So let’s say you are a project manager or startup owner, charged with developing an intricately functional website or app with a fixed budget for the project or your company. You know that you need a product that actually works, one that delivers the best possible user experience, and one with graphic design and branding that builds trust in your target audience and helps you stand apart from the competition. You wireframe out the different features, mock up the look you are going for, and determine a final pool of money to hire your developers and designers for the job. Then you begin to browse listings of U.S.-based developers and designers, and your jaw drops. By your calculations, you will run out of money well before a minimum viable product is created, let alone one that matches your business vision and helps you enter a competitive marketplace.
But before you become dispirited, we have some very good news for you. While, yes, U.S. based developers and designers are often exorbitantly expensive for owners of smaller businesses working with limited budgets, over the past decade there has been an explosion in the potential for hiring remote workers to handle these design and development tasks that formerly could only be done by domestic employees. As Internet accessibility and technology has grown rapidly in the developing world, countries as far away as the Phillipines and as nearby as Mexico have developed massive bases of workers who are equally skilled at design and development, while doing the work for significantly discounted rates compared to their U.S. counterparts.
So as you excitedly begin to realize that your dream project is now a possibility again, let us walk you through, in detail, what you should know about choosing to staff your project or outsource your work remotely.
To expand on the introduction, remote work involves hiring staffers in countries around the world to work on a project or company that is hosted within the domestic United States. Whereas in the past, companies would be restricted to staff living and working in the region the company calls home, remote work through collaborative technology platforms allows workers from anywhere in the world to team up, create, and produce projects in a decentralized fashion.
As we stated above, the biggest reason remote work has become the choice for many companies are the vast savings and ability to stretch your limited budget that is afforded by developers and designers located outside of the United States. A common refrain about American tech workers is that while they are certainly skilled, there simply isn’t enough of them after major companies with seemingly limitless budgets scoop up the best ones. Because of the shortage of skilled tech workers, most freelance developers and designers can cost thousands of dollars a month, quickly draining the budgets of most small enterprises or startups that are bootstrapping their way toward the marketplace.
Aside from the savings, another reason that remote work has become so popular is the advent of both collaborative platforms for sharing, collecting, and managing work, as well as the rapid increases in Internet accessibility in countries around the world. The variety of tools like Asana, Slack, Pivot Tracker, Trello, and many more that allow for digitally managing teams and projects have made it easier than ever for domestic entrepreneurs and project managers to oversee workers around the world. This also means savings in office space, since your team does not need to be centrally located in a brick and mortar location anymore.
When companies use these terms, they are indicating their staffing focus in regards to using remote workers for whatever tasks they need. Companies that are remote friendly prioritize their hiring domestically, with a more traditional staffing focus, while outsourcing some tasks or workflows to remote workers.
In contrast to this, companies that identify as remote first are exactly that – they primarily use remote workers for nearly all company needs, with a founder or manager domestically managing an entirely offshore team of workers. As far as your company and which approach you should choose, this is largely determined about the features and services you plan to provide your users and customers. While there are massive savings in overhead to be had by being a remote first company, depending on what your company does, it simply may not be feasible.
Generally there are three categories of remote workers available to anyone hiring for their company or project. First, there are onshore employees – workers that live within the United States, albeit it in a different state or region of the country. While there are some savings to be had in searching the country for developers looking for work, as stated above, generally onshore workers will not give you the discounted rates that help smaller companies or startups with staffing needs.
The second category of remote workers are termed nearshore workers. This category generally refers to remote workers located within the same general region of the globe, while not in the same country. Usually, nearshore encompasses developers working in Central and South America, including Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, and Brazil. Nearshore developers offer entrepreneurs and project managers an outstanding combination of discounted hourly or project rates, as well as employees that work in the same general time zone, have similar cultural anchors in being in the Americas region, and a few more benefits that we will expand upon later in this guide.
The final group of remote workers are termed offshore workers, and the major difference here is that offshore workers are largely located in areas like Europe and Asia, significantly further afield from the continental United States. Offshore workers offer similarly steep discounted rates from domestic (onshore!) employees, but there are some downsides to using them as well. For one, with many offshore workers located either in Eastern Europe or Southeast Asia, collaboration becomes much more difficult with time zone differences of 7-12 hours depending on their home base. A secondary issue is language and cultural barriers – while the number of English-fluent offshore workers has increased over the past few years, many of the developers and designers still speak only rudimentary English, which makes understanding instructions and especially delivering content and copy very difficult and, in some cases, not worth the discounted rates. Finally, reliability from that far afield can be an issue as well – while nearshore locations are still only a fairly short plane ride away from the States, traveling to the Phillipines or Bosnia to oversee staff and check progress can wipe out any savings your company realizes from outsourcing your work in the first place.
Nearshore offers most U.S. based startups and project managers the best combination of savings and security in choosing to take your company, or at least parts of it, remote and offshore. As stated before, you will still realize significant discounts from the rates of domestic employees by opting to source your development and design work through Latin America instead. This means you get the same benefits as using offshore workers, while still finding a way to maximize your project or startup budget.
The bigger benefits to using nearshore workers, as opposed to offshore workers specifically, are convenience and security. The ability to contract out work to remote employees who are still at most a few hours off your schedule makes collaborating for standup calls, meetings, and coding check-ins significantly easier than with remote workers located 7-10 hours off the domestic schedule. This also means that you can reach out your remote employees during normal business hours with questions or, especially important for startups, emergency coding needs. Imagine your site crashing while your developers are fast asleep across the world? Not a pretty picture.
Equally convenient are the lesser cultural and language barriers that nearshore workers offer U.S. companies. While language barriers may still exist, many nearshore developers are fluent in English (or Spanish, which is generally a much easier barrier for U.S. employers to overcome) and also more culturally similar to U.S. workers. Whether that’s the same Netflix shows, the same religious and social conventions, or even the same vacation destinations, integrating nearshore employees with your existing team can be much easier when the cultural barriers are minimal.
Finally, hiring employees in locations like Mexico or Central America also offers a significantly better opportunity to do site visits and team meetings, or to bring employees in to the States for the same reason. Flights are shorter, significantly cheaper, and much more plentiful than attempting to visit a team in the Philippines. As such, the chances for oversight as a manager in the U.S. of nearshore employees offer much greater control over your remote staff.