Outsourcing Theme development - Best Practices

Hello all,

I love working with WordPress, and I am now interested in outsourcing some design work. I have quite a few design clients, and I cannot keep up with the current workload.

How do I securely outsource WP theme development? Are there any best practices to ensure that there are no spam links, malicious code, or other “goodies” coded into my website files?

I am reluctant to give WP admin access, so this is the process that I intend to use:

Post a job listing on a Odesk. Review developer ratings and recent work.
Interview developer via Skype and ask questons (How he/she will complete the project, how payments will be organized, etc.)
Provide developer with copy of theme files and project details(step by step outline + instructional video)
Have developer send me completed files. Review completed work for spam/malicious code. Import files and test them for bugs. Send back to developer for revisions until complete.
Pay developer for final project once it is completed.
Please let me know your thoughts. I am primarily concerned with website security.

Than you very much and have a great day.

  • Burritos

To be honest, this is all overkill.

You have to factor in how much of your own time you’re willing to spend just to get the project started against the margins - instructional videos on top of a skype interview on top of written guides takes up time for both you and your developer. It’s good to be security orientated though, and you definitely want to strip out emails etc - there’s nothing more awkward than having to explain why the admin email is set to “odd@bob.com

Here’s the process the company I work for uses (they’ve outsourced 300+ WordPress specific projects):

  • Ask for examples of their two favorite builds. Why? Their most recent ones are not necessarily their best work
  • Ask what their standard turnaround for a 40 hour project is. We generally tell the end-client 1 week for every 20-30 hours when we outsource for any (mis)communication overhead between us and the dev
  • Give them some ground rules: don’t use your email, don’t add “built by so-and-so”, don’t add referral links etc

If it’s a big project, we’ll set them up with a development environment and ask them to push their work onto it every Friday night. This lets you check up on their progress, make sure they are on the right track (especially with things that are difficult to communicate) and lets you have something in case they flake out. It takes time for the developer to upload a WordPress site, so weekly is more than fair.

Finally, after they deliver, our process is:

  • Search the database and theme files for any “@” or “http”.
  • Go through your design specs and make sure everything was finished
  • Once YOU are happy, pay them. As I’m sure you’re aware, the client always has feedback, and that feedback typically takes time. The developer is building the project for you, not the client
  • Finally, keep feeding great developers work as they are hard to find!
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Thank you very much labofoz. Your answers are extremely valuable!

Two questions:

  • How should I structure payments for the work I am outsourcing (hourly vs fixed)? I believe there is more room for dishonesty with hourly, so I plan to outsource each project for a fixed price, and make payments as we reach each milestone. (Most of my work will be ~40 hour projects or less)

  • Do you know of any other ground rules I should consider providing the developer?

Have a great day! Thanks again.

Coming as someone who has done this sort of work before:

  • Fixed pricing is OK - as long as you’re honest and have reasonable expectations. The benefit to the developer is that if they can finish under time, they make more proportional money. The benefit to the client (you) is that you don’t have to worry about endless charges for unanticipated time. The danger is that the client (you) may make continued and excessive demands of the developer, causing them to eventually run far over their own budget of time for the project. This happens especially if you hold them accountable for many rounds of your client’s feedback.

  • Make sure payment rules are ironed out. Additionally, as you cultivate relationships with developers, it wouldn’t hurt to extend more trust. Start out treating them like they’re the crooks that they could be - give them these rules, issue payment at job end, use fixed pricing. Over time as you work with one repeatedly, consider making half up payments if they want, or getting an hourly rate from them for small jobs or additions after a job is complete. This will engender bilateral trust and strengthen that relationship. Both you and the programmer you outsource to benefit from a healthy relationship. Neither of you is forced to spend hours searching or posting job listings and going through the vetting process.

  • Give them as many rules and conditions as you can possibly think of. Some clients hold back for fear of inundating a programmer or seeming overbearing - or just post terrible job postings (“Need programmer to fix site, please submit fixed bids” - the heck was that??? :smiley: ) but most programmers would rather hear all of your qualifications, rules, project data, scope, etc all at once up front to help with quoting.

Hope any of that helps. Happy to answer any more questions you have from my side of the fence! I’ve never outsourced for WP or other jobs, although I have outsourced graphic design before. I’ve been the outsourcee (?) though before, so if that helps, ask away…


Great answers, jeffreylees. Your comments are very much appreciated!

I have created a possible fixed pricing stucture. Please let me know your thoughts on this ($500 for each ~30 hour project):

  • Begin prototype without payment (theme files / specs / assets provided).
  • 25% upon completion of basic prototype + 3 rounds of revisions
  • 25% upon completion of final website + 3 rounds of revisions
  • 25% upon completion of QA + 2 rounds of revisions
  • 25% upon completion of Launch

I plan to offer an additional $50 for any rounds of revisions outside of this scope. I also plan to give the dev an extra $50 upon launch of each project as a bonus.

Do you think this structure is fair? Do you see any potential risks or issues, and if so, how can I improve this structure?

Thanks for your help!!!


I think having that sort of fixed pricing structure will make things very clear and simple. Everyone will understand what’s going to happen. The only thing now is finding developers in the price range you’re looking for. A positive of this approach is you won’t have to haggle, debate, and consider what things are worth. You have a plan, a price, and are merely looking for someone to do it.

The snag might be definitions? Not sure. What qualifies “basic prototype”? Sometimes, with some designs, there almost is no such thing. What is a round of revisions? A single email list of changes? Does it matter if a round has one change or a hundred? Or if you don’t need rounds?

I guess my point is that if you have a rigid structure with multiple payouts, you have to account for those sorts of things well so there’s no argument about it. Also, note that you’re spending the time to issue four payments - not sure how hard that is for you or what your accounting process is, so that may be a moot point.

Generally though, might not be a bad plan.

I’m pretty certain I’d not have taken a 30 hour project with these criteria for $500 from a first time client, when I worked - but I knew people who would. A repeat client who I worked well with… maybe, but only because I’d probably be lowering that hours estimate in my head at that point :wink:
But like I said, I know people who would, and have seen plenty bidding in that range on freelancing sites.

I’d encourage you, if you use this model, to come back and tell us how it went on the first or second try, if the thread isn’t closed? It’d be a good point of reference for the sort of ending of the thread to see how all of this actually went.

Hi jeffreylees,

Thank you for your excellent insight! I appreciate your suggestions very much.

I am definitely going to clarify my definitions, so that I can account for possible discrepancies. I will also only be outsourcing a handful of projects, so my accounting costs are very low.

Soon, I will come back and share the results of this adventure on this thread. Hopefully other community members will contribute their ideas as well!

All the best,

  • Burritos
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