Freelancers and small business owners, especially creative types, can make mistakes when hiring other freelancers to make technical changes to their websites. Maybe it’s a fundamental difference in the way our brains work - as someone who considers themselves creative shacked up with a technical guy, I think there’s a lot of merit in that one - but I know lots of people, word people, mainly, who have hired someone to “fix” their website, and ended up with a much bigger problem than the one they started with.

Profound contrast, or something

Profound contrast, or something

Have you thought about finding a nice programmer to make a few changes to your site? Decided that you need a new section, a blog, maybe, or a shop? Made some changes and now anytime someone signs up for your newsletter, the whole thing tanks for half an hour? Maybe you think your design is looking a little tired, and you want to spruce it up a little, or you've found a better CMS and you’d like to move everything over.

Great! Hire a freelance programmer! Just take a little care...

Here are 5 mistakes people hiring a freelance programmer have made time and again. Just make sure this time, it's not you making them.

Mistake #1

You convince the guy who set up your website to fix a bug. He set up the website, so he should be able to fix it too, right? Wrong. Obviously there are different degrees of "making a website", but the vast majority are so easy to set up, I could talk your granny through it. Just because Bob got your website up and running and, until now, it’s looked good and worked fine, doesn't mean than when it's suddenly FUBAR, he’s the best person to call. He could be, sure, but more likely, he set up your website because it was an easy job and you paid decent money. That makes him more like the decorator rather than the architect, though, and if your roof caved in, who would YOU rather sorted it all out?

Mistake #2

Much in the same vein as mistake 1, you confuse programmer and all-round tech whizzkid. If anyone ever describes their job to you as a “programmer”, they’re assuming you can barely tell a mouse from a printer. In fact, other than letting you know that the person in question probably knows their way around a computer, being a “programmer” means very little indeed. So why does this matter to you? If you’re looking for a "programmer", you basically have a big sign stuck to your head that says “will pay €100 p/h to have someone follow a tutorial they found on the internet”. Find out whether you need a backend or frontend, systems person, graphic designer, backend with experience in e-commerce, etc. and you might even end up with the services of a professional.

Mistake #3

While grappling with the options I've given you above, you may well come to the conclusion that you don’t really know what needs to be done. Don’t worry. It happens to the best of us, and it’s far preferable that you’ve realized now, and not in 2 months, when you’ve already paid a “programmer” €200 to “optimize your database”. This is a tough one. If you have a smidge of knowledge and some free time, spend a weekend researching the issue and coming up with a rough draft of what you believe to be the problem. Otherwise, find a programmer*, and convince him or her to find out what the issue is. This is like any similar exchange: provide pizza, beer and decent conversation, and 9 times out of 10, someone will come up with the goods. 

Mistake #4

You don’t ask around for a quote. Getting your pitch together for the problem might take effort, I appreciate that, so when you find someone who actually appears to have a clue what you’re talking about, backed up with things like testimonials and a personal recommendation, well, I understand your eagerness to hire them. But like anything else in life, never settle for your first offer unless you're really, really desperate. These are freelancers you’re talking about, remember, even if it’s only something they do on the side. Even though the first person you talk to might be a lovely person, they could, for whatever reason, have just spun you the “Sorry, very busy, can only do it for December 2017, or alternatively charge you for my super-emergency rate of €100 a minute” line. A few more calls around should at least orient you in the right ballpark. Alternatively, look at an online freelance community like Envato Market, and see what others are charging (remember that these marketplaces take a cut, so prices can be higher).

Mistake #5

You look at the prices above and decide to cut corners. No, no, just no. The only possible positive outcome here is that your flatmate’s little brother is just starting out in backend systems admin Magento operations (that’s not a real thing, but I think I got the capitalization right) and although he's really good, also has very low self-esteem, so he’s charging you €20 an hour. Like everything else in freelanceland, cheap is cheap for a reason. And it’s almost never a good one. 

So, now you know, wade bravely into your computer problem, and get it fixed with confidence, and without having to remortgage the house. It'll be worth it for the price of a bottle of Malbec and a steak and ale pie. Well, that's what my programmer charges anyway...

*I'm using programmer as a general term, see mistake #2.