I am a serial entrepreneur seeking personal freedom within one year. This site is about that journey.

How to hire a great software developer for your project

99% of freelance developers are not like this guy

99% of freelance developers are not like this guy

I’ve probably hired over 1000 remote / freelance developers in the last 17+ years. Some for small one-off projects, others for large infrastructure projects. I have hired from India, Pakistan, Ukraine, Romania, Poland, Canada, Uruguay, Belarus, China, Mexico, Africa, and nearly every state in the union. Most of the hiring that I have done has been via online freelance sites like oDesk, Elance, and Freelancer.com. Some of it has been a result of guys who just hit me up in Skype looking for work. I honestly have no idea how they find me, but it is usually when I have no work at all when they do. One of the questions that I am frequently asked is, ‘How do you know they are going to do a good job?’. I hope to answer that here.

  • Know up-front what you are looking for
    I feel that one of the biggest and most expensive mistakes that you can make when hiring an outsourced developer is going into the project not knowing the platform you want to use, the type of developer you are looking for, or how you want your project built. Platform agnosticism is really an advanced move and should only be used if you are already experienced in managing projects. As an example, do not list your project as ‘I need someone to build me a website’ if you are also wanting to manage that website. Be specific… ‘I am looking for a WordPress Designer to build me a website’. If you are not specific about the platform that you want to use, you will wind up with developers deciding for you, which can lead into more costs both now and in the future. If you are not sure about what your needs are, be specific about that … but realize that the education is likely going to cost you something.
  • Know the difference between a front end designer and a back end developer
    This is pretty basic, but is something that you should clarify with your developer before hiring. Developers are usually stronger in one of the two. If you find one who is strong in both, keep them around, as they are twice as valuable! Some people will hire a back-end developer expecting that they are going to be able to build a fancy user interface for them… and are usually disappointed with the results. In most cases, if you want it to look good and work well, you’re probably going to need 2 different roles, especially if you are working with folks overseas.
  • Set your expectations clearly on the front end
    Unless you are specifically hiring with the goal of having a developer help you plan your project, make sure to have very clear requirements for what you expect them to do before you begin the recruitment process. Anyone who gives you a fixed cost bid on a description that says ‘I need a .NET guru to build an application’ is just fishing. A good rule to follow is ‘What’ not ‘How’. You don’t need to be specific about ‘How’ your project gets done, but you do need to be specific about ‘What’ you want it to do.
  • Pay attention to good ratings
    But give developers with no ratings a chance. There are a lot of folks who have been coding for a long time but only just recently started freelancing and so they have not had the opportunity to develop their profiles yet. Sometimes these guys are the hardest working and smartest ones!
  • Test Test Test
    Make them build a specific easy application for you while you watch from remote before you hire. This will quickly weed out the guys you don’t want, especially when you mention in the description for the project that they will need to do this before being hired. When you do hire them, start them on something small and non-critical as a first project. Have them fix a few bugs before implementing a new feature.
  • Pick up the phone
    This is another obvious one, but I think that it is often neglected. Get into Skype with them and pay attention to how they communicate in chat. Have them call you via Skype. Are they easy to understand? Ask them about the project to make sure they have an understanding of what you are wanting to do. Can they explain it to you? Are they friendly? Courteous? If not, this might be a sign that things will not work out in the future.
  • Let your team evaluate them
    If you have a team, this is a must do for any new hire, outsourced or not. Your team members will catch things that you didn’t, and they are ultimately the ones who will need to work with ‘the new guy’ … so it is best to make sure that everyone agrees on the hire on the front end.
  • Take your time
    Make sure to leave yourself enough time to go through the process. I’ve hired people for small projects within an hour of posting a request, but for larger projects,  you need to be more picky about who you have on your team.
  • Go to your network first
    Remember to think first about the people who you have had success with in the past, and invite them first to bid on projects. The more frequently you work with someone, the better you are able to work together, and the less time it takes to ramp up into a new project.
  • Notice the personal touches
    There is a lot of competition on freelancer sites, and so in order to make things easy… many freelancers will develop canned responses for bids that include templated information about them or their company along with a list of links. This is fine, but the ones that attract my attention are the ones who specifically mention the project that I’m hiring for, the technology I am hiring for, and the ones who are able to explain to me specifically how they think that they can help. I’m happy that they are excited to work on my project… I am excited too… but to set themselves above the 100 other freelancers who applied in the last hour, I would like to know exactly why they think they are a good fit.
  •  Research the candidate
    Do they have a gitHub account? What kind of stuff have they worked on and published there? What about LinkedIn? Do they have a website / profile outside of the freelancer site that you’re reviewing them on? Who have they done work for in the past? Do they have a portfolio of previous work? Is it current? Have they taken any Brainbench tests? oDesk tests? How did they score?
  • Make sure that you are comfortable with their timezone / availability
    If you are working with an outsourced developer from overseas, make sure that you are able to at least overlap some time with them when you are both awake so that you can meet with them on a daily basis. If you are unable to do this, your project will have limited success.
  • Ask the right questions
    Do they fix bugs or add new features first? (The right answer is ‘bugs’). Do they use SVN, Git or any other repository? (They should answer ‘Yes’). Do they make new code releases daily? (The right answer is ‘Yes’), Are they able to meet with you daily to discuss project status? (The correct answer is ‘Yes’).

Hopefully these suggestions help you along the way as you hire your next developer! This list is by no means complete… I’ll likely keep adding to it as I think of other things. If there is anything else that you can think of, Please feel free to leave comments! If you are looking for someone to help lead a team for your next project, let me know!


Not So Christian Daycare in Brentwood TN, Part 2

Did I mention that I’m really proud of my wife? She’s amazing.

I am so happy that she is growing through this situation with her work, and it is so great to see her standing up for herself and her co-workers. She’s starting to develop her anger and frustration into productive means for changing the situation, she’s toughened up… which is really just so cool to see because it is so way outside of her comfort zone, and I totally love it! Am I gushing?

So… a bit of an update… First… there was a visit from someone from the corporate office this week, and one of the other teachers overheard them saying “It is corporate policy that no-one at this facility is allowed to clock in until the ratio is met’. At least we know where they stand?

Second, we contacted the Department of Labor… and they are in a word, ‘Excited’ about the prospect of working on the case, and have been coaching us on where we go from here. Apparently they review and research back through 2 years of employee history and if it’s shown that they’ve been doing this for awhile (they have been) … they could be looking at a substantial lawsuit. There was another day care facility in Clarksville that was closed for the same exact reasons.

Third, Melissa told me this week that apparently there is another teacher at the facility who has frequently been asked to clock out so that she can clock in. What a horrible position to put your employees in, making them feel guilty about wanting to get paid for their time, and forcing other teachers to give up their own time to accommodate.

Lastly, the director of the facility handed this out to everyone a couple of days ago:

Is that comic sans?

Is that comic sans?


It says: “The center will be open on Saturday, January 18th from 9:30 to 2:30. Please let me know if you are coming. I will be providing breakfast & lunch and I need to know who will be coming. This is voluntary and you will not be paid. I will be treating anyone who comes to a fun day in February. We will either be going to get nails done, Movie, Massages, or open to any other suggestions you might have. If you choose not to come Saturday, you will not be allowed to leave on Friday night until all your items are finished.”

When Melissa reacted to this… the director gave her some noise about how she is ‘obligated in the terms of her contract to help them achieve their stars rating’. Right… and they are obligated to pay for the time that their employees spend at work doing that. Oh, and by the way… being required to stay late Friday night if needed would also be ‘voluntary’. Needless to say, she won’t be volunteering for either. She has decided that instead she just won’t be teaching her students during the day so that she can scrape 6 month old paint off chairs and put photos on her bulletin board because she just does not have enough paid time to do both. Nice to know where your daycare dollars are going, eh?

I don’t know what planet these folks live on…but while free breakfast, getting your nails done, movies and massages are normally fun with people you actually enjoy hanging around with, they don’t put food in your refrigerator. Why can’t they just pay everyone for the time it takes to meet their goal of passing the Stars inspection?

I think they need to look up the meaning of the word ‘incentive’, because forcing someone to work ‘voluntarily’ and then offering them a gift in trade is not an incentive and it’s not even in the ball-park of showing appreciation. As an employer, you pay your employees fairly and then anything that you do above that is incentive or just human.

The Dip


Day 16 of the 30 days of hustle with Jon Acuff, and I need to admit that I have hit ‘The Dip‘, or at least I will be hitting it soon if I don’t see some measurable results in some areas.

  • Deepak, my champion for the WordPress Support Project has been in the hospital for the last week with back issues, and so that project has slowed to a halt and might not make release by the end of this month. I really would like to be more confident that there will be customers waiting for the service when it launches, but initial marketing efforts have not produced much in the way of leads, which is a bit disheartening, but I think once we get it live and start marketing it we’ll do fine.
  • I’ve been applying for jobs daily and have had an average of 1.5 interviews per week… but have not gotten a job. I’ve been tweaking my resume(s) and learning more about how to interview. This is tough for me because the jobs that I have had in the past have mostly been start-ups that I have built with friends, so interviewing is a bit new to me.
  • I’ve been calling prospective clients and have been sending an average of 2 proposals per day for work through various sources, but nothing has landed. I am not sure what’s going on here, but will continue to tweak things.
  • As part of my 1 year goal of personal freedom, I have been actively looking for a great project to work on in February, but have not found one yet, though I do have 2 possible leads that should hopefully follow up with me by next week on that front. I know that this is a slow process, I think I need to put myself in contact with more people with great ideas.
  • I’ve not been writing 500 words daily like I had intended. I’ve been having a hard time coming up with things to write about. It is honestly more difficult than you can imagine to write about personal freedom when you don’t feel like you have any. 🙂 … I’m really stuck on this one… any suggestions?
  • I have been working out daily with p90x3, and that is going well … but honestly only because my expectations are set so low as to not feel bad about not making it through the whole thing each time. I’m actually ok with this. Perhaps this is a lesson I should take for other areas?
  • I’ve been spending 2-3 hours daily educating myself using Treehouse, Lynda, CodeAcademy, and Udemy.
  • I’ve also been going through Stanford’s Technology Entrepreneurship Course online.
  • Melissa is at the end of her grace with her job and will either quit or be fired soon. At least she is no longer crying every night when she comes home.

So… Why am I doing all this?

  • I want the ability for my family to manage our own time in a way that gives us the choice of who we want to spend it with, when, where, and how we spend it.
  • I want my wife and I to have the ability to choose not to work for a living, but to instead work because we want to.
  • I want my family to have the resources to choose to give of our time and money the way that we wish.

Why am I telling you all this stuff? I’m hoping that you’ll help hold me accountable. I realize that the things that I am doing in these 30 days are mostly a numbers game… I just need to keep doing them!

‘We become what we repeatedly do’ – Stephen Covey

Crabs in the bucket (the rest of the story)


You’ve probably heard the story before. A bunch of crabs are in a bucket, and one of them tries to get out only to have the others pull him back down with them. The story is usually told from the perspective of protecting yourself, your dreams, your ideas. ‘Don’t let anyone else pull you down’ … ‘You need to be responsible for your own dreams’ … ‘Don’t let negative people make choices for you’ … Yes, yes, and yes.

But is this the whole story?

I like to think about the perspective of the other crabs in the bucket. Are they jealous or envious of the one crab getting out? Are they malicious / selfish and intentionally pulling him back down to their level? Or, is there something else here?

I think it’s pretty simple. All the crabs want the same thing. They all want to get out of the bucket, and they see this one guy over there (let’s call him Carl) … Carl over there is having some success at getting out of the bucket, and everyone else wants to get out too, so they grab a claw or a leg or something… anything that they can reach, not to pull poor Carl back down, but to pull themselves up and out of that stupid bucket. It’s not that the other crabs are malicious … they just don’t want to be in the bucket either!

So, the story isn’t really about a bunch of mean old crabs who don’t want to see Carl succeed. It’s actually about a bunch of crabs who really want the same thing for themselves. Crabs who have their own dreams, their own ideas… and their own little crab families that they want to take care of. It’s a story about setting boundaries, about knowing when you are able to help someone and when you aren’t. It’s a story about leadership and working together as a team. Most of all, it’s a story about making sure that you’re ready to get out of the bucket yourself and throwing the others a rope when you do.

I was struck with this during a conversation I had recently with someone dealing with a spouse who doesn’t want to improve themselves or learn anything new in order to change their current situation. The person I was talking with is a dreamer and has frequently felt as though their spouse was like one of the crabs trying to pull them back down into the bucket every time that they talk about their dreams. Truthfully though… they both have similar goals, they just are not on the same page on how to get there. Neither of them are satisfied with where they are, both of them want better but they have not agreed on a plan. Their spouse may be depressed, insecure, or frustrated with circumstances… but none of this means that they are necessarily maliciously trying to pull them down.

If you are feeling as though you are the crab always being pulled back down into the bucket, what boundaries can you set with the crabs in your life? How can you work with them as part of your team in order to achieve mutual goals? Ask yourself if you are actually able to to help them get out of the bucket? Do they actually want to get out of the bucket, or are they wanting to pull you back in?

Not So Christian DayCare in Brentwood, TN

And will you please fix the fax machine while you're at it?

And will you please fix the fax machine while you’re at it?

This totally speaks to personal freedom and being able to manage your own time.

My wife works for what is quickly becoming a notorious (to us anyhow) Christian daycare facility in Brentwood, TN. I use the term ‘Christian’ lightly, as some of their business practices are far from resembling anything that Jesus would do, it appears to be nothing more than a clever marketing device, but we’ve grown accustomed to this living in the south. There are a LOT of issues that she has been dealing with over the last several months of working there, but the battle that she is currently fighting involves what the Department of Labor calls ‘Off Duty Waiting Time’.

See, the way that the laws for day care facilities are setup in Tennessee (as in most states), they are required to maintain a strict care giver to child ratio depending on the age of the children. For my wife’s age group, the ratio is 1 to 14. When she first started working there, they would frequently be so understaffed that there were as many as 25 infants, toddlers and small children in a room with a single teacher. This presents safety issues and should concern any parent who brings their children to any day care facility, but from what I understand this problem has been resolved because the facility that she works for is dropping in numbers and they value the impact of Tennesse’s ‘Star System’, which evaluates day care quality:


Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with the quality of the facility from the perspective of how they treat their employees (which is directly related to why the facility is losing customers), it only pertains to issues important to parents and children… particularly for cleanliness and safety… and quite honestly it is only important to them prior to the day that the auditor shows up to give the star rating.

But I am off topic.

The issue that my wife is dealing with now is related to how she and her other co-workers are scheduled and the lack of respect that is given for their time.

Let me back up…

Our mornings are pretty typical of most families. We have a 4 year old boy who goes to day care at the same facility… and takes his time getting dressed close to the warmest place in the house. I work from home, so I get to watch / help my lovely wife rush around while she gets ready, gets our son ready, eats breakfast, reads some email, grabs some coffee… and then runs out the door only to drive in traffic for 45+ minutes before arriving at her work on time when scheduled.

And that’s when the fun starts… because they usually won’t allow her to clock in. FOR HOURS. They do this to every teacher who works there. They show up when scheduled, but can only clock in when enough kids arrive to push the ratio out of balance.

Worse, the inferred (read threatened) expectation is that the teachers should be working in their rooms on lesson plans, cleaning, etc… while they wait until the teacher to child ratio comes up to a level where another teacher is needed.

Information about ‘Off Duty Waiting Time’ can be found on the Department of Labor website here, but the summary of it is that it is considered ‘worked time’ that the employees should be paid for if:

  1. You are not completely relieved from duty;
  2. The periods are not long enough to enable you to use the time effectively for your own purposes;
  3. You not are definitely told in advance that you may leave the job; and
  4. You not are advised of the time that you are required to return to work.

Understand, she is not a salaried employee … she is an hourly employee. She only makes money if she is able to clock in. There are hundreds of other things that she could be doing with the hours that they are stealing from her. She could sleep in, work out, spend more time with her family, catch up with work from her second job, avoid traffic in the morning, etc… Instead, she is expected to rush in a panic to pack our child into a car to drive 45+ minutes in traffic … only to show up and be told that she can’t clock in for an hour or more because of an issue that the facility itself has caused.

End Rant.