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4 Tips for Hiring a Great Freelance Programmer

May 9, 2017 No Comments

Featured article by Calvin Paige, Independent Technology Author

Outsourcing program development jobs allows your business to cut costs on hiring a full-time developer. Selecting a technical freelancer you can trust with your projects can be an intimidating task. Coming from a non-technical background makes it even harder when most programming jargon is unknown to you. In this article, we’re going to lay out some of the critical steps you should follow when hiring a new programmer.

1. Project Definition

Having a general idea of what you expect is a great place to start. This is usually the project brief, stating objectives of the program or website. Start by identifying the problem. The rest of the requirements follow more naturally. You could also go into details on the expected solution. This could include mock screens and how users are to interact with them, input and output to be handled by the system and any other expectations.

Good programmers would be able to quickly identify and report any unrealistic expectations from a well written project brief. With the objectives well stated, the programmer will have an easier time focusing on the solutions. Therefore, take time doing this step. Consult widely if need be, because if the objectives are unclear, the program developed will not meet your needs. Consider long term objectives of the program as well, such as:

- Number of users and handling growth; especially for websites.
– Future user file sizes

2. Sourcing a Programmer

Based on the complexity of the system, as defined in the project brief, you can now begin searching for a freelancer that meets the required years of experience and skill-set. Unless very knowledgeable of all the technical requirements, you would be better off seeking advice or technical recommendation from someone who’s more tech savvy than you. This ensures you do not request for skills that would not be required in the project or leave out those that will be required. To find programmers, you can try the following avenues:

- Posting jobs on a job board website

There are many job sites with programmers, but you can find great programmers on sites like this one.

- Looking for contributors to open source code

Going through online code repositories is a great way of viewing sample projects from various programmers before initiating contact.

- Blogs

Going through technical blogs can be a big help. Some programmers maintain their own blogs giving you a sense of who they are. Blogs also usually give credit to various programmers for work they have done. This would give you the opportunity to judge their ability on articulate points as well as programming.

- Learning institutions

Though considered green programmers, students from learning institutions such as universities serve as a great resource as well. In addition, many universities hold hackathons. As such, you can quickly identify top students that can handle a real-world project if given the opportunity.

3. Filtering Freelance Contractors

It is crucial that thorough scrutiny is carried out. Handing projects to bad programmers not only lengthens development time, but also makes projects go over budget. To ensure you get value for your money, you need to weed out the bad programmers. There are incidences of programmers handing in falsified projects as part of their resumes. One of the best ways is coming up with a test project. This is especially true when working with online freelancers. It could even be a real-world project that touches one aspect of your business. Identify a small project that can be handled in a short span of time. Ideally within two days or less. This would allow you to test:

- How well the programmer manages available time,
– If the programmer is capable of meeting deadlines, and
– The ability of the programmer to communicate and justify steps taken when handling the assignment.

Another aspect of contention is the amount of fees to pay. Here, the idiom “You get what you pay for” is partly true. Programmers with little experience are likely to charge a lower fee than those with many programming years under their belt. Nonetheless, with online freelancers, this might be quite misleading. Programmers from developing countries charge less regardless of experience. Largely driven by your budget, the key here is striking a balance between the fees and the experience required.

Once you have verified their ability to code, come up with a list of your most preferred contractors from the group. At this point, you can also begin conversing with the listed contractors to know more about them. Fields of interest can be:

- Of the languages listed on their resumes, which ones are they most proficient in
– If working offshore, how willing would they be to adapt to different time zones. This is essential when you need to make a quick inquiry about the project or when a different direction is to be taken
– Whether they can submit similar projects they have handled. In case of websites, links to similar sites would do

4. Hiring

After evaluating the programmers, you should end up with one who would be capable of handling your project. Again, keep future projects in mind. It would be beneficial to both you and the contractor if a long term relationship can be developed. You would benefit as the whole exercise of finding a new programmer is avoided. For the programmer, once he/she is accustomed to your mode, style of work and expected quality of output, it becomes easier to develop future software for you.

With few, if any further items to go over, contemplate on negotiating on the fees charged. Often, programming contractors would be willing to drop their rates a little further. However, do not push for a drastic drop to avoid the contractor giving you a hurried result so that they can make up the difference and move on to the next project.

Conclusion

Hopefully the contractor you settled for is a fit for your business. Having found a contractor, the remaining step is to award them with the job. Whether or not they handle the project as expected, you would have come out of the whole exercise with a bit more experience. As with everything else in life, we learn from experiences gained. If the first attempt is unsuccessful, consider editing the test project and perhaps aiming for programmers in a higher pay group.

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