A Guide to Hiring Your First WordPress Developer

Illustration by BaloO Illustration of factory works with computers

Hiring a developer for the first time can be a daunting process. It can be hard to know where to find developers, and if you’re not a developer yourself, you might not know how to vet candidates. Plus, there’s the fact it costs money (and you might not know how much to spend…) and you want to make sure that the developer you hire completes your project properly and on time.

Phew! There’s a lot to consider!

As a member of the MailPoet support team, I regularly work with developers. In previous roles before joining MailPoet, I handled WordPress support for various companies, I’ve also been a developer for hire, and I’ve hired over 20 developers for a range of different projects.

To help you understand how hiring a developer works, I’ve put together this guide to help you get started with finding and hiring a developer to assist with your WordPress site. We’ll look at how to scope out your project, where to find developers and how to vet them, contracts, and more.

How should a WordPress developer propose email solutions? We’ve covered this topic in full How to Package and Price Email Marketing Services for Your WordPress Clients.

Getting started: scoping your project

illustration of someone stood in a magnifying glass

What kind of project do you need a WordPress developer for? Are you building a website from scratch? Do you need a customization? Or are you bringing someone on board to pick up where another developer has left off?

It’s important to ensure you have a substantial and thorough project scope—also known as a project specification, or spec—before you start looking for a developer. This way, you’ll be able to advertise your project more accurately and you’ll be more likely to receive high-quality applicants.

At a minimum, a good scope should include the following for full website builds.

  • An overview of the project. What do you need? Explain what your project involves.
  • The number of pages. If you’re project is a whole or partial website build, consider the number of pages you need and what they’ll contain. Pages such as About Us, Pricing and Features are common building blocks of any website.
  • User interactions. Plan how the user will interact with your website, from landing on the first page and every step thereon. Don’t leave anything out — cover every click and link.
  • Functionality. Whether you need shopping carts, appointment forms, contact forms or anything else. Ensure every piece is mapped out for the potential developer to review.
  • Special considerations. Anything unique or unusual in what you need? If it’s not covered above, map it out here and share links to other websites that have a similar feature.

Not every project is a full website build, you might need someone to make a minor update to an existing plugin, implement DKIM & SPF for your email marketing, or the assistance of a copywriter to get your sales pitch just right. In those cases, we recommend a more generalized specification with specifics as needed.

  • An overview of the project. A paragraph or so about what the project involves.
  • Breakdown of the project. Here’s where you get into specifics on exactly what you need, make sure it’s detailed after all no detail is too small.
  • Timelines. What do you expect? When do you expect it? Understand that timelines are rarely an exact science and as a client you need to communicate just as much as the freelancer.

Where to hire a WordPress developer

illustration of a factory

With your scope in hand, it’s time to start searching for a developer. The following sites are some of my go-to places for finding WordPress developers.

1. Codeable.io

Codeable homepage

Codeable key facts;

  • Codeable manually screens all new candidates that join its platform.
  • Quality work and satisfaction is guaranteed. All development work comes with a guarantee for 28 days.
  • Prices from $70 – $120/hour.
  • Any project size is welcome, no matter how big or small.
  • It’s quick to get started, with the average project attracting bids in under 10 minutes.
  • The site features a browsable directory of WordPress developers, ordered randomly since they are all vetted already, which is unique to this directory.

Codeable has provided a marketplace to hire WordPress developers since 2012. With hourly rates starting at $70/hour, I can vouch from personal experience that the developers you’ll find are well worth it.

Codeable puts all of its freelancers through an intensive selection process (only 2% of applicants make it through) before allowing them to join the platform. Developers are then expected to maintain a minimum number of positive reviews to stay on the platform.

Disclaimer: the main link above is an affiliate link. It was added after we wrote this article and has no effect on our final recommendations.

2. Upwork

upwork homepage

Upwork key facts;

  • 76,000+ WordPress developers for hire.
  • Rates from $30/hour.
  • Any project size, from small to large.
  • There’s a browsable directory of freelance developers for hire by rating.
  • Wide range of skill level so hire with caution and do your research on the candidate.

Upwork makes it quick and simple to post a project and start fielding inquiries, enabling you to go from idea to hire in under 30 minutes.

One of the features I like most about Upwork is the ability to set out interview questions. This allows you to put questions to applicants—and know for sure if the freelancers are actually reading your project scope. It’s a simple way of sifting the good developers who pay attention to detail from the bad ones who are lazy.

3. PeoplePerHour

PeoplePerHour homepage

PeoplePerHour key facts;

  • UK-focused jobs board, but you can post a job wherever you are in the world.
  • Rates from $20/hour.
  • There are 10,000+ WordPress developers for hire.
  • A unique rating system, which measures community, engagement, repeat usage, and trust or CERT for short.
  • Wide range of skillsets and capabilities of the developers available for hire.
  • Fixed-price hourly rates for specific jobs.  

This board from the UK offers a surprising array of varied talent. It offers hundreds of SEO consultants, designers, and developers, all for WordPress.

Developers can be ranked by delivery time, location, and hourly rate (from $20 to $150). Profiles display a satisfaction rating and the total number of jobs the developer has completed, to help you determine the quality of developers you might want to hire.

Prices are in dollars, euros and pounds.

4. Facebook groups

Screenshot of a Facebook group

Facebook groups key facts

  • It can be difficult to determine the quality of developers due to a lack of ratings or reviews.
  • Wide range of specialist groups for various themes and plugins, making it easier to find someone who specializes in what you need.
  • Rates from $40/hour in most groups.
  • Wide range of skill sets and capabilities—hire with caution!
  • Rules of how to hire vary per group so always read before posting.

There are many and varied Facebook groups where WordPress developers come together, providing the perfect place and opportunity to advertise your project.

Before posting, make sure you read the rules of each group as some have specific requirements around posting jobs, and some even disable comments.

Some of the best WordPress developer groups include:

5. Finding developers in your local community

The WordPress Project has spawned a worldwide community of professional and hobby developers who come together at WordCamps, but also Meetup groups.

Local Meetups allow developer to share what they’ve learned, teach other, discuss trends and practices, and network with other developers.

You can search for local meetups on meetup.com or on your own WordPress admin dashboard. These events are usually monthly or quarterly with 5 to 20 attendees. These groups provide a great opportunity to ask developers for help for free, and meet face-to-face with developers who are seeking work.

WordCamps are annual events in cities or countries that attract hundreds of people. They usually have a “Happiness Bar” where you can talk to developers and get help with your website. Ask around and you might find your next WordPress developer. Search on WordCamp Central for the next WordCamp in your local area.

Finally, every country has its preferred job boards too. For example, Germans developers can be found on Indeed while the French community has a channel for jobs on Slack.

Sorting through applications from developers

After posting the perfect project scope and receiving dozens of quotes, it’s time to start sifting through your applications.

illustration of an application process

I recommend initially crossing applicants off your list who don’t meet your requirements (there’ll always be applicants who “have a go” but haven’t read your project scope). Then, you can start narrowing down the serious applicants to two or three solid developers for further evaluation.

Here’s how I suggest you evaluate your top three applicants:

1. Pricing

The pricing sweet spot when it comes to hiring a developer is $50/hour. It’s a sensible price for a good quality developer. Of course, you will receive quotes varying wildly in price from $20/hour to $100/hour.

If you decide to hire a $100/hour WordPress developer, you should expect someone at the top of their game and nothing less.

Developers who charges less than $20/hour should send up major red flags. It just isn’t a sustainable hourly rate, and you should be wary of the quality of work they might provide.

2. Inspect their portfolio

Developers should be able to provide you with an online portfolio of their previously completed projects. Here are just a few things you should be looking for:

  • Projects that are similar to yours. You want to know that the developer is capable of producing what you are asking for.
  • Their skill level. While difficult to judge, if you have a complex project that requires a lot of functionality, it’s important that the developer you hire has the experience to build it. If their portfolio contains mostly simple sites with limited functionality, they probably don’t have the expertise to fit your project.
  • Style. It the style of their work close to what you want? If not, you may want to find someone else.
  • Types of project. If you want a custom plugin, but the developer only builds websites, or vice versa, they may not have the skillset you need.

3. References, ratings and jobs completed

The biggest risk when working with someone new is knowing whether they will actually complete the project to your requirements and on time. While some job boards, like Codeable, will screen candidates for you, many others will leave this challenging task in your hands.

In this case, look for any references and the URLs of projects they have previously completed so you can check their work yourself and possibly speak with the person who commissioned the project.

If a developer can’t provide any references, you shouldn’t entertain the thought of hiring them for another second—just move on to the next developer on your shortlist. Without references or proof of completed work, you’re looking at working with an unproven wildcard, which is risky business.

Check the star ratings and reviews of developers on job boards. These pieces of information provide a wider view of how a particular freelancer has handled themselves on past projects, and whether previous clients have been satisfied with their work.

Boards like UpWork and sites like Codeable also provide information on the number of successful jobs developers have completed. The more projects they have worked on, the more experienced they are, and the more likely they will be able to diligently complete your project.

Lastly, don’t be put off if a freelancer only has a few reviews to their name. They could be new to the platform, and if that’s the case, you can ask them for other references before proceeding.

Choosing your developer

After carefully vetting your top three and asking them for additional information, they’ve returned to you with the details you need and you’ve finally found your chosen one.

Before you move forward, however, there are some other important considerations you need to settle first.

1. Fixed fee or hourly rate?

Hourly rates are the best and simplest way to pay developers because development work is very hard to judge via time scales. This will avoid a scenario where the developer becomes disinterested if the project drags on, or new tasks are requested out-of-scope.

Ask the developer to track all their hours in a shared timesheet—a tool like Google Sheets is sufficient—which you can review at any time.

If you go the fixed fee route, suggest paying 50% upfront and 50% at the end of the project. This reassures all parties. At MailPoet, we use Transferwise for bank payments, or PayPal when the developer asks for it.

2. Propose milestones

Using milestones can help you break down a large project into manageable chunks, both for you and the developer. The developer can then provide clear visibility of their progress, which can be tracked over several days instead of weeks.

You can then set your payments to match milestones if the project spans a few weeks.

Good developers should propose a calendar of milestones themselves since they’re in a better position to estimate the amount of work needed and how long it will take them to complete.

3. Maintenance promise

Ask your developer about maintenance or a final round of corrections before the project goes live.

A good developer will provide support post-launch for an initial launch-window period and then ongoing maintenance at a fixed fee per month.

If the WordPress developer you hire doesn’t mention maintenance or—worse—doesn’t want to provide maintenance, steer clear. Developers should always provide a guarantee of their work, and be available to step in if something goes wrong.

4. Quick and clear communication

When you start working with a new developer, you should expect quick email responses within 24 hours, Monday to Friday.

If you’re on a tight schedule, ask the developer for their Skype details. In fact, it’s a good idea to meet your developer over Skype for an initial kick-off call when they start your project. This way, you can make sure your both on the same page when it comes to the nitty gritty details of your project.

Watch out for a good level of English for clear communication and understanding so nothing is misinterpreted or misunderstood.

Writing a contract

illustration of a contract being written

The final step now you’ve chosen your preferred WordPress developer is to create and finalize a contract—an important step in protecting you and the contract developer.

A good contract should at minimum contain:

  • Client details
  • Developer details
  • Project scope
  • Details of milestones and what they entail (if used)
  • Pricing for the project
  • Maximum number of hours the developer is permitted to work if hourly
  • What happens if new features are required that are outside the project scope.
  • The type of support available post-launch
  • How disagreements will be handled
  • Who owns the IP and at what stage the IP is transferred
  • Shared passwords (you always need to have access to them)

If you don’t have access to a lawyer to help you craft a bulletproof contract, services like Rocket Lawyer (US), LawDepot (UK) and LegalVision (Australia) provide online legal services and template contracts.

Once the project has started

It’s perfectly normal to be wary the first time you work with someone new. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Ensure all milestones, tasks, or changes in the initial scope have proposed dates for delivery. You want to ensure there are firm dates set so your project is completed on time and doesn’t drag out.
  • If you find that quick email replies during the initial exchange start to trickle in slowly once the project has started, pull up the developer and ask for faster communication. Set a Skype call to ensure the project is on track and the communication remains clear.
  • Make sure your tasks or changes are in-scope. Developers will want to please you initially and take on extra work without letting you know they’re considering it as a debt. This might lead to acrimonious negotiations at the end of the project.
  • Estimating the workload required for the development of a project is notoriously difficult. It’s normal if a feature is suddenly taking twice more time than initially. If you’re unsure why something is taking so long, just ask.
  • If the developer starts to ask about aspects of the project that were already defined at the outset, it could be a sign they don’t understand what you need, and reevaluation could be in order.
  • If you’ve paid the deposit and a milestone payment isn’t due you shouldn’t part with any more money until the appropriate work has been completed.

Wrapping up

Hiring a WordPress developer can be like navigating a minefield the first time you do it, but each time you work with a new developer you’ll find the process gets easier. There’s a lot to consider, from project scope and job boards to contracts and payments.

Make sure you bookmark this guide for when you need to hire a developer. Goodluck with your project!

Have you hired WordPress developers before? Maybe you’ve found the perfect place to hire developers? Let us know in the comments below.