Tips for Hiring Freelance Website Developers

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A colleague and I were comparing notes about our experiences on projects that required working with website developers on a 1099 rather than W-2 basis. We agreed to share it hoping the info might help customers as well as colleagues, and to get new ideas.

I owned and operated two photography studios for many years. New digital technology allowed many without the required skills and talents to enter the profession and caused downward pressure on prices. While not a bad thing, disruptive technology changes more than output: it changes process. Luck can sometimes look like competence until something goes wrong. By hiring someone, you are trusting your client relationship to a relatively unknown entity.

It’s the same in web design and development business. We have run into some freelance landmines over the years by making hiring decisions before getting answers to the right questions.

I see many similarities with quite a few WordPress developers. One-click installs, tens of thousands of plugins and themes, and reused code are some of the strengths of WordPress, but they can also be its pitfalls. Developers do not know what they do not know. It’s our job to find out.

Here are some of the questions we look to answer before making hires:

  • Check references. Hire a developer and you become a client. Talk to a few real clients to see how reliable and responsive your prospective hire is.
  • Check their work. Did they overdo plugins, particularly unsupported ones, use hacks, fail to use child themes, or neglect backups with little concern for the future?
  • How productive are they? Get a feel for what an hour of their time equates to in your time. Low-cost hires on crowd-sourcing sites can be falsely seductive.
  • How do they approach problems or contingencies? Stuff goes wrong and scopes change. Know what the total costs are.
  • Ask about a warranty period. We offer clients a 30-day warranty after launch. After that, everything is new work. What kind of support can you expect?
  • How long has your candidate been in business? We love working with new talent. However, many come and go because of school, career, or family. While longevity alone is not a guarantee of success, one does need a certain degree of client relationship skills to hang in for the long-term.
  • If the project has a tight timeline, have a backup developer in mind. Many times, we had an agreement with a developer that was worthless because they were over-committed and moved to a $10k project that became available after agreeing to our $1k job.

Before moving to Western MA, Dan launched his career in New York in advertising and public relations, where he worked with some of the country’s top brands. Dan also has many years’ experience in small-business and corporate marketing, finance, franchise business operations and field consulting. In 2005, Dan became the first area president of TruePresence, a national internet marketing firm specializing in web design and search engine marketing. Dan’s clients have included Johnson & Johnson, Sears, Warner-Lambert, Monsanto and Pepsi, but he prefers the individuality of his smaller business clients. Dan launched The Green Internet Group to help business owners fully leverage the digital marketing and social media by offering results driven marketing planning, consulting, training and creative services.

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