How to find the 'right' freelance developers

Depends on your dictionary. That’s the new world version I believe, I’m more a American Heritage type:

marked by brevity of expression or statement
free from all elaboration and superfluous detail

:wink: Great when you can look up a word in three dictionaries and come up with three different meanings. Again, separated by a common language.

That’s a fun setup for when they do find someone:

<yoda>Looking for someone? Found someone you have hmmm?</yoda>

Off Topic:

Originally I posted a snippet, but figured a link would be better given how far OT this is. so far as geek checks go.

In a off topic far far away,37930.0.html

Huh? I’m sorry, your response was too short, I didn’t understand it. :smiley: (joke)

Actually, it means “brief in words, but comprehensive in scope”. I think what they are trying to say is you take 700 words to do what 5 could.
You are brilliant, and I enjoy a good ramble, but it’s gotten to the point already that I see your full page posts and I just can’t bring myself to sort and sift so that I can pull out your one or two pearls.

But yeah, this inappropriate analysis of DS60 is feeding his megalomania. Let’s do him a favour; let’s stop!!

I do agree with him on the avoid the shiny happy ones,
<yoda>they must neither avoid nor embrace the dark side</yoda>

I had a difficult client that eventually I stopped doing work for, I’m still in touch with them though and they bemoan that for years that they ‘can’t find a decent developer’.

However, the problem here wasn’t the developers they have hired, but themselves. Their briefs were lazily incomplete, vague, and often poorly though out or even unworkable. Their reaction to the inevitable secondary phases of required changes and increased charges because they never thought things through was obstinate.

They will never find and motivate a developer that is perfect for them because they aren’t willing to allocate the necessary money or delegate sufficient control to produce optimum conditions for creating the best results.

I find it interesting that you mention you have presented buggy work to clients when ultimately it’s your responsibility to check the work (or pay for a pre launch phase of testing).

You may have been unlucky in your choice of developers over a long period of time, but it’s worth considering that your own processes contribute to the end results.

I recently had a bad experience with a freelance coder. The main issue i’ve had is communication. I make sure that I ask questions that seek out information and seek out the developers understanding of my needs.

All these little hints will tell me if they’ve read the brief, understand the scope and are thinking about the project. It also weeds out the good communicators, and shows a little bit of attitude. His is the very first step I take.

Some of the questions are for them to recap their understanding of my needs, how they plan to approach it etc… since I have a general knowledge of how the code should work, I can gauge the developer’s competency as well.

This gives me a broad look at who I will be choosing.

I have found some good developers on, by looking for developers that meet very high criteria:

  • have worked at least 1000 hours
  • have average feedback of at least 4.5 stars
  • have high test scores
  • have impressive portfolio

I will say that those developers tend to be pricey, even for odesk, and it still does not guarantee a great developer, but if you look hard enough, there are great developers there to be found.

Well I wouldn’t say that I’m a “good” developer yet as I’m still learning a lot of stuff about PHP and other programming languages. I think in about 18 months I will be a very good developer if I keep on the track that I’m working on.

A question for everyone here: Have any of you actually gotten contacts that have turned into jobs and contracts on here? It seems like everyone says that posting on forums like this is a good way to find good developers, but I just wonder if anyone actually has had that kind of success.

I’m going to circumvent the discussion about DS60 because I don’t think it’s pertinent to the topic and since this thread was featured yesterday, I think it’s important to stay on topic. :slight_smile:

That said, I’m going to rebut this point, because it’s vital: Communication is always part of the specs. If “Good Communicator” is not something you strive for every day, you’re bound to limit your potential in any business situation (I don’t know, you might end up alright as someone who runs a dairy farm, or something). If the OP isn’t looking for good communicators, maybe that’s part of the reason he’s been failing to find good programmers for the last decade.

You don’t have to be Winston Churchill to make it in business, but if you can’t listen to and understand what other people say, and likewise effectively impart your ideas to them, you’ll fail every time. The business world isn’t a very warm place for cowboys, sad as it might seem.

So I guess my question really is: Where are all the PROPER, decent freelance developers, with a huge attention to detail, a real fire in their belly to produce incredible work, and an enthusiastic look at the work they produce? I’m sure there must be loads out there, including I’m sure loads on this forum - but I still struggle after 10 years to find them!

When doing a job that’s not remotely interesting, not even money will motivate a freelancer. I’m not trying to insinuate that jobs you are providing are boring, however working with HTML and creating interfaces allowing for data insert / update / delete / listing becomes rather boring after some time. I don’t think you will find a person who’s enthusiastic about creating content management systems or looking after them, except probably the person who created it in the first place. There are great developers out there, however the factor in quality work is how much is that particular job interesting. If it’s boring - no money will provide enough motivation to make the end product to be incredible.

My experience of outsourcing is in general good, and I have found a ‘good’ developer who does a good job in a very timely manner. However the thing that bugs me (maybe its because I’m a designer) is that almost every developer I’ve worked with (including in my time working at agencies) don’t seem to care if things aren’t pixel perfect. I realise these guys aren’t designers, but if I send a developer a PSD with things aligned perfectly, I expect the final piece to be the same or very very close to it. After all that’s what I strive for each time I develop a website. Things like that are in my mind what make the difference between a good and a great website.

Now, this is such an old stereotype and I’m really surprised to see it still be around. There is virtually no reason for a developer not to be able to design something or for a designer to be able to develop.

Just because someone knows one of programming languages such as PHP, C#, Python - the sense of aestethics isn’t taken away from them.

As mentioned before, people who design are sometimes print designers and they design unusable interfaces that are hard to slice up and present in the way it looks at PSD.
Just because someone is a designer - it doesn’t mean they have the sense of usability.

I could also say that designers care only for the bling effect, yet they disregard functionallity and the usability of the interface they create, overcrowding it with various shiny images and effects.

In the end, if someone is able to learn how to work with Photoshop and has the creative mind to come up with something unique - what’s preventing that person from learning something as easy as markup language and CSS?

Please excuse my ignorance, but why would anyone do a job interview over emails?

In this day and age, even if your not located in the same area you got video chat. Sure its not the same as sitting in the office with the guy/gal your fretting, but it sure beats emails.

You mention that your the designer, but that you send the psd file to the developer. Due to this Ill assume that you are not competent with HTML/CSS.

If that is correct, then the problem might be that the design you made which looks great inside the psd file, is very difficult to archive in HTML/CSS. Over the years Ive seen many psd files created by graphic designers that work mainly with print, and some dont understand that web <> print.

Another thing that might be the cause is if your sending the psd to a developer that is mainly a backend developer. Instead you should look for a front end developer to do the slicing and make the HTML/CSS.

Our designer is also our front end developer. While this is two positions in one, it has actually made him better at web design. Mainly due to he has an advanced knowledge on what is possible in HTML/CSS and what is not.

That is correct, but in the end the design does not matter if the user experience is flawed. The most important part of a website/GUI is that the user easily can navigate it and find the information required.

On a side note this does not mean a developer can not adapt as long as you give them the time and resources to do so. Personally I believe its important that every person on the team has knowledge about accessibility and user experience.

Quoting the OP here:

Where are all the PROPER, decent freelance developers, with a huge attention to detail, a real fire in their belly to produce incredible work, and an enthusiastic look at the work they produce?

The specific qualities listed by the OP did not include anything regarding communication.

That said, I think DS is one of more effective communicators I’ve ever met, when he chooses to communicate. He’s well spoken (and extremely well written), articulate, detail-oriented and literate in every bit of communication I’ve ever had with him.

I believe that the lack of conciseness that you mentioned of is mostly related to his assuming too much knowledge on the reader. But, that’s also the case in every technology book, article or white paper you’ll find. Why? Because if we explained every detail leading to the specific technological point we’re trying to make we’d be writing a book for each point. DS is full of in-depth, under-the-hood, high-level ideas and points to share but often I believe the reader lacks the dependencies required to understand. (Me often being one of them - though Google and asking questions solve most of it)

I will admit that DS tends to take a topic, make a valid point and then go on to some semi-related points. Sometimes this can be confusing, but the comments are generally related none-the-less.

I think you’ll find that all of the things DS communicates about here on SP have a strong foundation of validity and reality. That says a lot.

I’d also make the case that any developer’s approach for communicating with fellow developers over a forum would be quite different from their client interactions. I know mine are! I’m far more inconsiderate (meaning less willing to explain basics with conciseness) of “gurus” who don’t understand what I’m talking about than I am the “average joe” client.

I’d say the increased noise is more a product of his bursting people’s bubble. You’ll find that most developer’s egos don’t handle being told “that’s all wrong” very well. (even when it is)

For instance, when I was introduced to the seperation of content and presentation here at SitePoint (or even the idea of NOT using tables for layout for that matter) many years back. I was upset that my current work was now useless to me. It took some time and reaping of the benefits before it sunk in.

With all the defense before this already out there, I’d like to admit that you’re right here. DS’s communication can be limited and sporadic. (that doesn’t mean he communicates ineffectively)

That said, if you look back to my original post you’ll see that I used him as an example since he is retired. I did this so not to look like I was plugging anyone jobs in this thread. I believe the entire reason DS is retired is because of the circumstances (which have not always existed) that cause his communication to be sporadic and limited.

In conclusion, I disagree with you completely. I think that DS was a prime example of the OP’s specs.

EDIT: I should mention that I agree with the following line in general, but don’t really see how it applies to DS.

It’s important to remember that there’s more to being a developer than simply the act of writing and deploying code.

DS60, you literally could not have posted a better example of exactly what I was criticizing you for than you did right now. I honestly don’t know what else to say.

You know, I’ve heard that a lot lately and frankly I fail to comprehend how being MORE verbose, explaining things fully, and making similes so people who don’t know the subject have something to relate to qualifies as a bad thing. Concise - lacking elaboration and detail; I was taught that’s a BAD thing. Not only should one list the choice, decision or proper practice, but explain why, give examples, make comparisons to things they might understand.

But as I recently told another poster here, I think I missed his post completely because it was so concise, I thought it was a ‘me too’ instead of saying what I ended up posting - since it didn’t say WHY.

But I often think communication issues often stem from regional differences. As George Bernard Shaw said, “America and England are two nations divided by a common language”. I’m an old school New England Yankee - we are NOT a polite people. “Ya cahnt geht theyah frum heeeyah” isn’t just a catch phrase, it’s a way of life. Just as Patton said an army cannot run without profanity, I believe the same about any workplace where you actually expect things to be done PROPERLY. “But it has to be eloquent profanity… and as to the types of comments I make, well, by God, sometimes I just get caught up in my own eloquence.”

Candy-coating everything is no way to have anything resembling progress, or to get a job done properly. This namby pamby limp-wristed “if you can’t say anything nice” bull is perhaps the most insulting thing I’ve ever dealt with and I have zero tolerance for it. Something sucks, say it sucks. Somethings wrong, SAY it’s wrong. “you can’t say anything nice” is a cop-out used by people with their heads in the sand in regards to every problem.

<simile>Much like the sheep, people would prefer if the sheepdog was somewhere else, because it is too hard for them to accept that there are actually wolves out there. If the fire extinguishers at a school were faulty, “Heads would roll” - yet kids are a dozen times less likely to encounter a fire in their school than violence - but the mere notion of such violence is so terrifying that people shudder at the thought of NEEDING an armed guard or arming the teachers.</simile>

In that way, the reality of things being wrong/nonsensical/incorrect is too ‘tough’ for most people to accept, so when someone goes and puts out a laundry list of what’s wrong, they’re automatically being “unnecessarily harsh” - bull. Harsh is probably the surest indicator of someone trying to help you. Slapping the rose coloured glasses on your head and leading you down the garden path is NOT helpful in the least, no matter how good it feels. Kinda like pissing yourself in dark pants, a warm feeling but nobody notices until the stink hits the air.

But having traveled I found the regional differences are a healthy part of it - for example I can’t spend more than five minutes in a room with your typical twenty-something from the west coast without feeling the overwhelming urge to punch their face in… They’re sunshiny cheer combined with a complete lack of anything resembling testicular fortitude not only being annoying, it’s almost as outright insulting as when adults talk down to children in that idiot voice that 99% of people seem to automatically shift into when the kid is under the age of 12.

I remember my first trip to Georgia I stopped to gas up and after waiting five minutes in line to pay the bimbo at the register starts chewing my ear off. I finally said “Hey, why are you even talking to me? What do you want out of me?” – honest to god someone up here pulls that they are probably trying to hit you up for a loan or a really nasty favor. Naturally I kneejerked into “Shut the *** up, gimme my damned change so I can get the hell out of here and you can wait on the fifteen people in line behind me.” - naturally she responded with “Well I never!”, leading me into the classic “there’s half your problem lady” :smiley:

Turned out to not be a pleasant trip when I discovered that is apparently the norm down there. Regional differences about how workplace behaviors are handled are quite surprising; and with the Internet letting disparate regions attempt to work together, conflicts abound. What I grew up understanding to be workplace behavioral norms do not mesh well with the era of political correctness and don’t you DARE say anything negative about ANYTHING.

Of course with schools practicing asshattery like “social promotion” and going “you can’t do anything to upset the children” it’s no wonder we’ve bred out two generations of thin skinned morons. Maybe if we took some time to upset them a little we’d be pumping out better results on standardized tests, not having half the public having this ‘sense of entitlement’ where they expect something for nothing, a proper work ethic, and fiscal responsibility at every level slightly more mature than Wimpy’s “I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” – and we wonder why jobs are going overseas.

Oddly enough, I’ve always been a really BAD employee and much better at running my own business - though that’s usually because of my zero tolerance for micromanagement. Whenever you get the guy who hired you because they don’t know how to do something or what are proper practices suddenly acting like they know more about it than you, I tend to kneejerk into “Think you can do better, then do it - what the **** did you even hire me for?”. When I had my own do-it-all mom & pop computer store (that I liquidated to pay a friends medical bills so they could walk again) I would hire someone expecting they would actually know how to do the tasks I gave them, told them go do it, and left them to it only really double-checking after them the first week or so. Nowadays the mere notion of letting an employee actually do their job appears to border on blasphemy.

I think a lot of my distaste stems from my period of military service and having done this stuff for thirty years. Back 20 years ago, you were hired to do a job by people who didn’t know how to do it, you did it, they were happy… In the service you were trained to do a job, you went and did the job, you reviewed the work after and everybody was happy…

The past decade or so though, everyone and their **** brother thinks their some sort of ‘expert’ on things they know nothing about sleazing out work any old way. Round-table discussions and design by committee destroying any chance of a practical working environment – and then we wonder why the economy is tanking.

That’s a healthy part of why I retired is I got sick of dealing with the complete idiocy that businesses have turned into. It doesn’t help that it honest to God seems like IQ’s dropped 50 points across the board since the mid 90’s.

I agree, but it has to be a two way street, you hire someone to do something, they tell you one of the things you want is a really bad idea, LISTEN. When you hire someone to do something you don’t know how to do, don’t ever tell them “You don’t know what you’re talking about” because your snot nosed fifteen year old nephew told you otherwise.

… and people wonder why I hit burnout.

To people looking for freelancers, my advice is anyone who’s too polite, too shiny-happy, steer clear, they’re probably going to take you for a ride.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

Developers don’t care what it looks like.

Seriously, they don’t. Go look at Linux: it’s the result of what happens when you create a website by programmers, for programmers. Had a look yet? Notice the single most prominent feature? I’ll fill you in: all of the tools are designed to run on the command line. Sure, there’s a GUI, but it’s not required, and most of the tools work better on the command line. Why is that? Because Developers aren’t designers. They’re just not. A designer will always believe that the way something looks is the most important part, and a developer will always believe that the way something works is the most important part. This is what separates those types of people.

Flow charts are really helpful! Designers can then visualize what you as a business want as far as layout. What should a designer do if the business provides little feedback and/or necessary content?

Someone once sent me a long email, and at the end of it, they wrote “Sorry this was so long, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.”

Being concise is not easy, but it is absolutely crucial to effective communication.

I’d suggest people like that have so much work available to them they can cherrypick what they do. Also they’d never really need to advertise themselves anywhere which makes find them even harder!

Truth. Communication and trust are both key in the business-developer relationship. I have worked with web design agencies before, and found that the businesses that are the happiest are the ones who took the time to review each step of the development process with their development agency. As the business requested changes and communicated, the developers were able to better solidy the vision and purpose of the business’ site.

Also, googling web design agencies might be helpful. Yes, prices vary and will be more costly than a freelance developer, but you will reap the benefits 100%. Conscientious developers will take the time to do keyword research so that their agency, etc. will show up first in google searches. Perhaps here you will be able to find someone who pays attention to details. :wink:

Interesting. I’m not trying to pick on Deathshadow here, but I would use him as an example of someone to avoid. I’ll agree with you that he’s likely very intelligent, experienced and more than likely writes excellent code. It’s obvious that he’s passionate, but he struggles with communicating ideas clearly and concisely (he really struggles with the concise part). In more threads than not where DS60 posts, he tends to introduce more noise than he reduces. In other words, it’s far easier, after reading his posts, to be more confused than when you started.

Not that this makes him unemployable – quite the opposite, I think he’d be a great employee, and in many more traditional circumstances I would likely personally hire him given the opportunity, but I don’t think he’d be a good fit for a freelance opportunity where (it sounds like) communication is often limited and sporadic. It’s important to remember that there’s more to being a developer than simply the act of writing and deploying code. Anyone can do that; it’s how you end up with fantastically written systems that no one actually wants to use, like many of the more obscure Linux (FreeBSD is a great example) variants. A large part of being a developer is actually talking to people about what it is that they want to do.

I am not sure there is “loads” of good developers out there, it all depends on what you put in the word “loads” and “good”.

If you look on the mass of the so called “PHP developers” then there is not too many good developers. That is the problem with the language, its extremely easy to code in PHP, but at the same time it is also very difficult to master.

Instead of looking for freelancers, you might have better luck hiring someone full time as employees. We stopped working with freelancers on a large scale back in 2008 and are slowly moving and getting more employees. In my opinion this is the best approach if you want to grow, as you can “mould” the developer to fit the company structure and work ethics easier. In addition they will stay with the company as long as you treat them well and give them a challenging project from time to time (i.e. not the same boring task over and over again).

Communication is the most important part, if you and the team does not communicate well then the project is doomed before it even start.

A good developer will ask a lot of follow up questions even when they get a good documentation of the project. Even more if the documentation is not complete (i.e. flow chart, uml design etc).