Hiring a Developer

So you’re just about to launch your very first business. You’ve got the idea, the target market, the name, and maybe even a sweet layout from running a contest on 99designs.

Now all you need is a developer to string it all together.

But how do you find one that’s going to do an awesome job?

When you’re just starting out, it can be hard to know how to hire the right person, especially if you’ve never hired anyone in any of your previous jobs.

Where do you go to hire developers? How do know which ones are going to do a good job? And how do you evaluate them in a skill that you (presumably) don’t possess?

There are a lot of stellar developers out there, but there are also a lot of horrible ones. So picking the right person for the job from the get-go will save you a lot of time and frustration upfront. Plus if you meet the right person, you can turn to them in the future for all of your development projects.

So how do you hire that one awesome developer that you can work with time and time again?

I promise you that it’s going to get easier the longer you run a business and the more people you hire.

But in the meantime, here’s a step-by-step procedure you can follow that virtually guarantees you’ll get a great person right off the bat.

1. Create an account on Upwork

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If you don’t know about Upwork already, it’s a great site for finding talented freelancers (developers, writers, accountants, etc.) at a price that doesn’t break the bank. I’ve met a great number of talented people through sites like these who I still work with every time I need a new project handled.

The way the site works is that you create a posting for a job that you want filled. Then freelancers will bid on your job at an hourly or set rate, as well as post a proposal on how they would solve your problem.

Your main issue will be sorting out who the actually good developers are amidst the dozens of proposals that you’re sure to receive. Anyone can say that they have experience doing jobs like the one you’ve posted, that they thrive on deadlines or are incredibly easy to work with. But how do you know what they’re saying is actually true?

There are a few steps you can take to ensure that you’re working with a top performer. For starters:

2. Make sure your job description is as detailed as possible

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Freelancers aren’t mind readers. Even if they have the experience that you’re after, they may not apply to your job if they don’t understand your requirements.

That means don’t post a one-line ad saying something like, “I need a developer to put my website together.”

Write down exactly what you’re going to provide (layout, copy, etc.) and what you need them to do.

Here’s a list of what you should include in your job ad

  • what you’re going to provide the developer with (layout, copy, etc.)
  • the specific end goal of this project (eg. getting this app to work, putting my website up, etc.)
  • any specific programs or languages your ideal applicant should know
  • the project deadline
  • if there’s a possibility of on-going work later on

If you’re not actually sure what you need and require an experienced developer to do a bit of a consult first to walk you through what would work best for your goals, write that down too. Some developers will be happy to do this, but others will be turned-off.

By being as specific as possible, you’ll cut down on the messages from people who aren’t a great fit or aren’t interested in your project.

Unfortunately, there are some freelancers who bid on EVERY job without even reading the description. So writing a detailed job description doesn’t mean you’re only going to have qualified applicants apply.

I’ve heard of other entrepreneurs who deal with this problem by putting some kind of code word in the job description so that you can quickly tell who read your ad or not.

For example, at the end of the job description, you can write something like, “Please start off your application with the words PINK POODLE so that I know you’ve read it.” Then you only take a look at applications from people who’ve followed this rule.

It’s really up to you if you want to do this. But I find that it’s pretty obvious right away if someone has taken the time to read my post, so it’s really not necessary.

3. Choose a developer with high ratings and lots of reviews

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Alright, so you’ve written a detailed job description and now the applications are just pouring in. Who do you choose?

Applicants who obviously haven’t read the job application are easy to eliminate. Same with people who are rude or write incredibly bad proposals.

But you’ll likely have dozens of similar proposals from people who all seem like they might be the right person for the job.

One of the great features about Upwork is that you can see right away how many jobs someone has completed and how their previous clients have rated them.

For each one of the applicants that you’re interested in, take a quick look at their profile. Have they done a lot of developing jobs? Have most of the ratings been 5 stars or more?

If the answer is yes, then you can be pretty confident that they’re as good as they say they are.

You should also take a look at what previous clients have actually written about the developer you’re considering, rather than just their raw numbers. These will give you good indicators as to whether that freelancer is easy-to-work with, can hit deadlines, and actually knows what they’re talking about.

These kinds of developers are the ones that you should be trying out on your project. Because of their experience, they do tend to be more highly priced than the other freelancers. But you tend to get what you pay for here, so if you’re just looking at the cheapest options, you’re not going to end up with someone who’s going to do a good job.

That said, there are good developers out there who are just starting out, which means they’ll probably have a lower starting rate. They’ll also have fewer reviews or jobs than you might be comfortable with.

But if you just get a good vibe off of someone’s proposal and want to try them out, there’s no reason you can’t go for it. Just make sure you understand that you’re taking more of a chance than you would be by going with someone with a significant number of feedback and previous job experience.

4. Have your developer do a small project first

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No matter how good someone’s proposal and profile is, you’re still not going to know with absolute certainty how good they are at their job without actually sending some work their way.

Once you’ve found someone that you want to try out, the key is to give them a SMALL project to start out with. Maybe something that should take them 4-5 hours, tops.

If your candidate is as good as they say they are, then you can sign off on them and give them all of your future projects.

And if they’re not, you haven’t had to suffer through months of missed deadlines or poor communication.

It’s important to note that even if you’re relatively certain that the developer you’ve chosen is a good one, you shouldn’t skip this step.

Sometimes personalities don’t mesh and even though they’re doing a good job, you would rather not have to deal with them for months on end. There’s also the possibility that someone that sounded good isn’t adept at following directions or meeting deadlines.

By following these four major guidelines when hiring a developer, you should be able to get a good person for the job each and every time you need someone.

If you’re really lucky, you can just keep calling on that same person over and over again for all of your future work. They’ll be happy to receive the project, and you’ll be happy to be working with someone who already intimately understands your business and what you want.

Screening potential developers at this kind of level DOES mean it will be more work upfront for you. But believe me, do it right and put the time in at the beginning. It will pay off 100x over for your business later on.