By Angelina Liparteliani
A big challenge for any startup building a website is finding a qualified and trustworthy developer who isn’t a scammer. I can personally attest to this, as over the past two years, I’ve been overseeing the development of the website for my online marketplace GLAMLAB London and was “lucky enough” to hire two freelancers that ended up scamming me, wasting my time, money, and mental health.
Having gone through this process, I’d like to share my story, as well as a few tips and tricks to help you find a web developer you can trust and avoid hiring a scammer.
Finding a web developer, part 1: Getting scammed
I hired my first freelance web developer from Upwork. The developer had a very good profile and sent me a creative portfolio that was filled with examples of his previous work along with positive reviews. He also differentiated himself from the many applicants who sent me boilerplate messages. He wrote a personalized message about his vision for the development of my project along with links to similar websites he had developed in the past. However, once I hired him for the job, it was the beginning of my nightmare.
After he received his first payment, he slowed down doing work, ignored my emails, and would disappear from time to time. We had agreed it would take five months to finish and launch the project. But as month five approached and I wasn’t seeing even half of what had been promised, I knew something had gone wrong.
Thankfully I was able to access my website’s server, and another developer helped me save the source code. Meanwhile, freelancer #1 disappeared forever.
Finding a web developer, part 2: Scammed again
I found a new developer based on the recommendation of a friend. This developer also was a member of a very respected web development community, so I felt quite safe hiring him to finish the project.
At first, this developer was very diligent and reliable. After reviewing the website, he reported that only about 35% of the work had been completed, and he agreed on a three-month deadline to finish the job. In the beginning, he shared weekly updates with me, but over time his updates became less frequent. Then I started experiencing a repeat of the problems I’d had with the first developer: the new developer stopped answering my calls and emails.
He did apologize to me a few times, promising he would finish the job. He said his unresponsiveness and lack of productivity was due to Covid and other personal issues. Because of his background, I continued to believe that everything was moving along according to plan. In the end, I found out freelancer #2 was just buying time before he ran off to another country. He disappeared before finishing my job.
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How to hire a reliable freelance web developer
Fortunately, my story has a happy ending. In the end, I hired a reputable freelancer via a web development agency, and my website is now up and running. The experience of hiring and working with unscrupulous freelance web developers taught me valuable lessons and showed me red flags to watch out for when hiring a web developer. Here are some of them:
1. Ensure they read your job description
When posting a job on a freelance platform, include a question that can’t be answered by boilerplate text so you can see whether a freelancer has genuinely read your proposal and prepared a custom response.
2. Does the timing make sense?
A freelancer saying they can start your project immediately should ring a warning bell: they are either lazy or lying because there are more jobs right now than qualified freelancers. Another red flag is if a freelancer says they will finish your project unrealistically fast. This could indicate they haven’t actually read your statement of work and sent you a boilerplate response.
4. You get what you pay for
If the amount of money you’re willing to pay a developer is too low, you won’t get a response from serious web developers, and you may end up with someone who either can’t do the job or ends up taking your money and not finishing the job.
5. Conduct a thorough background check
If you use a freelance platform, in addition to checking the reviews posted on the platform itself, also search for reviews on other sites. Connect with the people who left the reviews and ask them about their experiences with the developer.
6. Handling payments
One big red flag is a freelancer who asks for full payment upfront or suggests bypassing the freelance platform altogether for receiving payment. There are freelancers who will ask to be paid outside the freelance platform to avoid commission fees; however, be aware that these payments might not be safe.
7. When all else fails, test
If you like a freelancer’s portfolio and the way they communicate, but still feel like something doesn’t feel quite right, hire them to do a small job. The trial will allow you to see the developer in action and how they approach their work, how well they communicate, and whether or not they respect a deadline.
Avoid being scammed by a developer
It can be tough spotting a scammer, because there always will be people trying to take advantage of you in order to make quick money. To avoid getting scammed, make sure to do your research and follow the recommendations in this article.