How to Hire a Freelance Web Developer – Part 1

28 November
  • freelance, web, business

Contracting work out to a freelance web developer or programmer is a great way to complete technical work without taking on the resources and commitment of hiring a new employee. It also means you can work with an expert who has lots of relevant experience and expertise, and who would be hard to recruit and expensive to retain.

Let’s be honest though: hiring a good freelancer can be difficult. If you type ‘How to Hire a Freelance Web Developer’ into Google, as I did just now, it spits back 1.1 million results in just under half a second. Given the dizzying array of information and resources out there, how do you find someone who will be right for your business and your project? We’ve all heard horror stories of freelancers abandoning projects halfway through, or going silent at the most crucial point of the project, so how can you separate the wheat from the chaff?

Despite all those reports of bad experiences with freelancers, there are still many reliable and skilled people out there. If you take the right approach from the start, you will be far more likely to find someone who will deliver work on time and on budget. Here’s my guide to successfully hiring a freelance web developer.

Before starting the project

  • Understand the job

    Make sure you understand the purpose of the project and share this with the developer from the start. A good developer will be able to understand the business driver for your project or product. This can benefit the project and your business, and ensure you and the developer are on the same page from the beginning. They can propose time-saving solutions and potentially suggest dropping large and expensive non-critical features.

  • Know your budget

    It will be useful to know your budget. The conversation with the freelancer will move much more efficiently. They can tell you what they can do on budget, and you will be able to see early on if it's simply not enough.

    Sometimes you may not know your budget from the start, and that's fine. Try your best to find out a ballpark figure so that you both can assess whether the project and budget can work.

Finding the right person

You probably won’t be able to find a developer who ticks all the boxes. What you are looking for is a good fit given the circumstances of your project. After an open discussion with the developer you can better determine the areas in which you are happy to compromise, which will help ensure a happy working relationship.

  • Relevant work

    Ideally, you will find someone who has completed similar types of technical work in the past. When it comes to web development, the industry in which the developer previously worked doesn’t matter quite as much as you might think. For example, if you need someone to build a video website for online learning, you would do best to search for someone who has produced a website with videos, regardless of the sector, rather than someone who has made websites within the education sector that do not facilitate videos. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, though, so make your own judgement.

  • Local

    This is more of a nice-to-have, but I believe that nothing beats a face-to-face to ensure that everyone is on the same page. It’s ideal but probably needn’t be a deal-breaker. Skype and other video conferencing tools can plug the gap if necessary.

  • Good portfolio

    You want to find a developer who has created (and finished) quite a few websites and products. Of course, some freelancers are just getting into the game and may not have much experience, but they should have something to show.

  • References from other clients

    It’s always a great sign if they have references from their existing clients. Check which projects they relate to in their portfolio, which can give more context to their work.

Once you’ve found a good developer, you need the project to run smoothly. Find out my tips on how to work through a project with a freelance web developer in part 2.