Mar 13

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 / asp.net 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