How to hire freelance developers the right way

Hire freelance developers the right way: a guide for startup owners

Freelancers can be a boon to your business if you know how to hire them properly. Read our guide to learn how to minimize the risks of hiring freelance developers. 

Freelance devs are good for startups

Startups often go through turmoils. Unlike big established companies, startups cannot boast of stability, steady incomes, or fame among customers. In such conditions, it may sometimes be wiser to hire temporary workers instead of in-house specialists. 

Why startups may need freelance developers?

They really do. Every company must have a website, or a mobile application, or both. For this, they need developers. The only question is whether you should hire in-house or freelance developers? 

We thought of some reasons why startups might want to work with freelance developers in the first place (at least, for a time being).  

Unstable workloads

Today you are on fire and have 100 tasks that must be done “by yesterday.” Tomorrow, you sharpen all pencils and beat Microsoft Minesweeper 10 times because there are no new orders and you don’t have any work to do. When there is no steady flow of orders coming our way, hiring in-house workers might not be the best solution (because salaries and taxes).  

Going digital little by little

Hiring a team of in-house developers when currently you only need a one-page website or a landing page? Doesn’t sound reasonable.  

Developing MVP

If your goal is to create a minimal viable product and launch it ASAP (“we’ll clean all the mess later”), you probably don’t need an in-house dev team yet. Freelancers, on the other hand, are perfect for tasks like this. 

Uncertainty of the future

If your startup is just a couple of months old, can you say what is going to happen next? Can you afford to hire in-house staff, rent an office, and buy equipment, when there is no reliable insight on what will happen to your business the other day?   

Reasons to hire freelance developers

Freelance developers can be a good solution specifically for startups, yes. But along with this, there are other reasons to hire freelancers:


Average rates freelancers on such platforms as Upwork or Fiverr work for are sometimes ridiculous. If you look for freelancers on platforms for vetted developers such as or Toptal these rates can be higher, but still affordable. Unlike in-house developers, whose salaries often go through the roof. 

Wide range of skill sets available for hire

There are literally millions of freelance developers looking for a job on online marketplaces, freelance platforms, and job boards. Whatever combination of skills you are looking for, you will find it.


Freelance developers more easily adjust to sudden project or deadline changes. We don’t say that you can alter them however you like. But, unlike development agencies or in-house teams, freelance developers take less time to reorient to the new requirements. 

Direct communication

In big companies or development agencies, there is a manager to whom you communicate your requirements. Sometimes it can be a problem (e.g., when a manager is not really tech-savvy, or when they fail to precisely pass your requirements to the development team). When working with freelancers, you develop direct business relationships and remove an intermediary from the communication and decision-making process.  

How to hire freelance developers

When hiring in the internet, there is a risk of running into a scammer, or just an unqualified developer. To minimize the risks of such an unfortunate outcome, here are some steps that you might want to take when hiring freelance developers.  

Compose a detailed but concise vacancy description

“We are looking for an aspiring developer passionate about…” 

“Are you a rockstar of web development?”

“Our perfect candidate is an open-minded problem-solver…”

Dump these cliches. It’s a 1984 duckspeak. It tells nothing about what you want a developer to do for you. Instead, tell them what your company does, what the developer’s direct responsibilities are (consider compiling them into a list), and what skills you want them to possess.  

Ask candidates for their CVs

Many developers believe it is enough to simply show you the samples of the code they wrote. It makes sense, but still, you want to see their resume. A dev willing to work for you will probably just shrug and submit their CV. But, if your candidate is unwilling to send you their resume, it could be a suspicious sign.

Check each candidate’s background

Review their social media profiles. Find their pages on GitHub and Stack Overflow – devs mostly hang out there, not on LinkedIn or Quora. Contact their former employers and ask them how they liked working with this particular developer (here is when the CV you requested comes in handy). Pay attention to how they talk (or write), how good or bad their English is.  

Interview the candidate live

Email is good, but video calls are better. If you have the option to interview a freelance developer in person, that would be the best-case scenario. A live interview can tell you a lot. During this stage, you will already know whom of the candidates you would want to have on board. 

Test the candidate’s professional skills

Coding, solving routine tasks, meeting deadlines, the ability to work in a team and alone – a well-designed test task will show it all. Remember that a candidate does not have to match 100% of your requirements. People learn. If you meet a promising candidate, it might be reasonable to hire them and let them acquire some skills or knowledge during the process of work.

Evaluate the candidate and inform them about your decision

Never leave a candidate without an answer. If they failed to pass your testing procedures, write them a letter. If they passed – call them. Rejecting a candidate today does not mean that you will not need their services tomorrow. It is always better to part ways politely. 

Red flags

Here are some signs indicating that a freelancer applying to your order might be a scammer or just an unscrupulous person.

– negative feedback from previous customers

– requesting a full upfront payment or other strange ideas about payment

– refusing to send you a CV

– refusing to provide contact details, photo, links to portfolio/GitHub’Stack Overflow profiles.

This list is not extensive. People come up with various scams every day. There are ways to eliminate the risks (e.g., you could hire on marketplaces for vetted developers), but if you are hiring on your own, you should keep your eyes peeled. 


Hiring a freelance developer to work on your project is a good idea if you are a startup. Freelancers are affordable, flexible, and versatile, they can quickly hop onto your train and stay on it for as long as it is required. There are some risks when hiring freelancers online (such as running into scammers or hiring unqualified specialists), but you can minimize them by following several simple procedures. Concisely, here is what you want to do: 

– provide detailed and exact job descriptions

– check the backgrounds of your candidates and interview them

– test their professional skills. 

Now go and hire your perfect freelance developer. 


Chris Z