So you’ve decided that you need to hire a freelance web developer, but aren’t sure where to start. Lots of people find themselves in this position. If this is the first time you’ve ever looked for a web contractor to work with, you may feel overwhelmed. But don’t worry, this guide will shed light on the process! Keep reading to find out more
Do You Already Have a Website?
The first thing to consider is whether you already have an existing website, or whether you’re starting from scratch.
If you don’t have a website yet, you’re free to hire from a wide range of developers and have them suggest what technology to use for the site. On the other hand if you’re already got a site, you’ll have to hire a developer familiar with your tech.
If you have a WordPress site, you’ll need to hire a developer familiar with WordPress. If your site runs on Joomla or Shopify or Rails or Flask or Laravel, again you’ll need a developer who matches. This is the first step in narrowing down the list of available developers. If you’re not sure what technology your site is built on you’ll need to find out.
One way to do this is to briefly hire a web developer to audit your website and find out what “tech stack” you’re running on. That info points you towards the subset of programmers with the skills to match your needs.
So What Makes a Good Web Developer?
Whether you’ve got an existing website and have now identified what tech your developer needs to be familiar with, or you’re starting from scratch, you can now turn your focus towards the developer. What exactly makes a good web developer? How do you know who to hire?
Communication – this is arguably the most important quality a contractor can have, no matter what the field. If your developer disappears for weeks at a time, you’re not going to be able to rely on them. This may seem obvious, but I feel it needs to be stated that communication is extremely important. While a lot of developers may be difficult to get on the phone, they should always be reachable via email within 48 hours on weekdays. Bonus points if your developer is ever available on weekends!
Expect to pay anywhere from $100 – $300 per hour for good web development work from a contractor.
If you’re working with an agency instead, you’ll pay $300+ per hour.
While you can outsource internationally for less than this, You absolutely get what they pay for.
What to Watch Out For
Part-timers and moonlighters: these are folks who do web development on the side. This may be great for building out new features, but not so great for responding to bugs or issues during business hours. You’ll want to make sure you can actually reach your developer during the day. If your contractor is at a full-time job all day, you may not be able to get the attention your website needs.
Low rates: if someone offers you a website for $200, you’d better think twice. Someone willing to work for $10 or $20/hr in the US will not be an experienced programmer. Maybe the rate looks great and is cheaper than every other offer you’ve gotten. The problem is that the contractor charging the discounted rate is still very early in their career. Perhaps they have no portfolio or little experience. They may be a great value option for simple tasks, but when shit hits the fan they won’t have the skill or expertise required to calmly correct the issue. When your website gets hacked and every public photo you have is replaced with vulgar images, there’s no way a noobie programmer fresh out of college will have any idea how to identify the security hole, patch it, recover data, and harden your system to prevent future issues. Remember that your piece-of-mind relies on how many years of experience your developer has to adapt to any issues you’ll face along your website ownership journey. If you rely on your website, make sure you can rely on your developer.