How I hired a great web developer on oDesk for $12/hr

I am working on the weekly planner called Week Plan and I decided I needed someone to help me develop it while I focus on the other tasks of the business.

Many people resist the idea of outsourcing so I thought I would show how I went through the process myself and found a great web developer.

1. Post the job on oDesk

Title: The title should be as descriptive as possible to attract the right people.
Description: The job description should contain the technology required, and what the developer will be working on.

I also inserted a “spam trap”: I ask inside the job description the applicants to start their job application with the word “WEEKPLAN”. Many people apply without really looking at the job description so when you receive 100+ job applications, it is a great way to filter out the spammers.

Budget: I prefer to pay freelancers hourly rather than on a project basis but financially it makes more sense to pay per project because freelancers always underestimate the size of a project. Being a freelancer, I prefer to be paid based on the time I work rather than forcing me to estimate the size of a project. I found that the right range is around $12 to $17/hour. Ask for less and you increase your risks in getting someone really bad, asking for more wouldn’t increase your chances of finding someone good of much.

Ratings: I request the developers to have at least 4.5 stars ratings.


2. Hire two or three great candidates for a trial

So now you are receiving applications for your job. First you can filter out all the people who fell into your spam trap. That lives you with around 30 applications. Off these applications, I focus my attention on Eastern Europeans. In my experience, Eastern Europeans have the right mix: low cost of living, high level of education, high level of integrity. The signal to noise ratio is usually very good and I like their communication style, direct borderline rude Smile I have hired developers from India in the past but it is harder to find the good ones among a lot of low quality applications.

Once I picked three candidates, I tell them they are entering a (EDIT: paid) trial period where I need them to develop a small project.

3. The mini project

I always have a long list of app ideas I would like to implement when I temporarily lose motivation on my main project.

I try to find ideas related to my main project so that the effort put in developing the mini-app will be used to enhance the main project. In my example, I will use these mini apps to raise the profile of the main project.

What I ask one of them is simple: a behaviour todo list. List the things you want to be doing in your behaviour and tick the ones you are currently doing. As you tick more and more items, you go up in level (karate belts) until you reach the black belt Smile

I prepared a mockup in PowerPoint to describe the app to the developer:


It took me maybe 15 min to create the mockup.

Making mockups in PowerPoint is underrated by the way: it doesn’t take much time to have a fairly complete UI, you can have some advanced stuff like clickable elements, and animations and everyone has PowerPoint.

4. The result

The developer finished the app in 6 hours. That’s $72. It took me another 4 hours to improve the design a bit and package the files into a Google Play app.

This is the end result:


And the listing in Google Play:


Nothing impressive but for $72 I could see how the developer worked, if he asked questions to better understand what I want, and how good he is technically. Now I can use the app as a way to show the company’s commitment to personal productivity.

Out of the three developers I trialled, two passed the app test. I ended up hiring someone from Ukraine because he could work full time on weekplan but both were really good.

If you are looking for a javascript / developer, I can send you the contact details of the other candidate who faired well but didn’t get selected because he could not work full time.

Conclusion: Outsource.

Seriously, if you are an online entrepreneur, do yourself a favour and start outsourcing. It is low risk and has great returns.

I usually advice people to start small when it comes to learning how to outsource.

Disclaimer: one of my product is an online outsourcing markeplace, and it is in my interest to convince you that outsourcing is good for you Smile. But it also means I may have some experience with outsourcing that is worth sharing.

Seriously give outsourcing a try: odesk elance freelancer taskarmy


  • Mike Ivey

    Twelve dollars an hour, and you get them to do free labor for their trial?

    You’re part of the problem.

    • Aymeric

      Mike, I paid them all during the trial period.

      • Sameer

        Gosh. people just jump to conclusions huh

  • Krisztian Gyuris (@gyurisc)

    Hi Aymeric, the app you published in the google play store is a phonegap app? Thanks, Krisztian

    • Aymeric

      No it is a normal app wit a WebView. No need for PhoneGap if you don’t use any feature of the phone.

  • John

    You wouldn’t believe what I can get a thai prostitute to do for $100 thanks to their low standard of living and limited opportunities.
    Woot! capitalism!

    • Aymeric

      low cost of living is different from low standard of living.

  • Daniel

    “I prefer to pay freelancers hourly rather than on a project basis but financially it makes more sense to pay per project because freelancers always underestimate the size of a project.”

    So, knowing they are misestimating you say nothing and capitalize on their fault?

    • Aymeric

      No, I am saying the opposite: I prefer to pay them hourly so that they don’t have to try to guesstimate how long it will take them.

  • Alex Gallichotte

    I enjoyed this article. While I don’t see myself hiring any freelancers in the near future, it’s because of the reasons you list and seem to have figured out 😉

  • Stephen Guise

    Hi Aymeric,

    Do you know of any good wordpress/php developers on Odesk? I’m looking for someone in about the $12/hr range too. If you know of any, send me an email if you don’t mind –

    • Aymeric

      Sorry Stephen, the one PHP developer I knew and used hasn’t given sign of life in the last 6 months, no I can’t recommend him anymore. Try using odesk filters, rely on the reviews from other customers.

    • Paul

      Hi Stephen,

      I own a software development company in the U.S. but we have a hybrid model we use occasionally that uses overseas resources. I’m not trying to sell you my service! 🙂 If you’re still looking for a PHP developer, I have a very talented one that I use regularly that you can contact. Email me at or the contact form at and I’ll give you more info.


    • Kay

      i can recommend our developers, we’ve been using their team for a year now and they haven’t let us down, their india based

      • silver surfer

        are they full stack developers?

  • razaali2

    We offer quality outsourcing service on virtual staffing for
    data entry services, web searching, internet marketing, customer service, Hire
    Web Developer etc. Fixed full time Offshore Employee @ 250$ per month onls Hire Web Developer

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  • Vi Dang


    • Aymeric

      You come here, probably haven’t read the full post and make an aggressive comment full of assumptions.

      First I would like to repeat the fact that the freelancer was being paid during the trial. Second, although free to leave the contract whenever he wanted, the freelancer worked with me for months and was happy working with me.

      • Vi Dang

        I read the full post. Monkeys are very happy when you give them peanuts.

        • ShadowPro IT

          Free market economics works for everyone. People in countries with high labour rates save money. People in low labour rate countries often make more than they would if providing to locals, and their country gets foreign dollars.

  • Jasper Eliot

    Aymeric, I found this to be an invaluable article for my current needs. Your sound advice will definitely be applied in my new project. Thank You!!

    • Aymeric

      Thanks Jasper for dropping by and letting me know!

  • ShadowPro IT

    Interesting in that you concentrate of E Europe. I’ve been outsourcing many jobs for years, but have had real issues getting good designers & developers.

    I’ve hired great guns from all over the world in graphic design, marketing, Linux etc, but web & SEO has been very hard. 90% have no clue, and the good ones seem to pick up and drop jobs whenever it suits them.

    I’ll try E Europeans for the next few – thanks for the post.

    • Anatoly Chernenko

      Hi, can we chat about it? I might get you some Ukrainian resources.

  • Kay

    I’m a big fan of outsourcing, our developers who are highly skilled cost us $5 ph and they develop/work fast and have knowledge about everything (they’ve done a lot of tasks for us). It’s good because we get low development costs and our developers in India get to enjoy double the average salary of a web developer if they were employed by a local company in India as a web developer. Win win!

  • araa

    If you are an entrepreneur, odesk or toptal is a great way to lose money. Learn to code. Then go to hacker meetups. Then connect. I’ve taken this path – it is possible.

    I have worked with upwork/odesk coders from Ukraine, Russia, China, Poland, Armenia, India and Pakistan. All of them will take 8 hours to solve a 1-hour problem. Good luck!

    • Aymeric

      That is if you have time to learn yet another set of skills.

    • Anatoly Chernenko

      Could you be more specific please? I can think of examples just the other way around.

  • samenconteras

    nice post..
    Wordpxis Ltd.

  • Nelly Grant

    I know another place where you can hire a great web development expert, or any other freelance specialist for your project: This website is great for outsourcing: commission-free, it has a lot of freelancers’ resumes and portfolios for your consideration.

  • Dasha Maksimenko

    What do you think about using outsourcing company in Ukraine? I read about the benefits here . It seems even more reliable than hiring someone else. How do you think? or it is better to work with a freelancer?