The team is rallying around the idea, the boss is giving you the wink and the gun, everything feels right in the world — until the dread hits. Whoâs going to build it?
Hiring your first freelance developer can seem difficult, but it doesnât need to be. With the right plan in place and an understanding of your companyâs needs, finding the right freelancer for the job can be a largely painless process.
Iâve worked on both sides of this equation as an independent, freelance web developer and as someone whoâs run a large development team. Follow these steps to make the process smoother for both you and your new freelance partner.
How to Hire a Freelance Web Developer
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First, ask yourself: What do I need?
Before identifying a freelancer to work with, you should first know what youâre asking for. This should always be step number one. Are you looking to update some images on a web page? Do you need an entirely new site? Is it a mobile app? Is something wrong with your analytics? Do you need a new tool created?
The answer to any of these questions will set the tone for how you start your search, and who you ultimately hire.
Now that youâve identified the type of project, it’s time to think about the scope, and how your freelancer will fit into the equation. When you find that special someone, youâll want to tell them exactly what you need. Is it five pages and two emails? Whatâs the content of those pages? Do you have a design? Is any of the content dynamic? And most importantly, what’s the deadline?
Before you jump into the hiring process, make sure you can define everything up front. Donât leave anything to chance or assumptions — because we all know what happens when you assume, right?
Having all of this information ahead of time will help you identify the skill set youâre looking for in a developer (weâre not a one-size-fits-all solution), and ensure your project is completed to your expectations on schedule.
Another major benefit to scoping is that it will also help you avoid scope creep as your project progresses. Scope creep is bad. Itâs bad for you and itâs bad for the freelancer.
Itâs bad for you because it will cost extra money and will (probably) force you to miss your deadline. Itâs bad for the freelancer because they were working on a specific set of criteria that now is expanded upon or blown up. It will also (probably) prevent them from starting other projects on time which costs them money.
Second, ask yourself: Do I need a web developer?
Additionally, it’s important to consider that you may not need a web developer.
If you’re trying to find someone to help you create a subdomain or create a more personalized business site, you can use a CMS like HubSpot’s.
Where to Hire a Freelance Web Developer
Now that we know what exactly weâre hiring someone for, letâs go find your developer. Assuming you donât already have someone in mind, there are a number of places online where you can find strong developers.
Take a look at some previously completed projects. If you like what youâre seeing, reach out and ask questions, but be respectful. You havenât hired this person yet, so the time theyâre spending with you is time theyâre not spending on another project. When youâre confident youâve found your developer, itâs time to make a deal.
Letâs make a deal.
Youâve found your developer. You know what theyâre building. Now itâs time to get it down on paper. Handshakes are cool, as are verbal agreements, but make sure you get it in writing. This isnât to say that youâre going to get swindled. The reason you want a contract is so that you have your scope, your deliverables, and your timelines outlined. A contract will also give you the opportunity to build in check-ins, testing time, and a payment schedule (weâll get back to this).
Itâs also important to remember that this isnât a one way street. Your freelancer will — and should — have a say about the timeline and scope of the project. Remember: youâre hiring them because they have expertise in a field that you do not.
While I wouldnât say you should have implicit trust in someone you probably just met, you should respect their evaluation of the situation, and take it into account as you map out your project and the role they will play. If they tell you something isnât possible within a certain timeframe, or provide alternative options to accomplish your goals, you should listen and evaluate those options in relation to your goals.
Now here comes the tricky part, right? The money! Freelancers traditionally work in two ways, hourly or per project. The definitions are just how they sound. Hourly freelancers get paid for the time they work so you negotiate an hourly rate (Rate x Hours Worked = Pay). Per project freelancers work on a — you guessed it — per project basis, meaning you pay them an agreed upon fee for the project in total.
Two things to consider here:
- You get what you pay for. This isnât the place to skimp out. If youâre trying to save a buck, donât be surprised if the final project doesnât meet expectations or if the freelancer takes on a higher paying project in addition to yours. Before getting upset, put yourself in their shoes. Youâd expect to be paid fairly for your work, the freelancer expects the same.
- Be honest about your budget. If you only have a certain amount of money available, let the freelancer know and see if you canât work something out. Maybe the scope will have to change, maybe the fee will work after all. You donât know until you ask.
No matter what payment structure you agree to, put together a payment schedule. This will keep things on track. Freelancers will have different expectations. For some it will be a 50/50 split between the start and finish of a project. For others theyâll split it up into three (33%) or four (25%) installments. No matter what you agree to, do not pay for your project in full before the work is completed and delivered. Once youâve made a deal, itâs time to get to work.
This is where the magic happens.
Youâve hired your freelancer. They understand the ask. The final delivery date is agreed upon. Itâs time to send emails and texts every five minutes, right? Wrong.
Development, design, video editing, writing, and others, are all highly technical skills that require time and concentration. Let your freelancer do the job you hired them for. Itâs okay to reach out every once in a while if you havenât heard anything, but this is probably a good time to refer to the check-in schedule you added to your contract.
With that said, itâs still important that you make yourself available in case they have any questions. And remember, this isnât the time for scope creep or assumptions. This is the part where the work gets across the finish line.
What happens next?
The work has been delivered. It looks and functions great. Now what? Make sure you pay your freelancer. Whether this is where you part ways or before you start the conversation about your next project, please pay your freelancer.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jun 25, 2020 5:00:00 PM, updated June 26 2020