How to Hire Freelance Software Developers?
Are you hiring freelance software developers for the first time? Maybe you simply want to shake up your existing development team? Either way, you likely have a lot of questions about it and we’re here to answer all of them.
While hiring software programmers sounds like a walk in the park, a couple of bad experiences can quickly put you off of this idea and make it seem difficult.
- Maybe you have no idea where to look for freelancers.
- Maybe you are not quite sure what you’re looking for.
- Maybe you are wondering how to pick the right person.
- Maybe you are feeling anxious about building a great professional relationship with freelance programmers.
- Maybe you had an experience with pricey developers who promised miracles and delivered lackluster results.
- Maybe you made some mistakes.
Well, we have good news for you. None of these things mean you should give up on your dream developer. Hiring freelance software developers can be both easy and beneficial for your business if you know how and where to look for them. Now let’s learn the secrets to finding a perfect freelancer.
Who is a Freelancer?
Simply put, a freelancer is a professional working remotely for any employer on a non-permanent basis. They are hired on a temporary contract for certain projects and are not full-time, "on the payroll" employees. Some of the most popular freelance fields include IT, software development, and editing, proofreading, and writing.
Successful freelancers have to possess certain traits that enable them to juggle several clients at the same time and maintain a certain level of quality in their work. These traits include discipline, good organization, persistence, and a proactive attitude.
Pros and Cons of Freelancers for Employers
Employers, who have a choice between traditional and freelance workers always face the same dilemma - which one is better? We addressed this topic in greater detail in this remote developers vs. full-time developers showdown, but here’s the digest version.
In the world of software development, freelancers win by a mile.
Firstly, the expenses of hiring and onboarding freelance developers are minimal. With full-time employees, they can reach up to $400 for small and mid-size businesses and $4,000 for large companies.
With freelance talent, access to highly-skilled professionals isn’t limited to the location of your office. With a talent pool of thousands of great developers, you can hire talent from anywhere in the world and stick to your list of requirements.
Freelance developers are also more affordable. When freelancers work for you, you don’t have to think about insurance, benefits, and accounting - you simply pay for the work done.
Software development is a tricky industry because very few developers are highly experienced with everything you may need when building software. With freelance workers, you have greater flexibility when it comes to organizing your projects. You can easily hire highly-skilled professionals for specific tasks and project milestones, without spending money or time on training your full-time employees.
Some of the cons of freelance developers include a lack of supervision and communication. When you hire remote teams, keeping everyone up to date and on top of their toes is not an easy feat. Finally, full-time employees are more dedicated to the company compared to freelancers. However, these cons are not insurmountable. We’ll show you how to overcome them.
Is Freelancing the Future of Employment?
The numbers say yes. It all began when the gig economy opened the world of flexible opportunities for both employers and freelancers. Industry giants, especially in the IT sector, boarded the gig economy train due to the ever-evolving nature of their respective industries.
At the moment, freelancing is a sole source of income for 56.7 million people in the U.S. alone. In several years, half of the country’s workforce is predicted to have at least one side-job. So what does this spell for the future of employment?
- The number of freelance workers will grow, but this will also create a significant challenge for employers when it comes to finding, hiring and keeping top talent
- More large corporations will turn to freelancers
- The number of fully remote businesses will grow
- As large swaths of the workforce turn to gigs, freelancers will be in a position to negotiate better work terms, such as minimum wage or health benefits
When you look at the big picture, one detail sticks out - it will become more difficult to find the right talent. That doesn’t mean impossible.
How to Hire Software Developers
Before you embark on your search for a perfect software developer, there is one thing you have to understand - software development. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to become a developer yourself.
However, you have to understand how development works to be able to set realistic expectations when it comes to the developer’s expertise, experience, rates, as well as the project’s pace, deadlines, and final cost.
If you don’t know much about software development, consult someone who does and compile a list of requirements.
- Be as specific as possible. Clearly state what your goals and requirements are. Don’t look for “ninjas”, “gurus”, “terminators”, etc. For example, a good job posting states the following:
- State whether you expect your freelancer to work on your project as a full-time job or a part-time job
- State your budget and your desired timeline
- State any degrees, certifications, and skills required or preferred.
- State what software or format your project will be using
If you are looking to hire freelance developers, you can find more details in this guide to hiring angular developers. When screening potential freelancers for any project, be realistic. Don’t expect someone with 10 years of experience to work for peanuts, and don’t expect young people with affordable rates to know every programming language that exists.
Define the requirements that are non-negotiable and determine which ones you’re willing to budge on. When you are vetting the applicants, follow these steps:
- Read any ratings or reviews about the applicant from former employers, supervisors, or even colleagues (if you’re looking for a team player)
- Look at the applicant’s portfolio. If you have any suspicion that the applicant is presenting plagiarized samples, follow up with the employer who commissioned the project
- Present a test project. This is a simple project that will help you see if the applicant has the required credentials. It will also show you whether their way of thinking is compatible with your creative vision.
- Once the applicant passes the test, present a project plan, agree on rates, availability, the scope of the project, milestones, and deadlines, and you can begin!
Sounds simple? Well, not so fast. How quickly you get to this final point depends largely on the way you look for the freelance software developers. So let’s see how and where you’ll find them.
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1. Hire developers using cold outreach
If you decided to hire a freelance software developer on your own, there are several ways you can go about it.
If you have connections in the IT industry, the easiest way is to ask for recommendations or post a classical job offer in ad listings. You can assess the candidates in short interviews - face to face or via messages/phone calls. This is a traditional way to hire workers. The only difference is that you don’t hire them full time. The two of you can agree to sign a contract according to the laws of your state, and the freelancer can begin working.
What are the pros of traditional hiring practices? If the freelance worker is recommended by someone you trust or comes from professional circles that are familiar to you, you have a certain level of assurance that they will do a good job. This way of hiring software developers also allows you to vet the candidate and communicate regularly with them.
However, if the freelancer abandons your project mid-way or yields unsatisfactory results, there is little you can do about it. Unlike online freelancing platforms, this way of hiring doesn’t offer much protection - for you or the worker.
Hiring on social networks
Another way to hire freelancers is to utilize social networks.
Being a professional social network, LinkedIn is the first and best choice when it comes to finding talent. LinkedIn is a hub for professionals with a variety of backgrounds and qualifications. A perk of sites like these is that you have the means to filter applicants according to your desired specifications.
Specifications may include qualifications, skills, education, experience, recommendations, and even rates. Hourly rates of software developers depend on all of these factors. You can search for the right candidates who are open to job opportunities - another special feature on LinkedIn, allowing employers to see which professionals are available for full-time jobs or gigs. Another way is to simply post a job offer - either as a regular or boosted post, and wait for the applications.
You can do a similar thing on Facebook. There are plenty of Facebook groups that connect employers and freelancers, but you should look for the ones with a large number of members and serious administrator teams. These groups usually have strict rules for employers and freelancers in terms of minimum hourly rates, types of offers, and communication. While these groups don’t offer advanced search features like LinkedIn, they can be a good source of top talent.
Just like traditional hiring, looking for applicants on Facebook, and LinkedIn has its limitations. You cannot always vet the candidates properly, and there isn’t much protection for either of you if you encounter problems.
So, what’s the remaining option?
2. Hire developers on freelancing platforms
When you enlist the help of professional freelance marketplaces (such as Hiremotely, Upwork, or Toptal) you are putting the legwork of hiring a freelancer into the hands of a hiring platform.
Initially, freelance platforms were built with the idea of simply connecting workers and employers. They flourished as they turned into systems where the entire workflow could take place, incorporating payment options, communication channels, workflow organization, and mediation. Finally, all of these platforms matured when their model shifted to minimizing risk and creating a seamless working experience both for the employers and freelancers.
The freelancing platform you choose to work with will have a profound effect on your business. Different platforms attract freelancers with various skillsets, hourly rates, and expectations. Over time, some of these marketplaces became notorious for cheap, low-quality work, which is something you want to avoid in software development.
Pros of Freelance Platforms
On the other hand, with the right freelance platform, you can easily gain access to top talent with a specific skill set you need for your short term and long term projects. These platforms are designed with your needs in mind, allowing you to search for software developers based on their expertise and experience.
Another pro for hiring a software or web developer through a marketplace is the fact that the majority of marketplaces nowadays benefit from maintaining high standards. Freelancers are now obliged to verify their identity and build profiles with extensive biographies and portfolios. The quality of their profile now directly affects how high they are going to rank in the search results.
Moreover, most freelance platforms track the quality of freelancers’ work - for example, Upwork promotes freelancers with regular work and high ratings to “rising talent” and “top-rated” categories. You can also see reviews from previous clients, so the screening process for future employers is pretty straightforward and offers a high level of assurance.
Both employers and freelancers have a chance to clearly state their budget and rates.
Serious platforms have a system that allows you to vet the applicants, fully organize your workflow, communicate with freelancers, monitor them using time trackers, and pay them.
Reputable platforms also provide payment protection both for you and the freelancers, allowing you to settle disputes if they arise. This makes the process of working with a freelance developer's simple and clean cut.
Cons of Freelance Platforms
A couple of downsides of a freelance marketplace are limited search options and generalized fields of expertise. This is usually a problem with large freelancing platforms that aren’t geared towards specific industries.
Think about it this way: when you search for "android software developers" on Upwork, your results will include iOS software developers that don’t have any expertise in android software development.
Therefore, you must sift through the results to find the candidate with the qualifications that meet your needs. Some marketplaces that are focused on specific industries have advanced search options. These platforms, on the other hand, often have weaker support system compared to giants like Upwork.
In the end, even well-developed, reputable systems cannot be entirely risk-free. Savvy cheaters can use fake credentials, work well, and then disappear in the middle of the project. Sometimes disputes may not end up the way you wanted.
Now, software development is a serious endeavor that requires a lot of time, skill, dedication, and responsibility. Most businesses that need these services don’t have endless budgets, so it’s important for them to get things right the first time. When failure and risk is not an option, what do you do? You make sure your investment is worth it.
3. Hire developers on specialized freelance platforms
Specialized freelance platforms were built with a primary motive to solve some of the common problems that arose in the large freelance marketplaces.
On one hand, employers got tired of endless lists of low-skilled applicants with promising pitches and disappointing results. On the other hand, high-skilled freelancers got tired of the race to the bottom, refusing to settle for low hourly rates. Specialized freelance platforms sought to rebuild a bridge between these two groups by giving them what they need - a seamless experience.
On specialized platforms like Hiremotely, hiring freelance software developers starts with a simple application form. The employer specifies the project size, lists the required skills, and leaves their contact info.
Within two days, the platform’s team assembles a small list of 2-4 developers who are the perfect fit. Sure, 2-4 applicants don’t sound like a bottomless talent pool, but that is the power of specialized networks. They provide you with hand-picked candidates filtered from a much larger, carefully vetted pool of professionals.
These platforms carry the brunt of responsibility for matching you with the highly skilled software developers and minimizing the risks. How? For starters, developers go through several rounds of testing to make sure they are top of the tops. These tests take several weeks and include technology, coding, logical, and mathematical tests. They examine not only the developer’s knowledge but also the ability to solve unexpected problems and deal with challenges in a new environment.
Moreover, these freelancers are also evaluated on the basis of work ethic, as administrators follow their availability and communication skills. Software developers on specialized freelance platforms are evaluated on a regular basis, so they have to maintain top results.
Once you pick the developers, you get to test their skills free of charge. And if these developers still aren’t quite what you’re looking for? You can simply move on to the next candidate, or ask for other applicants.
Specialized freelance platforms have a smaller number of developers available and don’t offer cheap work. However, they are an absolute guarantee of top quality and solid investment. After all, keep in mind that a cheap app that constantly requires big fixes usually ends up much more expensive than a well-built app created by top developers. Ex: Here's an interesting blog on how to hire freelance app developers.
What happens next?
Do you already have a freelancer you were looking for? If that’s the case, keep in mind that it is possible to build a long term, respectful relationship with a freelancer who cares about your project’s success. How? Here are some tips:
- Communicate regularly, but avoid micromanaging. For example, let’s imagine your developer is supposed to send you status updates every Wednesday. They adhere to this schedule, but you start getting a little impatient. You begin messaging them for updates every day of the week. If you’re doing this, stop. When you do that, you waste their time, and your money - because instead of working, developers are talking about working. If you believe you hired the right freelancer for your project, put some trust into them.
- Don’t expect your developer to be a mind reader. Give them clear guidelines, encourage them to ask questions, and be ready to listen to their advice.
- Be realistic with deadlines. Sometimes, projects evolve and change mid-way. If that’s the case with your project, give your developer enough time to incorporate the changes. Don’t expect them to re-haul the entire software in one night if they were building it for two months. If you want developers to be flexible and understanding, you have to show the same attitude.
- Referrals go a long way in the freelancing world, so once your hired freelancer has completed the project, make an effort to write down your feedback for them.
Hiring a freelance software developer doesn’t have to be a scary, nerve-racking task. With the information, you just read you can feel relaxed and well prepared to take on the freelancing world.
We suggest you give it a shot. Fill out a simple form, wait for 48 hours, and we’ll provide you with a single developer or an entire team that is a perfect match for your project and mission. You have nothing to lose and everything to win!