How to Hire a Joomla Developer

Joomla developer at work

Joomla Developer - Finding and Hiring Yours

A helpful crash course by John Hooley

This guide will significantly improve your chances of getting your project completed successfully and potentially save you the headache of losing months of time and thousands of dollars working with a poorly chosen Joomla developer. It will do this by giving you a crash course on what you need to know about hiring a Joomla developer, from setting your requirements, to locating developers, to the questions you should ask prospective development partners.

Why You Should Listen To Me

John Hooley

I'm John Hooley, a developer and entrepreneur. I've been working in the Joomla market for over five years with a wide variety of clients from humble indie bands to corporations with international influence. In that time, I've listened to many stories of woe and cleaned up many messes, sometimes being the third or fourth Joomla developer on the job. I've also hired developers to work for Blue Bridge and I know how incredibly challenging it is to find someone who is both capable and reliable. This guide is a distillation of these experiences.

 

 

A Simple Promise

My company, Blue Bridge Development, offers Joomla development services, but I promise you that this will not be some craftily framed advertisement for doing business with us. In fact, 90% of people who read this guide are not well suited for working with Blue Bridge because of our higher rate. I'm here to educate, not pitch, and should I break this promise, feel free to jump ship and visit another site.

Section 1: The Joomla Developer Market

A couple looking at a map

Last December, some friends and I went on a vacation in Vietnam. At one point, we traveled from a southern island to a city in the Mekong Delta. We had to go halfway by hydrofoil and halfway by bus. When we arrived by hydrofoil to the port we were met by a small army of touts haranguing us to buy tickets from them. We got distracted by them and when we finally walked to the bus station, we discovered that the last normal bus for our city had just left. We ended up paying five times the typical ticket price to be crammed into an overcrowded tout's bus for a painful three hour drive. All of this could have been avoided if we had good information on what to expect, where to go, and when to be there. The lesson was that it's difficult to make smart decisions without understanding the environment.

In this first section of the guide, we'll review some relevant topics about the market so that you're better prepared to make informed decisions when you set out to hire a joomla developer.

Which Joomla Developer Skillset is Needed For Your Project?

Believe it or not, Joomla developer is an ambiguous term. It's only slightly less generic than web developer. This matters because you need to be more specific with your criteria when you're selecting developers. You need to know what sort of work they should have experience accomplishing and what you can expect from them. Here are the four common areas of skill expertise and accompanying freelancer price ranges in the Joomla developer market:

 

Site Builder: This Joomla developer utilizes their extensive knowledge of extensions and templates to build sites using already created solutions. Often times they possess some graphic production skills and are able to make small design changes. They're not highly technical folks, but are still well suited for many small businesses and provide a lot of value for a lower market rate, often completing projects in the $200 - $2,000 range.

 

 

Template Skinner: This Joomla developer knows HTML and CSS and can take someone else's design and "skin" a template out of it, turning it into a use-able design for a Joomla website. They're well suited for graphic designers who need to transmute their design into a Joomla website. Depending on the design, they often charge between $500 - $1,500 USD per project.

 

 

Web Designer: This Joomla developer possesses the same knowledge as template skinners, but also creates custom designs and can alter existing designs. Their value is generally measured against their design ability, but most web designers fall somewhere in the $2,000 - $10,000 USD range for small businesses, depending upon their ability and the size and functionality of the site.

 

 

Extension Developer: This Joomla developer is highly technical and creates custom extensions for Joomla. They can also use their knowledge of how the CMS works to solve function based problems. Their value is often determined by their demonstrated technical ability and they typically work off an hourly structure. A common market rate I've seen for US based developers is $60 - 100 USD / hour.

 

Some developers do not fall clearly into one category. For example, I know another Joomla developer who has extension developer, template skinner, and site builder skills. In these cases, you want to know what sort of comparable work to your project they've accomplished and how well it turned out.

Hire a Joomla Developer or Development Company?

Both freelancers and Joomla development agencies offer benefits and drawbacks.  Below I list both for each type of business.

Joomla developer with arms crossedJoomla development company working on a proposal

Freelance Joomla Developer Pros

  • You'll be talking directly with the person who implements your solution and this can speed up the process and lower the chances of confusion (but that doesn't it mean it will.)
  • Often, freelancers have lower rates.
  • Freelancers tend to be very flexible to your desires (prefer to communicate via tweets? Okay!)
  • Service feels more personal.
  • Their abilities are more transparent.

Freelance Joomla Developer Cons

  • Lack of professionalism. Many freelancers see freelancing as simply a vehicle to make money outside of having a job. When this occurs, this one sided and simplistic view of business causes many headaches for their clients.
  • Vanishing developer syndrome. When a project has problems, they're behind schedule, you don't like the results, or a friend invited them to party for a week in South Beach, they vanish. See lack of professionalism.
  • Poor service. This often displays itself like "good cop, bad cop."  Prior to being hired they're friendly and available. Once paid or mid-project they're like dealing with a hormonal teenager. See lack of professionalism.
  • Variable results. They have no process in place to create value for your business and because of this results vary. See lack of professionalism.
  • Brittle. If your freelancer gets hit by a truck crossing the street, your project stalls while they're in the hospital.

As you can see from the drawbacks, most problems are simply caused by a lack of professionalism.  It's tough finding competent and professional freelancers.

Occupying a sliver of the market is the Joomla development company, or agency. Often times, these companies don't actually present themselves as such; they're focused on serving larger businesses and Joomla is only a part of the service they offer.

Joomla Development Company Pros

  • One stop shopping. Development companies often, though not always, offer layered services that allow them to address multiple issues: design, marketing, seo, programming, and etc.
  • Deeper experience pools. Development companies have many people working from them contributing to broader knowledge and experience than just one freelancer.
  • Professional service and results. Development companies are more likely to provide professional service. They're in business and not just generating income.
  • Better understanding of B2B needs. As businesses, development companies better understand the needs of other businesses.
  • Consultant stance. Some development companies not only help you address the problems you need help solving, but also identify opportunities to exploit or larger issues to address.

Joomla Development Company Cons

  • More costly. Development companies have a staff and overhead to support and they target larger businesses and cost more.
  • Less flexible. Development companies have a process for generating results and are less likely to work around any unique service you might desire.
  • More impersonal.  Working with a team of people often isn't quite as personal as working with an individual.
  • Risk of working with a thin company. Some smaller businesses that market themselves as Joomla development companies are little more than a salesperson that outsources projects and adds a margin to your bill. Quality varies widely in the results and the salesperson adds little value because they have no real knowledge of the problems they propose to solve.

 

How Far Should You Outsource?

Call center

If you're interested in hiring a Joomla developer, you are outsourcing your project. Whether you outsource it down the street in Baltimore or halfway around the world to Bangladesh is the question. I'm of the opinion that working within your country and culture is preferred. At Blue Bridge, we've worked with clients in other countries with good results for both parties, but in all cases we've shared a very similar culture (e.g. Australians hiring us to perform work for their Japanese business.)

Why Country is Important

The closer a business is to you, the more likely you can resolve any issues using your country's legal system. City is safer than state, state or province, than country, and country than international relationship. The further afield you go, the more you will need to extend trust to those you hire. That doesn't mean you should only work with the people down the block, just that your risk is reduced slightly by proximity and that once you cross a national border it bumps up significantly.

Why Culture is Important

Culture is critical because it is the unspoken and shared understanding of how your business relationship will be conducted and what exactly the words you say to each other mean. Your definition of a finished project may be 20% different than what a finished project is to someone in Saigon- even if you have painstakingly gone through every detail with them. I've heard stories of whole development companies vanishing for a week because it was a religious holiday in their region, but none of them thought it important to notify their client. In their culture, this was not good but still understood to be normal behavior.

Outsource Lottery

The pitch of outsourcing is that there are thousands of skilled developers available for hire in India at $12 / hour. The truth of it is that there are thousands of people in India who will take your money for $12 / hour for any task. Of those thousands, very few will take your project to successful completion and many will show you how simple multiplication can create a sizable project cost by working ten times slower than a capable Joomla developer (12 * 300 hours = $3,600.) The reason this guide exists is because it's tough to find good help. It's nearly impossible to hire good help out of the bottom of the market on the opposite side of the world.

Section 2: The Search Begins

Man searching at a computer

In this section, we'll actually get into the nuts and bolts of finding a good Joomla Developer.

A Suggested Perspective

You may have an underlying assumption that your project is a one time deal and that once completed you'll be set forever. If so, I encourage you to question that assumption. Information technology and the web are in a constant state of flux. It is a safe bet that within a year of completing your project you will need or want help with your Joomla site. Finding skilled Joomla developers takes patience and effort. Don't waste this effort. View potential candidates as people you will have a long term relationship with, like finding a good mechanic or doctor. Search with this in mind and when you're ready, approach them as a potential long term development partner.

Determine Your Requirements

We live in a search culture. Need something? Search Amazon. What year was Benjamin Franklin born? Google it. Very likely prior to finding this guide you thought, "I need a Joomla developer." Then without much further thinking, you opened your browser and searched, "Joomla Developer." This approach is wasteful. Not being clear about what you want, you'll get there by a circuitous route in wasted search hours and contacting the wrong people. Instead, invest some time up front to clarify your requirements. Not only will organizing your thoughts save you time, but it can potentially save you paying a developer an hourly rate to drill down to what you really need.

To get you started on the right track, I've created a worksheet for you to fill out that asks some basic, but important questions that will inform your search and help you to filter out developers that aren't well suited for your project. In the following sections, we'll refer to it and add to the information from this section to aid in our quest to hire a joomla developer.

Joomla Developer: Finding and Hiring Yours Project Worksheet ODT
Joomla Developer: Finding and Hiring Yours Project Worksheet DOC

Where to Look for Your Joomla Developer

There are four main resources for finding your developer:

 

Referrals: Referrals are always a good way to find help.  If you have friends or colleagues that you know use Joomla, ask them if they could recommend a good developer. However, be careful to make sure that they've actually worked with the developer. Knowing someone through a networking event is not the same as actually having first-hand experience doing business with them. You want a referral from someone who has worked with a developer and knows how they conduct themselves and what their skill level is.

 

 

Search: Unfortunately, searching on the Internet is only moderately helpful in locating a good developer. The reason why is that the terms that people use to find developers are very competitive and few developers are very savvy about SEO or search rankings. I wouldn't rule search out completely, but if you are going to use search to find a developer I recommend that you go through more than the first page of results.

 

 

Joomla! resource directory: The Joomla! resource directory is a business directory managed by Joomla! project volunteers. Most of the businesses listed in the directory have been working with Joomla! for quite a while, because most new Joomla! developers are not aware of it. This makes it a good pool to screen for more experienced candidates.

JRD Freelancers
JRD Extension Developers

 

Outsourcing directories: Outsourcing directories are services that link freelancers with businesses looking to hire a Joomla developer.  These directories will allow you to search for developers based upon their qualifications and previous reviews of the work they've accomplished. They typically allow you to use their software to manage a project including billing the developers and attach a fee for use or percentage to the developers rate. Outsourcing directories are well suited to businesses with limited budgets, however because the freelancers in these directories are not established businesses it's much more difficult to get a project to completion using one of them. Professionalism and quality are low and it's typical to hire several developers before making any progress.  Three popular services: Guru, eLancers, oDesk.



Gauging Without Engaging

 

In the screencast above I cover some tips that will help you to identify good candidates by reviewing their websites prior to contacting them. You can view in a larger format on YouTube: Joomla Developer - Gauging Without Engaging

How to ask for help

In order to best utilize your time, how you ask for help is important. What you're trying to do is to figure out whether a potential candidate is somebody you can complete your project and whether they can do so within your project constraints. Most likely, you'll approach a potential Joomla developer through their contact form. In the project worksheet (linked to in the section Determine Your Requirements), I've created a sample request which you can modify that will efficiently give candidates the information they need to provide you with an estimate and ask questions that will give you a better idea whether they can actually complete your project.

Contracts and Documents

For projects that can likely be completed in 10 hours or less a contract is most likely unnecessary. However, as projects grow in size and risk a contract is an excellent tool to ensure that there are no misunderstandings. In these cases, it's very likely that your Joomla developer will provide this document. I recommend that you review the contract with your lawyer to make sure that you're perfectly clear on what your responsibilities and the Joomla developer's responsibility are. Even in situations where it's unlikely that disputes can be solved in court (for example working with a Joomla developer in another country) a contract is a good idea because it makes all aspects of the project explicit.

Some of the developments specific issues that a contract should address are:

  • What happens if a project stalls.
  • How changes are handled.
  • Who retains copyright over completed designs and custom programming.
  • What is in the project scope and what is out of project scope.
  • The payment schedule.
  • What happens if any of the completed work contains errors.
  • Guarantees that design elements and third party code used will be legal for your use (either creative Commons, GPL, or purchased commercial work.)

Contracts and other project documents are good indicators that you're working with a professional and lower your risk. If you're initiating a large project and your Joomla! developer does little to clarify the details surrounding it you would do well to work with someone else.

Please note this is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer and you should review the information here with your attorney or lawyer.

Final Thoughts

I've tried to provide information and advice that is actionable and relevant in this guide. I hope you've learned something from reading it and are better prepared to hire a Joomla developer. I can't guarantee that you'll find someone who is a good fit on your first try, but the time you invest in research and preparation in advance of your project will do much to increase your chances of finding a Joomla developer you can rely on.

Questions? Comments? Something missing? Feel free to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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What's This?

This is a guide that helps people plan projects and find Joomla developers well suited to help them complete their projects.