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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How “Code and Stay” Packages can Work for Puerto Rico Tourism

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Puerto Rico has tremendous year round weather!

Would you rather be freezing, working and coding in NYC or Boston all winter long? Or would you like a respite from the frostbite on the sunny beaches of Puerto Rico?

Imagine, you can get on a plane during a blizzard, wearing your ushanka, and about three and half hours later step out into blazing sunshine in shorts and flip-flops.

(Note: For those that might not know, “code/coding,” as it’s used here is meant to be analogous to computer programming/hacking, creating apps, and developing online platforms for business and money making purposes.)

There’s been a lot of not so great news coming out of Puerto Rico lately regarding residents leavingthe debt burden, and lost jobs.

But on the flipside, Puerto Rico was just voted “Best Caribbean Island” by the readers of USA Today! (How’s that for irony?)

It’s easy to see why it was voted number one! Puerto Rico has something for everybody with sandy beaches, the rainforest, world-class resorts, intimate Inns, great food, impressive culture, friendly people, and the list goes on and on.

Puerto Rico Best Caribbean Island

While there is, sadly, an undeniable “brain drain” happening in Puerto Rico, what about the “brain rush?” Specifically, those skilled and entrepreneurial minded travelers who come to the island for a week, ten days, or even for a month.

How do we connect them, promote collaboration, and knowledge give-and-take, while they’re in Puerto Rico?

Well, what you might not know — through all of the noise — is that there’s a tremendously dedicated group of talented individuals seeking to change Puerto Rico’s economic trajectory through entrepreneurship, technical innovation, and creativity.

Game changers like Marcos PolancoRamphis Castro, and Dana Montenegro, and startups like BlimpKytelabsAnt Rocket, and Piloto 151 are shaping Puerto Rico’s future economy; via one day of work and one line of code at a time.

You might be thinking, “How does the Puerto Rico Tourism fit into all this?”

To which I would answer, it all starts with a Tweet. You see, my former Launch Academy Coding Bootcamp cohort-mate, Zach Young, and I were having a Twitter conversation and he mentioned that he “keeps seeing photos posted of Puerto Rico” and stated, “I need to get out there!”

Then the “light bulb” went off and I sent the following Tweet to Puerto Rico Tourism Company as a way to start the discussion and to have them think about becoming the conduit between travelers and locals.

puerto rico tourism twitter

To their credit, Puerto Rico Tourism replied and suggested I “DM,” which I did.

twitter puerto rico tourism 2

The idea behind – (choose your name) “Code & Stay,” or “Hack & Surf,” or “Collaboration in Paradise” – packages would be to create even more avenues for information exchange, technical inspiration, and creative growth here in Puerto Rico.

Fact: Talented individuals (like Baris at Google) are traveling to Puerto Rico for vacation. However, unlike Baris, many visitors might not know how to connect or get involved with the entrepreneurial community here who are working to launch something brilliant and world changing.

That’s where “Code & Stay” packages come in. For a bit of vacation time mentoring entrepreneurs, giving presentations, or pair programming (or live coding) visitors to Puerto Rico — who are in the entrepreneurial and tech world — could get packages with reduced rates, guaranteed upgrades, or other booking incentives.

Specifically, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, in conjunction with a group like Startups of Puerto Rico, could perhaps initiate the discussion with a forward thinking airline like JetBlue, and approach hotels like the San Juan Marriott, the DoubleTree, and the Intercontinental San Juan. Or, conversely, maybe smaller boutique properties like Andalucia Guest House, Acacia Boutique Hotel, San Juan Water & Beach Club would be willing to discount room rates or offer other enticements.

You get the point.

How does this benefit the traveler, tourism, and the local entrepreneurs?

In order to be successful, all good ideas must solve a problem or provide some type of benefit(s). The following are just a few of the possible, tangible outcomes:

The visitor – Besides coming to an amazing destination, they would get a real cultural experience and have the opportunity to interact with some of the brightest and most talented folks in Puerto Rico. That’s not even mentioning (hopefully) discounted travel and a place to work like Piloto 151.

Most importantly, I believe that the traveler stands to share their knowledge, while at the same time, learning a lot and getting educated about the “Best Caribbean Island.” In the grandest of outcomes, maybe they come back and invest or create jobs here.

The Puerto Rico tech & entrepreneurial community – Certainly, with social media, the barriers of global communication have been largely dissolved. However, collaborating with someone in person on a business idea, or hearing an outside perspective on entrepreneurship, or working to solve a particularly tricky coding problem, has intrinsic value.

Even though there are fantastic tech and entrepreneurial meetups on island, sometimes it can feel as though you are working in a vacuum. Outside connection and perspective can sometimes be the antidote and solution to pushing a creative idea further.

Puerto Rico tourism – As a former hotel owner here in Puerto Rico I can tell you that these early adopters of technology and entrepreneurs are exactly the type of guest that we wanted staying with us. They are the bloggers, the Twitter power users, and addicts of Instagram who will help to grow a hotels digital presence by writing, Tweeting, and posting about the island, their interactions with the creative community, and the properties they’re staying at.

With respect to global tourism, creating a “Code & Stay” promotion is an innovative approach to marketing the island as a destination and no other location has such a program.

In closing, the above post is meant to just get the initial idea out to the greater world and to create a discussion amongst stakeholders like the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Startups of Puerto Rico, and travelers to the island.

Certainly, more thought, dialogue, and “packaging” needs to go into the “Stay and Code” concept. Please offer your input and thoughts below on how you might structure this idea for success or share on Twitter.

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Sun, Surf, and Startups – ebook highlighting Puerto Rico’s Tech & Creative Entrepreneurs

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Puerto Rico certainly has no shortage of innovation, creativity, or entrepreneurs (see: EnterprizePR).

However, during the past couple of years the island has experienced a surge in the tech startup industry. From Bar Camp to Startup Weekend, and Hackathons to a chapter of the Founder Institute — a community is evolving and the participants are going to be helping to shape the future economy.


Over a year ago I was sitting on the ferry traveling from Culebra to San Juan, Puerto Rico to attend a meetup organized by Marcos Polanco and Ramphis Castro. Having witnessed (from the periphery) for a few years the remarkable group of talented, driven and creative technical folks, I thought about how I might contribute to the community and help to get the message out. The ebook — Sun, Surf, and Startups — is the result of that initial brainstorming session and you can download it by clicking on the cover below (or this shortlink .

puerto rico startups


Seemingly, everyday I learn about new people involved in startups here in Puerto Rico who are taking the global community by storm. During the last week alone I learned about Sparkative, Tommie HernandezNGEN, and Rebexa.

PLEASE, if you are an entrepreneur in Puerto Rico or are familiar with individuals not profiled in version one, put their info below or let us know about them. The sole purpose of the ebook, and its future versions, is to create an additional communication node that draws light on Puerto Rico’s tech and creative startup initiatives.

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