Freelance web developers: How to find and hire the best

Freelance web developers: How to find and hire the best

Hiring freelance web developers is notoriously difficult.

Not only do talented web developers possess technical skill, but they must also be able to work in a team, predict deadlines, and handle the stresses of product development cycles.

With such a varied skillset, it’s difficult to identify the candidates that have it all, and just reading resumes won’t tell you enough.

However, if you want to build a talent pipeline yourself and not depend on a hiring platform, here are 11 steps to find and hire the best developers.

1. Know what you’re hiring for

It sounds obvious, but you can’t start the hiring process until you know what you’re looking for. Identify all the skills your developer needs to have and all the skills you want them to have. Prioritize your search process by focusing on the must-have skills.

If you need a JavaScript web developer, knowledge in Node.js for back-end work is useful, but you should still consider hiring a front-end JavaScript developer without Node.js experience if they can do the main tasks you need them to accomplish.

2. Hire the best

If you’re a business looking to hire the best talent in the development world, there are ways to increase your chances of doing so without sinking too much time into this demanding process.

The easiest way to hire talent is to use a vetted network like Toptal.

Toptal screens for the top 3% of developers and designers and offers a no-risk trial for up to two weeks to ensure a healthy working relationship between the client and freelancer.

toptal best freelance web developers

Visit Toptal

3. Use your referral network

Before getting too deep into the search process, first tap into your referral network to find candidates. Ask your friends and coworkers if they know any developers looking for work.

Referrals are hired two-thirds of the time, so use that process to your advantage.

More often than not, referrals are an effective hiring tactic to bring in talent with real, similar work experience that is pre-vetted by people you trust.

4. Research the market

Once you expand your search to include external sources, it’s important to have an understanding of the market. How much does the type of developer you want cost?

Make sure that you match your expectations with your budget. Don’t waste your time hiring an all-star senior developer if you can’t afford it or if the person is more qualified than the position requires.

Once you know the market price for the skillset and experience you’re looking for, you’ll be able to focus your developer search, save time, and ensure that you don’t get overcharged in the process.

5. Look for teamwork and the ability to communicate

Good developers do not work in silos; they work across teams, collaborating with other developers, designers, and product managers, among others.

It’s crucial that the candidate you hire is able to communicate with coworkers, so during the interview, ask about their past experience working as part of a team.

How well can they articulate what they’ve worked on? Ask candidates about past communication breakdowns they’ve had, what caused the problem, and how they fixed it to get a feel for how they operate as part of a whole.

6. Ask technical questions

To hire the best developer, dive into their expertise and ask technical questions to learn about both their theoretical and practical knowledge.

To do this, it’s crucial that your hiring manager has a technical background as well, to both ask in-depth questions and to understand the answers.

Technical expertise is the number one priority, so make sure that it is the focal point of your search.

7. Give test projects

Utilizing trial projects during the screening process is beneficial because they let you see a developer code live and get a feel for how they work. 

Test projects also show you how well a developer can estimate a deadline, a very important skill when it comes to product cycles and coordinating with different teams.

To ensure that a developer can actually code the code and not just talk the talk, it’s crucial to give candidates a test project.

8. Can they take feedback?

An important part of any employer/employee relationship is feedback. Developers can be incredibly talented, but if they are unable to take feedback and revise their work, ultimately they aren’t a good fit for a team.

Talk to a developer’s past clients to find out how well they integrated with the team and to what degree they were coachable and able to adapt their style to a business’s needs.

9. Analyze the developer’s portfolio

When looking through a developer’s portfolio, keep an eye out for progression.

Is the developer pushing their skills and trying new things with each project?

Do they create varied results or is each project more of the same?

You want to hire a developer that is constantly learning and pushing for better results, so use a developer’s portfolio as a window to their career arc.

10. Utilize every resource at your disposal

Sure, hiring is an internal process, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other resources you can use.

Services like Codility can aid your technical evaluation of a candidate’s skill and save you time during the vetting process.

Check out open source communities, online job boards, and hiring platforms to find talented developers and broaden your search.

The more places you look for developers, the more applicants you’ll find, and ultimately you’ll hire a better developer too

11. Take your time

Above all, don’t forget to take your time during the hiring process.

Rushing interviews is a fast way to onboarding the wrong candidate. Be thorough in individual interviews and in the search process.

Assessing developers takes time, so make sure to give the process its due and be certain that you hire the right developer for your needs.

Use these steps to your advantage, and know that the keys to successful hiring are thoroughness and patience. You’ll find the right developer eventually if you keep looking. Happy hiring!

How to drink whisky

how to drink whisky
The first thing to know about how to drink whisky is that only you can decide how you prefer to drink whisky.

Whisky comes in many different flavours, ages, colours, smells and serves.

Part of the fun of drinking whisky is finding which flavour, age, colour, smell or serve is the one you like the most.

The other part of the fun in learning how to drink whisky is working your way through a whole range of whiskies to find the serve you like the most.

The way I got into whisky was a happy coincidence where the stars aligned and my travels were to places famous for their whiskies – Scotland, Ireland and Japan.

In Edinburgh, we went to the Bow Bar, which has a large selection of fine and rare whiskies behind the bar. Rather then select by name, age or type, we went by the taste we were looking for.

My wife wanted a whisky that tasted like Christmas cake, so when she was poured a glass of Glendronach 40 year old and took her first sip, it felt just like Christmas.

That’s the magic of whisky.

There is no fun in telling others how they should drink whisky, or what whiskies they should be drinking.

Some people might say that the older a whisky is the better is. This isn’t true.

While older whiskies may have certain characteristics that younger whiskies won’t have, those characteristics don’t mean that those older whiskies are better.

At a whisky tasting I went to in Scotland, a seasoned whisky drinker tried a few different whiskies and declared at the end that one of the younger whiskies – a 12 year old – was his favourite. He had the confidence to know which one he preferred and not be swayed by how large the number on the bottle was.

Only you can decide which whisky is best for you, which is the one you enjoy the most, served your way.

Many people new to drinking whisky prefer sweeter varieties. Think American bourbons like Jack Daniels. A Jack and Coke is a modern classic and an introduction to drinking whisky for many people.

If from there they decide to try something with what might be seen as more sophisticated flavours, then that sweet bourbon has played its part in someone’s journey to discover the wonderful world of whisky.

Some people are put off by the strength of whisky when they first try it. The alcholo can overpower any sense of taste or smell that might be enjoyed.

To combat this, when first trying a whisky, hold the glass away from you at arm’s length. Gradually bring it closer and stop once you can smell the drink.

From this position, take several sniffs and bring it closer to your nose.

Taking your time to smell the whisky from afar at first means your nose can get past the alcohol smell and start to distinguish the smell of the whisky itself.

After a few more sniffs, you can bring the glass to your nose and inhale more thoroguhly. You should be able to smell more of the whisky flavours – sweet, spicey, chocolate, vanilla, wood.

Now for the taste.

Take your time.

Sip your whisky. No need to take a big gulp or you’ll be overwhelmed.

Take a sip and savour it in your mouth. Let the flavours come, as a whisky’s flavours might come when you first take a sip, when it hits your tongue, or when it’s trickling down your throat.

Take your time.

On second sip, more of the flavours should come through.

Take your time.

Enjoy the rest of the glass.

Take your time.

Don’t feel you need to finish the bottle in one session.

There are some other things to try that might enhance your enjoyment of drinking whisky.

Try adding a drop of water to your drink. Just a splash.

This has the effect of opening up he flavours of the whisky, but has different effects depending on the drink.

As an experiment, try a sip of whisky, then before the next sip add a drop of water. Which do you prefer, before you added water or after?

You might also try adding ice. Whisky purists would say that this dilutes the whisky and may contaminate the flavour, but try it for yourself and make your own decision.

I personally like drinking whisky in a chunky glass. I find that the weight of a hefty glass in my hand also adds weight to the occasion.

A hefty glass also makes me remember the craftsmanship that has gone into making this whisky, the weight of the whisky among tradition through the years.

One other thing that may affect how you drink whisky is the time of day and setting that you’re drinking it in.

A peaty whisky that burns the throat on the way down would suit a moody thunderstorm in Ireland.

A lighter, sweeter whisky works well with ice, perhaps with a mixer, and shared with friends as a pre-dinner aperitif.

An older, heavier whisky might lend weight to a special occasion, such as a graduation, wedding day or 80th birthday.

When and where you drink your whisky can be as important as what whisky you’re drinking.

In Japan, drinking a glass of Nikka in the oldest bar in Tokyo was a memory I’ll never forget.

That Japanese whisky happened to be more affordable than wine, which was often imported at great expense, and tastier than the local larger, which was cold and fizzy as it is everywhere else, also helped.

Trying different Japanese whiskies was part of the travelling experience

If you enjoyed reading my thoughts on how to drink whisky, you’ll love this piece from Matt Gemell, simply called Whisky.

My favourite passage from Matt’s writing:

“Wait for it to hit your sternum, and boom – heat spreads out through your chest. Feel free to vocalise, as if you’ve been doing this all your life.”

“But wait: put the glass down for a minute, or at least go and stand at the window, looking thoughtfully out into the night.”

Much more poetic than my practical piece, but enviably enjoyable and a wonderful explanation of the beauty of drinking whisky.

What I hope comes through in all of this is the learning how to drink whisky, or rather how you like to drink whisky, takes time.

And an appreciation of that goes a long way in enjoying whisky.

All whisky has taken time to make, sometimes more than 60 years being distilled in barrels.

Then there’s the many centuries of people learning how to make whisky and passing that knowledge down through the generations.

And that’s before you think about how many different types of whiskies there are out there for you to enjoy, from the traditional distilleries in Scotland to the newer drinks being made in all corners of the world.

Hopefully both this has inspired you to start your own whisky journey and find your favourite way of drinking whisky.

Take your time.

Believe me, it’s worth it.

All that leaves me to say, how do you drink your whisky?

I’d love to know.

Public Relations Guide for Freelancers and Small Businesses

The landscape of public relations and marketing in general is often changing and as a freelancer it may be hard to stay up to date on everything going on. Fortunately, the guys over at TechFunction have put together a comprehensive Public Relations Guide that covers everything from start to finish.

It is extremely important to cover all traditional facets of PR avenues, such as newspapers and magazines, as well as social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to ensure you are boosting your brand’s image effectively.

If you’re still struggling, feel free to get in touch with me today to find out how I can help with your projects!

PRs Guide for Freelancers and Small Businesses

What Is Public Relations


Late Payment: What I’ve Learnt from 80,000 Freelancers

late payment

This is a guest article from John at Zervant, who make online invoicing software designed to help freelancers and sole traders avoid late payment and get paid for the work they do.

In this post I’d like to share with you my list of the top four resources you can use to tackle late payment.

It’s based on my own research, combined with the insight I’ve gained from working with our users (to date over 80,000 of them). I hope you’re able pick up some great new tips and tools.

The list is by no means exhaustive, so if you think I’ve missed anything essential please do let me know in the comments section below!      

Resource 1 – A Quality Invoice Template

A quality invoice template is a crucial first step when it comes to late payment.

Where’s the best place to find one?

I know I’m biased, but I’ve actually made a free invoice template myself. It comes in both Word and Excel, and is specifically for sole traders (it’s been downloaded over 7,000 times). Other great templates, in different designs and colour schemes, are available here.

Remember that whatever template you go for, it should definitely include the following:

  • All relevant contact information (both yours and your clients).
  • Payment terms, the due date, and your bank details (all clearly visible).
  • Products/ services being invoiced (along with a detailed description of these).
  • Any additional information required by your client eg. a purchase order number.

Resource 2 – Blog Posts and Articles on Late Payment

Reading about what other people in a similar situation have done is always a good source of information. Though when it comes to late payment the number of articles out there is, quite frankly, a little overwhelming.

Not  to worry!! I’ve trawled through a fair chunk of them, and made a shortlist of what I think are the best ones:

  • Katý Cowan (founding editor of Creative Boom) has a great 9 step guide on how freelancers can prevent late payment. It covers all the basics, and is a great intro on the subject. WikiHow’s post also covers all the essentials.
  • Freelance Fees Guide has a handy “General Advice” section covering issues on late payment, and industry relevant information for different types of freelancers.
  • If you’re feeling a bit frustrated or annoyed by a late paying client then it’s time to watch Mike Monteiro’s presentation. It’s a 40 minute presentation on late payment in the world of freelancing, packed with advice and inspiration (as well as the odd four word expletive).
  • If you’re after fresher data I suggest creating Google alerts for phrases such as “late payment uk” and “freelancer late payment”. That way you can get regular updates on what is going on. There are new statistics and reports published almost daily!

Resource 3 – Freelancer Forums

As well as specific posts dealing with late payment there’s a whole host of knowledge to be gained from online forums, where you get advice “straight from the horse’s mouth”. Here’s a few I recommend taking a look at:

  • UKBF (UK Business Forums). Plenty of threads on the issue of late payment. Most are found under the “Legal” section in the “Running a Business” category. You can also use the search bar to look for a specific term. Worth checking often as new contributions are added on a regular basis.
  • Freelance UK. Same as UKBF but more niche and relevant to freelancers. Simply type “late payment” in the search bar for relevant results. Last I checked there were around four pages worth of information.

Resource 4 – Legal Advice

Sounding out where you stand from a legal perspective on late payment is vital. Offending clients often try to play on a freelancer’s lack of legal knowledge. Here’s a few good (and crucially, free!) resources to get you started:

  • Lovetts have a good introductory article on claiming late payment interest and compensation. They explain the ins and outs of the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act.
  • The Government has a good section on its site covering some of the legal basics.
  • The Law Donut explains in a clear and concise manner how much interest you can charge.
  • Rocket Lawyer have a comprehensive free tools section, including late payment letter templates and letters before action. They’re all free to download!

And there you have it. That’s my list of the top four resources for tackling late payment when freelancing. I certainly hope you found it useful. Feel free to add any thoughts or comments below. And by all means send me an email ( or a tweet (@zervant). I look forward to hearing from you.

Freelance Contracts: How to create client contracts the right way (and a contract creation tool to help you)

freelance contracts

Freelancing can be a risky business.

Much of the relationship between you and your client will come down to trust. But one practical way you can make things crystal clear up-front is signing a robust freelance contract.

Having a contract in place is not an absolute guarantee that there will be no disputes down the line, but it is a useful way of setting out key terms so that both parties have a clear understanding of the job in hand and an incentive not to misbehave.

Contracts come in various shapes and sizes, from agile two-page contracts to 15-page tomes with all the legal bells and whistles attached.

If you are on a freelance job for a large client, the client may produce their standard contract for you to sign.

Smaller clients will often ask you to produce your own contract or simply rely on trust.

Either way, you should ensure that you enter into a contract each time that protects your rights, reduces risk and helps you keep your sanity.

Here are a few key clauses that you could include in a contract and some tips on how to get them right in negotiations:

Scope of work

It is really important for both freelancer and client to be as clear as possible about the job in question.

This can help prevent ‘scope creep’, which is that familiar experience of clients asking you to go beyond what was asked of you without extra payment.

Perhaps more importantly, it helps to build a positive working relationship.

The scope of work will be included either in the contract or in a separate scope of work appended to it.

Deadlines and deliverables

Be upfront about the timeline.

Is there a final deadline to work to?

Will you need any revisions – if so, how many?

What are the deliverables and when are they due?

One particularly effective way of structuring your work is through a milestone-based system.

Think about setting out what the key stages in the job are likely to be and list actionable goals and the dates by which you hope to achieve those goals. 

The more concrete you can be here, the better.  


Want to go freelance but not sure how? Take my 7-day course on going freelance, delivered free straight to your inbox.

Nature of role

Clients are often careful to ensure that the relationship they have with you is one of client and freelancer, rather than employer and employee. 

This is for a very good reason. 

The law around what constitutes a relationship of employment are complex but, if it turns out that you are actually in practice an employee, there can be adverse financial implications for the client (e.g. they need to pay national insurance contributions).  

As a result, there will usually be some wording in a contract to try to cover the client. 

Freelancers sometimes worry about this, but it is a fairly standard inclusion.

Intellectual property

One question that your clients should be thinking about is ‘who owns what?’.

In most cases, the client will insist on owning all intellectual property in assets created under the contract.

That essentially means that they will be the legal owner of the logo, code, marketing plan or whatever you produce on the job. 

This is understandable.  

However, it is useful to ensure in the contract that you can at least show any assets/artwork created in your own portfolio for marketing purposes. 

Sometimes, you may want to own the intellectual property jointly. 

This can be complex and may require legal advice to get right.


Payments are fertile territory for disputes, with freelancers often being paid late or not at all.

Generally, payments are structured on a fixed fee or a day rate basis.  

Fixed fees are typically structured as 50% up front and 50% on completion of the job, but can also be structured according to milestones as per the above.

Think about what you will charge if the client goes over and above the scope of work or the number of days they asked you to work. 

Make sure also that you are clear in the contract about exactly when you will be billing, when you expect to be paid and what the penalties will be for late payment.


What happens if the client does not like what you have produced?

What happens if the client pays you late?

Many freelancer contracts are disputed in one way or another although very few get to court.

If you have the foresight to include an alternative dispute resolution procedure, you can save yourself a headache down the line.

You could, for example, contract that any disputes should go to an independent third party mediator, rather than having to go to Court and incurring the expense of legal representation.


Clients often make a big thing about confidentiality, sometimes understandably

Often they will ask you to sign a confidentiality (or non-disclosure) agreement. 

If they do not have an NDA for you to sign but ask for confidentiality provisions in the freelance contract, you need to be careful to ensure that what they are asking for is reasonable. 

One thing in particular to avoid is ‘non-compete’ clauses.

These are paragraphs that will try to restrict you from working for the client’s competitors.

There is some doubt as to whether these clauses are enforceable under English law, but either way you should push back on anything like this that could lead to you not being able to work with other clients (and earn money!).

Terminating the freelance contract

One question that should be on your mind when drafting a contract is ‘what happens if things don’t work out?’.

Imagine, for example, if you were on a three-month contract for a fixed fee of £3k.

If after month two, the client decided to terminate (end) the contract, you would presumably want to be paid something. 

Make sure in the contract that you are compensated in some way if this happens.

A common method is to be paid for time worked – so in the example you would get £2,000.

Both freelancers and clients should want some ability to terminate the contract.

It is important to ensure that you make clients give you some notice of this. Freelancing is hard enough without suddenly having your cashflow turned off.  

Contracts may seem like yet another piece of admin to do, but they can really help you out when things get tough.

Producing your own contract can also boost trust between you and your clients, which could in turn lead to repeat business or referrals.

Talk to a lawyer if you need to but there is a wealth of resources out there to help you with contracts and save you some cash.

One tool I find really useful is Juro, which offers freelance contracts and e-signing. Juro is free to use and creates simple-yet-robust contracts, which are nicely designed and cover the main points.

Clients seem to like the e-signing too!

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