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Where are all the good Web developers?

Josh Althuser | Sept. 30, 2015
If you’re having trouble finding them, ask yourself: Am I a bad client, or am I looking in the wrong place?

Let’s examine these possibilities a little more closely.

You’re a bad client

The best developers have had their fair share of bad gigs already, and they know what to look out for. If they see any of these red flags, you’re done for:

You’re cheap

Let’s clear this up right away:

Good developers are not cheap. Cheap developers are not good.

Yes, there are exceptions, but if you’re banking on them, you might as well play the lottery. Good developers are notoriously hard to vet. Open marketplace sites that purport to make competition work in your favor actually just serve to create markets flooded with subpar and often unreliable providers. Skilled Web developers who join these platforms are drowned out in the noise and unable to operate at any profit. Quickly realizing there are greener pastures elsewhere, they usually move on.

“That’s OK,” you might say. “I don’t need it to be perfect.” But a poorly built piece of software is often less than worthless: It is a liability. At one point, I was working on a billing software project where we needed skilled C# programmers. Since C# is a programming language that’s easy to learn yet very difficult to master, we struggled in finding the best person to work with us. The hiring process dragged on the whole project timeline, so we ended up selecting from a pool of developers in a marketplace (which will remain unnamed). It was a tedious process, and likely to be even worse for companies that don’t have hiring managers with deep tech knowledge. After a series of interviews and tests, we settled on a couple of C# developers who looked great on paper but were complete letdowns when it came to the actual work. We struggled through to a completed product, but only because we didn’t have much choice.

When I say that we ended up with a “completed product,” I do not mean that our troubles were over. Far from it. In fact, they were just beginning. Buggy architecture is not something you can hide from your users. It’s not just unattractive; it is infuriating to interact with. And once you have started down this path, you will be forever haunted by the compounding costs of the worst enemy you have ever faced: code debt. In the long run, fixing a broken and hacked-together code base can easily cost 10 times as much as it would have cost to do it correctly in the first place.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that you are going to be able to complete your project for a couple of thousand dollars because the median rate for decent freelance Web developers is around $40 per hour. It’s a reasonable rate, but what trips up naive clients is their tendency to vastly underestimate how many hours their project will require. For even a simple custom Web application, a good ballpark figure to get your head is $10,000.


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