How to hire a freelance software developer?

How to hire a freelance software developer - 4x3

In this blog post, we lay out 8 unconventional sources, along with each’s pros/ cons, to find freelance software developers for hire.

Once you have decided to hire a freelance software developer, the next step is to start finding suitable developers. With the rise in popularity of freelancing as a career among today’s IT and software engineering professionals, there is a vast variety of places where you can find software developers for hire.

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While a lot of solutions exist for hiring freelance software developers, you have to be sure of the use-case that you are going to solve. In order to select the optimal solution for your use-case, some of the questions that you have to answer are:

  1. Have you decided on a screening and evaluation process to evaluate software developers?
  2. How much bandwidth can you devote to evaluating developers?
  3. Are you looking for a quick fix, or do you have the time to carry out an elaborate hiring strategy?

Answering such questions will help you select the source(s) to find and hire freelance software developers. Some sources are better than others in terms of their quality of developers, some offer quicker turnarounds, and others are lighter on your wallet. Each comes with its own nuances.

So, let’s understand what each method can offer and its benefits/ drawbacks, to help you with this decision.

1. Hire a referral

Hiring a referral from a trusted individual in your network is one of the best ways to find a high-quality and reliable freelance software developer. Having worked with the developer previously, your source has a deeper understanding of the developer’s strengths & weaknesses. This can help them offer insights into what might work out and what might not – something that can’t be ascertained even after rounds of screening, much less found on anyone’s resume.

The process to find and hire referral software developers

  1. Scan your network: Firstly, you need to scan your network for the tech industry experts. Immediately, make a list of the people whom you’ll be reaching out to.
  2. Reach out proactively: Do not hesitate to reach out to the experts in your field. Try different channels like social media, email, or phone.
  3. Prepare a brief JD: You need to let them know exactly what you’re looking for in a software developer. One way to do that would be to prepare a simple JD that you can hand out (or) attach in emails. Don’t go overboard with the details.
  4. Offer monetary (or) non-monetary incentives: To make it worth their time, you can also incentivize them. Be judicious about this though.
  5. Use LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great tool to keep track of the entire process and makes it really easy to start a professional conversation with a large audience.

Pros:

  • High credibility of the source
  • As a result, greater reliability of the freelance developer
  • Gives you access to an evaluation of the developer’s performance under actual working conditions, which is invaluable

Cons:

  • You’ll be lucky to get a handful of shortlisted candidates for the developer role that you’re hiring for
  • Low volume of candidates means there are low chances of the engagement kicking off (because of variables such as the software developer’s availability & interest)
  • High turnaround time – you have to be patient

What will it cost?

  • Nothing, unless the referrer wants a commission
  • If you want to incentivise people to offer references, it might cost you a few dollars to set up and implement a referral program. The incentive can also be non-monetary as well.

2. Vetted freelance networks

With the increasing number of freelance software developers every year, it is difficult to separate the really talented freelance developers from the rest. A reliable source is needed – one that offers the speed to align with your company’s growth and is also able to maintain consistency in judging the quality of software developers.

Vetted freelance networks represent one of the best sources to find quality software developers. Such platforms rigorously and holistically screen their freelance developers. This involves going beyond the developer’s CV to gauge their abilities, through a combination of a specially-designed screening process and continuous project-based evaluation.

The process to hire software developers using vetted freelance networks

Premium freelance networks have in-house experts to help you find the best freelance software developer. Hence, you only need to share your requirements with them. This can be done through online forms and then via a phone call/video call – allowing them to take care of the rest.

Pros:

  • Freelance software developers are evaluated on a multitude of parameters and therefore possess high technical proficiency, good communication skills and the ability to deliver great work under pressure
  • In-house experts offer personalised matching to ensure that you get the best software developer for the job without spending any time shortlisting profiles at your end
  • These networks also ensure that the software developer that you choose to hire is aligned perfectly with the culture of your company
  • They handle all ancillary tasks related to hiring – contracts, invoices, etc. – while you can focus on the actual development work
  • Low risk of making a bad hire, high success rate

Cons:

  • A few platforms might be slightly pricy. It is key to find networks that are able to be reasonable in their pricing while ensuring the quality of talent.

What will it cost?

  • Commission fees
  • The cheapest option to consistently hire top freelance developers, due to the low amount of risk associated with hiring.
  • Rates (inclusive of commission) range from $30 – $200/hr (differs from platform to platform)

Examples of vetted freelance networks

3. Pure freelance marketplaces

Pure freelance marketplaces work like job portals. You post a job and then receive applications from the hundreds of freelance software developers listed on the platform. While this is great for generating volume on your applications, you will have to spend significant time in screening the developers as there is no vetting process that is carried out by such platforms.

This is suitable for small to medium work, where the main concern is not quality but keeping costs down. To help you select the right fit, these platforms have reviews and ratings available on the developers’ profiles based on their performance on the platform.

The process to hire software developers from pure freelance marketplaces

  1. Sign up on the platform: Firstly, you would need to create a profile on their platform in order to list a job.
  2. Add your project specifications: While listing the job, you need to add details like the title, budget, necessary skills required, and a brief description of the work.
  3. Review applications: Once you’ve posted a job, you’ll start getting applications from freelance developers almost immediately, so you can start reviewing them.
  4. Carry out your own screening process: Once you have a shortlist based on their credentials on the platform, you have to implement your own screening process to select the right freelance software developer.

Pros:

  • You’ll get a large volume of applications from freelance developers registered on their platform
  • Huge choice in terms of hourly rates – you’ll find freelance developers across a wide budget range

Cons:

  • The freelance software developers aren’t screened for their technical ability
  • You have to spend a lot of time and effort into screening
  • It’s very hard to ascertain a freelance developer’s cultural fit for your company (there’s not enough data to make a subjective decision). Reviews and ratings on the software developer’s profile can be easily manipulated, and are hence, invalidated

What will it cost?

  • Some platforms demand commissions from companies posting jobs, while some take their cut from the freelance developer’s share
  • Anything from $10 to $200/hr

Examples of pure freelance marketplaces:

4. Online tech forums

Freelance software developers are usually active on online tech forums, and establishing your presence on such forums is a good way to reach their eyes. Further, such forums provide software developers a platform to showcase their expertise to the tech community. This enables you to get a fair understanding of the depth of knowledge a developer possesses by going through their profile.

Also, there’s usually a job listing page on such forums, which provides an organised way to attract freelance developers who are looking for new opportunities.

The process to find and hire software developers from online tech forums

  1. Have a good presence on the forums: Contribute to some of the conversations on the forum and engage with the posts. You also have to keep your profile and company details updated.
  2. Use the ‘jobs’ pages, if present: Some forums have a dedicated ‘Jobs’ page where you can list your job.
  3. Talk about the job in a post: If allowed, you can make a post on relevant threads including details about the software developer role you’re looking to fill and invite applications.

Pros:

  • Provides a highly-targeted audience
  • Offers glimpses of the developers’ past projects
  • A great way to directly contact potential freelance developers

Cons:

  • There is no guarantee that you’ll get applications
  • Again, you have to set up an elaborate screening process to find the best freelance software developers
  • Some forums are highly moderated and will not allow you to post on their threads if they don’t find it relevant

What will it cost?

  • Generally, as a post, it shouldn’t cost you anything. But forums like Stack Overflow offer paid plans to hire through ‘Stack Overflow Jobs’, their job listing site.

Examples of online tech forums

5. Dev shops/ Staffing agencies

While dev shops provide end-to-end solutions for your development needs (i.e. you can outsource your needs entirely), there are also firms that allow you to hire software developers separately. You get to keep complete control of your entire development process along with access to additional manpower to help you in your build.

The process to hire software developers at dev shops

  1. Search for the top solution providers: You can find reviews of the best software outsourcing firms on Clutch.co and other similar sites.
  2. Get in contact: Fill a form on their websites OR reach out to their managers/ customer support to explain your software development requirements. You can then work with them to understand the best solution for your needs.
  3. Hire available developers: If you’ve got the blueprint for your build laid out, you can make a request to hire their software developers on a contractual basis.

Pros:

  • Certain high-quality dev shops do exist that can deliver great quality of talent
  • Access to insights of the developers’ technical proficiency and ability to work
  • You can hire a team of software developers if needed

Cons:

  • High commission rates because they have to keep the developers on their payroll irrespective of project availability
  • Since there would be two entities requiring the developers’ time, it might be tricky to ensure seamless work
  • There could be cases of the software developers working on multiple projects at the same time

What will it cost?

  • Commissions are not standardised, so it’s very hard to say. But it could range from $10-$200. Clearly, it all depends on the quality of the agency and the commissions they charge.

6. Job Boards

There are also specialist job boards where you can post a job looking for freelance software developers. Tech-related job boards are a great way to reach a more targeted audience, since these sites are regularly visited by freelance developers looking for new opportunities.

However, there is absolutely no pre-screening, and you have to be sure of your screening and evaluation process before inviting applications from developers.

The process to hire software developers through Job Boards

  1. Sign up: Firstly, you’ll be required to sign up and create your and your company’s profile on the platform.
  2. Post your job: The required details are usually asked by the platform in a standard format. You’ll have to add relevant details like the job description, skills required, location, pay offered, etc.
  3. Choose your plan: These platforms typically charge for each job post made. You can choose the appropriate plan for your requirements.
  4. Evaluate applications: You can direct freelance developers to apply directly to your email or use a third-party HR solution to organise applications, but you’ll have to conduct your own evaluation process.

Pros:

  • A more targeted audience than regular job boards such as Indeed

Cons:

  • No screening offered and hence, there’s no guarantee of the quality of applications you’ll receive from developers
  • Executing your own evaluation process requires a dedicated effort from you, that could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months
  • Upfront fee rather than being based on conversion

What will it cost?

  • Such Job boards charge a fee prior to posting a job
  • Around $300 to post a job

Examples of freelance job boards

Since some of the top freelance software developers also have their own portfolio websites and work towards ranking well on Google searches, a simple search on Google can lead you to quality talent. However, often, you’ll have to go past the first few pages in your search results to start getting portfolio websites of individual freelance developers.

You can also try searching for online content in the form of blogs relevant to your software requirements. Such blogs can lead you to the developer who authored it – as some of the top software developers write long-form blogs to showcase their expertise and broaden their reach.

  1. Use a variety of search keywords: Experiment with different phrases relevant to your software requirements, like ‘find freelance iOS developer’, ‘hire ReactJS developer’, etc.
  2. Invest time: Be sure to go further than the first few result pages, since it’s likely that you won’t find portfolio sites of freelance developers on the very first page itself.

Pros:

  • Doesn’t cost money
  • Easily accessible

Cons:

  • Quality of the developer still has to be ascertained by you through a screening process
  • No guarantee of conversions

What will it cost?

  • Nothing

8. LinkedIn

You can use almost any social network to put up your job posting and reach a wide audience, but the best is clearly LinkedIn. LinkedIn offers a great platform to reach out to your professional network, which is the best way to start the process.

You could also put up a job posting for your company’s software developer role on the LinkedIn ‘Jobs’ page. The extra features that LinkedIn Premium offers are helpful and make the process of hiring developers easier and much faster.

The process to hire software developers on LinkedIn

  1. List your job: Use LinkedIn’s ‘Jobs’ page to list your job. You’ll be asked to answer a few questions to help categorize the type of applicants.
  2. Provide a JD: Surely include a detailed job description to encourage only the suitable candidates to apply.
  3. Put up a corresponding post: You can also put up a post asking for applications from your followers and their connections. You can add a link to your ‘Jobs listing’ to the post.
  4. Asking for referrals: You can put up similar posts asking for referrals from your connections. If you get decent engagement on your post (i.e. likes/comments), you can reach a very wide audience, also comprising of your connections’ followers.

Pros:

  • LinkedIn has useful features to aid you in your search
  • Can reach a very wide audience due to the site’s popularity among job-seekers
  • Provides a good snapshot of the software developer’s credentials for initial screening

Cons:

  • No guarantee of the quality of the applicants
  • Many LinkedIn profiles are too vague to draw conclusions about their technical ability
  • You will receive a lot of non-relevant applications
  • You’ll have to invest significant time & effort to screen applications and find the right freelance software developer

What will it cost?

Looking for the best online websites to hire freelance software developers from? Here is a selection of the Top 7 Freelance Tech Talent Websites.

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