You’ve got a brilliant idea for an online business. You’ve brainstormed your business plan, and mapped out your vision for the development of the site. The only problem is, you’re not a programmer, and you’re missing the programming know-how that is necessary to bring your online business conception to actual fruition. Hence…you need to hire a programmer but you’re not a programmer.
The good news is there are plenty of freelance programmers out there who are willing and able to bring your vision to life. But choosing the right programmer who will program in the right programming environment for your needs and be someone who you can partner with over time to develop your online business can be a challenging decision for a variety of reasons.
Below we have created a starter’s guide to assist you with how to hire a programmer when you’re not a programmer. This guide will assist you in what to look for when hiring programming talent and some clever strategies to increase the chances of a successful project.
Ask to see a portfolio.
Any programmer with even a little bit of experience should have some sort of portfolio to show. Whether it is a blog, website, or app, you will need to see some previous work examples if you’re going to hire a programmer. Sites such as StoreFront allow freelancers to develop an online portfolio. At Storefront, you can ask to see sites that freelancers have developed in the past to identify which specific parts the freelancer has had a hand in or individually conceptualized. Programmers who are proud of their work should be very happy to show you samples.
Ask some interview questions, either by phone or email.
Devise some basic questions about design and data structures to ask your job candidates. Some basic questions you might consider asking are “how do you approach the software design life cycle when developing?”, or “how many years have you been programming, and what is the most challenging project you have been involved with?” If the freelancer is passionate about the job, they will have more than a one-word answer. This will also give you an opportunity to see how well the candidate communicates. The less you understand about programming, the more you will have to rely on this person to translate for you, so good communication is absolutely key.
Consider hiring several people for an “audition” job.
If designing your online business is going to be a huge project, consider first hiring a few different people to complete a smaller “audition” job for you (a job that has roughly a 20 hour turnaround). By breaking your larger job up into milestones, and asking 3-4 people to complete the first milestone for you, you can explain that following the first portion of the job, after which there may be the opportunity for more work. Once the first milestone has been completed, you can then hire a programmer who matches your style and whom you feel you work with best. Remember, experience is not the only thing that will make a programmer a great business partner, neither is cost, so don’t select someone for a huge project based on these factors alone.
Reassess based on the audition.
What did you learn from this milestone? That the project will take less time than you thought, or that you may actually be better off hiring a team of programmers rather than an individual? Take the time to assess your progress before moving on. You may need to change your expectations or your budget. No idea what the total cost of your project may be? Use tools such as Website Homework’s free website design cost calculator as a start.
Clearly define the remainder of the job.
Oftentimes, people seek to hire a programmer without having a set budget, time table, or even a specific and defined job description. Make sure to clearly put these things in writing before setting out to hire a programmer. If you can clearly explain these three things, you are a lot more likely to find a programmer who will say, “I can do that!”
Jot down a click-by-click map.
Imagine that you are navigating your online business’s website. What exactly do you want that site to accomplish? Describe every single thing that you want to see, and the things that you want to be able to click on, right from the first page. You will likely have a very long list of small, short phrases. You may also need to create different categories, or “branches.” For example, if the website’s user is a first time user, they may first see a “welcome” page that asks them to create an account. If the user is a returning visitor, they may first see a “welcome back” page with their username. The more accurately you can describe your vision, the more likely it is to match up with your programmer’s vision.
When hiring a programmer to complete a programming job for you, it’s critical to accurately describe what your goals and expectations are. Set a specific budget and firm time tables. Be willing to communicate openly with your programmer, and always focus on fostering a positive relationship. Follow these simple steps, and you will be well on the way to mastering the art of hiring a programmer when you’re not a programmer!