As someone who’s had my fair share of hiring good and bad freelance developers for my own business, I’ve learned that finding the right one is not easy. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that finding the right developer for my business was one of my biggest challenges during the first few years of starting my own business. After going through about six different development teams, I finally found the right one for my business last year. In this guest blog from Vinati Kamani, she shares some useful tips on the best practices and pitfalls to keep in mind when hiring a freelance developer for your business . . . 

Transforming your passion project from an idea to reality requires technical know-how and coding prowess. In the initial days of getting your startup off the ground, the financial crunch and limited access to resources make hiring freelancers a lucrative option.

When creating your own business, access to the right technical resources can turn out to be the difference between your success and failure. While hiring freelance developers make financial sense and can result in cost savings for your venture, making the wrong choice can turn out to be a costly mistake.

Here are the Do’s and Don’ts that you need to consider before signing on a freelance developer to work on your dream project.

Must-do’s while hiring a freelancer

1. Consider the shortcomings associated with freelancers

The biggest advantage of hiring freelancers is obviously the potential of saving up on elaborate development costs. The flip side is the relative lack of accountability they bring to the table. An age-old saying goes, “Cheap can be expensive” and it completely rings true when hiring freelancers.

Before finalizing on taking the freelance developer route, you need to consider its shortcomings and whether it is a good fit for your development requirements. It is also important that you consider the alternatives available like staff augmentation or outsourcing your development to see if these are more viable options for you.

Don’t just make cost the primary consideration for taking up the hiring decision. Other factors like code quality, maintainability and scalability, developer accountability and availability need to be taken into consideration. Take a far-sighted approach from the beginning and you ensure that you are in it for the long run

2. Be clear on the specifications and expectations

Once you decide to hire a freelance developer, there needs to be absolute clarity about the expectations and project specifications. Freelancers are only as good as the development brief provided to them.

Make sure you provide them with the concise documentation making it absolutely clear what your requirements from them are. There needs to be clarity regarding the project timelines and milestones, key deliverables that the developer is expected to deliver, the payment schedule beforehand.

This a good strategy to develop consensus regarding the key points within the agreement and ensuring that both the parties come up with a plan that is agreeable and mutually beneficial for both.

3. Keep the lines of communication open

Since most freelancers constitute a remote workforce, open channels of communication are critical for receiving updates and sending out the relevant feedback. Frequent and regular conversations about the upcoming milestones, features and timelines are essential to help you stay on top of things.

The communication needs to be a two-way effort. You need to be able to contact the freelancers and they should be able to convey their feedback to you as well. The inputs regarding the workflow of the project are important to get a technical viewpoint and may lead to the incorporation of features you may have missed out on during the conceptualization stage.

There are several collaboration tools including Basecamp, Jira, Asana etc that can help the development effort to progress seamlessly by establishing uninterrupted lines of communication.

Things not to do when hiring a freelancer

1. Do not hire without vetting first

The biggest problem with hiring freelance developers is the sheer abundance of their availability across the different freelancing platforms. Sourcing talent is comparatively easier but determining who would be the best fit for your project is a challenge. As a startup, you need freelancers who would be equally passionate about your project, if not more. Vetting the talent is your best bet to ensure accountability in the developers you hire.

Shortlisting freelancers from the existing talent pool can be accomplished by sourcing talent from platforms that offer pre-vetted talent. Staff augmentation is another viable option to raise accountability in the talent sourced.

When sourcing from conventional freelancing platforms, insist on having references and check for the feedback from previous employers. Ask them if you can get access to any of the previous development projects they may have worked on.

Any developer worth considering would always maintain a portfolio showcasing their previous work. A look into that is a reliable way of vetting the potential hires while choosing a freelance developer.

2. Do not keep price the primary consideration

When the finances are tight (which they would definitely be in the initial days of startup) it is tempting to choose a generalist freelancer who is cheaper to hire but don’t fall for that trap. Don’t be lured in by attractive development rates. Find someone who is a specialist and brings in significant value addition to your project, irrespective of the cost.

The advantage of getting experienced freelancers on board is that they are likely to have faced situations similar to yours in the previous projects they might have worked on and thus would be better equipped to deal with any challenges that arise in the due course of development. The resultant development time is likely to be shorter with consistency in quality of code written.

Sample hiring freelancers by asking them to work on a project that they would be required to work on a day to day basis as a trial run. The hiring decision needs to be based on the performance on your test rather than what they would cost to you. While more money isn’t a guarantee of quality, you only get what you pay for!

3. Do not miss out on signing a formal contract

Once you have found the perfect freelancer that fits the bill, it is time to finalize stuff. Do not rely on verbal agreements and get everything written down and signed. Having a signed contract with the developer has a two-fold benefit. This protects you from the risk of exposure and also lays down the foundation for the project which is now set in stone (or on paper).

Formal contracts are beneficial to the developers who would be working on your project as well. Since the project requirements are already pre-defined, there are no chances of scope creep occurring resulting in a discrepancy of deliverables.

With the scope, timelines and deliverables already outlines, the chances of friction become less. With the software specifications predefined and documented, you get time to plan ahead and imbibes reliability into the project timelines.

About Vinati Kamani, Guest Contributor

Vinati KamaniVinati Kamani writes about emerging technology and their applications across industries for Arkenea. She is an avid reader and self-proclaimed bibliophile. When not at her desk penning down articles or reading up on the recent trends, she can be found traveling to remote places and soaking up different cultural experiences.

About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.

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