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How to Find A Web Developer For A Startup

June 3, 2022

how to find a web developer for a startup

If you’re on a tight budget and you’re trying to figure out how to find a web developer for a startup, you’ve got a tricky situation on your hands. With any startup, you have to make tough choices about how to prioritize your finances. Those decisions are often make or break ones, but they’re vital. If you try to spread the money around and do everything you want as cheaply as possible, you’re going to find that you end up hurting yourself more than helping.

Finding your web developer and getting that hire right is critical. How to find a web developer for a startup is something that you really need to figure out early on. That one person is largely responsible for your success or failure in the Internet Age. Having a good developer right off the bat can make a huge difference in terms of how profitable your startup will be, and how quickly it can begin to turn a profit. So, how to find a web developer for a startup?

web developer at startup

How To Find A Web Developer For A Startup: Figure Out What You’re Building

If you want to know how to find a web developer for a startup, make sure you actually know what it is that you’re building. Web developers don’t really want to help you figure that part out. Are you targeting mobile users or web users? Not every web developer is able or willing to create a mobile app, so that’s an important decision.

You might need both if you’re trying to target consumers on both mobile and web, which is increasingly common. Even if you’re focused on mobile, you’ll need to choose Android, iOS, or both. Very often developers only work with one of those operating systems, so you can’t assume that the developer you hire can manage both an Android and an iOS app.

All of these means you have some big decisions to make before you even start looking for a web developer. You won’t even know what to look for in a developer until you’ve settled on the specific platform you’re going to be using.

It might be tempting to hire a developer who can do hybrid work and create something for both mobile and web, or for both Android and iOS. But that developer is probably going to cost more than one who’s focused on one platform only. It may be worth the extra money, but that’s something you’ve got to factor in.

startup competition research

How To Find A Web Developer For A Startup: Study The Competition

This may seem obvious- of course you’re already studying the competition if you’re creating a startup- but it’s worth talking about. A successful startup needs to solve a problem that lots of people have, in a way that no one else is doing.

You already know that. But you really need to get into as much of the specifics as you can before you hire a developer. Identify your ideal customers (which should also help you to pick a platform), and look at how you want to approach the customer.

Next you need to dig into the problems you’re trying to solve, the specific ways you want to do it, and what issues might come up that your product will need to address.

If this all sounds like it’s a pretty standard approach to a business plan, it is. But we’re stating it here because having all of this figured out really does make a big difference in hiring a web developer. You want to be able to tell the candidates you’re interviewing specifically what it is you need them to do.

For one thing, you are going to feel a lot more comfortable making this hire if you’ve been able to tell your candidates in detail exactly what it is you need. You’ll know that the web developer you hire will be up to the task because they knew what the job required before they accepted it.

You’ll attract better developers, too, because they’ll be more comfortable taking a job where you already know exactly what you and what they need to do.

So, while this is all just solid advice for any startup, it can be especially important when you’re trying to find a web developer for a startup.

How To Find A Web Developer For A Startup: Make A Mock Up

You and your potential future web developer will both find it helpful if you can create a mockup of the website or app you want. Don’t worry, we’re not saying you need to learn how to code.

You can literally just draw a picture of what you want the user interface to look like, and how you envision it working. If you were going to build a house, you would feel perfectly comfortable telling the architect what you wanted it to look like and how you want the interior laid out. Why not do the same with a website or an app?

It may seem irrelevant but it really will be helpful. It lets you clearly communicate not just what you want your product to do, but how you want it to do it. It also lets you show what you want the user experience to be like.

And if you haven’t started thinking about that yet, it will force you to spend time thinking about what you want the user experience to be like. That’s going to improve your startup in almost every way, so it’s worth taking the time to do it.

web developer at startup working

How To Find A Web Developer For A Startup: Know What To Look For

One of the hardest parts about how to hire a web developer for a startup is that you may not even know how to evaluate a web developer. If you’ve never had to hire one and you’ve never worked in that field, you have no real knowledge of how to tell a good web developer from a bad web developer. We can give you some pointers here.

This Isn’t A One Person Job

Web development is complex, and you really don’t want just one person doing it all. A full stack developer can do the whole thing, but when you have just one developer working on the whole project, the work is always going to suffer a bit. One person can never catch all of their own mistakes, and that means that the development is going to take a lot longer and be full of bugs.

You need a few different people to handle this work. You’ll need an architect/lead developer who can run the development team, and has enough expertise in every area of web development to guide the project. In addition to their knowledge of web development, they also have knowledge of rollout timelines and how to keep things on schedule.

A back-end developer works on all the things that make your app or website work that your customers will never see. They build the bridges between your platform and the databases it needs in order to run. They construct the code that actually creates the solution. They’re creating the framework on which everything else will run.

A front-end developer works on all the things your customers will see. This is the person who’s creating the user interface, the visual design and functionality of your startup’s app or website.

Full stack developers can handle both front-end and back-end development. Most freelance web developers are full stack developers, because they find more job opportunities that way. Even then, it’s not uncommon for a full stack developer to take a job that will only require either front-end or back-end development from them.

Mobile developers are a bit different. Mobile developers create programming solutions for Android or iOS devices. If you’re building an app, you need a mobile developer. Many mobile developers specialize in only Android or only iOS, which is why it’s important to decide which platform you want to use.

Look At Their Work

A good web developer for a startup should have a portfolio of their previous work that you can look at. Or, at least, mobile, front-end, and full-stack developers will have this. Most of a back-end developer’s work isn’t easy to show like that and if you’re hiring a back end developer you might need to rely on recommendations from past clients.

That doesn’t mean you can’t experience their work, though. You should never stop at just looking at their websites. Scroll through the pages. Click on every link. How smoothly is it working? What are the page transitions like? Does everything run quickly or is it jittery?

If possible, look at more than just one website. Check out as many of their websites or apps as possible. You want to be sure that their work is consistently good. If some of their websites are great and others are mediocre, do you really want to roll the dice with that developer?

Actually Talk To Them

Especially if you’re hiring a freelancer, it’s easy to hire a web developer without ever actually talking to them. Web developers can work from anywhere, and it’s very common for them to work for clients who don’t live anywhere near them. But if you’re asking how to hire a web developer for a startup, you really should make an effort to talk to them in person.

You may not be able to meet them in person, but a phone call or video call is absolutely necessary. Working with a web developer involves lots of communication. You’re going to be going back and forth with them a lot, providing feedback and getting recommendations. You want to make sure that you’re able to communicate with them easily. This is something that can only be learned by talking to them, and it might vary from person to person. A web developer one of your colleagues always struggles with may be able to communicate with you very well, and vice versa. Communication is always a very personal thing, and you need to be sure you’re able to communicate with your developer easily and clearly.

Feel Free To Test Them

One great way to help determine if a web developer is someone you want to bring in for an interview is to have them take a skills test like the React test. These tests are designed to help quantify and measure a person’s programming skills. The best way to use them is to have applicants take the test as part of their application. That way you can evaluate the test results before you bring in candidates for interviews.

Then, once you’re at the interview stage, you can be fairly confident of their programming skills. You now only have to evaluate their fit with you and your company culture. That helps you to be sure you make the right hire because you can really focus on figuring out if this person will be a good fit with your team.

Don’t feel bad asking them to take the test either. It’s not uncommon to make that request and most web developers won’t have any problem with being asked to demonstrate their skills that way. Besides, this is probably a better way to evaluate their hard skills than a standard interview. If they’ve taken the test the whole interview can focus on their soft skills, which is what interviews are best used for anyway. If you ask them to take a skills test, then the interview process becomes just like a standard interview, and you will feel a lot more comfortable.

Hiring A Freelancer

As you’re thinking about how to find a web developer for a startup, you’re inevitably going to be considering a freelancer at some point. Freelancers often come cheaper than hiring an employee. You don’t have to pay a freelancer benefits, after all, and since you’re not usually their sole source of income you aren’t paying them a full time salary, either. Plus, freelancer web developers are often very, very good at what they do. That’s why they’re able to be freelancers- they’re good enough that they can find their own work and support themselves without needing a company to employ them.

And, if you intend to continue working with that freelancer in the long run, then it can be a great idea. Freelancers tend to maintain extensive portfolio’s to help potential clients (like you) get a very clear idea of how good their work is. That makes it easier to evaluate whether or not they can do the work you need done.

They’re also likely to be full-stack developers, which means that if you need someone who can handle all of the back-end and front-end work, most freelancers can handle that.

But if you want to keep the web development work in-house, a freelancer is not the best option. Working with a freelancer is going to mean no support for your product once the project is completed. Most freelancers don’t want to offer that service, because they’ve already got other projects lined up.

A freelancer is also not going to be as committed to your startup as an employee would be. For them it’s just one project out of many. A lot of startups really do benefit from having a small group of highly dedicated employees. When you’re operating on a limited budget, that dedication and passion is hugely important to get the best work out of people. You just can’t expect a freelancer to work that way.

So, while a freelancer can be a good option if you plan to maintain a long term working relationship with them, it’s really not a recommended option for a startup that needs to find a web developer. As you’re figuring out how to hire a web developer for a startup, this is something important to bear in mind.

Experienced vs Inexperienced Web Developers

When people are wondering how to find a web developer for a startup, they often think they’re going to be forced to hire someone inexperienced. The assumption is that the experienced web developers are already happily employed and won’t be interested in working for what you can afford to pay them.

While there’s some truth to that, it isn’t a hard and fast rule. Some experienced web developers will jump at the chance to be involved in something right from the start. Every startup is a passion project, and if you can get an experienced web developer on board with your vision, they might be just as excited about it as you are.

But it is true that web developers are in high demand, and there are not many of them who are unemployed. One recent estimate put the number of unemployed web developers at just 2.5%.
That means you’re facing an uphill battle to hire a web developer with experience. And, in all likelihood, you’ll have to offer a competitive salary to them. You could, if you want, offer to bring them in as a founding partner. That could be a very tempting offer to a web developer, especially if they’ve bought into your vision for your startup. But think long and hard about it. Making them a partner means sharing the leadership and decision making of your startup with someone who you don’t actually know yet. It’s a big decision, and it’s definitely not for everyone. In fact, it’s probably not the best solution to this problem, even if it would be a reliable way to lure an experienced web developer away from a stable job.

If you want to hire an experienced web developer, you’re really just going to have to pay them well. It will be a costly hire.

The other alternative is to hire an inexperienced web developer and save some money. But then you’ll have to invest in their development. You’ll probably have to pay for coding mentors and other continuing education for them, because they’re going to need that in order to do the best possible work for you. In the meantime, the work they’re doing may not be good enough. That could be a problem- if your startup is hindered by shoddy work right from the beginning, the difficulty of starting a new business is going to increase exponentially. As you figure out how to hire a web developer for a startup, you may want to avoid hiring an inexperienced one.

experienced web developer is better for start up

It’s Worth It To Hire An Experienced Developer

If we haven’t made it clear already, it’s worth it to pay for an experienced developer. We understand that it just isn’t an option for every startup. Sometimes your budget constraints just make it impossible to bring in an experienced web developer. If that’s the case, we’ve already laid out your options- you can find a reliable freelancer and establish a long term relationship with them, or you can hire an inexperienced web developer and invest in their growth and continuing education.

If you can find a way to pay for an experienced web developer, your startup will really benefit. Having the best possible web developer on your staff right from the start is going to help you deliver the best product and best customer experience early on.

Things like that can be the difference between a startup succeeding or failing.

Sometimes startups will think of another option: outsourcing the work overseas. I’ll be blunt- don’t do that. It’s extremely unlikely that it will end well for you. You’ll probably end up overpaying for bad work. That’s really not a good solution to how to find a web developer for a startup.

While we understand the budget constraints that hinder most startups, the bottom line is that cheap development will come back to bite you. Going cheap on web development will almost always end up costing you more money in the long run as you’ll just end up paying someone else to fix the cheap work. The upfront costs of hiring an experienced web developer right at the beginning really will pay off in the long run.

The only real exception here is if one of the founders of your startup is a technical founder. They usually have enough expertise and experience to compensate for hiring an inexperienced developer. If your tech startup has a technical founder you have a big leg up on the competition. You may not have to worry about how to find a web developer for a startup.
But if you don’t, the best advice we can give is to invest in an experienced web developer who will help you get your startup off on the right foot.


In any startup, the first few hires you make really are make or break hires. These are the people you rely on to get your company off the ground and make it profitable. You’re investing in them. If the hires are bad, they can sink your company in the blink of an eye. It’s one of the things that makes startups so hard.

For tech startups especially (but it applies to pretty much every startup), getting the web developer hire right is especially right. Answering how to find a web developer for a startup is tricky, because the stakes are high. So much of the success of your startup depends on the quality of your website or app that it really is the most important hire you can make. If you want to know how to find a web developer for a startup, the answer is that you really just need to prioritize the salary for that position. As long as you can offer them a competitive salary, and get them to buy into your vision for the startup, you can land an experienced web developer who can help you make your startup successful.