What Are You Paying For When You Hire a Developer?

Usually folks hire someone else for a task for one of two reasons:They are either short on time or skill. In particular, when it comes to creative works like design, development, writing, marketing, et al., it means you’re also paying for a unique perspective that informs and elevates the skill at hand. The professional you are looking to hire has something you don’t and you want a piece of it because it will improve your business, your home–your life, in some way.

Some of this may seem simple to an outsider, but it’s a professional’s job to make whatever they are doing look easy–a surprisingly uncomplicated task when interacting with someone who isn’t well-informed about what the work actually entails. If you are looking at all this going, “Hmmm, it can’t be that hard,” you might be wondering why the hell a developer’s rate is so much more than you anticipated.

If it was so simple, we wouldn’t have to hire anyone. We’d handle it ourselves.

There are so many skills that are easy to learn on a surface level; anyone can buy a ukulele on Amazon and learn to play a few simple songs the first day it arrives, but that doesn’t mean they can suddenly compose a complex piece. You are hiring for the time it took to cultivate that skill and for the brain that fuels it.

[People] think freelancing is not a real job and so they think freelancers will work for less.
 Paying for a good developer will have a better result and cost less in the end, because you’re less likely to have mistakes that need fixing or, in a worst case scenario, needing to hire someone else, adding to the total cost.

-Ryan Fugate

We get a lot less of this these days, but it runs rampant in the freelance community: Big dreams, non-existent budgets, and bad attitudes.

The reason the cost is $X is because of the thousands hours of experience, learning, conferences, testing–all of that stuff that make someone an expert. 

–Brad Parbs

The thing that people forget…is that they aren’t purchasing a product. They aren’t going to Web King and saying “give me a website, medium rare, with a side order of SEO.” They are paying for a service provided by a professional with years of experience in the field. They are paying for that experience. Sure, they could hire a college grad or the kid down the street who plays Minecraft all day and they’ll do it for 50 bucks, but they don’t have the experience that you have and that needs to be the critical selling point when you are freelancing. You aren’t buying me; you’re paying to use my brain and everything that’s inside of it. 

–Chris Reynolds

It’s completely fair to operate on a budget–I mean, heck, aren’t we all? But keeping your expectations adjustable, especially if you aren’t particularly well-versed in the skill that you’re looking to hire for, is vital.

Everybody, client and developer, is ideally looking out for their own best interests. As developers, and especially as freelance developers, we need to put a value on our time and work because we need to pay our bills and live our lives. As a client, they have an idea of the value of what they want as a final product. The problem is marrying those two concepts–that developers are worth X and the client only wants to spend Y.

The client doesn’t typically know the inner-workings of every part of a website or how everything is built or comes together. If they did, they’d build the site themselves. The trick is to educate the client on why things take this many hours, or why my time is worth this much money per hour in a way that coincides with the endgoal. If the client wants an incredibly dynamic website but has a small budget, we need to educate them on why we can’t do all one hundred things they want within their budget and have an open discussion about why we can only do fifty of the things they want. It’s all about conversation and education.

–Corey Collins

If you love someone’s work and it’s beyond your budget, it’s totally reasonable to be disappointed.

And the professional in question may very much love their work, but it is still work. Asking to be compensated for doing work you love is not a diminishment of the joy that is found in it. It is not an expression of insincerity. It’s asking for what they do and for who they have worked to become to be valued–by the very folks who need them (and who they need as well!).

For someone that says “It should be easy…” my response is always, “You’re not paying me to just press buttons, you’re paying me to know WHICH buttons to press.” 

–Jay Wood

When you’re hiring a developer (or a designer, or a writer, or a consultant, or whatever), you’re hiring them for so much more than the completion of a task list. You’re hiring them for their expertise, knowhow, and the time and energy spent into obtaining it. When you’re paying for a developer, you’re paying for their knowhow–so they can build you something incredible that does your business justice and helps you to succeed online and in the real world.

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