As a client, it’s not easy to trust people with your money. We know some run-of-the-mill freelancers who are no good but still are able to make decent money. They show a lot of promise but an innocent client has to pay dearly for the botched up work. Take the case of Jennifer for example.
Jennifer pings us late at night asking to see if we can fix her logo. Simple, right? Jennifer had been over long threads of emails trying to get things going with her previous designer. Jennifer narrated me the background.
Jennifer had been working with a developer. All was well till the time the work was being done in a graphics editor. And then the designer came to implementing it. And Jennifer never heard back until she got an email of a user registration on her site. Then next thing she comes to know is that her designer has hired someone else to fix a little something with the widgets which the designer herself couldn’t figure out.
But that was just the beginning of the ordeal. The next thing she saw was the sidebars jumping to the bottom of the site. And then later she saw the designer just switch over to the default WordPress theme because they couldn’t figure out how to work with the previous theme (and by the way it was a professional WordPress theme, one of the top ten WordPress premium themes competing neck to neck with another premium theme framework). The confusion and technical blame game and helplessness ensued for several days. Jennifer was directed to her hosting provider while the designer explored and posted in support forums for help.
Later Jennifer just gave up on her current designer. This is what she wrote:
I’m not sure I’m getting anywhere but I think it’s pretty clear this theme isn’t going to work. I guess I’m confused about this whole project and why you didn’t upload it using the theme I purchased in the first place.
The next thing was she changed the password to her site to remove access.
We then sent a payment link and got the logo fixed in 10 minutes (8 being the time it took me to get the ftp and WordPress login going). That makes it 2 mins. Once we were done with that we checked around and fixed a lot of other issues with the site and got it up and running. And Jennifer was impressed.
Things like those happen in the WordPress world all the time. And this one happened because Jennifer ended up with the wrong “expert”.
But how about doing some homework and figuring whom to hire and whom to stay away from?
1. Identify your own requirements
As with regular shopping, it is very important that you know what you are looking for and what you are willing to pay. And that’s not going to happen unless you are clear about the requirements and are able to establish the scope of work.
Of course the technical side of this will be finalized in consultation with your developer, but when you set out to hire a WordPress developer, you’d need to be clear about your requirements; put in notes and sketches and anything else you have in mind. Go over it just to be clear of what you actually need.
2. Set your budgetary expectations
And then it comes to setting you budgetary expectations. There are WordPress developers out there who charge anything between $25/hr. to over $200/hr. The cheaper ones cost in terms of peace-of-mind and quality.
The question is, have you decided what you are willing to pay to get the job done? I know, “as little as possible”. The point is that you should have an idea of the costs that generally go into the type of work. That will help you judge whether a developer is too costly for the job or is the right one and what kind of compromises you are willing to make.
3. Which type of developer is right for you
There are so many WordPress developers all at various levels of their career, expertise and social connect. From a rookie who can’t just figure out how to get a trivial job done, to the ones who build their work on a ready-made child-theme to the ones who build child-themes on their own — that is a lot of variance in skill level. Not to mention the ones who sell their own premium WordPress themes and plugins and also have a lot of free themes and plugins to their credit contributing to the open-source WordPress Plugins & Themes directory.
On a tight budget you could go for someone who customizes ready-made WordPress child-themes.
If it’s a full website you should be looking at someone who have successfully managed complete projects end-to-end.
With tight budgets, the amount you pay is not always an indicator of the value. But this changes as you raise the budget and serious contenders come in.
An reasonable factor to consider is how many plugins and themes has the developer contributed to the WordPress themes & plugins directory? The WordPress Theme Review Team has strict quality and coding guidelines and if the developer has made it to that level, this is the developer you are looking for.
4. Verify developers’ claims. Do they outsource?
It becomes critical to verify developer’s credentials and claims when you are on low-budget. The competition is fierce at this level and skill-level poor. There’d be ones who’d do this for peanuts. But you have to make sure that they have what it takes to get the job done.
Many do not have the body of work. It’s embarrassing to mention there are some who even fake it.
Check out their portfolio. Check out their testimonials to understand if they are the ones you are looking for.
Another important thing is to know if the developer outsources their work. Outsourcing translates into an inflated budget, not to mention the lack of transparency in the skill set, qualification and the delivery deadlines. There’s a middleman and you have no idea what’s going on at the other end. There will be a communication gap. It is imperative that the actual person coding gets to understand the requirements exactly as intended.
With a development agency this is different. The internal dynamics are the responsibility of the manager to ensure successful delivery. But agencies would typically charge higher.
5. What about availability
When you are looking for competent professionals, availability becomes a challenge. Due to their work and skill, they are the most sought after. And their schedule is always packed. If you can’t make it to their calendar then it also becomes a question of reliability. Would they be available when you need work in the future?
It’s better to go with one WordPress developer and capitalize on the relationship than to hunt for a new one every time. There’s better mutual understanding and less communication-overhead when it comes to getting things done.
While a freelancer may sound appealing for low-budget projects, a small agency might be the best when you are looking for a lasting business relationship and ROI. As a business they hire, grow and have a wide range of offerings. An agency is perhaps your best bet at finding the best prices that are also consistent with the market and skill level of the resource allocated to your project. Professionalism does come into play and that means respecting deadlines, quality of work in addition to a fair budget.
6. How easy is the developer to work with?
The answer to this question varies largely. Every WordPress consultant has their own style of working. And your task as a client is to ascertain if this will suit your comfort level.
Do you want an update every day? How would you like to have your consultation sessions?
One of our clients came back and said that they want the design process to be more of an experience. Apparently someone had told them that designing is a collaborative process in which you sit next to your designer and experiment with various shades of colors and graphics till and explore how things out to be. While that may not be along the lines of typically what’s expected in the usual process, every WordPress designer has their own style. But it’s not expected of a designer to design live with the client.
How often they communicate, how many revisions do they offer, how open and flexible are they with your feedback and requirements — all comes into play. Developing a website on WordPress is much a technical process with project management factors. You want the project to kick-start your business and generate leads, subscribers, customers and revenue.
7. What’s their USP?
Regardless of the skill level, there’s competition at every level especially at the low-budgets. This would affect the usability and eventually the success of the website.
When we deliver websites, all that’s required from the client’s side is to press the go-live button. Everything has been set — to the last detail.
That’s an example of one competitive advantage you have with us — a no frills, exceptional, end-to-end delivery of a website which is production ready, the engine gunning and ready to purr.
8. How good is their own website? (Hint: go by performance not aesthetics)
By now it is possible that you’ve narrowed down to the WordPress coder of your choice. Hereafter it is more about validating how they have implemented their vision and values into their own business.
If you are tech savvy, you could check out their own site, their site’s code and ask them questions about how and why they decided to do things the way they did. This means enquiring about their design decisions, how they think and to what end.
Does their own site has issues, errors etc.? Throw in some questions and be ready with them for the consultation session.
9. What do the developer / agency blog about? What about their social profiles?
Visit your developer’s blog. See what they blog about. This helps you find out how authoritative their knowledge is in the domain and on the subjects they cover. This also gives you an insight into their vision and values.
Are they just covering the technical aspects or are they also covering the functional aspects of the technology and how it helps in the success of the website?
Our priority is to build a website that helps my clients achieve their end-goal than just a technically sound website. We go to painful lengths to ensure that the results of the website can be evaluated in terms of dollar-impact than just statistics.
10. Strike a conversation
Finally when you are ready, strike a conversation with the developer. Express your interest in working with them. Share your vision and take things forward. This will form the foundation of your business relationship and tell you more about what they think about your vision, how they plan to achieve it and their advice.
11. Get a quote — Let the best WordPress Developer make it.
At this stage you’ll have to compare on the basis of time, quality and budget. Ask them to give you a formal quote with the scope-of-work and the timeline. This should include what’s covered and what’s not. A good formal quote is any day better than an informal plain text email telling you that the developer is happy to work for you.
A formal quote will outline the scope, all the deliverables, points of agreement in a well-structured manner with minimal chances of an expectation-mismatch.
Verify that the developer is quoting you the correct scope-of-work and not just bloat. Will the functionality they code be easy to maintain? Are the areas of the site that you’d need to change going to be dynamic or static? Review your requirements that you started with in the first place. The one that you chose to go with should live up to your expectations.
Here’s an awesome diagram to help you decide you what to expect and what you can let go of in favor of your priorities.
As you can see, experience comes into play in all metrics. Be it about establishing clarity of expectations, creating a quote, planning the project, technical delivery, optimization and maintenance — experience is the determining factor.
Also the availability of skillset is critical. It’s rather abrupt to be delegating the project to different heads when you want development, SEO, maintenance and marketing. In that case it’s best to delegate the management of the project to an agency which has the skillset in all required verticals and is your one-stop-shop.