Quest For An Excellent Freelancer WordPress Developer: Part 1

From design dimming CSS errors to blatant disregard of functionality, anyone who has attempted to hire freelance developers has certainly found it frustrating.  I outsource development work, all the time for my company website, and consistently find myself disappointed with the level of quality I get from Freelancers.  This leads me to just doing the work myself which is a huge waste of my time as an entrepreneur.  I need to take my hands off websites and focus on more growth related tasks.

How Do They Do It?

I hear stories from Pat Flynn and the likes of their awesome developers who work magic with websites.  Virtual assistant developers from around the world who can design things with excellence and build plugins seemingly over night with little guidance, all for $1,000 or so a month.  While I believe them, I have yet to find such a unicorn, as expressed by my frustration above.  I’m evening willing to pay more than what than the ‘higher side’ of pay for an offshore developer, if it means ‘hands off my websites.  Now I am going to make a concerted effort to find such a developer, and not stop until I find a teammate.

In a recent post, I outlined some guidelines for hiring and finding developers.  This time, I’m going to take it a step further in an effort to find an awesome developer that I can rely on.  Preferably someone to become a full time developer for my websites and projects.  I’m also going to share their results with you!

Here’s How I Am Going To Do It

  1. Create An Assessment Project.
  2. Post Ad On Freelancer Job Boads
  3. Filter The Applicants
  4. Hire Applicants for assessment, Fire quickly (if failing.

My WordPress Assessment Test For Freelancers.

I’m going to create an assessment project on a WordPress website, that I’ll ask Freelancers to complete as their first project.  The assessment will be designed to test their ability to troubleshoot problems, comprehend instructions, implement moderate level html/css/php, and deliver a well-functioning user-interface.  Finding a developer that can do it and meet all those requirements is gem, and worth hanging on to for future use.  The Freelancers all will be paid their bid rate whether they complete it to a satisfactory level or not.

So here’s what we’ve got! First up, I’ve taken a copy of a live site, and set it up on a sub-domain.  This will create a ‘play environment’ for testing.  Then I’m going to create an error in the theme coding.  I’m not going to reveal the specifics, as I still plan to use this test scenario in the future, but the error is a really simple fix and, to an experience developer, the error can be noticed in the source code of the website.  Although simple, the error will cause substantial visual issues the site which will appear daunting for anyone not able to recognize the issue quickly.

  • Assessment site with errors that will need to be fixed.

  • Site as it should look bug free.

The next part of it will be designing and setting up a contact form, using contact form 7.  I’ve provide a rough outline of a contact form and fields I need, with the stack order in responsive.  The developer needs to design this form, picking colors and such, then implement it in the site.  This task serves a few different purposes of assessment.  It will show their ability to think independently and comprehend instructions.  Notice in the the project scope document I made, it lets them know that they need to choose the colors and style it to match the site.  While that sounds simple, it would not be surprising to see a black and white contact form on my site, indicating they didn’t understand the part about colors and styling or they just couldn’t do it.  Next getting the style and responsive stack implement will require a little bit of CSS and php editing.  Getting the form to render visually free of errors isn’t a task for amateur developers.  Then comes functioning and user interface.  I need the form to clearly show validation errors so that the user intuitively knows what specific errors there are, or if the form has been submitted successfully.  This part has proven tricky for a handful of other developers.

Both parts of the assessment are similar (nearly identical) to tasks, that my most trusted developer has done before so I have a good idea how long they should take.  I even asked him, what he thought would be acceptable and his response was “5 hours + 2 for your knit picks”.

The Job Ad

There’s no magic sauce to the job ad.  I’m using Freelancer as I’ve used it before and have a well established account, but you could post it anywhere.  The key aspect I list is that freelancers should be able to complete a ‘PSD to WordPress’.  This means taking the elements of design file and making them function on a live site.  I’ve set the budget at $8 – $15/hr, and am looking for someone hourly.

As I said in other posts, I’ve found excellent cheap developers and shitty developers at over $50/hr.  In an effort to find the best level of service at the best price I started the search low.  Ideally looking to find developers at $10 per hour.  If none could complete the assessment to my standards, I would raise the price a bit.

The actual job posting on Freelancer, got over 100 bids.

Filtering Down The Freelance Developer Candidates

Over 100 applicants applied with hourly rates came in from the minimum $7 on up to $20+.  This is not uncommon when posting on Freelancer.  I used the filtering tool of to filter down to candidates at $10/hr or lower.  From there it was time to make contact.  I started with those Freelancers who had the ‘Best Rank’, a combination of rating and quantity of projects complete.  There is one caveat to this, Freelancers with a high rank are likely to be extremely busy, and give less care to earning more good reviews, and they also might be agencies — I prefer to work with someone one on one directly.  So, some of the ideal Freelancers might not show up so high here.  As opposed to having 100+ reviews, they might just have 20+ reviews, but they could still have close to 5 star so as a minimum I look for at least 20 ratings and 4.8 stars or higher.

With the candidates filtered down, I sent out a project scope document, telling them to review it and let me know how many how many hours they estimate that it would take to do the work, and of course let me know if they have any questions.  While the big question is how many hours they estimate it would take them, I’m also looking for communication indicators, such as how their grammar is, and if they ask any questions related to the scope of the project.  Having the knowledge of how long this should take a qualified developer is key.  Ideally I am looking for freelancers that say 5-7 hours (or less) for this scope.  I would be open to longer estimates, up to 15 hours, as some might want to under promise and over deliver.  Any freelancers that estimated more than 15 hours, for this project, which I know can be done in less than 5 hours were filtered out.

At this point we have a good pool of candidates who

  • Can communicate moderately
  • Have good reviews
  • Rates at the target price
  • A reasonable estimate from time

From here I decided I would go with Freelancers who had near the shortest time estimate 4-5 hours.

At this point we have a good pool of candidates who

  • Can communicate moderately
  • Have good reviews
  • Rates at the target price
  • A reasonable estimate from time

From here I decided to go with a freelancer who had near the shortest time estimate 4-5 hours.  It was now time to set them loose on the assessment project!

Founder of a home service / specialty trade contracting company (think patio’s and deck) with a focus on customer experience. Quantitative investor. Data driven marketer. Runner.

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