Hiring a Freelance Developer Via Twitter and Why This is So Powerful

On October 28th, I tweeted that I was looking to hire a freelance front-end web developer for Uncover:

I thought I would give it a shot, now knowing what to expect. While I may have more Twitter followers than some (5,250+), I didn’t think I’d get more than a lead or two. What I definitely didn’t expect was to interview five competent people the next day: four over Skype and one in person in New York City.

Within minutes, I had several people reply to my tweet that they’d be interested in the job. I responded to them with my email address and we set up a chance to talk the following day. By the end of the day I had five scheduled meetings in my calendar for the following day. Two of the people were local in NYC, one was in the UK, one was in Belgium, and the fifth was in San Francisco. The following morning before I started the interviews I tweeted:

I was giddy at the thought that a single tweet could land me a freelancer.

The interviews proceeded on schedule and I talked to each of the candidates for between fifteen and twenty minutes. I emailed each of them three PNG files that represented the PSDs that needed to be converted into HTML and CSS. I then explained that Uncover is written in Ruby on Rails and asked what their experience was with implementing HTML/CSS in that environment. They all had experience with RoR. We also use a rather obscure views and templates engine called Mustache and I wanted to find out whether anyone had used it. One had heard of it, but nobody had used it. I then asked them a series of short questions to gauge their experience and to find out how they would complete the actual work. What was their process? Where would they start?

After interviewing all the candidates, I had a sense of who would be the best person for the job, but I needed to wait for quotes before making my decision. I gave each candidate until the following morning to get back to me with a quote. Only one of the five sent a proposal right after we’d talked. The quotes ranged from as little as $750 to as much as $1650 with the average being at just over $1,000. I could tell from speaking with the $750 person that he was the least experienced of the group. Four of the five quotes were hourly and one was project based. I ended up negotiating down the $1,650 guy, the one who had given the project based quote, to $1,200 after another Skype call with him.

I explained to him that $1,650 was $550 higher than the next highest quote, but that I’d be willing to pay a premium because of his experience and that he was located in New York. While I’m all for remote workers, I’m willing to pay slightly more knowing that we could grab coffee or meet briefly at our office if it was necessary. At this time, we haven’t needed to.

We signed the contract and began work the next day. Immediately after signing the contract, I reached out to the other four candidates and let them know that I appreciated their time but that I had gone with someone else. Everyone wrote back with nice emails. The worst thing you can do is to take your time making your decision when hiring someone as a freelancer, because it’s unfair to the people you don’t go with. They’re left waiting, not knowing what’s going to happen or whether their time has been booked.

Finding this freelancer through Twitter has been an amazing experience. I went from a single tweet asking for a freelance front-end developer to a signed contract in under 48 hours. I’ve hired dozens of freelancers, but nothing even close to that short a timeframe has ever happened to me before.

It’s amazing to see the value that being on Twitter can bring you. I would never have been able to find five developers to interview in such a short period of time in any other way. Emailing friends for recommendations would have required an email exchange. Posting on job boards would have cost money. Using Elance or oDesk would have been a pain in its own right. Only Twitter allowed me a direct one-to-one correspondence immediately with interested people whom I could quickly vet.

Spencer Fry

I’m a 29 year old entrepreneur. A Business Guy turned Programmer. Co-founder & CEO of TypeFrag ('03 - '07), Carbonmade ('07 - '11) and currently Uncover ('12+). Uncover is everything you need to start and run an employee recognition program for your company. My hobbies are squash, soccer, cooking, music, and art. You should follow me on Twitter.

Comments

4 comments on “Hiring a Freelance Developer Via Twitter and Why This is So Powerful

  1. While I agree having a twitter account with a 5,250+ designer and developer audience, worked out for your freelancer search. The truth is the average person with a regular twitter account is going to drastically different results. I’ve been monitoring twitter for a few months for my new freelance lead service, and 90% of freelancers use twitter wrong.

    • Hey Robert. Thanks for reading. I definitely have a following that makes this a lot easier. The average person may not have the same luck as I did, but I think if you build up your audience and follow people in your industry as I do then you’ll eventually get there.

  2. Hey Stephen,

    Thanks for writing this up and being so transparent, it was very interesting. I’m surprised at the quality of candidate you received, but as you mentioned, your followers are already quite targeted to your interests.

    I’d be interested to know if you got many generic / automatic responses to your Tweet, as I see this quite a lot?

    Glen

    • It’s Spencer, but you’re welcome. :)

      I didn’t get any automated responses. They were all customized and unique to my question.

      Not sure if that answers your question?