[Few] shades of outsourcing or how to spot fraud before it ruins your day
Same as anyone remotely involved with IT, I get bombarded with unending streams of daily emails, calls, feeds and the like promising superior offshoring, nearshoring and all other kinds of remote technical help for fraction of what it should cost. Being a polite person, I occasionally respond to these sales pitches and over the years have come to gauge fairly well the background of these companies just from the way their sales message is crafted.
Jack of All Trades
This type of offer usually comes via email, listing different technologies that might not be compatible with each other. A shop that lists .NET, PHP (and all PHP frameworks), Google and iOS app development as its core technologies probably does not have a core technology. What it does have is a list of freelancers who will work either remotely or on premises at the shop. Because the shop acts strictly as intermediary, it does not have project management or quality control specialists familiar with specific technology. What it does have is sales people and “business analysts” whose job it is to take work orders and pass them to developers. In this type of configuration, no one cares about quality - developers are looking to make a quick buck, sales people are getting their commission, and “business analysts” are jaded by chop shop atmosphere to the point of not caring. This type of collaboration can be a truly amazing experience, as your work goes into production as soon as it starts to remotely make sense and gets delivered back as soon as it looks remotely done. Needles to say that, as a rule, deliverables have little or no relation to the original scope and the resulting code needs to be either completely redone or painfully reworked over considerable period of time. Now, it is certainly possible for a firm of certain size to handle multiple unrelated technologies, but it usually needs to have a headcount of 200 developers and up, at which point you will start running into process bureaucracy, issues with knowledge transfer between different groups working on your account, and significantly higher fees.
Lunch is on us ("gracious host")
Having firmly established bad rep for remote IT with “jack of all trades” approach, these same companies are now making a beeline to major markets with intent of putting a face on otherwise generic pitch. Usually the meeting will be with a company owner who has IT background and can handle business arrangements while discussing technical questions. The problem is that once relationship is established, tech-savvy company owner will be out of the picture, leaving you in the hands of his sales people, “business analysts” and eager 19-year-old developers.
No-cost redesign, deep discounts, package deal, or any type of sweet offer that reeks of a three card monte. Frankly, I never explored these and cannot fathom why anyone would.
Doom and gloom with an upside
Your website is outdated, has security flaws, does not rank high enough in search engines and is a total embarrassment. Never mind that you just performed security audit and all the code is beyond reproach - they got your name from a list and are hitting you with generic email, strictly playing percentages. Usually sent by Jack of All Trades, who will be happy to fix your hopelessly flawed website.
Short and straightforward
Usually comes from individual artist or developer, this is by far the most worthy candidate for review. The drawback is that a single person does not a project make, and you really do need a tiered team of project management (planning), development (implementation) and quality control that has worked together in specific technology over a period of time. But qualified individuals who reach out just at the precise time you need to scale are certainly worth pursuing, with a caveat that you still need someone already on your team to properly evaluate candidate's technical skills.
To sum it up, it certainly is an effort to spot the few honest vendors in the daily flood of junk. Hope this helped.