Close
Close

How to Choose the Right WordPress Contractor for Your Blog

This guest post is by John Bonello of WPProHelp.com.

After reading the articles on how to work with designers and technical contractors here on Problogger.net, I felt the need to share my experience with you on how to choose a WordPress contractor.

Choosing a third-party WordPress contractor is probably the most important task of all for a WordPress blogger, yet it’s not often discussed.

I worked as a system and web server engineer for international companies for over 12 years and recently, I started my own business. In that time, I have seen projects fail or take much longer than expected to be finished. Even worse, I have seen projects which have cost more than double the allocated budget.

All these failures can be attributed to one simple mistake: the project manager didn’t choose the right contractor for the job.

How can a blogger find a good WordPress contractor?

Finding the right WordPress contractor is not always easy. It might take some time until you find a person that really fits your needs. Major problems typically encountered by bloggers when hiring a contractor are price, availability, lack of communication, and worst of all, lack of knowledge.

I am going to share with you some necessary tools to help you find the right WordPress contractor to get your job done. Be careful, though: these are not golden rules. Unfortunately, although a contractor may satisfy all of these criteria, that does not necessarily mean that he or she is definitely the right one for you. That said, these points can serve as good indicators that the contractor is worth considering.

Basic skills

You can determine if a WordPress contractor is knowledgeable or not by checking out his or her website. Typically, WordPress contractors like sharing their experiences online via their own blog—after all, it’s their marketing tool.

If the contractor frequently publishes WordPress-related content, and has a WordPress blog, then most probably he or she is quite experienced in the field.

Previous jobs

A WordPress contractor’s testimonials can speak for themselves. You should always check out the contractor’s website for testimonials. If you are in doubt, ask the contractor to share a customer’s contact details with you so you can approach the customer with any questions you might have. If you found the contractor via an online hiring platform, check the history of his or her previous jobs ratings. Previous job ratings can give a better indication than testimonials.

If a WordPress contractor is new on the block, most probably they won’t have many testimonials, won’t have a rich job history, and won’t have a lot of followers on their social media channels. This does not mean that you should immediately give up on the contractor. Keep in mind that start-ups tend to be really hungry for work and more flexible than already established contractors.

Listen to other bloggers

Since you’re blogger, most probably you know other bloggers who hired a WordPress contractor before you.

Get in touch with them, and ask them who they’ve been working with, and if they are happy with their contractor. Feedback from experiences of fellow bloggers can prove to be invaluable.

Attention to detail

We tend to believe that no one gives enough attention to detail unless the project is their own. I tend to disagree with this impression—there are some great WordPress contractors out there.

You can assess the WordPress contractor’s attention to detail by simply visiting his or her website. If parts of the contractor’s website aren’t working, and it includes broken links, definitely that is not a good sign.

A contractor’s website is their shop window. It is what prospective customers see first. So if a contractor’s shop looks run down, then most probably his products and services really are.

Communication

Everything boils down to communication. If the communication level is not right, I can guarantee you that the job will not succeed.

The first time you engage with your WordPress contractor will be via email or phone. While discussing your needs, make sure that the contractor can understand you properly. Throughout my career, I met a lot of brilliant minds that unfortunately are not able to communicate well. A good working relationship isn’t just about the technicalities.

Hiring the WordPress contractor

Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to start looking for a good WordPress contractor, let’s talk discuss some tips on what to look out for when hiring a WordPress contractor.

Stick to a single company

Designers are good at designing websites. WordPress developers are good at writing code. WordPress technical contractors are good at troubleshooting and fixing broken websites, and building new solutions using existing code, such as WordPress plugins.

Each is a different job, and they shouldn’t be mixed together.

The good thing, though, is that typically a designer knows a technical WordPress contractor and a developer, and vice versa. There are also WordPress companies which offer all WordPress services under one name.

So if you already have a WordPress contact, be it a designer, a developer, or technical contractor, and you need something which the contractor cannot provide, ask your contact if he or she knows someone in that particular field before rushing to hire another third party.

There are several advantages in hiring people that know each other rather than having three different contractors from different sources.

  • It costs less. If you hire a group of WordPress contractors that know each other, or hire all services through the same company you might and should be able to discuss a package price, rather than paying for each individual job. Individual jobs tend to be costly.
  • It is more efficient. If all of the WordPress contractors you hire know each other, or work for the same company, they are used to working together. This means that the project is more likely to be finished in a timely manner and work right out of the box.
  • You’ll have a single point of contact. Dealing with a group of contractors and coordinating all the work between them can be a nightmare. You are better off spending your time more efficiently, such as writing content, rather than coordinating a project. So if you hire all your WordPress services using the same contact, you’ll only have to worry about conveying your needs to that one person.

It isn’t a one-time project. Build a relationship

Although you may think that finally you’ve got the ultimate website design with all the functionality you may need, rest assured that after a couple of years, if not months, you are going to need to change something on your website or blog. Be it a small design change, new functionality, or a complete website revamp, you will need to get in touch with your WordPress contractors from time to time.

When shopping around for WordPress contractors, make sure you are comfortable working with that contractor as this isn’t the last time you will speak to them. Make sure they can always understand your needs and can listen attentively.

Contractors do not like to take over someone else’s leftovers and try to fix them. For most technical people it is much easier to build something from scratch rather than fix someone else’s code. Even the best software developers in the world admit that reading another developer’s code is very difficult and time consuming.

Switching from one WordPress contractor to another is costly, it guarantees you an endless amount of emails and phone calls, and ultimately it will take you ages to finish the task.

Try to keep customizations minimal

I have encountered many developers who prefer to build their own custom solution rather than use an already existing plugin or function. Custom solutions will always cost more and in the long run this might be a problem. If something goes wrong and you need an urgent fix, you’ll have to use the same developer.

In such scenarios, it is highly likely that you will be overcharged, since you are at the developer’s mercy. This does not mean that all developers take advantage of such a situation, but I suggest you don’t put yourself in such a situation in the first place. I receive many emails asking me to fix something because the developer who has done it is no longer available, or is overcharging.

If you need specific functionality implemented on your WordPress website or blog, you should always ask your contractor and check for yourself if it can be achieved using existing WordPress plugins. As I’ve already explained, no one likes fixing someone else’s mess, so always push for readily available solutions where possible.

Ready, set, go!

Even though you’ve probably heard of many bad experiences when hiring WordPress contractors, there will always be WordPress contractors who are capable and loyal.

If you already have a WordPress contractor that you’re comfortable working with, it is good to ask them about anything you need. Chances are that even if they cannot provide you the service themselves, they will have some contacts who can.

If you do not have a WordPress contractor and are looking for one, shop around and ask as many questions as you have. Good contractors will answer all of your questions, help you, and be ready to go the extra mile to get the job done for you—even if they cannot do it themselves.

Do you have a contractor who helps with WordPress maintenance and updates? How did you find them? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

This is a guest post by John Bonello, owner of WPProHelp.com, a WordPress security and technical firm based in Europe. WPProHelp.com also frequently publishes WordPress Tutorials for Beginners on the company’s blog.

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor. Please see their details in the post above. If you'd like to guest post for ProBlogger check out our Write for ProBlogger page for details about how YOU can share your tips with our community.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. What I have found that works with screening contractors is to start them off on small projects just so you can confirm the basics about the relationship:
    1-Will they actually do the work they agreed to?
    2-Do they have the skills they claim to have?
    3-How will they respond to changes?

    Usually I’ll start them off on a simple or basic type of task and I watch for how well they handle the situation. Then from there I’ll add more advanced tasks or fade them out of the picture if they can’t do the job.

    What types of tasks do you find yourself hiring contractors for the most? Promotion, marketing, or custom coding?

  2. Great post John. I find that WP developers vary a great deal – there are far too many of them that can barely install WordPress and install a couple of plugins and make minor modifications to a theme, let alone create themes or plugins from scratch. For us developers, its ease of use is also its downfall and give us good developers a bad name!

  3. Ali Zia says:

    Hi John,
    I always look at the previous jobs if I hire someone (not necessarily a contractor)_but you said right; some people are new in the field and they don’t have enough happy clients yet. I also offered a service and the main problem in the beginning was no testimonials (no trust)…Anyways, very good article.

  4. Samuel says:

    Having good knowledge beforehand is the key to success.

    Asking around like you mentioned is also a smart way to go at it.

    Samuel from

    Internet Dreams

  5. Gemma W. says:

    As far as I can see, the article has plenty of good advice, but unfortunately even though I understand the author states these are not golden rules, some of it is misleading.

    “In that time, I have seen projects fail or take much longer than expected to be finished. Even worse, I have seen projects which have cost more than double the allocated budget.
    All these failures can be attributed to one simple mistake: the project manager didn’t choose the right contractor for the job.”

    I disagree. This is very misleading. You haven’t even touched upon the topic of clients a) thinking they know what they’re doing (in many cases, they don’t!), b) coming up with bad ideas in the first place, c) not taking good advice, d) not providing the required content/material when needed, e) asking for more features than originally requested (AKA scope-creep) and f) not paying on time, all of which can, and often does lead to the problems you’ve mentioned in the quote above.

    “If the contractor frequently publishes WordPress-related content, and has a WordPress blog, then most probably he or she is quite experienced in the field.”

    Again, this is very misleading. Just because a developer publishes web development articles on their blog, does NOT necessarily mean they have the required experience. Anyone can write about anything and be seen as an expert even when they haven’t a clue what they’re talking about. It happens far too often in the web and marketing industries.

    “Designers are good at designing websites. WordPress developers are good at writing code. WordPress technical contractors are good at troubleshooting and fixing broken websites, and building new solutions using existing code, such as WordPress plugins. …
    /snip… they shouldn’t be mixed together.”

    Much of this is inaccurate. It’s too black and white and doesn’t accurately reflect the true reality.

    Some definitions.

    Generalist freelancers are good at turning their hand at almost any kind of job thrown at them by clients.

    Non-generalist freelancers often maximise their earnings by being multi-skilled within a niche (for example a WP designer who also happens to be skilled as a front-end developer as well as knowing their way around Photoshop).

    Specialist freelancers are ultra-focussed on a particular skill (for example a PHP developer).

    Apart from having a good working knowledge of design principles and a good sense of aesthetics, freelance web designers are usually expected to be skilled front-end developers (HTML, CSS and JS).

    This applies just as much for WordPress designers and developers. Many also have *some* knowledge of PHP (for developing themes).

    Except for UI designers (as a comparison), if a web designer is really only a graphic designer who designs for screen, then they’re not likely to get very far as a freelancer, even if they’re good at it.

    Of course, I agree that in general, most web developers (folks who specialise in PHP and other server-side languages) are usually poor at designing and shouldn’t be expected to be skilled designer and knowledgeable about front-end design.

    However, many of them are likely to know their way around HTML, CSS and JS (and maybe how to troubleshoot WP too especially if they’re specialising in WP as freelancers).

    So to sum up, if you’re hiring a good freelancer who outsources the rest of the work to other freelancers, then great!

    But don’t dismiss freelancers who have multiple skills, especially if they’re experienced in general and specialising in WordPress. These different fields/skills tend to overlap. It’s the norm pretty much everywhere and on the flip-side, there are plenty of clients who prefer it because it’s cost-effective in terms of time as well as money.

    “I have encountered many developers who prefer to build their own custom solution rather than use an already existing plugin or function. Custom solutions will always cost more and in the long run this might be a problem. If something goes wrong and you need an urgent fix, you’ll have to use the same developer.
    In such scenarios, it is highly likely that you will be overcharged, since you are at the developer’s mercy. This does not mean that all developers take advantage of such a situation, but I suggest you don’t put yourself in such a situation in the first place. I receive many emails asking me to fix something because the developer who has done it is no longer available, or is overcharging.
    If you need specific functionality implemented on your WordPress website or blog, you should always ask your contractor and check for yourself if it can be achieved using existing WordPress plugins. As I’ve already explained, no one likes fixing someone else’s mess, so always push for readily available solutions where possible.”

    At the same time, if you have an experienced WP developer who you can trust then I would say listen to his or her advice since he or she will likely know more about the topic than you do.

    Not all free or commercial plugins and themes are created equally. Some existing plugins and themes are poorly coded, and some commercial plugins might be protected by licensing (not often but it can happen since the developers of such plugins are still within their right to license their *custom* code, so it’s worth checking).

    Don’t forget, if you use an existing plugin or theme either standalone or as the basis of a solution, make sure it will be updated by the author regularly.

    What will you do if the plugin or theme author stops updating, or is slow to update (which can cause you issues if it breaks when you update WordPress core)?

    Or if the plugin/theme is later found to have other serious problems (usually of a security or performance nature)?

    So sometimes it can be more cost-effective in the longer run to have something custom-developed. It’s another situation that isn’t black and white and should be fully explored.

    Of course if you really need a custom solution then yes it’s likely to cost you a lot more since it takes skill and experience to build something that’s tailored to your needs and is effective (in terms of your bottom line among other things). Don’t expect a cheap amateur or an inexperienced freelancer to output the same quality, since they won’t have the industry experience required.

    With regards to communication, it’s a two-way street. If there is a communication breakdown, don’t assume it’s all the fault of the freelancer. Just as often, clients can be equally as bad at communicating effectively.

  6. John Bonello says:

    HI Gemma,

    Thanks for your comments :)

    As regards the topic of clients, you are right, I haven’t even touched that subject but that is something else. That would fit better in an article for contractors and how to handle clients rather than an advice on how to choose a contractor.

    As regards all other subjects, none of these rules are golden rules and there is no situation which is black and white. Definitely all of these rules are open for debate and we can write books about the probabilities.

    I wanted to deliver a set of guidelines which could help inexperienced WordPress users getting on board the freelance world, since it is not easy and most of the time they do not know from where to start. Then it is up to the user to use such rules as a starting point and form their own opinion and hire the right contractor.

  7. Philos says:

    Thanks for summarizing some of the vital points people should know if they want to get what they really want, done the way they want it.

  8. Great article but you should have suggested good contractors…

    Many Thanks

    Oluwaseun Babajide