How to Hire Freelance Developers

Remay Villaester (May)
04.01.21
6 minute read

If you are an entrepreneur, a young startup or an established business and need to hire software engineers for your project - freelance developers can be a great option that wouldn’t cost you a fortune.

In comparison to in-house developers that work for you full time, hiring freelance developers could have several advantages:

  • In general they are easier to find and hire
  • They can cost significantly less, since you don’t need to pay taxes and can find developers with smaller rates from abroad
  • You’re free to decide on what terms you will be cooperating
  • A great option if you need manpower for a certain period of time

It can be, however, tricky to find a good freelance developer that would match exactly what you are looking for but this article might be able to help make the process clearer and easier for you.

Know what you need

Before starting to look for freelance developers, you need to have clearly defined product specifications: product description, user stories, key deliverables, timelines.

Apart from being beneficial to the product, having clearly defined product specs will help the developer to understand the context and scope of the whole project.

Since developers can only be as good as project specifications provided to them, having this document is crucial before starting to look for a freelancer

You can find some tips on how to write a good product specifications document here.

How to find freelance developers?

Finding a good freelance developer is a challenging process that would most certainly cause some headache, especially if you are not sure what to look for.

Here’s some tips on how to approach looking for freelance developers to find the best match for your needs

Know what you are looking for

First one, quite obvious, but often overlooked - know what you are looking for. Ideally, you should already have product specifications. Using that document will help you figure out what skills, experience and seniority to look for in a developer. And how many people you might need to deliver features according to the timeline.

Ask for referrals

There is a good chance that you are not the first one in your network looking for freelance developers. If that’s the case - ask for referrals from your friends, fellas, peers or colleagues.

Those people have already gone through the pain of looking for a developer and have found someone who are well suited to their needs. Unless you have a different project or feel that this developer is not a good match - you could save yourself some time and use other people’s experience, especially if you trust them.

Go to freelance portals

There are lots of freelance portals like Upwork and Freelancer that have a huge pool of developers looking for some gigs. The competition on those platforms is very high and skill level can vary a lot.

Generally, there are 2 ways to go about looking for a freelancer on these website:

  • Search for needed freelancer
  • Post a job and choose from applications

The way it works is that you will provide a description about the project: including project brief, developer requirements, timelines, compensation - and those who find it interesting will apply.

Beware though, that a lot of people are applying to all the jobs they can find without even going through the job description. In order to filter out those people, it can be useful to include some call to action at the bottom of your job description, something in lines of: Please make sure to start your application with: “I have read the requirements and am interested in the project.

This way you could filter out all the applications that don't contain that sentence, meaning that the applicant either didn’t read through the job description or didn’t do it carefully enough.

Analyse suitable candidates

After you’ve gathered suitables candidates - go over their portfolio and check past projects.

A lot of freelancers will underbid the offer to have a higher chance of being hired. Even though spending less money sounds lucrative, be sure not to let it be the main driver of your decision. If you hire a cheap, inexperienced developer it can backfire and you could end up spending more time and money on the project.

Instead, thoroughly check their profiles for the experience and also make sure to review ratings and feedback about their past jobs.

Test assignment

You might want to test the developer out before making a decision to proceed. This would be especially useful if you have multiple choices and have troubles deciding which one to go with.

Prepare a small enough task that can be within 2 days max. Some developers would agree to do it for free, but be ready to pay for their time as well.

This doesn’t have to be a random project, but could be something that your business actually needs.

Apart from showing their technical prowess, one of the main points of having a test assignment is to see how the developer works: how he/she gathers requirements, communicates, clarifies business rules, estimates the work and delivers according to that estimation.

During this process you would see if you actually like working with that person and whether you are satisfied with the end result.

Securing the developer

After you’ve found the developer, it’s very important to talk through all the requirements and then write them all down alongside with deliverables and responsibilities of both parties in a contract. Having product specifications would come in very handy in this step as well.

Since you would just be starting to work together, it’s a good idea to have a test period and have it clearly defined in the contract. It can be a short period of a couple of weeks, with either full or reduced wages to see how you would work together.

In case you find out that the freelancer doesn’t suit you - you could easily terminate the contract, pay the wages and part ways.

But make sure that this is clearly defined in the contract and that you’ve talked it through with the freelancer.

Otherwise, if all is good and you feel like you’ve found the person you want to keep working with - sign a long-term contract to secure the developer

What are the best ways to pay your Freelancers

If your freelancer is located in the same country, the cheapest way to pay them is through a local bank transfer. However, it gets slightly trickier if they’re located in another country especially if they bill you in their local currency.

One of the fastest and cheapest ways to pay them is through TransferWise. This is because they use the real market rate to convert your money to avoid excessive fees that most banks charge.

If you hire someone from platforms like Upwork and Freelancer, you can either pay via card, PayPal or bank transfer. They’d normally bill you in USD so if your bank account is in another currency, consider getting a TransferWise Multi-currency account and order a card to save some money on conversion fees - you could save up to 60% on transfer fees especially on large payments.

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Get a multi-currency account

Summary

Hiring a freelance developer is a challenge, but if done right it can be extremely rewarding.

To maximise the chances of finding a great match, remember to:

  1. Have product requirements ready. This document would give an insight into the project, key deliverables and timelines.
  2. Figure out what kind of developer you’re looking for.
  3. Ask for referrals
  4. Browse freelance portals and post a job
  5. Filter out the applicants
  6. Test suitable applicants
  7. Choose and secure the developer with a contract
  8. Have a trial period

After securing the developer, it's important to build trust with them and maintain an honest relationship with them, otherwise the person might leave you and you’d be exactly where you started. Make sure to always be on time with payments, when increasing or changing the scope, communicate this with the developer - a bonus as a reward for a great performance also wouldn’t hurt.

Hope you found this article useful and best of luck to you finding the best possible match for your project!


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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