Hiring a Freelance Software Developer: Your Startup’s Guide to Success

Embarking on the journey of hiring freelance developers can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re a startup owner with limited technical knowledge. There is much to consider before the project starts, during the development phase, and post-production.

When the viability of your idea relies heavily on the outcome of app development, website development, or other projects, planning must take precedence during the entire project to ensure you successfully manage your available time and funds.

Not only will the end result be exactly what you are looking for with potential clients filling your sales funnel, but you will also have had a painless experience with developers for your startup. Building these business relationships as you build your brand will prove invaluable in the years to come.

How early-stage startups can prepare before hiring developers

tech expert looking at wire frames

Utilizing freelance tech talent is a wise option to avoid the heavy cost associated with software development companies or recruitment agencies.

But before jumping straight into hiring the right developers for your startup, there are several things you need to do first. Software development requires clear guidelines to ensure product delivery that meets and exceeds expectations. Even the most talented developers struggle without a clear vision.

Project managers must have the entire process mapped out to avoid issues with the final product. Many startups fail because they are too eager to get underway—a fate that can be avoided with sound project management.

However, knowing where to start is half the battle. Here are a few things you should do before starting the hiring process.

Defining project requirements

Say you’re building an e-commerce website. In this case, your goals could be to create an intuitive user interface, implement secure payment processing, and integrate social media sharing functionalities.

By breaking down your project into specific objectives, you have clarified that you will need a capable front-end developer with an eye for detail.

Alternatively, you may require a superstar backend developer capable of creating an app that engages users.

Whatever your needs, thorough research within your industry should give you an idea of who you will need to start your project. Armed with this information, you can now feel confident reaching out to the talent pool of prospective freelance developers.

Creating wire-frames or mock-ups

Even if you’re not a designer, you can still provide visual guidance to the developer by creating basic sketches to provide insight into your vision. Some great online tools, such as Figma or Sketch, create basic layouts to visualize the user flow of your website or app.

While it may not be necessary to say, a common misconception is that software developers and website designers are the same. They are not. To avoid this, hire a website designer or try basic design work yourself.

How to hire developers

“Here’s a wireframe I created to illustrate how the homepage of our e-commerce website should look. Can you create a clean and modern design with a prominent search bar, featured product sections, and clear navigation menus? Enclosed is a mock-up for the product details page to showcase how the product images, description, and customer reviews should be displayed.”

Establishing budget and timeline

Communicating to prospective remote developers a well-defined budget and timeline is crucial for effective project management. Try to determine the resources you’re willing to allocate to the development of your website or app so that when you hire developers, they know exactly what to expect financially.

Consider factors such as design, development, testing, and potential ongoing maintenance costs. While at it, establish a realistic timeline considering your project’s complexity and your desired launch date.

How to hire developers

“Our budget for developing the e-commerce website is around $10,000, including design, development, and initial testing phases. We aim to have a minimum viable product and a fully functional website ready for launch within four months, allowing us to capture the upcoming holiday shopping season.”

Selecting the right developer

Startup developer inputting code

OK. So you have the scope of the project all sorted. Now all you have to do is find the right person and hire freelance developers to make your project stand out from the rest.

Unfortunately, you will likely be bombarded with hundreds of pitches from wannabe startup developers on loads of job boards all over the internet. Sifting through these expressions of interest is time-consuming, and it is difficult for someone with no programming experience to ascertain their skill level without making a crucial mistake.

The following is an essential checklist of what you must do before making that all-important selection.

Reviewing portfolios and experience

When reviewing portfolios and evaluating a developer’s experience, look for examples of projects similar to yours. Pay attention to their previous work’s functionality, design, and user experience. This will give you an idea of their capabilities and whether their style aligns with your project goals.

How to hire developers

“We came across your portfolio of several e-commerce websites you’ve developed for small businesses. We were impressed by the attention to detail in the product listing pages, the smooth checkout process, and the overall user experience. Your past work demonstrates their ability to create visually appealing and functional e-commerce platforms. Are you interested in a similar project working with us?”

Checking references and reviews

To ensure that you’ll work with a reliable and communicative developer, it’s imperative to seek out previous employers for their opinion on your desired target. Inquire about their communication style, responsiveness, ability to meet deadlines, and overall satisfaction with the results.

How to hire developers

“We reached out to a few previous clients who had similar projects. They all praised your professionalism, proactive communication, and dedication to meeting project milestones. Based on their positive feedback, we feel confident proceeding with this partnership.”

Conducting interviews

Interviewing potential developers is an opportunity to assess not only their technical skills but it is also a chance to determine their personality and compatibility with your project. Meeting someone face-to-face (in person or on a video call) is still ideal for ascertaining their approach to handling challenges and communication style.

Prepare a list of questions to ask during the interview, focusing on their familiarity with the technologies you require. Use this time to gauge their enthusiasm for your project and ability to understand and execute your vision.

How to hire developers

“During the interview, we asked the developer to describe their experience developing e-commerce websites using the specific technologies we’re interested in, such as Shopify or WooCommerce. When faced with a hypothetical challenge related to implementing a customized product recommendation feature, we were impressed with the problem-solving skills and proposed solution. The responses demonstrated a deep understanding of our requirements and a strong ability to tackle complex tasks.”

Essential skills you need in a developer

Startup developer inputting code

No two developers are the same. Just like any other profession, programmers like to specialize in different areas of development and the code written. Tech startups must be clear about what types of skills they need to get the best results.

If you already have an in-house team with some programming nous and tech background, the areas where you need assistance will likely be apparent. However, if you are starting from scratch, make sure you do your research on how other startup owners in your industry navigated these challenges.

Programming languages and technologies

While you may not be familiar with all the programming languages and technologies, understanding their relevance can help you make informed decisions. Consider the technologies commonly used for your type of project, such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, Node.js, or Swift. Discuss these options with the developer to ensure they have the necessary expertise.

How to hire developers

“For our e-commerce website, we’re looking for a developer proficient in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for the front-end and has experience with Python and Django for the backend. This combination will allow us to create a responsive, dynamic website that meets our client’s requirements.”

Frameworks and tools

Using renowned development tools significantly streamlines productivity and improves efficiency. For instance, popular frameworks like React or Angular can enhance the frontend development experience, while tools like Git for version control ensure proper code management and collaboration.

How to hire developers

“We’re considering using the React framework for our website’s front-end as it offers flexibility, modularity, and a large community of developers. Additionally, we plan to utilize Git for version control, allowing us to track changes, collaborate seamlessly with the developer, and maintain a reliable codebase.”

Problem-solving and communication skills

Developers today are not just technical experts; they also possess soft skills such as problem-solving and communication skills. Look for developers who actively engage in problem-solving discussions, ask thoughtful questions, and propose solutions.

Effective communication is vital for a successful collaboration, so ensure the developer demonstrates excellent listening skills and can translate complex technical concepts into understandable language.

How to hire developers

“During our initial discussions, the developer asked insightful questions to clarify our requirements and offered suggestions to enhance the user experience. Their proactive approach and ability to explain technical concepts in a way we could understand demonstrated their strong problem-solving and communication skills.”

Communicating how you like to work

online meeting using communication tools

One of the most common ways a freelance partnership implodes is through a lack of clear communication and misunderstanding regarding how each party likes to work. Even if all the skills are present, things can still go awry.

To avoid this, onboard developers for your startup with clear instructions regarding your requirements and goals. Clearly articulate your project requirements, and provide detailed documentation, visual references, and examples to ensure a shared understanding.

Always encourage an environment where questions for clarification are welcomed, and be responsive at any time of the day.

Timely feedback and clarification

Respond promptly to the developer’s inquiries and provide feedback on deliverables promptly. This helps address any concerns or questions the developer may have, allowing them to make necessary adjustments and progress efficiently.

Freelancers thrive on feedback, whether it is positive or negative, as it gives them a chance to upskill in certain areas. Moreover, diligent freelancers recognize that delivering the project you need in a set time frame will likely receive great feedback, enhancing their chances of getting more work in the future.

How to hire developers

“When our developer shared the initial concepts, we carefully reviewed them and provided detailed feedback within a few days. By promptly addressing their questions and offering specific suggestions, we ensured that this production phase continued smoothly.”

Meetings for progress updates

If your managerial style includes having regular catch-ups to discuss project status, address any challenges, and align expectations, make sure your developer can be available at specific times of the day

If you intend to be actively involved with the development project, ensure that your freelance knows this so they can set aside time to explain their work.

How to hire developers

“Scheduling weekly video calls to review progress, discuss any hurdles, and prioritize upcoming tasks helps with our business development. Regular communication helps us stay informed, make better decisions, and ensure that the project progresses according to plan.”

Effective communication tools

Project management tools are a mainstay in the freelance ecosystem as they nullify the need to send loads of emails that can easily get lost in the matrix. Trello, Asana, ClickUp, and Basecamp are all well-liked tools for remote workers as they streamline communication and project organization.

Create tasks, assign deadlines, and easily track progress, knowing nothing will be missed. Some project management tools also provide a central space for discussions, file sharing, and documentation, ensuring transparency and accountability.

How to hire developers

“To help our early-stage startup remain as productive as possible, we installed ClickUp. Here, we create tasks and organize them into different categories: design, development, and testing. This allows us to have a clear overview of the project’s progress, share feedback on specific tasks, and communicate with freelancers in a structured manner.”

Choosing the right tech stack

Computer with lots of code on the screen next to a cup of coffee

Just as a BMW and a Toyota require different tools to build and repair, so does any website or application you are making. Understanding your product and the specifications needed to represent that product to potential clients adequately is essential.

The decisions you make about your future tech stack will impact various aspects, including the performance and scalability of your application, the speed at which you can develop your product, and the cost your company will incur for project support and maintenance.

Taking a collaborative approach

Express your expectations for specific technologies, frameworks, or programming languages based on your project’s needs. While you may have preferences, consider the developer’s recommendations based on their expertise.

Developers have experience with various technologies and frameworks, allowing them to provide valuable insights. Be open to their suggestions, as they may offer solutions that better align with your project goals and technical requirements.

How to hire developers

“After consulting with our software developer, we decided that Django would be the best backend framework for our web application. Our developer highlighted its robustness, scalability, and ability to handle complex data models. We were impressed by their expertise and decided to go with their recommendation.”

Aligning tech stack with scalability needs

Even after the initial project’s completion, the code will need updating, enhancing, and modifying to meet your customer’s needs. Collaborate with the developer to evaluate the suitability of various technologies and frameworks based on your long-term vision.

You will likely need a software developer to help you with these updates, and they may not be the same one that helped you with the initial design. That means that many other developers can understand any tech stack you choose. Choosing a tech stack that is uncommon may set you back later on.

How to hire developers

“Anticipating increased user traffic, we concluded our tech stack would require scaling at some stage. We leaned on the developer for ideas, and they recommended a cloud-based hosting solution like AWS or Google Cloud Platform to ensure scalability.”

Agreeing on the mode and means of payment

hire freelance developers stock photo

The last thing you want is a nasty surprise when you see an invoice. Freelancers also want clarity in the payment process, so it is vital to lay down the payment process before work starts and not after. When both parties agree on the particulars, such as price and payment method, work can proceed without any niggly concerns.

Fixed price payment

In this approach, you and the developer agree on a fixed price for the entire project. This model works well when the project scope and requirements are well-defined. It provides clarity upfront and allows you to manage your budget accordingly.

To ensure progress and accountability, establish milestones tied to specific deliverables.

How to hire developers

“We established milestones such as the completion of wireframes, design approval, front-end development, and back-end integration. Payments were scheduled to align with the completion of these milestones.”

Payment by the hour

Another option is to pay the developer based on an hourly rate. This model offers flexibility, mainly when project requirements are likely to change or evolve. You pay for the actual hours worked by the developer.

Of course, this option means that should the project take longer than expected, you must pay more than you budgeted. Therefore, it is essential to establish clear expectations regarding time tracking and regular reporting to ensure transparency and avoid any surprises.

How to hire developers

“Considering the evolving nature of our project and the need for flexibility, we agreed on an hourly rate as our payment method. We discussed the importance of regular timesheets and agreed that the developer would provide weekly reports outlining the hours worked and the tasks completed during that period.”

Quickly Hire: Access to the world’s best developers for your startup

Asian woman doing software development

Our global pool of freelancers covers every base of software development you can think of. Intuitive and invested in your success, Quickly Hire developers understand the struggles of a modern-day startup and can adapt their methods according to your specific business needs.

As you can tell from the contents of this blog, a lot goes into hiring developers that will take your offering to the next level. Knowing what skills to look for is half the battle, and when you are not the techy type, it is easy to make costly mistakes.

That’s why Quickly Hire exists.

We take the pain out of vetting, onboarding, testing, interviewing, and communicating with software developers because this has already been done for you. Not to mention, we also take care of payment, tax, and legal compliance issues. When you consider the amount of time this saves your operation, leaving hiring developers to us is a logical choice.

If you have a project that needs a capable, communicative developer as soon as possible, reach out to us here, and we will get back to you ASAP. Most of our clients have their ideal hire in less than 48 hours!


  • Alex McInnes

    Alex is Quickly Hire's content strategist and digital marketer. He's a New Zealand-born, Thailand-residing copywriter extraordinaire. Dad to two beautiful girls, Alex loves playing rugby, reading, and running with his soi dog, Effie.