hiring developer
A Business Owners’ Guide To Web Developers

If you’re an online small business, success relies on your ability to connect with customers and generate sales reliably through your digital platform. It takes more than just hard work, good design or clever copywriting to make this happen. You need a website that works. Any web errors, bugs or downtime are likely to prove costly.

Fixing them might be straightforward if you’ve used an off-the-shelf package. If there’s a bespoke element to your website, it can be more challenging unless you’re a coder yourself.

This is where hiring a freelance web developer comes in. A developer, as opposed to a designer, is an expert in the back-end of websites, ideal if there’s a mysterious Gremlin in the machine that needs finding and ironing out.

They come in various flavours including specialising in particular platforms (WordPress, Wix and Squarespace for example) as well as different aspects of e-commerce such as ‘front-end’ user experience management or ‘back-end’ data management. 

Web Developer Platforms

Finding Freelance Web Developers

Hiring a freelancer to work on your issue short-term is the best way to avoid spending excessive amounts of money and time on what is essentially an IT support issue. To help any freelance engagement run smoothly, we’ve created a list of top tips for you starting with how to find the right person.

Ask For Developer Recommendations

Searching online can feel a little like a lottery, so we’d always recommend checking with your business contacts, including suppliers, for personal recommendations first. Who have they worked with? Who has fixed things for them? Who did they like working with?

There is a Catch-22 concerning the best freelance developers in that they typically work by word-of-mouth rather than advertising, which, of course, makes them difficult to find.

Search In The Right Places

If you draw a blank with personal recommendations, you can increase your chances of finding a professional through the right channel. Numerous online platforms have sprung up of late dedicated to matching freelancers with projects.

Examples include:

Upwork
Bark
Toptal
Freelancer

Each has its own rating and customer feedback system, which means you can do your research before drawing up a shortlist to ask for quotes.

 

Hiring a Freelance Web Developer

As a minimum, you need to make sure the developer you hire has the skills needed to fix or upgrade your website. To do this, you should review their portfolio and previous work. Also, they need to have experience with the right software tools – remembering new versions are often released.  Thirdly, you’ll want someone responsive and willing to communicate regularly about progress. 

Web developers ought to be more than just coding number crunchers too. Good ones understand design, marketing and sales and should understand the business challenges you are facing.

It is always worth asking some questions about their recent work.

What type of projects have you worked on?

What industry sectors have you worked in?

What types of websites have you fixed/upgraded lately?

How long does it typically take to complete a project?

What is the average value of work you undertake?

(It may be your job is too big or too small for them).

You should also ask them to provide examples of their work. You needn’t necessarily understand the details but it’s important to understand how they resolved an issue to their client’s satisfaction.

It’s also worth having a few conversations to see if they fit with you in terms of communication style and personality too. These can be as important as technical skills and price. A good fit saves you time, money and energy in the long run.

Briefing a Web Developer

Once you’ve found someone who meets all your criteria, it’s time to get down to business. The key to success is being clear about what you expected. This can be a challenge as web and e-commerce developer language and vocabulary can be challenging, but don’t worry. Just make sure you know exactly what needs to be done. Be wary of loose terms like ‘make it work’, ‘fix it’ or ‘improve things’. Your developer might have a different view as to what such phrases mean.

If you’re not sure what you need, it is best to separate a diagnostic task, finding out what’s wrong, from the work itself. For example, identifying a database clashing error might be relatively straightforward. Fixing the issue, however, might not be. You may need to pause and do some research before moving forward with a solution.

planet organic case study

You can put a formal brief in place, but be aware it is likely to change. E-commerce websites are increasingly complex machines. Discover one thing, and you might find it is a symptom of something else. Move or change something and there might be knock-on effects elsewhere. This is normal, and developers can often disappear down rabbit holes of further exploration and fixing. This is great unless it ends up costing you more money. Be clear about how you want new discoveries and changes managed within any contract between you. It is best to do this before you start to avoid surprises and extra charges.

You’ll likely have to fix a website during the operation of your business without having the required skills yourself. Turning to a freelance web developer makes sound economic sense, but can be daunting. However, through making mistakes the Almond team has learned success comes from two factors – spending time upfront to find the right people to work with and having the confidence to explain exactly how you want to work. With those two weapons in your armoury, you can definitely increase the likelihood of success.

If you need advice on any aspect of digital marketing or e-commerce, contact the Almond team. We would be delighted to help.