Developing a website from scratch isn’t easy. The extensive knowledge needed to take your website from zero to 100 isn’t part of the average business owner’s skill set, so it’s usually best to work with an agency or a contractor who’s experienced in that field.
Here are some helpful tips to outsource your website development project:
Write a Stellar Project Description
When you post your project description (or request proposals) on Craigslist, Indeed, Upwork, or whatever outlet you choose for seeking out agencies and freelancers, thousands of potential freelancers might see your job and decide whether it’s the right fit for them.
You should include information such as:
- Your budget: It’s best to include the budget as a range, to allow a wider range of freelancers to apply.
- Your timeframe: Is this a rush job? Do you have a designated launch date that you need to meet?
- What level of experience is needed? Does it need to be agency experience, or is freelance experience acceptable?
- The project specifications: Are you asking for a brand new website development? Or do you have an existing WordPress site that needs updated widgets and an audit? Be as specific as possible here about the scope of the work required.
- What digital assets do you already have? Does the developer need to provide image and video assets as well? This can dramatically alter the scope of a project, and plenty of businesses forget to include this information up-front.
- Do you need plugins? If so, do you know which ones you need installed? Or do you have a list of features that need to be added, that the freelancer can use to find relevant plugins?
- Do you need hosting? Will you need the developer to set hosting up and manage it on a retainer, or is setup enough?
- What about maintenance? Websites aren’t “set it and forget it.” They require regular audits and maintenance, so do you need a developer who can stay on retainer and conduct this regular maintenance as needed?
Use short sentences and bullet points so it’s easy for a freelancer to quickly get the most important specs and decide if the project is a good fit. More than anything, freelancers and agencies love working with businesses who know what they want and don’t beat around the bush about it. The project description is the perfect place to establish clarity and transparency.
The Selection Process
Once your Request For Proposal (RFP) has collected some responses, it’s time to begin the selection process. When choosing a developer, you want to make sure that you end up with a partner who can help you achieve the goals you need your website to achieve. But how do you judge whether each candidate is a good fit?
You can start by:
- Narrowing down the search. The first step you take should be identifying a handful of companies or freelancers who fully address your RFP and pain points and provide a personal and detailed response.
- Looking for industry experience. Look for applicants who have several years of experience developing websites. If you use a platform such as WordPress, then look for industry experience in that specific area.
- Check their reputation. If you’re using a third-party platform such as Odesk or Upwork to collect proposals, check feedback scores and reviews. Otherwise, ask for references and give them a call to chat about their experiences working with the candidate. If the candidate has a professional website or LinkedIn, look for testimonials and online reviews such as Google and TrustPilot reviews or the BBB.
- Asking for samples. You should always ask for portfolio samples that demonstrate the candidate’s ability. Portfolio samples should be clean, crisp, and professional looking.
- Looking at overall value. The best-value candidate isn’t always the one with the cheapest price. Look at multiple factors such as reputation, reliability, experience, timeframe to completion, quality and cost.
If you decide to use a freelancer instead of an agency, don’t leap into projects without testing the quality and work-flow process of your candidate first. You want to make sure that you’re a good fit with the freelancer and vice versa. Instead of handing over the entire site on day one, start small with a paid test.
This can mean handing over a few tasks that take three or four hours at most, such as designing a landing page. Assess your contractor’s ability to adhere to deadlines, follow directions, and communicate well. If a small project goes smoothly, then it’s time to ramp up and get started on the rest of the development process.
Be a Project Manager (or Hire One)
Don’t let your project go unmanaged! Your new freelancer or agency relationship needs the help of a project manager to help everything move along smoothly.
If you’re a business owner already, chances are that you might know all about project management. But just in case you don’t, make sure that you’re taking steps such as:
- Sharing multiple methods of contact (e.g. email, Skype, phone) to optimize the flow of communication.
- Providing clear direction for each task, including screenshots if you’re unsure of technical terms (understandable if you aren’t a web development expert).
- Breaking large milestones into small tasks, allowing for regular check-ins and a manageable workload.
- Setting realistic deadlines. This may require checking in with your developer to see how long each task type takes.
- Following up on deadlines and asking what adjustments need to be made if deadlines aren’t being met.
These steps help ensure that your outsourcing goes as smoothly as possible, and that you address small problems before they become big problems.
Don’t Forget Site Maintenance
Websites aren’t “set it and forget it.” Once your website is up and running, it needs periodic maintenance and auditing to make sure that everything is continuing to perform the way it’s meant to.
There’s nothing worse than ending the relationship your developer, only to have the website need work a month later and find out that he’s no longer available.
Prevent this conundrum by having a chat with your developer on the spot about site maintenance. Discuss what maintenance needs done, at what frequency, and what his availability is going forward.
Your website may need regular maintenance that includes:
- Updating the software
- Checking for dead links
- Removing spam comments
- Performing regular backups
- Adding new material
- Updating old material
- Validating the website after any changes are made
- Disavowing bad links
- Security updates
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
You may want to have a retainer agreement in place to ensure that you can work together on maintenance going forward. Or if your developer isn’t going to be available for maintenance, you can start seeking out another team to handle maintenance as early as possible, before you need it.
The information shared is intended to be used for informational purposes only and you should independently research and verify.
Note: Prior to January 23, 2020, Mulligan Funding operated solely as a direct lender, originating all of its own loans and Merchant Cash Advance contracts. From that date onwards, the majority of funding offered by Mulligan Funding will be by Loans originated by FinWise Bank, a Utah-chartered Bank, pursuant to a Loan Program conducted jointly by Mulligan Funding and FinWise Bank.