How to find a web developer to build your dream

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(Editor’s note: This post first appeared on The Startup Project which is may latest entrepreneurial endeavor to launch 12 startups in 12 months.)

Find a Web Developer

You might have the greatest idea in the world!

But if you don’t know how to code your vision might not ever see the light of day.

So, you have a couple of options:

  1. Teach yourself to code.
  2. Find a friend or colleague who is willing to help.
  3. Hire a freelancer.

If you are considering hiring a freelancer, and if you don’t know how to find a web developer, then this post is for you.

Please note: The Startup Project is meant to be a learning process and an opportunity to share experiences. If you are a developer, or someone who has built a lot of products, then you might have a completely different approach. Your constructive input and advice for improving the following “Find a developer” process is appreciated.

Initial steps

Before beginning your research on freelance developers you should have a pretty good sense of what it is that you would like to build and the basic functionality that’s going to be required.

For example, is your idea like Uber, but for pet care? Or do you want to build out an on demand music platform for endurance athletes?

Your ability to clearly articulate what it is that you want created will have a direct impact on the success that you’ll have working with a freelancer.

Once you have a clear vision of your product in mind, you should familiarize yourself with the concept of creating and writing the “User Story.” User stories are part of the agile development process and they break down the overall platform idea into individual pieces of functionality. There are typically three basic components.

  1.  As a
  2. I want to
  3. So that

Using one of the web examples from above:

  1. As an endurance athlete
  2. I want to sign up to EnduranceRocker
  3. So that I can have great music to workout to

A more in depth definition and examples can be found on Wikipedia.

At this point in your process you might also want to draw some wireframes or rough mockups of what you want the user interface to look like.

My preferred method is to just start with a clean sheet of 8 x 11 paper. If you prefer doing the draft mockup online then there are numerous tools to choose from. Balsamiq, Mockflow, or Justinmind are just a few examples.


Finding a freelancer

Once you’ve given some thought to what you want to create, written user stories, and made a mockup of the interface, now it’s time to find a web developer to build your vision.

Some of the more popular sites for finding a freelancer are oDesk, Elance, and Freelancer.  Because it can quickly become overwhelming you may wish to to just place a “freelancer wanted” on one of the platforms above. For the purposes of this post oDesk was used.

The first thing that you should do is type “Rails developer” in the search box.


When you have your listing of developers, I would suggest starting off by filtering the results to show only those who have a feedback rating of 4.5 – 5 stars.

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 8.11.40 PM

You can also set the hourly rate that you have budgeted (even though I prefer to work off of a set price), the hours the developer has billed, and you can choose based on how recently they have been active.

Under “Tests” you might also want to select that the developer has taken the “Ruby on Rails” test and filter those who have scored in the top 10% – 30% and make them your top candidates.

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 8.24.47 PM

With the field now greatly narrowed down you might like to run a “private” posting by hitting the “Contact” button on select programmers.


The good thing about making your post private is that you can make initial contact and invite developers to respond to a simple inquiry like the one below.

odesk-freelancer-inquiry During your quest to find a web developer, you might find that some won’t answer and that’s great because it rules them out right away.

However, for the folks that do respond, if you find someone that you would like to work with, then send them more specifics about the functionality that you will require for your project.

If you move forward and decide to hire a developer, I strongly suggest starting off in bite-sized chunks. Most platforms today have a “Sign up”, “Sign in”, and “Sign out” feature. You might start by having your new freelancer build out this functionality first. That way you can get a feel for how they work and you can determine if you are compatible.

Also, make sure that you have a Github or Bitbucket account and have the code pushed there.

Through serendipity, my “hire a freelancer” process actually stopped here because I connected with a developer in a different way (which I will speak to in a moment) that might work for you, as well.

How I found a developer

About a year ago I was trying to learn to code so that I could build out my own products with Rails. Like most beginners, I quickly ran into an issue and realized that I needed a skilled person to help get me moving forward again.

Around the same I heard about a new startup called “Hackhands.” Their mission is to help people (for a fee) “Instantly connect with a qualified programming expert.”


The programming expert that I paired with was extremely knowledgeable, communicated effectively, and was able to solve numerous programming problems for me.

When I decide to pursue The Startup Project I remembered the Hackhands developer that I had worked with stating that they were going to open up a freelance Rails development practice. So, I sent an initial email with what I wanted to have built.

When I got the response I was excited to see that they were in fact doing Rails development, but unfortunately, their price was way beyond my “bootstrap” budget.

However, before moving on (and hiring someone off of oDesk) I sent a follow up email with what I could afford. To my surprise, the response was positive and I typed up a simple RFP and we began moving forward.

Stay tuned for more, get updates here –>



Thank you for reading the first post on The Startup Project!

If you are hoping to find a web developer to create your entrepreneurial vision, or if you are a seasoned freelancer, please feel free to provide your thoughts on how the process can work out best for all parties. You can offer your insight on Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Twitter @mark_hayward.

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Mark Hayward