouraged by teams that consistently:

  • Help clients succeed
  • Help clients maintain success for years
  • Deliver on time and on budget
  • Go out of their way to help partners
  • Build a good name in their industry

Beyond listening to what your partner says, look at public reviews, case studies, and social media interactions (for the brand and founders). Also, ask for live demos of past work if they don’t automatically offer this.

Yes, this all takes time, but it’s context you want before you commit!

5. Do you trust the team? #

This last one is for you: look back on your interactions with the team and ask yourself, “Do I trust these people?”

Some useful indicators may be:

  • Have they been friendly and personable?
  • Did you enjoy interacting with them?
  • Did they make you feel seen, valued, and heard?
  • Did they explain concepts clearly but not in a belittling manner?
  • Did they get back to you when they said they would?

We can’t overstate how important it is. A partnership is a relationship, and the bedrock of relationships is trust. The best work comes from trust. So if you don’t trust them, don’t hire them!

BTW, If you want to read more about all this, we’ve written an extensive outsourcing guide. It has even more questions that will help you compare freelancers vs. agencies with loads of pro/con comparisons. Check it out. 🙂