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What to Consider Before Hiring a Freelance Developer

June 17, 2022

We all love a good deal but hiring a freelance developer to code your website is risky. It can cost you more time and money than you might realize.

Consider this a cautionary tale. Here are four reasons why you shouldn’t hire a freelance developer and six questions to ask before you decide to work with one.

You’ll Spend Too Long Searching for Them

Chances are you’ll spend more time searching for developer talent than you will coding your website. Why? Because websites, like developers, come in all shapes and sizes. Some require PHP developers. Some require Java developers (not to be confused with JavaScript). Some require SQL developers. Do you know the difference? Most people don’t.

You need to be sure that who you’re hiring is well-versed in the type of code your website needs. And that can take a significant amount of time to figure this out. Time is money.

Software developers are also in hot demand everywhere. Job vacancies are up 11% with major tech companies like Amazon, Shopify, Google, Twitter, and Pinterest vying for top talent. Competition will be stiff in your search for coders.

You Get What You Pay For

It takes a tremendous amount of time to learn and perfect the necessary skills to be a web developer. The reality is that developer talent doesn’t come cheap. The average salary for a software engineer is $78,497 and it’s not uncommon for developers to make over $100,000/year.

We understand the temptation to experiment with freelance developers because we were once guilty of it. When tbk was working on its first website (over 13 years ago!), we tried to get the project done by hiring freelance talent. We eventually found a freelance developer in Sweden who worked with the “who’s who” of Hollywood to finish the job. But that was after but three failed attempts with dev shops in India.

If you’ve paid a very low price to hire a developer, the odds of being successful are not in your favour. Freelance web developers often take shortcuts and use band-aid fixes that aren’t sustainable over time. But you get what you pay for. If you’re willing to pay more and hire a reputable agency, you’ll still get what you pay for—but it’ll meet your and your customers’ high expectations.

Turnover and Scope Creep Delays

Eek. Scope creep. Changes to deliverables, miscommunications, and disagreements can all cause a website project to extend beyond what was originally agreed upon. Sometimes that means the project grinds to a halt and then you must hire someone new. Suddenly the “value” of having hired a cheap web developer wasn’t worth it.

Our agency often hears about problems with cheap coders that weren’t discovered until long after the project had begun. By then it’s too late. Or we’ll hear horror stories about how a freelance developer overpromised, got in over their head, and then seriously underdelivered. If they can’t deliver on the project, you’re back to square one, only now you’ve wasted time and money. People come to tbk when they can’t afford to fail.

Unicorns Often Realize Their Worth

You know what? Every now and again, you will meet a developer who’s up to snuff. They’re freelancing at a low rate and doing good work. You can’t believe your luck. But it usually doesn’t last long.

Freelance “unicorns” are typically quite junior in their career or naive to market compensation trends. As they gain experience and confidence, their rate goes up. Since they’re in high demand, they become too busy with other clients. Sometimes a company or agency will offer them a salary they can’t refuse, and they’ll close shop. It usually just a matter of time before what’s “too good to be true” becomes exactly that.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Developer

Considering hiring a freelance web developer? Here are six crucial questions to ask before you take that risk:

1. What education or certifications does the developer have?
Self-taught developers may be talented, but formal training helps ensure you’ve found a developer who’s committed to their craft and career. It demonstrates that they are in it for the long haul.

2. Does the developer have a portfolio?
No published portfolio could mean the developer is inexperienced or not particularly proud of their work. When reviewing a developer’s portfolio, ask yourself if it shines and meets your standards for what you expect in your website.

3. Can you interview the developer before hiring them online?
Your website is often the first impression of your brand. What impression do you have from the person who will be developing it? If you know someone who can help vet the freelancer’s skills, have your contact interview the freelancer.

4. How skilled is the developer in conversions and website compliance?
If you are seeking high-performing marketing conversions and/or website compliance, how does the freelancer claim to be able to deliver in these areas? Are they trained?

5. Does the freelancer have others that they can lean on?
A single developer may be a single point of failure for you if timelines loom; a backup is valuable insurance.

6. Does the developer have reputable references?
Talk with others who have worked with the web developer. Find references/reviews of their work on popular freelance websites to assess their suitability for your project.

The Safest Bet for Web Development

Hey, we all love a deal, but rolling the dice on something as important as your business’ website? That’s just reckless.

The safe bet is to contact a well-established marketing technology agency (like tbk) that has the collective skillset and hands-on experience to make your website project a success. We can make useful recommendations in minutes to help guide you.

If you’re interested in a well-designed and well-coded website, we’d love to talk. We have experience in custom WordPress websites, eCommerce websites, and Webflow websites, as well as custom software and intranet development.

Learn how tbk can make your business better.