No matter what your role is, it’s never easy to hire a freelance software developer for your company. This task can be even more challenging when you’re not a developer and don’t come from a technical background. Say you play a key business or creative role and you know you need the help of a developer for your current project or to help scale your company long term, but you couldn’t begin to tell the difference between Ruby and PHP. Cue the heavy breathing. But have no fear–this guide will help you crush the hiring process.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind when hiring a freelance developer:
You might feel like you can’t waste a second before that project deadline, but it’s important to slow down and take your time when looking for and evaluating freelance developers. What exactly do you need from the freelancer? What skills do they need to have to execute the project? Is this a short-term or a long-term project? In most cases, you’re going to want to look for quality, not quantity. There are a lot of sites out there like Freelancer or PeoplePerHour with hundreds of thousands of freelancers chomping at the bit to work on your project for a low price, but don’t just rush to hire a bunch of freelancers just because you need a project done quickly. More often than not, if you hire a freelancer without taking the time to evaluate his or her skills, you’ll end up paying for it in the long run when you have to go back and correct sloppy work.
Part of taking enough time to hire a freelancer is testing whether their skill set aligns with your needs, and whether they’re really as good as they say they are. “Proficient” means different things to different people. Any freelance developer worth hiring should be willing to go through at least a few evaluations, such a skills tests or tests projects to prove their level of expertise.
Don’t limit your screens to technical tests. You also need to know how their personalities mesh (or don’t) with yours and your other team members’. Use your interview a personality screen: is this someone you’re going to be excited about getting on the phone with? Are you going to be anxious about them flaking on a call? You might find the most skilled developer out there, but if they’re difficult to work with, it’s always better in the long run to find someone who understands your company’s culture and shows stellar communication skills from the first point of contact. Not sure what kind of skills tests to administer or whether or not a freelancer will mesh with your team? That’s where the next point comes in.
It’s important to keep in mind that while you may be doing the hiring, your freelance developer will likely spend as much, if not more time working with other members of your team. So if you’re not sure what you’re looking for in a candidate or how to test them, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your colleagues. No team wants to have to work with an incompetent or incompatible colleague, so odds are you’ll find that they’ll be happy to help out, administer skills reviews, and give their input on candidates. Use the resources you already have!
Now that you know what to look for, here are some places to start looking:
1) Personal networks
Sometimes the right freelancer for your company’s needs will be just a phone call or email away. Don’t shirk your personal network. It’s worth putting out a few feelers to your friends and colleagues to see if you know someone (who knows someone who knows someone, etc.) with skills that match your needs. The downsides to this approach? Depending on how large your search pool is, you might not find what you’re looking for. On top of that, you might not want to get business mixed up with pleasure. Next year’s Thanksgiving might be a little awkward after you hire your developer cousin thinking he has the skills you need and end up having to let him go when it turns out he exaggerated his experience. The plus side is that when you hire someone through a referral, the chances that you get along both professionally and personally are very high.
2) Job board
You’ve most likely heard of job boards like Indeed, Monster, or Upwork, and you can bet that a ton of job-seekers are will respond to a posting on one of these sites. But is it going to be worth the money you’ll spend posting your job? While these sites definitely get a lot of traffic, they’re not necessarily tailored to developers and they don’t do their own vetting. On top of that, you’ll have to manually sort through all of the applications and resumes you’ll receive in response to your posting. If you have the time and budget for that process, go for it! But if efficiency is key to you, it might be worth checking out a dedicated freelancer network.
3) Dedicated freelancer network
Yep, there are sites out there that are dedicated solely to freelance developers looking for jobs and employers looking to hire them. Our favorite is Toptal because of the quality of their freelancers and how easy it is to find a developer you really mesh with. Toptal only accepts the top 3% of freelancers who apply to be part of their network. That means that everyone you’ll find through Toptal has already passed a comprehensive battery of skill-based, interpersonal, and English language tests. A real person from Toptal’s team calls you to get an understanding of your needs and then handpicks one or two developer who they believe will both meet your project’s needs and fit in with your company’s culture. The best part? You get a two-week trial period with your freelancer, and if you’re not satisfied, you don’t pay. All things considered, this is your most efficient and painless option.
Hiring a developer as a non-developer can seem like a daunting task, but there are tons of options out there. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and find some talent.