How much does a good developer cost?

10 is more than 5. Hiring a great developer for 10 a month costs twice as much as hiring a good developer for 5. Maybe you’re not building the next Google. Maybe you’re not working on processing petabytes of CERN experiment data. You probably don’t need a genius to write the code of your application. You hire the good one and pay less, then end up paying way more.

It’s not what you pay them, it’s what they cost you.

A good developer will write a good, simple piece of code that’ll work for your purpose. Then your business will change - expand, contract or simply shift - and the application will need to change. The good developer will comply and patch her original work to fit the new purpose. The cycle will continue, but with every change your developer will more often use words like “impossible”, “limitation” and “revamp”.

You will hear that the system was built for the original purpose some time ago. It now cannot handle the things you need it to handle. It needs to be built anew. How much will it take? One year. Two years. Forever.

The good developer’s design was limited by his abilities. It didn’t use the advanced, abstract features of your technology of choice. It did the job in the simplest way possible, without much thought put into later development. All the things a great developer would have planned for and done.

The good developer’s work cost you hundreds of thousands or millions in:

  • the business you lost because your system couldn’t support your changes,
  • the money you’ll have to pay to build the system anew.

It’s not what you pay them, it’s what they cost you.

The insane part? It’s the reality at most companies these days.

I make software. And other things. Mostly in Warsaw, Poland, from wherever there’s an Internet connection, power outlet and fresh coffee. I love to read and learn how the world works. You should follow me at @mpaluchowski.

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