Once you start looking for a freelance developer to collaborate with, you’ll notice they’re everywhere. Online freelance marketplaces are packed to the brim with skilled candidates. On top of those, you’re bound to find at least one or two (hundred) in the nearest town. In this article, we’ll focus on a few ways you can be sure you’re getting the most compatible partner.
Check out their work
Ask to see some of the developer’s finished work. Before you start evaluating, make sure you understand the parts your prospect worked on. Spend some time to explore their project. Make notes of what you like and don’t like. Maybe they built a web app that’s really fast, but it places some odd constraints on the user’s password. Ask them what led them to make those decisions.
If you know a little about code yourself, you can dig into the developer’s GitHub account to see what they’ve written and which projects they have contributed to. Seeing their code will help you understand if they are a good fit from a technical perspective. This gives you a more concrete idea what that developer's list of accomplishments actually means in terms of skill.
Find out how (and what) they learn
Ask prospects how they learn new things and what is the most recent thing they’ve learned that helps them in their development. What did they gain from learning it? What’s the next thing they would like to learn and why?
Even if you aren’t familiar with the specifics of their answers, you can get a sense of how curious this developer is. Too much curiosity can lead to projects being built on experimental, unproven foundations, but, in general, a curious developer can bring more to your project.
Find a compatible communicator
Communication can make or break a project. Make sure the developers you work with are willing and able to communicate in a way and with a frequency that you can live with. Most developers have communication tools in place they use with colleagues. Look into those and see if they will work for you. If not, find out if the developer is OK using the alternative tools you suggest.
Test them with a project
You’ll learn more with this method than with all the others combined. Asking probing questions and peeking into their code can only give you tiny glimpses of what working with a person is like. The best way to understand what it’s like to work with them is to do it. A test is also your best opportunity to get past the technical stuff and into the stuff that really matters: Are we going to be miserable trying to work with this person?
Careful vetting pays off
If your timeline for project completion is approaching and you don’t have time to take all these steps, at least do the test project. Have your prospect build a piece of the larger project, that way your risk is low and no time is wasted. It’s an extremely valuable tool to ensure this is a relationship you want to have. Even if it fails and you have to find someone else, it will cost you less time and money than committing to a development partner to build the entire project only to have it fall through.
It’s much easier in the beginning to pick someone you like and hope for the best. Sometimes that can work out, but, for the good of your project, you should enter into relationships with your eyes open as much as possible.