Two Ways to Find a Developer or Designer

If you’re like me, at some point you’ve been paralyzed in making a business decision about development because you don’t know any developers or designers. When I wanted to develop my first website with a friend, we posted a wanted ad on Craigslist, only to be inundated with responses from all over the world. How the hell were we suppose to find a developer when there were 200 responses, with basically the same content but prices varying from a couple hundred dollars to ten thousand dollars?

Although web templates at design sites such as are great for people who have some development knowledge, they’re still a foreign language to people who don’t have this background (like me a couple of years ago). In the past couple of years, I’ve found two great places to find developers. Forget about posting help wanted listing in domain forums, which you probably do just because you don’t know where else to turn.

I found my first designer Mike (Six One Five Design) after holding a contest at Sitepoint, which is now called You can basically create your design brief and set a price for your work, and assuming your offer is reasonable, you will receive submissions from which to choose. Your design brief does not have to be technical. Write down your ideas, mention other sites or features you like, and be as specific as possible.

99 Designs is especially good to find logo designers. Instead of paying a single logo firm $2-300 for 4-8 designs from 2-8 designers, you can allocate $300 for your project, and you’ll get dozens of designs (or more) from hungry designers. As people submit their designs, you can eliminate those that don’t work for you, giving contestants more of an idea about what you want. You can also browse around other contests and ask designers you like to compete in yours. This is a great way to find a designer.

If you have a project that requires programming knowledge, is another great site to find a developer. You can search for a developer based on level of expertise, and some have even taken exams given by eLance. They have a ratings scale, where past clients have given ratings, and they also have an earnings scale as well as the number of repeat customers. This is great because trust is such an important factor when developing. eLance also handles escrow to further protect you (although downpayments may be required upfront).

eLance also allows you to create a brief and invite companies to participate. Give explicit instructions about the work you’d like to have done, and search for potential companies with which you’d like to work. At the end, you can choose a winner after communicating with the different providers.

One downside that I have found to development is that it seems to be much cheaper to work with a company located outside of the US. As a result, language barriers do exist, and communication can at times be a bit difficult. However, with all things considered, you can find a great designer and/or programmer to help develop your domain names.

Please remember these two pieces of advice that I have learned:

  1. Most successful developed websites owned by domain investors require work. You can’t generally build it and make money without work ( and are two examples)
  2. It might behoove you to work with a programmer and designer that work well together. While their work is akin to someone working on a car’s engine and someone else working on the paint and interior, both need to work together smoothly, otherwise you can waste time and money.
Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. I’m a professional U.S. based freelance writer and have used as a major advertising source for nearly a decade. I would like to add a bit of advice to anyone looking to hire a consultant advertising on Elance.

    First, ignore the skill tests. These are extremely flawed, and most providers can find the answers with a quick web-search of a few keywords in the question. Tests are completed on the web, so anyone can complete them for you. The questions often have nothing to do with the skill itself. It’s just a matter of being a good test taker.

    Hire, instead, just as you would a full-time employee, looking at the consultant’s verified professional education, degrees and freelancing experience. If you don’t know what employers look for in candidates, check job boards. For writers, you must have a B.A. in either English or Journalism.

    Next, look at actual work samples and the consultant’s feedback ratings, keeping in mind that the system of often used by customers to extort free work. If a consultant has more than 90 percent positive, that’s a good track record. Furthermore, feedback only rates customer service delivery, not work quality.

    • @ Anonymous

      Good advice – especially in regards to the work experience. Since you can see the website the provider is referencing, there should be no reason to not seek out the owner of that website to 1) ask if the provider created it and 2) ask for a reference.

      Thanks for your feedback!

  2. I’ve used Elance providers (from four continents) for about twenty design and development projects, and generally the experience has been positive. But often you do need to read between the lines of a provider’s track record, especially as the feedback ratings are, as the first poster alluded to, not completely reliable.

    Design is easier to select for than development, but beware that the online portfolios (especially logos) are often harvested from elsewhere. ES’ advice is germane.

    There are relatively inexpensive and able developers in the US – possibly as a function of the recession. Providers on the sub-continent tend to over-promise and under-deliver, but if you cut through the sales waffle you can get a bargain if you’re patient. If you have a simple project it can pay off to use a new provider with no track record, as they are keen to impress and score some feedback.

    However – on a recent project for a large and more complex website development I spent 40+ hours looking over proposals and reviewing providers, asking questions….and still ended up having to fire the chosen firm after two months of water-torture, and the site remains unfinished. The lesson I learned from this is the critical one for hiring a developer for anything important: proven and verifiable competence in having successfully completed identical jobs, and having the specific IT skills that are required.

  3. The reason I only use local assistance is because I really want to have complete oversight over the work. Being in the industry over 35 years, I have noticed that it is very difficult to find developers and designers who really know their craft. Writing secure PHP code is near impossible – and totally impossible if the developer doesn’t take great care and doesn’t actively keep on top of the latest security bulletins.

    Writing and designing applications that are maintainable and reliable takes someone who knows how to correctly architect a system, Often I have to babysit developers to make sure they don’t overuse quick tricks and overly reused code which are impossible to maintain.

    A good database design is also a pre-req. In this regard, I have over 30 years experience. When I visit sites such as Sitepoint and observe the poor advice that is being handed out to developers, I can only shake my head. Designers nowadays do not receive the apprenticeship training that I did and as a result they simply parrot poor advice that is found in poorly researched books. Since a good database design is the foundation of a good application, it is impossible to deliver a reliable, secure, and high performance app without a database designer to kick off things. This is one of the reasons I want to be close to the development staff.

    Finally, there is the problem of getting what I want. Unless I spend tons of time detailing all of the system specs and user interface, there is a good chance that what I ultimately receive looks and acts like nothing that I expected.

    First and foremost, I want developers and developers who have integrity, know their craft, and are efficient (not necessarily cheap), because my site depends upon it. Sadly, I have to say, in the last couple of years I have yet to come across such consultants. But I keep looking.


  4. Great advice. I would add that if you hold a contest on 99designs and you guarantee the prize you will attract better designers. Get a feel for how much other contests are paying for the work you need done and check the quality of the work submitted. You will have a better idea of what you might get for the money you wish to pay.
    I am a developer myself and you are right about development being a lot cheaper oversees; however, it comes with caveats. You mentioned one which is the communication issue (and that’s a big issue). Another problem is that is much harder to check for professional references of freelancers/companies in a diferent country. The list goes on.
    If you opt to outsource your development work, and you are worried about language barriers, try to find a qualified Filipino developer as English is their second language.

  5. @ Glenn:

    You might find a good bargain with new providers who trade services for feedback, but you will sacrifice a great deal. New providers, including myself a decade ago, do not know how to price accordingly and tend to underquote for the job. They then frequently abandon the job altogether mid-stream or tack on more and more cost once awarded. Low quotes are also often sub-contracted to third-world countries. I personally would rather pay for the comfort in knowing the job will be completed on-time and as promised.

  6. Regardless of your project type (programming, design, writing, virtual assistance, etc.), another great website to use for outsourcing is Rent A Coder offers buyers a number of great features that surpass those offered by its competitors.

    First off, Rent A Coder offers two payment models, which is unlike some outsourcing companies. You can post your project using the Pay For Deliverables model for pre-defined work, which involves releasing payment to the worker after receiving the final project (or interim milestone). Or, as an alternative, you can post a project using the Pay For Time model to hire a worker on an hourly basis. The Pay For Time model requires the worker to punch in and out of a real-time timecard system.

    Another great feature of the site, regardless of your project type, is that Rent A Coder offers escrow and arbitration services for free to all users.

    Rent A Coder pioneered the concept of escrowing in the industry to solve some of the problems you typically experience with outsourcing, when it was created in 2001. When you escrow, you deposit funds into a separate account at the beginning of the project and only authorize release to the worker when you receive the final deliverables (or milestone if you prefer). This gives the worker confidence that you will pay them, while still allowing you to retain full control of the payment to them.

    Arbitration enables you to receive a refund when a worker doesn’t do the work, and is the feature that makes escrowing effective and safe. Different sites offer very different arbitration processes and speeds, but Rent A Coder’s process still leads the industry in efficiency and affordability.

    Typically, the biggest hurdle to overcome as a buyer is creating a detailed project posting. While it is the most important step of your project, this process is usually difficult and time consuming. Luckily, Rent A Coder solves this problem by offering a requirements interview wizard when posting your project. The wizard asks you simple questions which explore areas that you probably haven’t thought about before. It then creates a detailed specification for you that the worker can use. You are even given the ability to apply filters on your project to either include or exclude workers based on their English fluency, location, and even technical skills.

    Finally, another very important feature offered by Rent A Coder is the use of a blind ratings system. Reviewing previous feedback is very important when selecting a worker, however it’s not really of any use if the ratings aren’t accurate, such as the case of an abusive poor-performing worker intimidating a buyer into giving them a better rating than they deserve. However, a blind-rating system hides your rating from the worker until they’ve placed theirs. This allows you to feel confident about the feedback that you review, which will allow you to make a better informed decision when selecting a worker.

    Rent A Coder is a great choice for outsourcing your work because it continues to lead the industry in a number of great features. (To compare Rent A Coder on a feature by feature basis to the other sites in the industry, view

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